Planning a fantastically fun birthday party that your child and their friends will remember for years to come can seem like a daunting task, especially when you start counting out invitations and pricing venues. Making the most of a birthday party budget means getting the best deal possible on space, food, decor, and entertainment. Luckily for Houstonians, there are several great options for planning birthday parties on a budget all over town.
Whether you prefer a more traditional party with streamers, balloons, and a bounce house, or want to go for a more unique experience like a museum tour, we've got you covered. Read on for our suggestions on where to go and what to do when you want to make the most of a birthday party budget, and consult our Birthday Party Guide for more ideas.
1. Take It Outdoors
One of the most obvious kids birthday spots (weather permitting) are local parks with great playgrounds. Many parks will let you rent covered pavilions with tables for a nominal fee, while some may even be free. Donovan Park in the Heights, Centennial Park in Pearland, and so many other great destination parks all over the Houston area make great choices for large groups. Spring Creek Park is another great choice for those in the north Houston area. If you pick a place like Levy Park or Clear Lake Park, you can even take advantage of free splash pads if your child's birthday falls during the warmer months. If your child likes to fish, choosing a park with a fishing pond like Challenger Seven Memorial Park in Webster or a pier like Pine Gully Park in Seabrook is another great idea.
Hosting a party at a park or beach gives you ample space and a lot of flexibility for minimal (or often zero) dollars, allowing for you to spend more money on food, decorations, or entertainment. Another great choice for warmer weather is to head down to Galveston and host a birthday party on one of their family-friendly beaches. While in Galveston, taking a dolphin tour around the bay is a great, inexpensive idea for party-goers. We love BayWatch Dolphin Tour.
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2. Studios, Churches, and YMCA
Many area dance and fitness studios will rent out their studio space for birthday parties. Some even help to host the event! Dance Expressions in Friendswood offers party packages that include a dance class taught by an instructor during your party with customizable party themes. Biron Youth Sports is another great option with affordable hosted packages to choose from based on your child's age range and fitness interests. For more adventurous youth, some rock climbing gyms like Momentum Indoor Climbing offer lower pricing for parties held during off-peak times. Fees will range depending on what is included with the rental, but even if it's not advertised, asking your favorite local gym or yoga studio about renting space is a creative option.
Many of our favorite locations for free indoor playgrounds located at churches throughout Houston are wonderful options for budget-friendly parties. Check out local churches for room rentals as well. Some even have activity centers available for rent at an inexpensive rate Sugar Creek Baptist Church rents out their popular playscape for birthday parties, while Houston's First Baptist Church in Katy offers packages for their party room, game area, and bowling alley.
Houston-area YMCA locations are another great birthday party resource. Prices and packages vary based on location, but some have indoor pools, basketball courts, and volleyball courts to choose from.
3. Meet Everyday Heroes
Many local police and fire stations will set up tours for birthday party groups if time and space allow, all you have to do is call and ask. Kids can meet officers, learn about safety, and see real tools and equipment. The Houston Police Department Mounted Patrol Facility is open to visitors and offers guided tours and demonstrations of their horses for groups for FREE. Kids can feed the horses apples and carrots, learn about how they are used in patrol, and see where they live. Reservations are a must and donations are welcome.
The Houston Police Museum is another wonderful option that offers group tours of their collection of police memorabilia. The museum is free, but groups of 10 or more require reservations. A group tour plus a picnic at nearby Discovery Green is a wonderful way to have a memorable birthday on a budget.
The Houston Fire Museum books private birthday parties for up to 16 children each Saturday. The party rental fee includes exclusive access to the museum and playroom, staff assisted room set up, the opportunity to explore a real fire engine cab, try on bunker gear, and slide down a kid-sized fire pole.
Kids can meet and greet horses at the HPD Mounted Patrol Facility/ Photo courtesy Smash, The Houston Mounted Patrol Horse via Facebook
4. Food For Thought
Restaurants can be a great choice for budding foodies, and there are several options in this category that won't break the bank. California Pizza Kitchen offers birthday packages that include a facility tour, pizza making (and eating!), and a personal chef's coat for the guest of honor, all for $10 per child. The Chocolate Bar offers kids birthday packages starting at $8.95 per child for bite-sized brownies, cookies, ice cream and drinks.
Always a go-to kid favorite, various Chick-Fil-A locations throughout Houston offer reserved seating for birthday parties and all you have to pay for is each child's meal. Be sure to call your local CFA to discuss times and decor well in advance, as peak party times tend to fill up fast. While it might seem like a throwback to a simpler time, another fast food party option is McDonald's where staff will help you celebrate with Happy Meals, cake, decor, and time in their PlayPlace. Call your local restaurant to discuss booking details.
RELATED: Where to Host an Indoor Birthday Party in Houston
5. Classic Party Spaces
Rental fees at many of the more traditional birthday party locations can be pricey, but several area play spaces do offer totally fun, yet affordable parties. Putt-Putt Fun House in Clear Lake offers various packages where you can choose how many of their fun activities to include in your party time. Choose from mini bowling, laser tag, bumper boats, and more to please your child and stay within your budget. IT'Z is another similar venue with customizable packages that include multiple activities. Younger kids may enjoy a venue like Houston Party Playland or Kid 'n Play where party goers can play on indoor playgrounds and enjoy cake and pizza in private party rooms and customizable packages are available to help you stay within your budget.
Go to Pump It Up in Bellaire and let kids romp around on giant inflatables in a private, indoor setting. Planet Wow and Monkey Joe's are also inflatable venues where kids can go bananas on their birthday with parties that include jump time, arcade games, and more.
Give your kiddo a retro roller skating party at Dairy Ashford Roller Rink, and choose from several packages that include skating and food, but won't bust your budget. They even offer toddler skate party packages, which allow push toys on the rink.
A bowling party is a great option for all ages. Bowlmor offers party packages at various price points where you can pay per child attending to get the most for your money.
Movie parties are a popular option that can be done on a budget by choosing to see a flick at a dollar theater. NASA Premiere Dollar 8 in Webster shows movies just out of regular theaters for only $2 per person. You can even catch some films for only 50 cents on Saturdays before noon.
6. Get Crafty
Choose from a plethora of craft options to create the perfect creative party at your local Michael's store. Themed parties start with a minimum of eight guests and include everything kids need to design an age-appropriate craft to take home. Depending on the location, some Lowe's and Home Depot stores offer similar party options, but you will need to check with the manager at your local store for specifics.
The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft is a unique option for a birthday party for any kids interested in the art of design. For birthday parties, schedule a free tour of the facility and browse exhibits, and your guests can even participate in a craft workshop if you pay a teacher fee plus a small fee per participant.
More Tips for Partying on a Budget
- Send digital invites for free via websites like Evite instead of buying paper ones. It's also environmentally friendly. Win-win!
- If your party space doesn't already provide them, borrow tables and chairs from friends and family instead of renting them.
- Play party games that don't require purchasing any supplies such as freeze dance, tag, and Simon says.
- If you're not planning to party at a restaurant, you can save money by only providing drinks and a cake or cupcakes at your party. Just plan a mid-morning or mid-afternoon shindig so that your guests will attend the party between meal times.
- Instead of giving each guest a goodie bag filled with multiple treats, stick to a simple candy bar or balloon per child. Or, have kids make a craft during the party that they can take home with them at the end.
- Ask venues if they offer discounts for booking parties during off-peak hours. Some places may have lower pricing in the mornings or on weekdays.
Top photo: Learning a dance during a princess-themed party at Dance Expressions/ Photo courtesy Dance Expressions via Facebook