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Party On, Kids: Ideas for Birthday Celebrations Around DC

A very happy birthday boy at his Escape Lounge celebration

A very happy birthday boy at his Escape Lounge celebration



I may have slacked on the annual birthday party post for a few years, but this one, hopefully, will make up for it. It’s full of ideas for hosting children’s celebrations around the area, with recommendations for varying ages, interests, and budgets. And though I’ve changed my tune a bit about having parties at home (more on that below) since I first started these posts, I do still love finding great places to throw a good kids bash, and this round-up of party places reflects that. Happy planning!

A Great Escape
Owen turned the big 1-0 this year, and we wanted to celebrate the milestone with something unique, befitting a newly-minted adventurous tween and his crew of like-minded friends. A Clue Party Package at The Escape Lounge was the key to an excellent birthday bash. The H Street NE venue offers interactive escape experiences, where guests solve a series of clues to make their way out of a locked room. Owen and his friends had a blast mastering the Escape the Classroom option, plus enjoyed loads of other fun activities — a craft project, karaoke, goofy dress-up, and dancing — in a cool party room that was set up nicely and stocked with everything we needed upon our arrival. They even took care of ordering the pizza and supplying drinks, all we had to do was bring a cake. It was as easy to execute as it was enjoyable. Read more about it and see photos here. The deets: The Clue Party Package for kids is $475 and includes pizza, treats, drinks, and all party supplies for 12 kids and three adults. A wide age range could enjoy it — they say ages 6 and up.

Play & Party
Finding good party places for the littlest people can be challenging when it comes to celebrations in the District, since there just don’t seem to be a lot of venues that cater to small kids with age-appropriate activities and child-friendly environs. This makes Gymboree DC a rare gem here. The space full of soft mats and play structures is perfect for tiny revelers (and older children can enjoy them, too). Plus, parties have cute themes and are led by a teacher. You get an hour of exclusive use of play facilities, then party time in a separate room. Set up, clean up, and goody bags are all taken care of, to boot. The deets: Cost of a 1.5-hour party is $375, a two-hour party is $400. And right now there is a special spring offer for 20% off parties through June!

Parties with Natitude
If your kid is a Nats fan, then this party is sure to be a hit. An all-inclusive birthday party package at Nationals Park is full of pregame and game time fun. Parties begin an hour before the first pitch and include an indoor party space, games for guests, pizza & cupcakes, a mascot visit & photo ops, party favors, and a gift for the honoree. From there, the party moves to the Mezzanine Level, where you have a good view of the game as well as a personalized birthday scoreboard message and a video clip of the party featuring the birthday kid. (I seriously think I may start start celebrating my kids’ half-birthdays to get in on this one!) The deets: Cost is $30/party-goer, and chaperone tickets are available in the same seating section for $20. A minimum of 20 guests is required (excluding chaperones), and parties should be booked at least two weeks in advance. This could make for a good shared party to meet minimum guest requirement and curb costs.

Bouncy Birthdays
Sport Bounce of Loudoun has been voted “Best Place to Have a Birthday Party” by Loudoun and Fairfax parents. With giant inflatables to play upon, the exclusive “Big Red Chair Photo,” massive jumping pillow, and more, ages 2-10 can celebrate here, though I’d say it’s best for the younger end of that. The venue is not open to the public during parties, so your time on the equipment is just for your group. You also have access to your very own party room the entire time as well as a dedicated party assistant throughout the celebration. And Sport Bounce makes it easy from the start — they provide invitations and will even mail them for you. On top of all that, the birthday child gets a free Open Bounce pass plus a buddy bounce pass to return for even more fun. The deets: Parties for up to 16 children cost $325 on Saturday & Sunday, $275 Monday – Friday, and two pizzas are included in the weekday rate. Additional guests are $10 each. Parties are 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Tea Time
Pinky’s out! If you want to keep the party small but special, this is one to consider. Starting May 1, the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City will offer a “Petite Socialite” Afternoon High Tea experience certain to add extra sparkle to any birthday. Created to delight young social-etts, the package includes a private Afternoon Tea reservation for four in the hotels’ fyve Restaurant, edible glitter dipped fruit, delicate French macaroons, assorted miniature cupcakes, sparkling cider served in a champagne flute, a $20 Simon Gift Card and tiara for each guest, and complimentary parking. A pre- fixe lunch menu and overnight stay accommodations are also available for an additional rate. The deets: The package starts at $65 per guest under 12 and $75 per guest over age 12. And “Petite Socialite” can be accommodated to celebrate any occasion and is offered to guests of all ages.

