Recently a friend of mine threw a soccer party for her two sons at Mount Prospect Park; kids designed their own t-shirts on the grass, then wore them in an organized soccer game (with actual goals); there was pizza, cake, watermelon, cold beer for adults so inclined…and hey presto—it was the perfect summer birthday party.
My friend proved that you don’t have to break into your kids’ college education fund to give them a memorable birthday experience. Even if—like me—you have winter babies, a few games at home and a cake can make for a rollicking good time.
On the other hand there’s something to be said for contracting out the management of 25 sugar-frenzied little people. If you decide to go the “party space” route, be glad: you’re lucky enough to live in an area that is rich with options—some heart-stoppingly expensive, others pretty affordable.
Your biggest problem may be deciding which of these excellent venues to pick:
623 Vanderbilt Ave at St Mark’s Ave, 347-240-3926
Vanderbilt Avenue’s buzzing new made-from-scratch ice-cream parlor offers Ice Cream for Breakfast parties at 10am-12pm, before the store opens (you can also book a smaller party at the rear of the shop during regular hours). Kids get to pedal a bicycle to churn a custom-designed ice cream (the birthday boy or girl chooses the flavor), as well as building their own sundaes. Each kid gets a photo of him or herself riding the bicycle and can incorporate it in a make-your-own-placemat crafts project. Ice Cream for Breakfast (20-25 kids) costs $450; a party during opening hours (up to 12 kids) costs $350.
6722 Fort Hamilton Pkway at 67th St, 347-470-5867
It's further afield, but a birthday invitation from this Borough Park bouncy emporium is the hot ticket these days—and why not? Kids get to boing around like crazy for an hour and fifteen minutes, try out a giant bouncy slide and inflatable boxing gloves, then eat pizza and Hersheys ice cream cake in a party room. Bounce-U is so popular that you have to book two months in advance and it will set you back $750 for a weekend party (up to 25 kids); but there are cheaper options for smaller groups and on weekdays.
145 Brooklyn Ave, St Mark’s Ave/Prospect Place, 718-735-4400 x164
Brooklyn’s Children’s Museum runs a selection of themed parties for 2 to 12-year-olds including: Pirates of the Museum ($700 for 20 kids; $1,000 for 30)—kids set out on a real boat on a treasure hunt around the museum; Imagination Runs Wild ($650 for 15 kids)—private use of the Totally Tots area with its waterworks pond, sandbox, and tunnels; and Under the Sea for 5-year-olds and over ($650). Parties last 1 hour and 45 minutes and include cake and party favors.
307 Flatbush Ave at Prospect Place, 718-230-8646
This kid-friendly Flatbush Avenue-eaterie offers parties for 6 to 12-year-olds in its Piñata Party Space. Kids enjoy a Mexican buffet chosen from the “Little Amigos” party menu (tacos, burritos, “Monkey Fingers,” etc) and ice cream for dessert. Crayons, coloring pages and helium balloons are provided, as well as a large plasma TV, so kids can digest in front of a DVD. The cost is $12.95 per child for 10 to 20 kids (cake, a pinata, and decorations cost extra), and one supervising adult gets a free margarita. Let that be you.
733 Franklin Ave, Sterling Place/Park Place, 347-576-4004
This newly opened old-fashioned candy store offers 25 types of candy and 13 flavors of ice cream; it's available for parties at a cost of $400 for three hours.
495 Flatbush Ave, Suite 201, at Lefferts Ave, 646-529-9402
Kids will experience a “creative group adventure” at this Prospect-Lefferts Gardens carpentry workshop. At Construction Birthday parties 5 to 9-year-olds work with wood using real, kid-sized tools, to build a project that they take home ($400 for 16-22 kids). At a Little Builders party, younger kids either work with staff to build a small project or roam free playing with wooden blocks, cars, ramps, and other kid-built toys ($375 for 11 to 16 kids; $275 for 10 or fewer). Bring your own food, drink and cake (or for extra cost, they will arrange pizza and cake).
Prospect Park, just inside Willink entrance at Flatbush Ave and Empire Blvd, 646-393-9031 x2
At Lefferts House, kids learn what fun used to mean in the days before Angry Birds. Candle-making, potato sack races, quilting, poster-making and a ride on the nearby carousel are on offer in warmer months (April to October). In winter, kids create a toy or personal item using wood, leather, needlework or fabric. Parties cost $275 for Prospect Park Alliance members, $300 for non-members; in April to October that includes 25 guests age 4 and up; in winter, 12 guests age 9 and up. Bring your own food, drinks, and cake.
81 Atlantic Ave, Hicks St/Henry St, 718-923-9710
Got a long guest list? In the spacious second floor of this play space/restaurant, kids can strut their stuff on a big screen courtesy of a Wii at a dance party with art projects, story time and games for up to 30 children (75 guests maximum). The Moxie Spot restaurant provides food from a varied and kid-friendly menu (bringing your own, except for cake, is not an option). For smaller groups (up to 10 kids), you can book a non-private party downstairs on weekend mornings for a charge of $2.50 per person (for 20-30 people in total). Room hire is $200 for two hours; there’s a weekend minimum of $400 ($200 room, $200 food).
186 Underhill Ave, Sterling Place/St Johns Place, 718-797-3707
Geared towards the toddler set, this pleasant Underhill Avenue playpace offers a basic no-frills three-hour rental (one hour for set-up and clean-up); kids can play dress-up, roam in the backyard (May to September) and play with the many toys. For extra fees you can have a facilitator, crafts projects, activities based on the birthday child’s interests and a piñata. Three-hour Exploratorium Rental costs $385; visit website for other prices.
Prospect Park, just inside Willink entrance at Flatbush Ave and Empire Blvd, 646-393-9031 x1.
Do your children love riding the carousel? Why not let them spin around to their hearts’ content, then gorge on cake and ice cream? Hazardous but fun. Prospect Park’s Carousel is open April to October; you can book it privately before or after opening hours, or you can share it with the public; two long tables are provided at the rear for snacks and cake and guests can frolic on the grass between rides. Private parties cost $350 for Alliance members, $375 for non-members, plus $25 permit fee; public parties cost $150 for Alliance members, $175 for non-members.
Prospect Park, just inside Lincoln Rd/Ocean Ave entrance, 646-393-9031
Is your child a nature lover? At Boathouse parties, an Audubon naturalist leads up to 28 kids age 4 to 12 on a nature walk through the park; if the weather’s good they can even take a trip on the electric boat, Independence. A crafts project using recycled materials is included. You supply the food and cake. The Audubon Boathouse is available year-round; parties with electric boat tour cost $450 for Alliance members; $475 for non-members; without boat tour: $350 or $375.
450 Flatbush Ave near Ocean Ave, 718-399-7339 x327
Parties at Prospect Park Zoo are tailored to your child’s age and interests: 3 to 5-year-olds can feed sheep and pet the alpacas or explore animals’ use of senses in the Discovery Center; older kids can monkey around at a Primate Party or learn how to train sea lions. A zoo educator plus staff members conduct live animal visits in the party room; you supply the snacks, drinks, cake, and utensils. Book at least a month in advance; cost for up to 30 children is $610 for WCS members; $650 non-members; for fewer children the cost is lower.