Mazes, Races & More: Blend free play and organized activities at the 92nd Street Y’s GymMaze Craze party, which features a spiral tunnel slide, two ball pools, a rope swing and more. Preschoolers driven by speed will love Chelsea Piers’ Ultimate Tykes Challenge, which includes relay races with tricycles, potato sacks and scooters.
Splish Splash: There’s nothing like a little splish-splash to get your tot’s party off to a fun start. Enjoy an hour of pool time followed by two hours of “dry time” for cake and birthday presents at the 14 Street Y. The Manhattan Youth Downtown Community Center is home to a 25-yard pool that can be rented for parties (arrangements can be made for pool games and activities), as well as a private party room where kids can continue the festivities once they’ve dried off!
Planes, Trains & Automobiles: Housed in a 1930’s subway station, The New York Transit Museum’s train-themed party provides little transit lovers with guided tours of its memorabilia, including vintage collections of subway cars. Looking for a more musical experience? Head to Three Little Birds, where kids learn songs about transportation and imitate the sounds vehicles make using musical instruments.
A Prehistoric Party: Throw a Dinosaur Discovery Party at the American Museum of Natural History! The birthday child and guests learn how paleontologists use evidence to unveil the secrets of these extinct creatures, then explore the Dinosaur Hall and see dinosaurs “pop” to life in the 3D art collection.
Farm Fun: Experience the Farm Animal Party at Art Farm in the City. In addition to the animals normally there, children will get to meet ducks, a sheep, chickens, turkeys and a goat from the farm in the Hamptons. You can also get the full farm experience at the Queens County Farm Museum, where children can partake in an animal feeding, a farmyard tour and tractor drawn hayride!
Move And Groove: It’s like two parties in one with Gymtime Rhythm & Glues Gym Party! Spend one hour having a ball with coach-led activities and free play in the gym, then change tunes and groove to DJ music while playing games like freeze and limbo. A special visit from Gymtime’s Mr. Bananas is included!
Ballerina Bash: At Ballet Academy East, the birthday child and friends can enjoy a personalized ballet class with an instructor, pianist and party host. After the lesson, guests will dance a ballet story told by the teacher and enjoy some refreshments.
American Idol: Throw your child an American Idol party at Citibabes! Guests can participate in dance contests, sing their favorite songs and enjoy their own personal Ryan Seacrest, Simon Cowell or Randy Jackson. A face painter or balloon artist will also join in on the fun!
Up, Up, And Away!: Has your child ever tried a zipline? They can as part of the Gymnastics Party at My Gym, which also features games, activities, and songs. Kids also have the chance to soar through the air with the Gymtastic! Party at 74th St. MAGIC, which includes rides on the venue’s exclusive filing swing, on top of plenty of fun in their fully equipped gym or baby gym and the use of the party room or rooftop playground.
Roll N’ Bowl: Kids can compete to stay out of the gutter while they battle each other in a birthday bowling game. From choosing the perfect bowling shoes, to enjoying snacks and drinks, to hopefully rolling a strike, it’s a full afternoon of fun! Great places to host parties include Harlem Lanes, Lucky Strike and Bowlmor Lanes.
An Artsy Affair: Kids can try their hand at weaving with a Saori Weaving Party at Loop Of The Loom, choosing from a wall filled with over 500 colors of spool. Or, tap into your inner diva with the Rock Star party at Craft Studio, where you can decorate superstar sunglasses and a pop star microphone with glitter paint, sequins, gems, jewels and sparkles—topped off with a celebrity-inspired hair piece. Looking for something artistic and edible? Try the Candy Sculpture Party offered by Hi Art!—kids use candy, frosting and other materials to build a sweet masterpiece to take home!
Tea Party: Kids will feel all grown up with a tea party at Alice’s Tea Cup. The elegant menu includes scones, assorted sandwiches, chocolate mousse and chocolate milk or a tisane tea. Consider hiring an “Alice” face painter to round out the affair!
Toys & Dolls: If your child loves American Girl Place, a special day at their New York store is the ultimate present! Parties include a sit-down meal, doll tiara for each guest, a table game, a take-home craft and much more. If it’s robots, not dolls, your child loves, head to Robot Galaxy, where guests can hop aboard a “spaceship,” design their own robot, then activate it! Or, how about stuffing, stitching and dressing your own stuffed animal from scratch with a Build-A-Bear party?
Date On Skates: Put on a pair of skates and show off your skills on the rink—or learn a few new moves from an on-site instructor. If you’re looking to host an ice-skating party, City Ice Pavilion hosts them year-round. Or, during the winter, try The Rink at Rockefeller Center or Wollman Skating Rink.
Get Pampered: Treat your birthday girl and friends to a full makeover at Cozy’s Cuts For Kids with the Glamorama Birthday Party, which includes hair-dos, makeup and manicures—plus music and an art project! Or, stick to the fingers and toes at Dashing Diva, where guests get pampered with a manicure and pedicure. The Yoga Spa Party at Karma Kids Yoga includes yoga moves accompanied by aromatherapy and hand and foot massages. Guests can even get henna tattoos, island-style hair braiding, nail polishing and more!
