If you're getting eye rolls just uttering the words "bounce house" to your New York City tween or teen when birthday-party talk comes up, we've found 13 fresh party ideas at venues new and old, all of which are sure to be a hit with the guest of honor and his or her (equally judgmental) friends. With party packages this cool, it's a shame to celebrate but once a year.
Find more awesome kids' birthday ideas in our jam-packed NYC Party Guide.
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Indoor Extreme Sports – Long Island City, Queens or Staten Island
In addition to paintball there are several types of laser tag on offer here, plus Indoor Extreme Sports is one of the few places in the country to offer archery tag. Party packages for all of these sports—which include food and beverages (you really work up a sweat), game play and all necessary equipment—start at $150 for a VR party and top out at $398. This is a great option for tweens, since children need to be at least 10 years old for paintball and archery tag, and age 7 and up for laser tag. Or check out a handful of other laser tag options around the city.
Melody Lanes – Sunset Park, Brooklyn
There are a good number of bowling alleys throughout the five boroughs, but many have an over-21 rule after caertain hours. Melody Lanes offers an old-school and age-appropriate vibe, with a small arcade and specials such as glow-in-the-dark bowling on weekend evenings. Party packages start at $23 per person and offer balloons, paper goods, shoe rental, bowling, pizza, drinks, and a hostess. Add-ons include lots of catering options and goodie bags.
VR World — Midtown
What's better than going virtual? VR World, located next door to the Empire State Building, is buzzing with a young-adult crowd (there's a bar), but tweens/teens can bound between the gaming floor, with more than 50 VR options, and a cool party space on the mezzanine level overlooking the action. Prices start at $395 for 12 guests and include all access for two hours, a setup for cake-cutting, and a Moveo Flight Simulator Ride for the birthday kid. Plus, there are plenty of add-ons like T-shirts and goodie bags. If you live in Brooklyn and don't want to hoof it into the city, check out VRBar or YokeyPokey. The latter also offers mobile parties, so they'll come right to you!
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There are thrills to be had at a birthday party at Streb. Photo courtesy of Streb
Streb — Williamsburg
The activities offered at this acrobatic dance school's parties differ from your usual usual running, jumping, and climbing. At Streb, kids bounce off trampolines, fly on the trapeze, and learn patented Pop Action moves developed by choreographer Elizabeth Streb. Parties start at $645 for instruction and equipment use on a theme of your choice (choose from one of the above or create a combo); parents provide all the food, cake, beverages, and favors.
Lunessa Jewelry – Soho
This intimate designer-run jewelry boutique offers parties for children ages 7 and up. During the 1.5-to-2-hour lessons, up to a 15 kids design and create one to three sparkly pieces from semi-precious stones, Austrian crystals, freshwater pearls, and sterling silver using professional techniques. Lunessa offers three party packages, starting at $85 per person and include customizable digital invites and pretty organza bags for guests to carry the baubles home. Add-ons include organic snacks and beverages, and even sushi.
Bronx Zoo Treetop Adventure — Bronx
While the new zip line and ropes course doesn't offer formal birthday packages, grabbing a few close friends and heading up into the skyline is probably all the party your tween/teen really needs. Get a lesson, strap on a helmet and then tackle rope bridges, wobbly bridges, tight rope walks, ladders, rolling and swinging elements, zip lines, and more – all set into the tree canopy. Don't think you can bring a horde of teens to this and let them loose, though. Most of the activities require 1:1, adult-kid supervision, so you'll either need to bring more grown-ups, or fewer kids.
Kick Axe — Gowanus, Brooklyn
This neighborhood hot spot has a rustic, hispter vibe with a grown-up feel for those who aren't into "kiddie" parties any longer. Kids as young as 7 can throw, although an adult must be present. Private axe-throwing ranges start at $300 for 1.5 hours. The venue itself doesn't offer food, but a STUF'd food truck is on-site during peak hours and offers catering if you want to put togther a more solid noshing plan.
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Gaming with friends is a great way to spend a birthday. Photo courtesy of Hex
Hex & Co. — Upper West Side
If you have a game lover tween/teen, 1) he/she probably already know about Hex & Co., and 2) would love to spend his or her big day gaming away. Hex & Co,'s staff will help you plan a customized party, from free play to specific themes (e.g., Pokeman or Magic: The Gathering) and there's loads of party-perfect items on the menu. Prices vary based on time and day but start as low as $10 per person and include a staff member to teach/guide games. Check out Brooklyn Strategist or Brooklyn Game Lab for more board game and quest party options.
Fly High — Staten Island
You no longer have to head to the suburbs to let yours tweens bounce off the walls and go airborne. Fly High Trampoline Park offers a trio of party packages starting at $395 for weekdays and $495 for weekends. All parties include one hour of public jump time and 40 minutes in a private party room plus a dedicated host, pizza, and drinks.
Chinatown Fair — Chinatown
Chinatown Fair offers 40 games, including Guitar Hero and Jurassic Park, along with skee-ball, driving, and shoot-'em-up games, and tabletop games such as air hockey. Birthday parties require a 10-kid minimum and cost $13.99 per guest. The standard package includes a $25 game card, a slice of pizza, and soda for each guest, some decorations, paper goods, and 1,000 tickets for the guest of honor at the prize redemption area. Hosts supply cake or cupcakes and are welcome to bring additional food and beverages.
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What teen wouldn't love a Pop Tart birthday celebration at Kellogg's NYC. Photo courtesy of Kellogg's NYC
Kellogg's NYC — Union Square
We have a feeling that, although not super exciting to you, the idea of lounging around on bean bags, eating bottomless bowls of cereal, and playing ping-pong is heaven to your tween/teen and his or her crew. Get fancy at Kellogg's new Union Square digs, which offers various rooms for private events. You'll pay $250 for a two-hour reservation for the room, plus food options beginning at $15 per person (don't for get the Pop-Tart platter!).
Playday – Long Island City, Queens
This drop-in art and creativity center offers parties with full use of the space for two hours—including the ping-pong table and outdoor space. Parties include an hourlong art experience that you can customize, such as clay sculptures, masks, poster design, zine making, weaving, printmaking, and more. Then, kids get pizza and cake, followed by 30 minutes of free play. Parties start at $550.
School of Rock Brooklyn – Gowanus, Brooklyn
While this outpost of the famous School of Rock doesn't offer preplanned packages, the staff can customize a party for your aspiring rocker, starting at $300. Guests can bang on the studio's instruments (drums, keyboards and guitars), and pros will be on hand to lead jam sessions, sing-alongs, group lessons, dance parties, and musical games. Afterward, the kids chow down on food, beverages, and cake in the student lounge.
Top photo: Celebrate your special day by being a rock star at the Shcool of Rock Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of School of Rock Brooklyn