Kids' parties may be all about fun, games and birthday cake, but typical at-home parties often come with a lot of chaos and mess -- without much cost savings. This year, think outside the house for your little one's next birthday party.
Here are a few mothers' top picks for creative birthday party locations. Another perk of moving the party elsewhere? Less clean-up for you!
Bowling Lane Party
Owner of Pixels to Paper and mother of two, Mindy Stevens, of Louisville, Ky., once threw a bowling birthday party. "For my son's third birthday, we had it at Kingpin. It was pretty cool. [We had a] room to ourselves, they provided pizza and drinks, and Drew even got a real pin that everyone got to sign!"
Jennifer Montgomery, of Tega Cay, S.C., is a mother of five who has plenty of experience throwing fun, inexpensive parties outside her home. She suggests taking your party to a local city garden.
"I am dying to do a Mad Hatter/Alice in Wonderland tea party with different crazy hats and tea cups and topsy-turvy cakes in all crazy colors!," she says. Her other theme idea: "A whimsical fairy party where guests sit on tree stumps and wear wings and get sprinkled with glitter!"
Craft Store Party
One of Stevens' favorite locations, as well as her daughter's, was Michael's. The nationwide chain, and many other craft stores, let parents host the party in their store.
"The room they provided was large and we got to bring in pizza, drinks and cupcakes," Stevens says. "Michael's rocked -- I think we only paid $50 to rent out the room...We decided to decorate Christmas ornaments. I bought the clear, plastic ones and Michael's provided the paint and some stuff to decorate with. At the end, they gave my daughter an apron to keep."
Kristin Moomey, of St Louis, Mo., is a mother and blogger at Thirdstory-ies.com and her family has made park parties a staple. "Since both my girls have summer birthdays -- July and August -- it's nice to get out of the house, have the party in the morning hours before it's too miserable and to avoid nap times and cranky kids, and then come back home and collapse!," she says.
One year, "we just grabbed a few picnic tables and set out the spread. The kids played on the rolling lawn, and the proximity of the nearby shops meant things like bathrooms were nearby."
If your child loves planting and growing things, track down a local farm that hosts parties. Lots of farms give tours and show kids how the farm operates. Depending on the time of year, the kids may even get to help plant or harvest. Plan a theme, like an apple picking party during the fall or a strawberry picking one during the summer.
Children's Museum Party
Elizabeth Stedman of Chicago, who runs the Bleating Hearts Etsy Shop, suggests getting your kid's imagination going by taking them to a children's museum; many have rooms you can rent for the cake and presents. When it's time to run off the sugar, the museum offers great fun, says Stedman.
Zoo-Based Animal Party
If you have a kid who adores animals, plan a party at your local zoo or petting zoo! When your kids aren't discovering exhibits of every animal under the sun, many zoos offer other fun activities, like face painting. Rooms at the zoo are available for rent, giving you space for a lunch, cake and presents. If you want to get a bit more creative, consider contacting a local farm where activities like horse riding are available.
Take the animal theme to a more interactive level. If your kids are fascinated with horses, find a nearby farm and organize a birthday party in their stables, complete with horseback riding.
What little girl doesn't love horses? If a stable isn't your cup of tea, what about a merry-go-round? Arrange for the kids to have unlimited rides and set up munchies and a carousel horse cake nearby.
It may be messy in your own house, but find a paint-your-own pottery place to keep parents and kids happy. Moomey's daughter wanted a car-themed party and "wanted to do something creative," she says. "I worked with a friend that owned a paint-your-own pottery place and we found some car banks for the kids to paint, and we held the party there. It was a lot of fun. We had individual car-shaped cakes...and the kids decorated their cakes with icing and various candies and sweets."
Be inspired by these mom tales of parties outside of the house, and think outside the box for your kid's next birthday party.
Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer in Chicago. Her work can be found here.