When I was a young girl, my birthday parties consisted of friends and family at our house, as well as some balloons, a few presents, and spice cake. Spice cake … that intoxicating blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves can transport me back to 1970, and much simpler times.
Now that I have my own two children’s birthday parties to plan each year, the word simple never comes to mind, as today’s options for parties are nothing short of extraordinary. Do we paint, dance, bounce, explore, or dress up? Birthday parties can entertain, educate, and motivate … where do you begin (and end)?
For budding Picassos, The Giggling Pig (Shelton and Bethel) offers wooden craft projects, ceramic painting and step-by-step painting on canvas. “Our painting-on-canvas parties have become our most popular,” says owner Hannah Perry. “The birthday child is able to choose in advance the painting they like and our instructors walk everyone through the steps.”
Hands On Pottery, with locations in Darien and Fairfield, offers “paint your own pottery” parties, as well as toddler storytime parties, which include reading a book and making a project alongside the story. “All painted pieces are food-safe after the firing, and I believe that sets us apart … birthday guests get to leave with a useful keepsake that the kids, and their parents, cherish,” owner Jim Davis explains.
Mmmm … chocolate. If the birthday child is a chocoholic, look no further than Chocolate Works in Darien. Your pint-sized Willy Wonka will love this sweet party setting where he or she can become Master Chocolatier for the day, and where kids can mold and decorate their one-of-a-kind chocolate creations.
Hungry for more? The Cookie Workshop in Trumbull provides a fun-filled baking experience. The nut-free cookie and cupcake bakery specializes in make-your-own-cookie activities, with several hundred cookie cutters from which to choose. Parties include flavored cookie dough, icing and sprinkles, a cupcake tower, and a bakery box to decorate. Egg-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free cookies and cupcakes are also available.
Time to explore! If your child loves nature, science or animals, there’s a bounty of birthday party experiences from which to choose. The Trumbull Nature & Arts Center offers birthday parties for children who love to play outside and make take-home crafts. Host families are offered a choice of party themes, which all include nature and craft activities such as Nature Scavenger Hunt, Flower Power, Firefly Fun! and Bugs, Birds & Butterflies.
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport offers three different birthday party packages: Critter Craft, Animal Encounter, and Zoo-rific.
In Norwalk, the Stepping Stones Museum for Children features a private party room as well as use of the museum to explore. Lauren Bonenfant, events manager, says, “Late afternoon parties, after children’s naptimes, when you can book the museum and have it all to yourself, are popular. Parents love the idea of having the flexibility to explore with their children without the general public.”
Get moving! From rock climbing to trampolines to every sport imaginable, there’s a place for your child’s inner athlete. Rockin’ Jump (Trumbull), Jump Off (Stratford), and Sky Zone and Pump It Up (both Norwalk) all offer birthday party packages.
Insport Trumbull offers several birthday packages, including a bounce house party for preschoolers, a traditional party featuring one hour of instructed play on a field or court in an activity of the birthday child’s choice, such as soccer, Wiffle ball, and kickball, and an outdoor area birthday party with a giant inflatable water slide, bounce house, picnic tables, and turf space.
Stamford’s Chelsea Piers offers birthday party options for preschoolers to teens. Elizabeth Braemer, marketing director, notes, “Party activities include baseball, basketball, batting cages, gymnastics, dance, Ninja Warrior, rock climbing, ice skating, soccer, swimming, tennis, trampolines, water slides, and water sports.”
A star is born at The Star Factory in Trumbull and Stratford. Birthday parties here are high energy and keep the kids rocking with dancing, singing and games. Owned by Lou Zayas (a musician and DJ for more than 37 years), The Star Factory offers a fun, upbeat, yet structured program where the kids are the stars and where everyone participates at their own comfort level. Zayas notes, “We have seen a lot of emoji-themed parties as well as Trolls and Ninja Turtles. We also have special requests for ‘glow’ parties that go with our nightclub setting.”
Is a spa day in order for your daughter and her BFFs? Trixie’s Cuts For Kids & Toy Store in Milford offers Glamour and Spa birthday parties that include a fashion runway, dress-up, crafts, music/dancing/karaoke, and photos. Glamour parties also feature funky hair updos and glitter nails, while Spa parties include organic facials and a Mini-Mani. Indulgent extras include Make Your Own Lip Gloss & Body Lotion stations, and Make Your Own Sugar Scrub Sundae stations.
Once upon a time … does your daughter love unicorns and fairies? Is your son slaying dragons in his spare time? Newtown-based Once Upon a Pony Party, which is owned and operated by the Swindon family, offers fairy/rodeo/maiden and knight pony parties for children of all ages and includes role-play, dress-up and themed photos. Travel packages are available if you wish to host the party at your home.