A Super Fly Time
Give your child and guests their Superman moments at iFLY Loudoun. The brand new facility in Ashburn, VA, offers simulated skydiving experiences for ages 3 to 103. Flights take place in a vertical wind tunnel indoors and are as safe as they are thrilling. This is not a cheap venture, so parties here are probably best for a small group or for those who are happy to splurge. Packages include a party coordinator for your event, a flight training class, all the necessary gear, hands-on instruction with each flyer, and a video of the flight session. Extras include a party room, catering, and a few more services. You could also consider just taking a crew for flight sessions (sans party package) and having the celebration part elsewhere. For more about iFLY and photos of the experience, see this KFDC post. The deets: Party packages for up to 12 people start at $659.95. This includes two flights each, plus twelve video clips of the session.

Aviation Celebration
If you’re into the flight theme, but not necessarily actually flying, consider a party at the College Park Aviation Museum. Kids ages 3 -12 can celebrate at the cool space full of old airplanes and other exhibits showcasing the history of flight located next to the oldest continuously operating airport in the world. A few party packages are available, all of them including museum exploration, an aviation-themed craft, a private party room, decor and party favor bags. A couple of them offer a flight simulator, too, so kids can get somewhat of a feel for flying without their feet leaving the ground. The deets: The Junior Aviator Party is $350/non-member, $300/members; the Signal Corp Party is $375/non-members, $325/members for 10/children, 12/adults ($15 per additional child) and both include the flight simulator, cost difference is the craft. Wilbur’s Workshop Party for ages 10-12 only is $400/members, $350/members and features rib making as the activity.

Birthdays that Go Boing
Kids of all ages can jump, play, even flip for joy at Flight Trampoline Park. The huge space in Springfield, VA, resembles a skate park, with an industrial look of exposed pipes and cinder block walls sprayed with graffiti. But where you’d find ramps, rails, and concrete to facilitate skills and tricks, there are trampolines instead. They offer several birthday party packages at varying rates, depending on what it includes and when you host it (weekday or weekend). The Flight Birthday, includes an hour of jump time for 10 jumpers, socks and $1 in tokens for all guests, 45 minutes in a party room, two pizzas, and 10 bottles of water, and a t-shirt and jump pass for the birthday kid. The bigger packages offer more jump time and pizza at higher prices. For more about Flight Trampoline Park, see this KFDC post. The deets: The Flight Birthday is $280 Monday – Thursday, $330 Friday – Sunday for 10 jumpers, $16 for each additional jumper. Add on another $60-65 for the Fight Pro package and $160 for the Ultimate package. There is also a Mini Flight available Monday – Thursday only for up to 6 jumpers for $210.

Revel & Rappel
Host a great active party for an energetic crew at ClimbZone. The enormous facility is filled literally floor to ceiling with colorful themed climbing walls and moon bounces. Climbers can ascend Mt. Rushmore, reach the Jolly Roger on a pirate ship, conquer a game of Tetris, shimmy up a giant guitar, scale Jack’s bean stalk, negotiate a rope wall, and experience peak fun on a variety of other climbing areas. Party guests have access to all of it, plus a dedicated area for your group — and while you get the party space for two hours, climbing time is for three. You bring supplies and can BYO food or have it delivered from an area eatery. This might seem like it’s for older kids, but children ages 2 and up can climb! Read more about ClimbZone and see photos in this KFDC post. The deets: There is a 10-person minimum to reserve a party area, and that also gets you the 10% group discount (cost per person is regular price $25/ages 6 and up, $12/2-5 years). Cost for the room is $30.

