Fun First Birthday Party Ideas for NJ Kids

Little ones can blow out their candles at a pair of Rainforest Cafes in the Garden State. Photo courtesy of the venue
Little ones can blow out their candles at a pair of Rainforest Cafes in the Garden State. Photo courtesy of the venue
2/17/23 - By Danielle Halibey

When it comes time to brainstorm first birthday party ideas, keep in mind: Hitting the 1-year-old milestone is definitely a cause for celebration—not only for baby, but also for his or her tired, yet hopelessly devoted parents, too. Despite the abundance of kids birthday party venues in New Jersey, not all are suitable for the littlest birthday parties.

That's where this list of first birthday party ideas in New Jersey comes in. Whether you are looking for a location indoors or out, with animals or in a toddler gym, we have some great kids birthday party ideas. While 1-year-olds might not yet be ready to jump, climb, or ride ponies themselves, they'll love watching their guests play. Most of these first birthday party ideas emphasize parental participation, so the fun can be had by all. And truthfully, as long as there’s some cake to smash and smiles to capture, your first birthday party is sure to be a blast.

From animal encounters to playtime in the park, these are our top picks for first birthday celebrations in New Jersey. Be sure to check out our NJ Kids' Birthday Party Ideas Guide for more inspiration.

You know what else a birthday needs? Gifts! Get tried-and-tested favorite gift suggestions the Best First Birthday Gifts, and more in our Guide to Top Toys and Gear for Kids.


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First birthday party ideas in New Jersey: Alstede Farms
You can custom design a themed-birthday party at Alstede Farms.

First Birthday Party Ideas in Northern New Jersey

1. Alstede Farms – Chester

Take your little farmer and friends to Alstede Farms, where all birthday parties are considered "family fun" and include activities like pony and wagon train rides, a bounce house, a petting zoo, and more. The themed packages include activities like plant potting, picking your own fruit, or visiting the animals, but you can also custom-design a party for your child and guests. All themed parties are three hours and include reserved picnic tables, visiting the animals, and more. For more animal-centric celebrations, check out our top picks for local farms that host kids birthday parties.

2. The Great Story – Hackensack, Ridgefield

The indoor play spaces at The Great Story make for a perfect first birthday party option. Your little one and guests can play dress-up, go down the slide, romp in the toy kitchen, build castles in the indoor sandbox, dive into the ball pit, and more. The Great Story offers three basic birthday party packages with different themes and inclusions, as well as a private party and small-group option. No outside food or beverages is permitted, but catering—traditional and Korean—is available.

RELATED: 13 New Jersey Bakeries Serving Over-the-Top Birthday Cakes

First birthday party ideas in New Jersey: Hudson’s House of Play
With a designated play area for the 2-and-under crowd, Hudson's House of Play is a great choice for a first birthday party.

3. 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 celebrate 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 for each celebration. Some of its themes include circus, zoo, farm, firefighter, pirate, princess, superhero, trains and cars, and vintage western. Custom themes outside of the usual favorites require an upgrade. Hudson's House of Play can connect you with a fantastic list of local businesses, including face painters, photographers, and character actors and actresses.

4. 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 and Hudson River views, plus lots of green grass for picnicking, bubble-blowing, and tumbling, Liberty State Park is an ideal first birthday party destination. If you want to explore more park options, check out our Guide to Playgrounds and Parks in New Jersey.

5. Turtle Back Zoo – West Orange

The 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 add excitement to an already tremendous day—and if you think your little one is up for a spin, you can spring for a ride on Turtle Back's Endangered Species Carousel. Catering and face painting are available upon request. Our list of the best New Jersey zoos and aquariums offers more options for a wild party, or you can consider staging an at-home birthday party for your little animal lover.

First Birthday Party Ideas in Central and South Jersey

6. Rainforest Cafe – Edison and Atlantic City

Toddlers can 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 depend on the 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.

7. Jungle Jim and Jane – Atlantic Highlands

This high-tech play space has lots of unique, interactive options, but the toddler zone provides a full experience for little ones 3 and under. Parties include 90 minutes of playtime and 30 minutes of party room time, plus a slide show in the party room where you can display all your child's year 1 milestones.

8. Little Dreamers Play Cafe – Wall

Located at Good Sports USA, this sweet little spot has play equipment that's perfect for toddlers like trains, building supplies, truck and plane toys and ride-ons, a construction zone, play kitchen, little houses, and more. Packages include 15 kids, and hosts can bring in food for the party.

RELATEDIndoor Birthday Party Spots with Mega Playgrounds in NJ

First birthday party ideas in New Jersey: Gymboree Play & Music
Gymboree Play & Music offers the perfect set-up for an activity-filled first birthday.

More First Birthday Party Ideas in New Jersey

9. Gymboree Play & Music – Multiple Locations

Gymboree makes your party experience personal by letting you pick your little one's favorite theme—and first birthday parties are a theme unto themselves. 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 guides activities. After playtime, guests move to a party room for food and beverages; packages vary by location, so be sure to call to inquire.

10. Build-A-Bear Workshop – Multiple 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 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.

11. My Gym – Multiple Locations

Children as young as 6 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 entertains your guests and assists with setup and cleanup, so you don’t have to lift a finger. And, to make things even more magical for your birthday buddy, plan ahead to make special song and game requests.

Originally published in 2018. All photos courtesy of the venues

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