I go to kids birthday parties the way a 20 year old goes clubbing. Lately it seems like the weekend just isn't complete without hitting at least one kiddie party where my 5 year old can get sugared-up, over-stimulated and over-tired. Last weekend we had four (yes, in one weekend!) and I've been to more than 50 separate preschool birthday parties since my son was a toddler.
From exorbitantly fancy parties with chocolate fountains to the most simple, classic kid parties, I think I've witnessed enough of the (sugar) highs and the (tantrummy party) lows to qualify as an expert when it comes to birthday party places in New York City. Although I've never been to a bad party, there are definitely some places that stand out for the way they handle the kids.
The following seven spots rocked in my book and earned my son's top rating: "I didn’t like this party...I LOVED this party!"
92nd Street Y – Upper East Side
1395 Lexington Avenue
Kids just love the giant, colorful, two-level jungle gym at the 92nd Street Y. It has a ball pit, plus climbing, swinging and sliding things and room to run. Once kids enter you don’t see them again until it is time for cake—seriously. The party assistants are amazing at making all the kids feel welcome and keeping things moving. Cake and pizza are served in a separate party room parents can decorate. The Y allows you to customize your parties, too, so no two are alike. My son has been here for a few parties and it is always a huge hit. They also offer sports, swimming and gymnastics parties.
Apple Seeds – Chelsea & Upper West Side
10 West 25th Street
200 West End Avenue
When Apple Seeds first opened my son was invited to a jungle-themed birthday party that was all-out fun. It was the first time my son ever thanked the host for inviting him! The entertainment never stopped, they made animal masks, practiced animal yoga and did some dancing and singing in the private party room after they played in the fantastic indoor playground. There were plenty of party helpers who interacted with and led the kids in activities. The whole place was over the top, the birthday cake was personalized and pastry-chef gorgeous. My favorite touch was the décor in the party room where the birthday child’s name was spelled out in huge silver helium balloons. Parties start at $490, but if you want a bash with all the bells and whistles, the prices soar.
Creative Dreams – Kips Bay
25 Waterside Plaza at 27th Street
Creative Dream parties are so off the beaten path that the actual party location is a little hard to find, but you are in for a treat when you arrive. The space consists of two large rooms allowing hosts to invite kids to a party in one room and adults to a happy hour in the other if they wish. At the party we attended, multiple staffers kept the kids busy decorating paper guitars, rocking out at a dance party with lots of bubbles, playing old-school party games like duck, duck, goose and their own Creative Dreams specialty, "bubble wrap freeze dance," where the kids dance and jump on the bubble-wrap covered floor until the music turns off. They even did rock star make overs on all the kids, my son left the party with a tiny Setzer-esque pompadour; his friend had cool, glow-in-the-dark spiked hair.
Children's Museum of the Arts – Hudson Square
103 Charlton Street
The Children’s Museum of the Arts is an awesome place and the parties here are even better. Over the years my son has been invited to quite a few and each one was unique. All the parties took the kids through the various exhibits in the museum before settling into the party room for food and teaching-artist led projects. The highlight, though, for most kids is going into the super cool ball pit. This ball pit has giant yoga balls to play with, jump on, crawl over and bounce off.
New York Kids Club – City wide
Multiple locations, visit the website for details.
The facilities at New York Kids Club are top notch and the parties are exciting, but what really sets them aside are the amazing party hosts! At each party we have attended here the party hosts sang and danced with the kids as well as led them around the various stations of the indoor gym. The kids get to walk on balance beams, climb the rock wall, try out the parallel bars, or dance in the dark with a disco ball. Hosts then escort the kids into the party rooms and serve the pizza and cake, take photographs and distribute party favors and balloons. I bet they even clean up afterward.
Astoria Sports Complex Parties – Astoria
3438 38th Street
My son got invited to an awesome, action-packed birthday party at Astoria Sports Complex in Queens. Before the party, the birthday child was able choose two sports from the many they offer: indoor soccer on a full-size field, swimming, baseball or the bouncy room, which includes a bouncy castle and a huge 10-foot high bouncy slide (there is no place in Manhattan where this could ever fit!) The owner of the complex was at the party snapping photos and uploading them to a screen for us all to watch during lunch and even gave hosts a CD of all of them. After all the running and jumping, guests are brought to the balcony for cake and pizza. The birthday child presides over the party from a birthday throne and is immortalized on the birthday wall.
Victorian Gardens Parties – Midtown
In the heart of Central Park, Victorian Gardens is the perfect birthday party venue. It's outdoor location lets kids go crazy and all the rides are perfectly sized so they can ride everything alone. The most difficult part: trying to get them to stop and gather back at the VIP tent for cake. Last summer my son attended a party here and he had a fantastic time.
Looking for more birthday party ideas? Check out the Mommy Poppins Birthday Guide.
This post originally published in March 2012.