Party in the Treetops
Literally a lofty way to celebrate, parties at The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring take place in the trees. That’s right, ropes courses and zip lines make up the largest aerial forest in North America, and navigating it is an amazingly fun pursuit for adventurous kids. The park is closed during winter, so this one is for spring, summer, and fall parties (again, I’m thinking half-birthday celebration). Kids ages 5 and up can climb in the park, and a couple of party packages are available, one for ages 5-9, the other for ages 8 and up. Find more about what’s included in both here. And read more about The Adventure Park and see photos in this KFDC post and this one. The deets: Cost per climber is $25 with a minimum of 8 and maximum of 24 for parties. There is a 30-minute orientation session, then climb time for 90 minutes or two hours, depending on the package. Picnic tables will also be reserved for your group.

Home Sweet Home
For the past couple of years, Sasha has requested parties at home. And despite my ramblings in past years about why my kids’ birthday celebrations had to be out of the house, I readily obliged. Hey, things change… as the kids get older, I find it’s much easier to host groups of friends without massive chaos; not only are they more mature and independent, I’m no longer a baby about handling it. So, both this year and last, Sasha invited about 10 friends over to help ring in her new years — and both were very sweet and fun celebrations. I set out beads and string, stickers, and snacks for the kids to enjoy as things got stared, then they moved on to a bigger craft later. Last year, they made these fairy jars (and the kids made doily crafts for the lids), this year they decorated tea cups for a tea party theme. (Pinterest is a bible for that kind of stuff!) They noshed on tea sandwiches and other finger foods, ate cake, and finished up with a dance party as they often seem to do. Sure, set up and clean up took a little time, but we also saved a ton of money — I probably spent $100 total when all was said and done, much less than if we’d had a party elsewhere.

Home grown party fun

Home grown party fun



I Second That!
There are a few places that I’ve talked about before and want to bring attention to again, both because we loved the parties there and they deserve an extra shout out:

Watkins Nature Center – One of my very favorite birthday party spots for kids in this area. Parties are fun, engaging, great for all ages and all seasons with indoor and outdoor elements, plus it’s relatively inexpensive for the DC-Metro. Read the original review here.

Labyrinth Games & Puzzles – We celebrated Owen’s birthday here last year, and a fantastic time was had by all. The party was led by a staff member who introduced the kids to all kinds of cool board games. There was lots of enthusiasm and laughter, too. Read more about Labyrinth here.

H Street Country Club Sasha had a great birthday here a few years ago, with indoor mini golf keeping the guests entertained and yummy food keeping bellies full (plus, a bar for parents who might enjoy a Bloody Mary…after all, it was a brunchtime party). Read the first mention of their parties here.

Canal Park Ice Rink – We celebrated here a few years ago, and it was a perfect pick for a large group. Also a great option for a winter birthday, it actually felt like the season worked to our advantage for a change. If your winter-born child likes to ice skate, definitely consider this. Read an earlier write-up about parties at Canal Park Ice Rink here.

For even more birthday party ideas, be sure to check out posts from years past — you can find links to all of them on the Special & Seasonal page!


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Filed under All ages, Annual, Birthday Parties, DC, Maryland, Virginia

Jump for Joy with this Sport Bounce Giveaway!

SB-Ad

Hooray for active play! Sport Bounce, the indoor play space full of giant inflatables and more kiddie fun, is giving away FIVE free open bounce passes PLUS a $25 Starbucks gift card to THREE lucky KidFriendlyDC readers (total value $75 each)!

