Kids Parties in Philadelphia: An update on venues for your next birthday party


I wrote in 2015 about kids birthday parties in Philadelphia and it remains one of my more popular posts, so I thought it was time to update my list. Please take a look at the prior list though for ideas as these are in addition, but not to replace, the aforementioned venues. Most of these are places where I have attended parties, but I am including others that may be of interest to you as well.

Academy of Natural Sciences: Parties here can be tailored to your child’s age (3 and up) and interest, but often include things such as a dinosaur fossil dig, butterfly  garden, and petting reptiles. Parties are a balance between hands-on educational activities and time in a private party room for food and cake. Cost: Starts at $335 for members, otherwise $375 for non-members, for the basic package.  Additional fees if more than 20 guests. Food and gift bags available at additional cost.

SkyZone: So while this isn’t technically in Philadelphia (it’s actually Moorestown, NJ), it seems to be a popular destination party for Philadelphia kids. Parties here will certainly tire out your guests as they travel around the various zones of this large indoor trampoline park. Packages include all food (pizza) and drinks in a private party room. As a pediatrician, trampolines make me nervous, but my kids always have fun here. Cost: Starts at $220.

Aspiring Champions: Also not in Philadelphia, but nearby in King of Prussia. Parties include 1.5 hours of coached wiffleball, dodgeball, basketball, soccer, touch football, or kickball, plus food and paper products. Works best for ages 6 and up. Cost: Starts at $350 for 15 kids.

Chuck E. Cheese: the South Philadelphia location of this pizza arcade chain offers parties where the kids can run around with a pre-loaded token card playing all their favorite games and earning tickets that are traded in for trinkets at the end. Then while eating pizza they get to dance with Chuck E. Cheese. Again, the pediatrician side of me needed to bring a lot of hand sanitizer to this one, but my son had a blast. Cost: Starts at $15.99/child.

HFS Parkour Center: What kid doesn’t want to have a ninja party, where they can swing from ropes and jump off walls? There is plenty of room for parents to hang out and watch while the kids play. Paper goods are included, but you bring your own food. Cost: Starts at $290 for the first 10 kids, $24/kid after that.

Snapology: A one-hour themed party where the kids build Lego creations with the help of a professional. You must supply the party venue and food. Cost: $250 for 12 kids, $8 for each additional kid.

Play Arts: Parties here include ninety minutes in the hippest play space in town with a Pinterest-worthy party room decked out in sustainable paper goods. Add-on options include $150 for an art activity. Bonus: Play Arts aims to make the party stress-free for parents. Accommodates 15 children and 30 adults. Cost: Starts at $350.

Mister John Music: If you aren’t part of the Mister John fan club yet, you will be after one of his parties. Mister John will plan an interactive music experience based on the age and musical preferences of your child. You need to provide the venue and food. Cost: $175 for 30 minutes, $225 for 50 minutes.

South Bowl: Children under 12 can bowl for one hour and then feast on a lunch buffet before cake and ice cream. The uber cool party room also has arcade games and billiards for parents and children looking to take a break from bowling. Cost: Starts at $26.95pp for 15 kids, $33.95pp for more than 15 kids.

PEP Bowl: Less modern than South Bowl, but an intimate, retro bowling experience that also supports a good cause. You provide food and decorations. Cost: $45 per lane per hour.

iFly: Adventurous kids age 3 and up can try indoor skydiving in King of Prussia. Parties include priceless video clips of your little one flying. Cost: $609.95 for 24 flights shared by 12 people.

Kids at Play: This indoor sensory playground in East Falls includes a zip line, ball pits, and archery. Parties occur while the gym is open to the public as well, but there is a private party room for food and cake, which is provided by you. A great option for all kids, but especially those with special needs. Parties on Sundays only. Free t-shirt for birthday kid. Cost: Starts at $250, with 10% off for members.

Philadelphia Rock Gym: Rock climbing guided by PRG experts, pizza, and private party room Cost: Starts at $22/climber with 10 climber minimum.

Camden Children’s Garden: Take the ferry from Penn’s Landing to a whimsical garden with a butterfly greenhouse, train, carousel, and splash area for children aged 3-11 from April through November. Cost: Starts at $70 +$1.50 for each ride token.

Goldfish Swim School: 2 hours of private access to a pool with lifeguards, private party room with food, and tropical decorations for up to 24 kids aged 4 months to 12 years. Seem fairly low stress, except for having to get in a bathing suit in front of a crowd. Cost: $450

Independence Seaport Museum: Your little pirates will go on a scavenger hunt, do an art project, and tour a submarine. For $150 a “real” pirate will make an appearance and for $5 per person you can row in the Penn’s Landing basin. A private party room with paper products is provided for up to 50 guests aged 4-12. Cost: Starts at $300 for 20 guests, $25 off for members.