Mini Golf Game: Host a game of mini golf at the new Rocket Park Mini Golf course located outdoors at the New York Hall of Science. Parties also include access to the museum’s over 450 interactive exhibits, as well as demonstrations, hands-on activities and much more.
Princess Party: Don royal court-dresses, shoes, jewelry, tiaras, wands, glitter nail polish, fairy dust, eye shadow, jewels, and more with the Happy Birthday Princess Party at Let’s Dress Up! The day even includes a birthday tea served under crystal chandeliers. Or, add a little music to the mix with a Princess party by Moey’s Music Party. Guests love Moey’s sparkly pink dress and even get their own boas, tiaras and slap bracelets to wear while enjoying Moey’s one-of-a-kind songs!
Toying Around: Looking for an iconic party venue? At FAO Schwarz, families can rent the entire store if they like—though taking over a portion of the store or using the party room is also an option. Customize your own party theme with the help of the staff.
Learn And Explore: The Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s renowned Playworks exhibit, a unique, hands-on learning environment for kids, is also the site of their PlayWorks-themed birthday party. Guests can become a firefighter, “cook” a meal in the Little Apple Deli, construct a tall building, create a birthday masterpiece on the gigantic art wall and much more.
Rock N’ Roll: How about a personal birthday concert? The songs for seeds celebration at apple seeds features a live band (guitar, keys and drums) that kids can rock out to—plus, the birthday child and friends get their own kid-sized instruments to try out! Or, have a dance party with Applause NY and put together your own playlist for live musicians to perform. Puppets and bubbles are included! Kids can also rock out to Little Maestros, who sing and play guitar, piano and drums. Songs range from traditional kids songs to classic party tunes (or request your own). They even break out puppets, bubbles, parachutes, and more fun activities.
Movie Making Fun: Kids can tap into their inner filmmaker with the Animation Celebration at Children’s Museum of the Arts. Participants learn the basics of claymation and then collaborate on a short animation movie that brings their creativity to life.
Pizza Party: Kids can mix, measure, and stir up their own whole wheat pizzas—learning about the cooking process along the way—with the Pizza Party Extravaganza at Cupcake Kids! Later, they’ll eat their creations followed by delicious cupcakes they decorate themselves (and take home a personalized apron to boot.) With Mini Chef NYC’s Pizza Party at Dos Caminos, birthday guests mold pizza dough into fun shapes, then enjoy a magic show while it bakes in the oven.
Calling Clifford Fans: The Scholastic Store offers up Clifford’s BIG Birthday Bash, featuring a special storytime and craft project. The finale is truly BIG—when Clifford stops by for photos, music and dancing, cupcakes and cuddling!
Tennis Time: At SPORTIME at Randall’s Island, tennis pros lead kids in fun and games on the courts (outdoor courts and picnic tables are available in summer), followed by a pizza party in a private room. Is table tennis more your child’s speed? Check out Spin, which specializes in ping pong and has plenty of tables to play on!
Zoo Adventure: The Central Park Zoo offers a theater-themed party that also features a live animal encounter—perfect for kids who’ve been vying to get up close and personal with the zoo’s inhabitants! Or, choose your own animal theme at the Bronx Zoo, which offers parties that combine fun activities, arts and crafts, visits to exhibits and live animal guests in the party room!
Pass, Kick, Score!: Opt for the Platinum Ball Party with Super Soccer Stars for some action-packed time on the field. The party includes at least two coaches who oversee activities from warm-up exercises to games to a mini-World Cup tournament. Food and cake follows, and each child leaves with a Super Soccer Stars soccer ball to continue the fun at home.
Puppet Party: Head to Central Park’s Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater to celebrate your child’s birthday with a one-hour performance of their latest show! After taking in the marionettes, kids can enjoy food, cake and games in the theater’s party room.
Tricks And Experiments: Want to explore the unknown? At Fantasma Magic, the birthday child is “levitated” into the air as part of a magic comedy show. For a more scientific approach, team up with Mad Science, which hosts birthday parties featuring hands-on experiments like tornado tubes, indoor fireworks and chemical reactions that produce light!
Playspace Party: With a forest-themed play area, an interactive water adventure space called Splash!, and a soft play room, there’s plenty of fun to be had with a Playtime Party at City Treehouse! Or, move the party outside at the West Side YMCA, where kids can play on the venue’s new rooftop playground as part of the Roof Top Party, replete with a slide and spongy surface. The McBurney YMCA hosts an Indoor Playground Party, with time spent in the gym playing with the bouncy castle, gymnastic mats, a balance beam, tunnels and obstacle course.