Voted “Best Place to Have a Birthday Party” by Loudoun and Fairfax parents, Sport Bounce is an area favorite party place for kids 2-10. Sport Bounce is not open to the public during parties, so your time on the inflatables is just for your group! You’ll have access to your very own party room the entire time. Sport Bounce’s exclusive “Big Red Chair Photo” and massive jumping pillow are just a couple of the reasons many families book their parties here year after year. Go here to see what’s included and get more info on making your child’s next party a truly memorable celebration.

Sport Bounce is located at 44710 Cape Court, Suite #116 in Ashburn, VA. Open Bounce admission is $10/ages 2 and up, $6/8-23 months. Children must be 18 months to use any of the inflatables.

For more about Sport Bounce, see this post about a KFDC experience there.

Giveaway: For a chance to win one of the 5-Packs + Starbucks Gift Card Packages, simply leave a comment telling me your favorite Starbucks beverage. To be eligible, you must like KidFriendly DC on Facebook and subscribe to the KFDC blog (see sign-up near the top left). The giveaway will run through next Thursday, April 21, then three winners will be drawn at random and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Sport Bounce of Loudoun, however, I only promote programs, products, and services that I truly believe in and/or think would appeal to KFDC readers.


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Filed under Birthday Parties, Free, Gradeschoolers, Indoor Play, Preschoolers, Sponsored Post, Toddlers, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Indoor Playgrounds

climbzone_wall

I’ve learned a thing or two in my nearly five 11 12 14 years of parenting and hanging out with my kids, and this is an important one: Know where to go for indoor play.

I’m not talking about museums or art centers, where kids have to contain their energy and use their minds more than their bodies (which is not necessarily a bad thing, just not the point here). I’m talking about places where they can be physical and active and, in some cases, literally bounce off the walls.

It’s essential for those days when the weather is not conducive to outdoor fun, the kids seem to have an exorbitant amount of energy to burn, and the house needs to stay clean for some important reason like guests coming to dinner or, you know, sanity.

Here are some places to keep in mind for those very occasions or any time your child could use some fun out of the sun. And, as always, please feel free to add any good ones I haven’t covered!

The St. James
The Super, Awesome, and Amazing (that’s what it’s called) 30,000 square foot activity center in the St. Jame sports complex is filled with all kinds of climbing structures, trampolines, and obstacle courses. Kids can don harnesses and clip onto wires to climb, rappel, and navigate walkways 20 feet above the ground. They can bounce, flip, and execute acrobatic moves. They can swing from bars and on large platforms and crawl through tunnels. Essentially, every element in the space is conducive to active fun, and there is something for kids from toddler to tween ages to enjoy. Admission is $15 Monday – Thursday before 3pm. After 3pm and on Friday & Saturday, they are $23/hour. CertifiKid has a deal on passes for $13-17.

Badlands Play Space
The brand new facility in Rockville, MD, is a one-stop shop for adventures that take place inside. Nature-inspired and full of interactive pursuits for children 2-13 years old, it’s a place where kids can exercise both their bodies and minds in a variety of ways. A mountain of faux boulders and “grassy” hillside are the centerpiece of the space with a green turf-covered floor. Kids can climb up rocks to the peak or ascend using ropes, then whiz down slides. They can run up slopes, then roll down them or slide through a tunnel. Little spelunkers can crawl through a cave and emerge on the opposite side. In another small play area on the other side, they can walk across a footbridge, hop among tree stumps, and balance on “fallen” tree branches. And when they tire of all the active fun, there are opportunities to tinker, get creative, explore exhibits, and even relax. Admission is $20/child and $12.50/toddler, $5/adult per day, and they offer memberships and monthly rates which make for big discounts! Hours are 9am – 6pm Tuesday through Sunday.