ZoomDance: 80-90 minutes of creative play and dance centered around a book that you choose. Best for ages 4-8 and able to accommodate mixed age groups well. You provide food and paper goods. Cost: If in Headlong Studios in South Philly, $330 for up to 12 kids, $395 for up to 25 kids. They will also come to you if you have an appropriate space for $180 for up to 12 kids, $245 for up to 25 kids. Bonus: if you are planning an adult party, ZoomDance will provide “worry-free distraction time” by entertaining a group of 4-25 kids for 45-120 minutes!

I hope this is helpful in planning your next birthday party. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but represents some of the options in the Philadelphia area. Wherever you end up, I hope you have fun!


[I have no affiliation with any of these businesses. I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.]


Reaching Your Dream


I told everyone that I wanted to be a pediatrician since I was around five years old. Of course then I had little idea about how hard it would be or how long it would take to reach that goal. Once in college, I started tackling the academic prerequisites and making many sacrifices along the way. By the time my dream came to fruition thirteen years (4 years college + research year + 4 yrs medical school + 3 yrs residency + 1 chief year) later, I had spent so long focused on the journey that I hadn’t thought much beyond it.

Although I earned my MD degree in 2008, it didn’t feel fully real until I completed residency and started my first job in 2012, where I would make decisions independently without direct supervision. There are still many days that I have to pinch myself. I love being a pediatrician and feel so fortunate to have a career that is emotionally and academically challenging and rewarding on a daily basis.

Children often tell me that they want to be a pediatrician when they grow up. In my jokey manner I usually pretend that they are just trying to butter me up so they don’t get shots and then they laugh and insist, “no I reaaaaallllly do, Dr. Lockwood.” I know though that for every five-year old like me who says this, there will be many more who will eventually chose another path. I am usually encouraging though because it is a great dream to have, even if only temporarily. One day a twelve-year old straight A student told me that she planned to be a pediatrician and I really believed her. My advice: many will tell you that you won’t be a doctor, but if you really want to, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Why would I say that people will tell her this? There were so many naysayers on my journey, whether a brief encounter or an ongoing mentor. One of the biggest was the pre-medical dean of my undergraduate college. This was the hardest to hear. I don’t think that this dean meant that I couldn’t or shouldn’t be a doctor, but rather that she had seen so many like me fail and wanted me to be realistic about having a back-up plan. I didn’t want to hear that though. I had a secret back-up plan, but giving it any real consideration felt like I was admitting failure and I wanted to spend all my energy toward reaching my goal. With every stumble though, I thought of her doubts and it pushed me to prove her wrong, do better, work harder.

So I told the hopeful twelve-year-old on my exam table that she should use the naysayer’s doubt to fuel her toward her goal. She confided that someone had already told her she probably couldn’t do it and appreciated that I told her to ignore them. Why would anyone doubt this little girl’s intentions? Many people think that a child can’t make such a serious decision. Others have a notion of what a doctor looks like that might not include a girl/woman, an African-American, or a child coming from a family living below the poverty line. She might be the first doctor in her family. Maybe she got a poor grade, and maybe it was in a science (gasp!). For any of these reasons, her road will not be easy, but if she feels called to medicine the way I was, it will be worth it.

Per aspera ad astra

(“through hardships to the stars“)

Skating Into 2017

The end of 2016 brought with it a few surprises and challenges, so when the last few days of this year brought a flu-like illness, it seemed an appropriately timed way to wind down a rough stretch of weeks and start fresh in a new year. As my sinuses cleared and I started to feel the renewed vigor of health after illness, I saw the hope in a new beginning.

In the past year, I have not written here as much as I wished. I hope to remedy that in the months ahead, but here are some of the things that kept me busy away from the blog:

  1. I started a podcast!
  2. I published a very personal piece about the birth of my son in JAMA Pediatrics:
  3. I published my 3rd and 4th pieces on KevinMD:

I have some other things that I wrote that are still trying to find the right publisher, so stay tuned. It has been humbling to write intimate pieces about my life and find them rejected repeatedly, but I know that is the process and it pushes me to edit further and work harder.

In 2016 I also took on a few new roles at work, including a leadership position as the Director of Continuing Education for the CHOP Care Network. These new roles provided me with fresh challenges that keep me excited while also giving me the flexibility to spend two afternoons a week with my son after school. It has made my work-life integration even more satisfying, albeit busy.

I started some good habits this past year that I would like to expand on and hope to remain committed. First, I started reading (fiction) again and joined a book club. As a working mom, it feels great to reclaim a hobby and some me-time. Second, I started exercising. Not only was I looking to shed a few pounds, but I really want to be healthier for my kids. I bought a spin bike and started doing a few at-home exercises. I have never liked gyms or exercise classes, but I found a class that I enjoy and went a few times this Fall. In a very cliché New Year’s resolution, I would like to do this more often.

