Every January I begin planning my son’s birthday party. I think about parties we have attended and liked, I look for ideas on the Internet, and I use his current interests as inspiration. If his birthday fell in the Summer, I would probably have a picnic at a playground for him every year, but with the weather being unpredictable at the end of Winter, I am tasked with finding a venue that has indoor space. Not only indoors, but affordable. When I first started researching party venues in Philadelphia, I was surprised by how expensive a city child’s birthday party could become when hosted outside your own home. As city dwellers, an at-home party is not always practical. So each year I balance the creativity of our party with the cost of the venue and the ability to accommodate as many friends as possible.
For his first birthday, we wanted to celebrate surviving our first year as parents with our friends, who just so happened to have also survived a year or so of parenting. Our one-year-old barely knew it was his birthday, but nevertheless he enjoyed having presents and cupcakes presented before him. Our venue was the playground at Franklin Square, where you can rent an indoor space in an adjacent pavilion. The party package included tickets for the carousel and miniature golf, features that our one-year-olds did not yet appreciate. Our theme was Dr. Seuss, in honor of his recent landmark birthday that year. My favorite part of this party was the freedom that each family had to enjoy the park in their own way with children of all developmental levels.
For his second birthday, I decided to return to an old school at-home birthday party. As we had recently moved and had more space for entertaining, the children enjoyed playing with toys in our playroom and outside on our sidewalk. Our theme was sports, and we demonstrated this with the variety of sports we learned while playing outside and each child left with their own ball. It was unstructured and chaotic, much like a two-year-old would have planned. My favorite part though was that it was informal and inexpensive!
For his third birthday, we wanted to incorporate as many of his new school friends as possible, so we had an indoor gym party at Philly InMovement. For three-year-olds, a bouncy house and trampoline were great ways to burn off the birthday cake! Our theme was bugs, because what three-year-old boy doesn’t want bugs crawling around his party! After I delivered our food and decorations, Philly InMovement allowed me to sit back and relax and that made the expense worth it.
For his fourth birthday, I wanted the kids to have a hands-on activity. Preschoolers enjoy learning new skills, so we headed to a pizzeria called Slice and made our own personal pizzas. Our theme was based on one of our favorite books, Curious George and the Pizza Party. The little chefs colored their own chef hats and then assembled pizzas, which they then ate. My favorite part was watching them taste their creations. It was short, but action-packed, and very affordable. The staff at Slice were wonderful hosts.
Some of the other parties we have enjoyed as guests were at Smith Playground, Nest, Expressive Hand, and Queen Village Art Center. The city certainly has a lot of options for birthday parties of varying cost and parental involvement. In the end though, I have learned that simple, child-centered, and play-based parties are what kids want. And all you need as a parent is to see the smile on your child’s face in the glow of their birthday candles as they sit there making their wish while you see yours come true.
For more information about these party venues:
Franklin Square– packages start at $450
Philly InMovement– packages start at $250
Slice- parties cost $7.95/child
Smith Playground– party rentals start at $150
Nest Philly– packages start at $275
Expressive Hand– parties start at $75
Queen Village Art Center– parties start at $365
[I have no affiliation with these venues and I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.]