Flight Trampoline Park
The huge space resembles a skate park, with an industrial look of exposed pipes and cinder block walls sprayed with graffiti. But where you’d find ramps, rails, and concrete to facilitate skills and tricks, there are… yep, you guessed it, trampolines. Everywhere. There are small squares, longer rectangles, trampolines on inclines in dodge ball and basketball areas. You can jump onto them from platforms, and also from square to square. You can jump just to see how high you can go, do flips, land on your bum and bounce back to your feet, or jump-dance to the blaring pop music. Flight rates vary by time: $11 for 30 minutes, $15 for an hour, $25 for two hours. Kid Flights (jumpers 46″ and under, ages 0-6) are $10 for an hour, $17 for two hours. There is also an upstairs arcade if you want to do some gaming, and they offer party packages. You can purchase tickets and fill out waivers in advance online, which I recommend doing to avoid a wait in line and ensure you get the time slot you want.

PG Sports & Learning Complex
The Gymnastics Center at the PG Sports and Learning Complex is a Mecca of bouncy fun. Whether your child is a Mary Lou Retton in the making or just a kid who likes to jump, climb, tumble, and swing, this place has it covered. Soft mats, balance beams, trampolines, a rope swing and foam pit, and soft climbing apparatus will tire out even the most energized kids. Staff is on hand to help use equipment, but parents are expected to supervise. Walkers through age 12 are welcome to join open play sessions that take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11:30am – 12:30pm, Fridays from 4:30pm – 5:30pm, and Saturdays from 1:30 – 2:30. Cost is $7/child. Gymnastics classes are also offered — find more info on the website. (Note:  Hours might vary depending on the season, especially in summer. Be sure to call ahead to confirm Open Gym is on.)

ClimbZone
This indoor rock climbing center in Laurel is all the rage lately. Themed walls offer extra incentive to get to get to the top. Scale Jack’s bean stalk, negotiate a spider web, conquer Mt. Rushmore, and experience peak fun on a variety of other climbing areas. Walk-ins are welcome, but booking climb time is recommended. Admission for climbers is $25/ages 6 and up, $12/ages 2-5, free for 2 and under (also free to spectate), and this gives you a few hours’ block to climb. A short orientation covering safety and belaying is offered. Parent supervision is required for all children 12 and under. Find a deal on admission here.

My Gym
My Gym has over 10 locations in the DC-metro area. Like other children’s play gyms, they offer all the requisite equipment for some good tumbling and energy-burning play. Classes and programs are available for kids up to 12 years old, but their Free Play sessions would probably best be enjoyed by the younger set. Free Play is offered by age at different times depending on the location, so find a My Gym near you to check the schedule.

Dynamite Gymnastics Center
Adults can’t resist having a blast alongside their kids at Dynamite Gymnastics Center in Rockville (I know this firsthand from an awesome birthday party experience). The huge space filled with tumbling mats, trampolines, a rope swing, balance beam, launching ramps, and more equipment that entices little ones and grown ups alike to bounce around. Open play is offered several times throughout most days, but changes by month. Cost is $8/child, $12/adult for 50 minutes; $12/child, $17/adult for 90 minutes, 12-session passes are $75/50 minutes, $120/90 minutes. Note: Parents only need to pay for open gym if they plan to participate.

Gymboree
With locations all over the country, Gymboree is a popular play spots for really little ones. Babies as young as mere months to kids aged 5 can enjoy a variety of activities that focus on different development skills and yield a good time. All Gymboree locations in the area offer Open Gym Time a few times a week, but with a catch — you have to be an enrolled member. So if you are a member or are interested in classes, check out schedules and rates for individual locations. You can take a free trial class to see if you want to sign up; information is available on the website. And for more info about the DC location, see this KFDC post.

Pump it Up
Take the kids to this bouncy nirvana, and you will be guaranteed cool parent status forever. Giant rooms filled wall-to-wall with interactive inflatables produce smiles and giggles like you’ve never seen or heard. Pump it Up is a well known birthday party venue, but they offer pop-in playtime during the week as well. Kids ages 2 and up (that includes the kid in all of us grown-ups) will love the slides, bounces areas, climbing walls, and obstacle courses (all soft and air-filled). There are several locations in Maryland, the closest to DC in Lanham, and one in Manassas, too. Check calendars on individual location websites for pop-in play times and prices, as they vary from place to place.