I am full of other cliché New Year’s resolutions, like using my phone less, seeing my friends more, and traveling more with my family. 2016 had its fair share of disappointments, but it was full of opportunities as well. 2017 will be about what we do with those opportunities. On New Year’s Eve, we took our 5- and 3-year-olds ice skating for the first time. Like the weak-ankled-first-timers they were, they were awful at it. I wasn’t exactly Kristi Yamaguchi either, but 2016 reminded me that I need to be a role model for the kids, even if imperfect. So I cheered them on with hope (“look, you are doing it!”), love (“yay, let’s take a family picture on skates”), realism (“this is supposed to be hard”), and a touch of impatience (“just STAND UP”) because I am human and can only carry someone on skates for so long. So if 2017 is like ice skating, let’s hope that this year we are able to stand up on our own, shuffle our feet forward, and try not to humiliate ourselves in front of the children.

Standing Together


Before my family stuffed ourselves with our delicious Thanksgiving feast, we took a minute to acknowledge what is happening at Standing Rock. Amidst the fun of family reunions, football, and eating pie it can be easy to forget the complex and painful history of Thanksgiving and Native Americans. So it seemed appropriate that our extended family chose to donate money to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe on Thanksgiving, acknowledging the importance of Native Americans in our past, present, and future, while honoring an aunt who exemplifies compassion and unity.

In the recent deluge of political articles and posts, the coverage of the North Dakota Access Pipeline seems to get buried, as no candidate has taken a strong stand on this issue. So I was excited to see that one of my favorite kid play spaces, Play Arts, is hosting a banner-making and supply drop-off event in support of Standing Rock. Their event is on Thursday, December 1st, from 10-11:30 AM. Anyone who brings a donation also gets to play for free in their amazing play space. There is a list of suggested donations on their site also. If you can’t attend this event, there are other ways to get involved and show support if you are interested.

November was a difficult month, but with all the gratitude flowing from Thanksgiving into #GivingTuesday, December is full of hope. When my aunt heard at Thanksgiving that we donated to Standing Rock in her name she said something similar to what President Obama said, that if you believe in something, you should make your voice heard. This is the message that I want my children to hear, who know nothing of fracking, climate change, or eminent domain yet, but are learning to assert their opinions in their own age-appropriate ways. As I walked my 5-year-old home from kindergarten today, I told him that his teacher complained he was too loud in class. He responded simply and confidently, “yes, I was loud.” And I smiled and thought, oh little one, now for what will you use your loud voice?


[Disclaimer: All opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I am not responsible for the content or quality of external sites and links are provided only for your convenience. I have no affiliation with Play Arts or any of the Standing Rock or Sioux tribe charities or organizations. You should use your own informed judgement when making donations.]

Thankful and Nostalgic at the National Dog Show


One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving each year is watching the National Dog Show. You know, the one that comes on after Santa makes his appearance at the Macy’s parade and that is hosted by John O’Hurley from Seinfeld. Not everyone with me on Thanksgiving agrees, but I like judging the dogs from home and seeing if my favorite wins. Unlike the more pretentious Westminster show in February, the National Dog Show does a good job of condensing a full day’s worth of events into a two-hour special with family friendly facts about the various breeds. Ever since I have lived in Philadelphia I have thought about attending the show, which tapes nearby, and this year, thanks to winning tickets from PhillyFun4Kids, we made a new Thanksgiving tradition.

My interest in dog shows started a few decades ago, when I was around the age of my children and a neighbor started taking me to dog shows. Years later, I learned how to handle a dog myself and then started entering competitions at age ten. I showed our pet dalmatian for a few years before my interest in dog shows waned. Although I do not frequent dog shows anymore, I look back on those days fondly and appreciate the sportsmanship, poise, and confidence that they fostered in me. So bringing my young children to experience their first dog show was nostalgic.

In case you have ever watched a dog show and wondered how they pick a winner, let me break it down for you. The dogs compete first against their own sex, then escalate up to best of their breed, then best of their group, then best in show. The judge examines the dogs and ranks them as to how closely they compare to the standard described as the perfect dog in that breed. These standards take into consideration the function for which the breed was bred. The judge puts hands on the dog to see their form and temperament, then watches them move and assesses their overall appearance. The dogs win points for each dog they defeat and after 15 points, earn the title of champion.


We arrived at the dog show just in time for the Diving Dog Competition and watched the world record holder jump 29 feet into a pool. The kids enjoyed watching the dogs leap through the air and splash the audience. Thanks to MetroKids, they also enjoyed coloring pictures of dogs and bouncing in a Scooby Doo bouncy house. While they burned off energy, I sneaked away to watch the Pro Plan® Performance Team perform stunts. The National Dog Show is a benched show, which means the competitors need to stay during the day for the public to view and visit the 202 breeds represented. So we wandered up and down the aisles looking at dogs big and small to find our favorites. Influenced by my preferences, they squealed when they saw a grouping of dalmatians and pet a few named Henry, Logan, and Mystique.


Our day at the National Dog Show proved to be what I remembered from my own childhood: wholesome, educational, and family friendly. There were of course meltdowns and the children didn’t want to sit and watch the judging as much as I did, but it was a good start for their first show. I am excited to see it on TV on Thanksgiving and to attend in person again next year.


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