5 Last Minute Birthday Party Ideas for Kids in New York City
Lest you harbor a notion that I, as "Mommy Poppins," am some uber-organized, type-A, helicopter mom, let me dispel that myth for you right now with this story about my daughter's 10th birthday party. Yes, double digits, big deal birthday...and the morning of the party, what had I prepared? Nothing.
It's not that I don't get in to planning birthday parties. Planning birthday parties is one of my joys. It's a chance for me to get creative and make a little kiddo magic. I've written about a few of my kid's birthday parties, like our Jedi Training Academy Party and Urban Pool Party. No, I definitely enjoy kids parties, this year I just got a little side-railed.
See, at my daughter's school auction I had bought a really expensive gift certificate for dinner and dessert for 7 at a cute little cafe in the West Village that looked like it would be an awesome birthday party venue. However, the certificate expired about two months after the auction date, and several months before the party (Mommy Poppins Fail #1). Which I didn't notice until I called a few days before the planned party to make the reservation (Mommy Poppins Fail #2). The restaurant said they would not honor the expired gift certificate. (grumble grumble). For a moment I contemplated using the Mommy Poppins angle to see if they would honor it, but decided they should rise to the occasion without needing to be bribed (that would only cheapen both of us).
Anyway, long story, well, not that short really, this is how it came to pass that on the morning of my daughter's 10th birthday party we had nothing planned. And this is where my true Mommy Poppins superpowers kick into action, 'cause the challenge of creating a totally awesome birthday party in less than 12 hours is right up my alley.
So what do you do when you need a last minute kids birthday party in NYC? Here are some ideas:
Bowling Party: Last minute afternoon reservations are easy to get at a number of local bowling alleys and food is usually served on site. I called Bowlmor and the friendly employee said I could even book a party for the next day and they even had openings for this coming Saturday. The party package was $36 per kid and included two hours of bowling, food and drinks, cake, paper goods for eating and more. You can also just rent a lane (up to 8 people per lane) for 2 hours, which costs $155-$195, plus shoe rental and food, but for a party of ten kids, the party package is actually a better deal. If you keep it under 8 bowlers, renting the lane might come out better. This is just an example. Other alleys might have better deals.
Movie Party: A movie party can literally be planning just hours in advance. Buy tickets to the latest kiddie cult flick and maybe make a reservation at a nearby pizza joint for afterwards. Make sure to ask the theater if you can get a discount for buying 10 or more tickets. You can surely pick up some trinkets in the theme of the film to give as party favors on the way there.
Party in the Park: If the weather is fine, a party in a neighborhood park or playground can be a great last minute plan. Although you need to reserve gazebos and other structures in advance, anyone can plop themselves down in a grassy spot for an informal gathering. Did you know that you can even get pizza delivered in a park? That seemed odd to me the first time I saw the pizza boy strolling up in his uniform, but how convenient. The options for entertainment are endless; organize some classic yard games or just buy a bunch of different types of balls, frisbees, bubbles, or kites and let the kids go. They can take them home with them as party favors.
Ice Skating Party: In the winter months an Ice Skating Party is always fun. In our post about Ice Skating Parties I think I mentioned the time I planned a make-shift ice skating party by going ice skating and then out for hot cocoas and cake at a nearby diner. It certainly wasn't as easy as just showing up at the rink for a reserved party, but I would do it again in a pinch. I think this time I would just bring cupcakes and hot chocolate right to the rink. Choosing a rink with some seating would definitely make it easier.
Arcade Party: Love it or hate it (and boy do the kids love it) a party at Chuck E Cheese or Dave and Busters is easy to throw together last minute. Chuck E Cheese actually allows you to order your party online even a day in advance. With the online interface, you can even customize the food order and all the details. Parties start at about $18 per kid including tokens, food and drinks, party supplies and the site will even send out your invites. It doesn't get much easier than that. You could also just show up, buy them some tokens, buy food and let 'em rip, but it will cost a lot more.
So which one did we end up doing? None of them.
My daughter was still in love with the idea of going to a cute cafe so in order to redeem my slacker-mom self I had to make it happen. I tried Serendipity 3 (my dad used to take me there for my birthday and then for a Roosevelt island tram ride), but the first reservation they had available was for her 21st birthday. I needed a cute place that didn't take reservations so that we would be on equal footing with all the other slacker spontaneous people.
Rest assured, I did find a place, we went on the early side so we wouldn't have to wait for long (waiting for a table is not a fun party activity) and the kids had a great time. I'll share details from the actual party in a separate post.
Find more party ideas in our Birthday Party Guide.