ZavaZone
This Indoor Adventure Park dedicated to ages 5-105 calls itself a “gamechanger.” And with ninja courses, ropes courses, trampolines, climbing challenges, zip lines, and more under one soaring roof, guests are often in full agreement. There are three locations in Rockville, Herndon, and Potomac Mills, and hours vary by day, so be sure to check before you go. (Note: Hours are extended during breaks from school!) Admission starts at $21.50/1 hour.

SkyZone
The trampoline park with locations in Columbia, Gaithersburg, and Manassas beckons with bouncy fun for all ages. Jam-packed with trampolines, kids (and adults) can go boing with carefree zeal or bounce with a purpose. Jump and dunk basketballs, flip for fun, or play a game of bouncy dodgeball. Open jump times vary by location, and there are special session for little ones as well as fitness classes for adults, so be sure to check schedules before you go.

JW Tumbles
The children’s gym in Arlington offers play experiences for kids from just a few months to 9 years old. A variety of equipment, from soft mats and bouncy balls to small ladders and climbing ropes, challenges different ages and levels in a stimulating environment. Open Gym is offered at various times during the week, depending on the JW Tumbles location. See the website to find one near you, along with open gym times and rates.

Sport Bounce of Loudon
At the Ashburn, Va, indoor gym kids can bounce off the walls — inflated ones, anyway. Essentially, it’s a really large room practically stuffed with moon bounces, lofty air-filled slides, and other inflated means for kids to burn energy. There’s also a small ride-on train, a hurricane simulator, and a separate smaller room with soft toys and hoola hoops for little ones. Open Gym sessions are offered Monday through Friday, though times vary by day. Most are an hour and a half long, a perfect stretch to bounce off some energy. Admission is $10/ages 2 and up, $6/8-23 months. Children must be 18 months to use any of the inflatables.

SportRock Climbing Centers
Kids can reach new heights at facilities in Alexandria and Sterling. With open belay and open climb hours on weekends and weekdays, it’s a great way to stay active when the elements aren’t cooperating (or even when they are). Both locations offer thousands of feet of climbing space, that include 30-foot overhangs, a bouldering stalactite, and challenging scaling spaces (plus areas for beginners, too). SportRock also offers classes for those who want to take their climbing to the next level. Rates vary depending on what you want to do, so check the website for details.

Elemeno
The Barracks Row space is ideal for infants to children 5 years old to spend a couple of hours, according to a KFDC reader with kids those ages (see comments below… in fact, most of this comes from her, though I have been in there to check it out). They have a floating balloon; an small infant & toddler playground set with slide, maze, ladders to climb; a water table area, where kids can pull levers that spout water, plus cups to fill and pour out (and water shoes and smocks to help the kids stay dry). Another room has beautiful wooden & other toys for playing — moving cars, planes, pretend foods, and a little soft block area for infants. Admission is $20 per child, and they also offer a membership.

A few more to check out:
* Summit Ropes Indoor Adventures in Sterling
* Launch Trampoline Park in PG County, Rockville, Columbia, & Herndon (click on locations for admission deals)
* Hyper Kidz in Columbia (get deal)

And a couple of recommendations from KFDC readers:

Chinquapin Park Recreation Center in Alexandria has a soft playroom designed for ages 5 and younger. It’s apparently loaded with soft toys and is a good place for playgroups to meet and children to play under adult supervision. Open 9am – half an hour before closing (check schedule, as times vary by day). Admission is $5 per half-hour.

Per a KFDC reader, the Alexandria Coliseum “has 3 bounce houses for bigger kids and a few smaller ones for your tiny kids. Best thing about the place, you buy a pass for the day so you can leave for lunch and come back — without paying again — for the afternoon.” Locations are in Woodbridge and Annandale, and most Open Jump sessions in their bouncy areas are in the afternoons on weekdays ($6), but all day on weekends ($9).


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Filed under All ages, Class, DC, Maryland, Play, Virginia