Arcades are an ideal place to celebrate a kid's birthday. Blinking lights, spinning wheels, ringing bells, and mechanical jingles give arcades a festive atmosphere, and the assortment of amusements offers something for everyone. If you have a rare child who isn't a video-game enthusiast, these gaming parlors usually offer air hockey, skee-ball, and basketball games; some even have laser tag. These kid-pleasing party spots are full service, so hosts only have to provide a cake or cupcakes. Many offer games that award tickets redeemable for prizes to fill a goody bag.
Our list of seven arcades for kid birthday parties features spots in every New York City borough, from Manhattan to Staten Island, plus a mobile arcade that comes to you. Read on for all the details.
Looking for more birthday party ideas? Check out our NYC Party Guide or directory of birthday fun suppliers.
Chinatown Fair — Chinatown
8 Mott Street
This NYC institution, made famous for its tic tac toe-playing (and winning) chicken, opened in the 1940s. The arcade was closed for a revamp in 2012, and while the new space isn't the slice of nostalgia grown-ups remember (most noticeably, the chicken has been retired), today's kids don't seem to mind. The modernized 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. The standard party is held during the arcade's regular hours; private parties can be booked for an additional fee.
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The Chuck E. Cheese's ticket blaster may be the closest thing to kid nirvana ever invented. Photo by Josh Grenier via Flickr.
Chuck E. Cheese's — City wide
Multiple locations; visit the website for the location nearest you
When my son turned 5 he begged for a Chuck E. Cheese party. He had been invited to so many at the restaurant/arcade, it was almost a coming of age for the kindergarten set. The dining area is surrounded by video and arcade games and a playground. Booking a party here couldn't be easier; everything is done on its website. While hosts furnish the cake, Chuck E. Cheese provides everything else. Three packages ranging from $20.99 to $30.99 per child include pizza and unlimited soda, at least 30 tickets for each guest, festive paper goods, and a reserved semi-secluded space for two hours. My son loved his party, especially his trip to the ticket blaster to snatch up what he could for the prize redemption area. Buy extra tokens as those 30 go fast.
Dave & Buster's — Times Square
234 West 42nd Street
When kids have outgrown Chuck E. Cheese, it may be time to move on to Dave & Busters. Parties are similar in style but with a more grown-up vibe. Dave & Buster's has hipper games, and more of them; tween-appealing food options such as sliders, pretzel dogs, BBQ potato chips, and soda served tableside in a 2-foot tube all with flashy Times Square ambiance. We hosted my son's 11th birthday here and, while chaotic, he and his friends loved it. Parties start at $23.49 per guest and include food, beverages and $10 worth of game play. Cakes are available for an extra fee. Get a package offering as much game play as possible and consider economizing on the food. In my experience, kids don't care too much about eating when video games are available. Beware: Party package prices listed on the Dave & Buster's website are not for NYC. Parties here are more expensive. Reservations can be made online with your preferred date, time and options, and are confirmed in minutes.
Funtopia USA — Middle Village, Queens
66-26 Metropolitan Avenue
This old-school arcade and play center doesn't offer straight gaming parties, but has 150 kid-favorite amusements on site, including bumper cars and a bowling alley. Each party package includes game tokens. Kids enjoy a 20-minute disco dance, unlimited time in an age-appropriate play space, pizza, and soda. Parties range from $339 to $419 for 11 children. Goody bags and extra bells and whistles are included at the higher price. Parents supply the birthday cake.
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In addition to its arcade, Smiles N Styles offers themed birthday parties with more than 70 costumed character options.
Smiles N Styles — Ridgewood, Queens
951 Wyckoff Avenue
We told you about this colorful kiddie salon that offers parties with pizza, beverages, and cotton candy when it opened but we didn't mention the junior-sized air hockey, basketball, dancing, and racing games nor the Nintendo Wii U, Playstation, and Xbox video games. Smiles N Styles parties are longer than most, five hours in length, so kids can really party down. A basic party is $999 on Fridays, $1199 on Saturdays, and $1099 on Sundays. Additional entertainment such as costumed characters (it has more than 70 to choose from), face painting, balloon twisting, and more can be added to the party for $259. Booking inquires can be made on its website.
Hit the arcade at Bowlmor Times Square for a combo bowling-game shindig.
Bowlmor — Chelsea, Times Square
Chelsea Piers, Pier 60, West 23rd Street at the West Side Highway
222 West 44th Street
Both Bowlmor locations offer arcades games along with their namesake bowling. The Chelsea Piers venue has a small arcade adjacent to the laser tag arena and Times Square's third floor houses an arcade. While neither location offers a standalone arcade party, all bowling parties include electronic cards for the games and time to give them a spin. Parties start at $36.99 per child and include bowling shoes, alley rentals, food and beverages, and $5 worth of arcade play. Additional arcade games can be purchased separately. Book a party online.
Fun Station USA – Staten Island
3555 Victory Boulevard
This one-stop romping spot that's been around since the 1980s offers a video game arcade, batting cages, small carnival rides, ball courts, a virtual reality simulator, and a gated toddler area. It offers a variety of options, including an arcade-focused package, where each guest gets 40 tokens for game play. The arcade party also includes a ride on the virtual simulator, three additional carnival rides, pizza, soda, and ice cream cake. A 10-child party starts at $319.95 on weekdays and $339.95 on Fridays and Saturdays.
Kids can play outdoors or inside during a party with the mobile Gamin' Ride bus.
Gamin' Ride — Anywhere you want!
This party comes to you, provided you have somewhere to park the 55-foot Mobile Video Game Theater. The unit is too big for most driveways and the company prefers to park street-side anyway, which is great for city dwellers lacking access to a driveway. Consider negotiating with a business owner, religious organization, or park to let you park it for a few hours. It may require some scouting. The unit comes with 16 vibrating seats, consoles, and a library of popular video games, plus several televisions outside so more kids have a chance to play. Food and beverages are not included, nor are they allowed in the theater.
Top image: Smiles N Styles arcade birthday party. All photos provided courtesy of the respective venues.
This post, originally published in April 2016, has since been updated.