Hitting the 1-year-old milestone is definitely a cause for celebration—not only for baby, but for his or her tired, yet hopelessly devoted parents (who kept their tiny human happy and healthy for the first year), too. But despite the abundance of party venues throughout the state, not all are suitable for your little birthday girl or boy. Whether you are looking for a location indoors or outdoors, with animals or a jungle gym, we have some ideas. While 1-year-olds might not yet be ready to jump, climb, or ride ponies themselves, they will love watching their guests play. Most of these spots emphasize parental participation, so fun can be had by all. And truthfully, as long as there’s some cake to smash and smiles to snap-ture, the day is sure to be a blast!
If you need more inspiration, be sure to check out our NJ Kids' Birthday Party Ideas Guide. And if you think your child might be overwhelmed by a lot of guests in a large, unfamiliar space, consider bringing the party to you: home court advantage, check! Peruse our list of Kids' Birthday Party Entertainers in New Jersey That Come to You, including character visits, art, music, dance, animal visits, magic, and puppets. Let the party begin!
Alstede Farms – Chester
Take your little farmer and friends to Alstede Farms, where all parties are considered "family fun" and include activities like pony and wagon train rides, a bounce house, petting zoo, and more. The three themed packages have activities like plant potting, picking your own fruit, or visiting with the Easter Bunny and baby animals, but you can also custom-design a party for your child and guests. All themed parties are three hours and include a hay ride, a reserved, covered party area, and a farmer tour guide. For more animal-centric inspiration, consult our farm guide: See Baby Farm Animals and More at New Jersey Farms.
Build-A-Bear Workshop – Various locations
Where better to host your pint-sized party animal’s first birthday than a place where they feel right at home? Party packages at the workshop bear in mind all budgets, and include tons of tot-targeted fun that involve ZERO cleanup or chaotic preparations. Hosts and hostesses guide each child through the stuffing and fluffing experience with great care and attention. After naming their new cuddle buds, the birthday boy or girl and their guests can pick out stylish outfits to bring them home in, and huddle together for some giggly group shots. You can book your Build-A-Party package online; just be sure to check your local store listings.
Coco Beans Play Cafe – Tinton Falls
Your tiny one may never want to share the spotlight again after his or her party at Coco Beans, because their first birthday parties allow the child of honor to be the star of the day (while the parents can relax and chill out). Coco and Mimi, the dynamic duo behind the creative play and caffeine cove, handle all setup and cleanup and can accommodate any theme. Private use of the entire space provides a comfortable and safe atmosphere for little crawlers and wobbly walkers, and thoughtful play attendants take care of every detail during the party so that guests can relax. Oh, and high chairs can be set up at an individual table with its own decorations, so your squirt and his or her squad can be feted in style. The availability of a full espresso bar is just the icing on the cake—and well-deserved for mom and dad for a job well done on the first year!
The Great Story – Hackensack
If you’re looking for a party place that’s great for a very young child's birthday, the indoor play space at the Great Story is a perfect option. Your little one and guests can play dress-up, go down the slide, play in the toy kitchen, build castles in the indoor sandbox, dive into the ball pit, and more. The Great Story offers three basic party packages with different themes and inclusions, as well as a private party and small-group option. No outside food or beverages are permitted, but catering—traditional and Korean—is available.
Gymboree Play & Music — Various locations
Gymboree makes your party experience personal by letting you pick your little one's favorite theme—and first birthday parties are a theme of their own. Children are encouraged (with the help of a parent) to navigate the indoor playground, blow bubbles, and play with balls and other toys and musical instruments. Parties for 1-year-olds are generally 45 minutes to an hour, and a trained instructor will guide the activities. After playtime, guests move to a party room for food and beverages; packages vary by location, so be sure to call to inquire.
Hudson’s House of Play — West New York
Created specifically for kids up to 5 years old, Hudson’s House of Play might just be the perfect place to ring in your baby's first birthday. This bright and modern play space has a separate section for kids up to 2 years old with soft mats and age-appropriate toys. What’s especially great about this creative party place is the tailor-made touches to each celebration. Some of their hero themes include: circus, city zoo, farm, firefighter, pirate, princess, superhero, trains and cars, and vintage western. All of the decorations and accoutrements are handcrafted—so custom themes outside of the usual faves require upgrades to the deluxe and premium packages (there are three basic and two elite packages—1.5 – 2 hour-long sessions altogether). And if you want to make any tweaks you can connect directly with HHOP’s fantastic list of local businesses, including face painters, photographers, and character actors and actresses.
Kidz Village — Kenilworth and Woodbridge
With separate play sections for different age groups, Kidz Village offers fun for all ages. While your youngest tots play in Guppy Toddler Town and the playhouse, older children can head over to the huge indoor climbing structure with slides, bridges, and tunnels; explore themed playrooms (a spa, castle, comics shop, and more); or visit the arcade. Kidz Village offers packages that include an hour in a private party room followed by unlimited playtime, as well as various themes and packages. Also be sure to check out our Guide to Indoor Play Spaces for New Jersey Kids for alternative indoor play spaces that host parties.
Liberty State Park — Jersey City
If you’re lucky enough to be a phenomenal DIY-er who has a child with a warm-weather birthday, why not head to a park to celebrate with a picnic and open-air play? With its spectacular skyline, Hudson River views and lots of green grass for picnicking, bubble-blowing, and tumbling (baby Olympics, anyone?), Liberty State Park is an ideal location. If you want to explore more park options, check out our Guide to Playgrounds and Parks in New Jersey.
My Gym — Various locations
Children as young as six weeks old can enjoy the festivities at My Gym, including clapping to songs, free play, slides, puppets, and more. My Gym offers three party packages, all of which include exclusive use of the facility, two party specialists, decorations, and food. The fully trained staff will entertain your guests and assist with setup and cleanup, so you don’t have to lift a finger. And to make things even more magical for your birthday buddy, you can plan ahead to make special song and game requests. Gotta make sure he or she has the right tunes to boogie to!
Rainforest Cafe – Atlantic City and Edison
Toddlers aren’t trekking to South America or Southeast Asia anytime soon, but they can still get a taste of the rainforest at one of New Jersey’s best interactive eateries. Any party planned at the Rainforest Cafe is a wild time, and your little guy or girl will feel like the king or queen of the jungle from beginning to end. Party packages are contingent on location, but all guarantee some combination of an incredible feast, treats, and surprise encounters with Cha! Cha! (the cafe’s mascot tree frog) and his crew.
Turtle Back Zoo — West Orange
Turtle Back Zoo is a New Jersey landmark and an ideal celebration spot for your baby’s first birthday, with both indoor and outdoor facilities for rent. Giraffes, penguins, and countless other animals will add excitement to an already tremendous day—and if you think your little one is up for a spin, you can even rent Turtle Back's Endangered Species Carousel. Catering and face painting are available upon request. Be sure to look at our list of other New Jersey Zoos and Aquariums for more animal-centric party options, or check out our roundup of At-Home Birthday Party Options for NJ Animal Lovers.
Updated for 2018