By the time you've hit the tween years, you've been to enough birthday parties to feel like you've seen it all. Looking for a new celebratory experience worthy of increasingly grown-up interests for your 10 to 13 year-old? We've rounded up 13 too-cool party spots to celebrate your tween's next big birthday. With party packages this out of the ordinary, you'll be able to please even the pickiest tween with unique fetes like zombie laser tag, DIY chocolate or ice cream, and jewelry making with semi-precious stones.
DIY ice cream at Ample Hills? Yeah, sounds like a party.
Ample Hills Creamery – Gowanus, Brooklyn
305 Nevins Street
This Brooklyn ice cream mecca is owned and operated by a local family. While we were already fans of the cozy Prospect Heights location, the Gowanus Ample Hills is much bigger and has a private party space on the second floor with a connecting roof deck! The two-hour parties include the option of booking an ice cream churning bicycle to make your own batch of creamy goodness, or booking the space and letting your guests indulge in all-you-can-eat ice cream.
Beat the Bomb – Dumbo, Brooklyn
Plenty of escape rooms offer party packages, but we love the colorful twist at Beat the Bomb. If you fail to defuse the bomb in the clue-filled hour allotted, it'll explode, showering you with colorful paint. Luckily, guests don hazmat suits before they get to work! Game play is limited to six participants at a time and an adjoining party room is available for your use, though you'll have to bring your own food.
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Teens can test their ninja skills at a birthday party at Brooklyn Zoo.
Brooklyn Zoo – Williamsburg, Brooklyn
230 Bogart Street
Not to be confused with the Prospect Park Zoo (which is cute, but better for little kids). If your kids are into the parkour craze (or NBC's American Ninja Warrior) let them celebrate with some heart-pumping fun at this Brooklyn hot spot. Parties run as little as $650 for an hour of gym play with an instructor and half an hour's use of the party room. There are few bells and whistles, but you can order pizza for delivery from a local joint and purchase water and lemonade on site.
Chocolate Works – Multiple Locations
Visit the website for locations.
There's a handful of Chocolate Works in the city and all are real mini chocolate factories where kids can get a behind-the-scenes look at the candy-making process. Parties include molding and decorating massive chocolate treats, coating crackers or cookies in melted chocolate on the conveyor belt, and other tasty fun. There are sweet add-ons, too, like ice cream sundaes and an irresistible chocolate fountain.
Indoor Extreme Sports – Long Island City, Queens and West Shore, Staten Island
47-11 Van Dam Street, Long Island City
501 Industry Road, West Shore
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. There are party packages for all of these sports that include food and beverages (you really work up a sweat), game play, and all necessary equipment. 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. There's even zombie laser tag, recommended for ages 12 and up, where you shoot at your competitors while navigating a creepy post-zombie apocalypse course with real-live (I mean dead) flesh-eating monsters.
Insa – Gowanus, Brooklyn
328 Douglass Street
This sleek Gowanus karaoke bar offers grown-up like parties for the tween set. Kids can nosh on Korean BBQ between sets of belting out their favorite classics. Karaoke rooms range in size and price; rooms for up to 10 are $60/hour, while a 22-person room is $160. Weekday reservations are half-off.
Lakeside in Prospect Park – Prospect Park, Brooklyn
171 East Drive
Ever since it opened in December 2013, Prospect Park's LeFrak Center at Lakeside has been a popular drop-in spot for ice skating in winter and roller skating and water play in summer. So of course it's a great place to host a party, too. Activities change seasonally and there are three rinkside private party rooms available. Packages also include food and beverages for the kids, an on-site party coordinator and decorations, plus add-ons like skating lessons and goody bags.
Lunessa Jewelry – Soho
100 Thompson Street between Spring and Prince Streets
This intimate designer-run jewelry boutique offers parties for children ages 7 and up. During the two-hour lesson, up to a dozen 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 two party packages and both include customizable email invites and and pretty organza bags for guests to carry the baubles home.
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If you have a kid who loves games then a Modern Pinball party is in order.
Modern Pinball – Kips Bay
362 Third Avenue between 26th and 27th Streets
This kid-friendly pinball arcade/showroom has been a go-to rainy day spot for neighborhood kids ever since it opened. The pay-one-price arcade has three party packages depending on length and whether you want a private event. You can add on lots of bells and whistles, too.
NY CAKE Academy – Chelsea
118 West 22nd Street
Parties here are surely a sweet deal. This baking and cake decorating emporium moved into a brand new space in 2018, bringing with it an increased footprint, complete with cafe area and space to host baking and cake decorating parties. Master cake decorators will lead your party goers in a cupcake decorating workshop and all kids go home with half a dozen treats. Add on custom decorations for an added fee, or book the entire store. You can even opt for an Iron Chef-themed bake off.
Pixel Academy – Cobble Hill, Brooklyn and Tribeca
163 Pacific Street
256 West Street
This makerspace for kids has two party options to choose from. One gives you exclusive access to the space and offers more gaming options. Parties can be customized to include game play only or time for pizza and cake breaks. Parents provide the snacks and plenty of add-ons are available.
Steep Rock Bouldering – Harlem and East Harlem
1506 Lexington Avenue
Climb high at this pair of bouldering gyms, a sport that requires a little less equipment and know-how than traditional rock climbing spots. Whether you bring a small group to party during open hours or book the entire gym, all parties include an instructor, chalk and shoes, and free time and game play on the walls. Guests leave with day passes to come climb another time, too. Food add ons are available at the East Harlem spot, while its bring-your-own at the Harlem location.
A Scavenger Hunt at Watson's Adventures is a great way to celebrate a birthday with friends.
Watson Adventures – Multiple Locations
Book your group for a scavenger hunt with Watson Adventures. You'll search for fun facts and answers to trivia in a specific location. Consider booking one for your kid's favorite museum, or park. You can opt to join a public hunt or book a private one depending on your group size and how far in advance you book.
Find more awesome kids' birthday ideas in our jam-packed Party Guide.
This post originally, published in August 2014, has since been updated.
Photos courtesy of the venues