Customize Your Own Affair: Looking for a great all-around venue where you can customize your own party and theme? Try the JCC of Manhattan. It provides the party space while you bring the creativity! Slate is another great space, which has its own party planner to help you customize the perfect bash.
Games Galore: Host a Coney-Island style carnival for your child replete with a basketball toss, fish pong, concession stands, snow cones and more at Carnival, a whimsical space above Bowlmor Lanes. Looking for the ultimate arcade experience? Head to Dave & Buster’s for Donkey Kong, Pac Man, Dance Dance Revolution and more!
Bring On The Music: Sing, play kid-size instruments, explore the sounds of the orchestra, and have lots of musical fun with a birthday party at Hands On! Singing “Happy Birthday” never sounded so good!
Martial Arts Fun: Kick, punch, chop and reflect your way through the big day with a birthday party at one of the city’s leading martial arts studios. Tiger Shulmann’s Karate, West Side Taekwondo and East Side Tae Kwon Do are all excellent options.
Search Party: Kids and adults work together during Watson Adventures’ Museum of Natural Hysteria Scavenger Hunt. The hunt takes place in the American Museum of Natural History and gives partygoers the chance to take on a monster squid, a hidden gorilla, a crouching cannibal and more while answering questions and sorting out clues.
Amazing Athletes: With the Sports Party at Asphalt Green, partygoers have the chance to partake in a sports bonanza, honing their skills in soccer, basketball, softball, flag football and more all in one day! Or, host an Ultimate Sports Party at Kidville, which includes games, relay races and other challenges. Want a more focused sports celebration? Celebrate with Kids In Sports and chose two to three sports to focus on from among baseball, basketball, flag football, floor hockey and soccer. Or, add some drama to the day and host a Sports Games party with DramaZone, which casts your child as the star of the show with a high-energy extravaganza.
Sweet Spots: A dessert destination is a delectable place to host a party. Magnolia Bakery on the Upper West Side and Sweetie Pie Restaurant in the West Village both have private rooms where you can host your affair, customizing everything from the menu to the entertainment to the favors!
Dining Out: Throwing a bash at one of the city’s restaurants allows you to customize your party while enjoying access to a full-fledged menu and party-ready space. Three restaurants in the city that have private rooms you can rent out for kids’ parties:Big Daddy’s, Heartland Brewery, and Uno Chicago Grill.
Gym’s The Word: Kids run, bounce and slide to their hearts’ content at Jodi’s Gym, where action-packed parties include the use of the tunnels, a space bouncer, tumble track and more. Another great gymnastics experience is Discovery Programs, which is home to a completely padded gym, where a coach guides kids on the trampoline, rings and more as part of the Gymnastics Party package. Or, try the Jump N’ Jive Party at New York Kids Club, which includes the chance to jump on the venue’s 20-foot trampoline and tackle obstacle courses.
A Personal Circus: Kids can create their own circus with the Under The Top party at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center. Guests fly on aerial silks, juggle, make their own pyramids and become silly clowns. Optional add-ons include cotton candy machines, candied apples, a bouncy castle, magician and more.
—Reported by Leah Black, Brittany McNamara and Teresa Tobat
Party Toppers: Special Add-Ons For Your Child’s Big Day
Whether you’re hosting a party at your home, a special venue, or outdoors in a park, entertainers bring the party with them. In New York, there’s lots of talent to choose from. Just a few notable entertainers we love: Jack Ryan, aka “THE HOOP WIZARD,” who delights kids with his amazing basketball tricks; RoByn Thompson of NYC FACE ART, who transforms kids’ faces into works of art; JOSH BECKERMAN, a magician and comedian specializing in everything from card tricks to jokes; SAMMIE AND TUDIE, a pair of clowns who entertain with magic, storytelling, balloons and face-painting; MIYACHI MASTERS, expert bean bag handlers who wow kids with their fancy juggling moves; MARK Z-MAN, a painter, cartoonist and illustrator who creates one-of-a-kind caricatures; MADELINE THE MAGICIAN, who has performed for J.K. Rowling and does everything from balloon sculpting to sing-alongs to levitating kids in midair; and SNAKES-N-SCALES, which brings kids up close and personal with everything from snakes to lizards.
BabyCakes. Creates all-natural and organic cupcakes as well as vegan and allergen-free baked goods. 248 Broome Street, 212-677- 5047, babycakesnyc.com.
Buttercup Bake Shop. Old-fashioned American cakes, pies, cookies and cupcakes as well as kosher desserts. 973 2nd Avenue, 212-350-4144; 141 West 72nd Street, 212-787-3800; buttercupbakeshop.com.
Confetti Cakes. Former Polo Ralph Lauren designer Elisa Strauss bakes one-of-a-kind, customized cakes serving 50 or more people. 102 West 87th Street, 212-877-9580, confetticakes.com.
Crumbs Bake Shop. Choose from more than 50 varieties of cupcakes or order a specialized cake. Various locations, 212-355-7800, crumbs.com.
The Food Emporium. Makes large sheetcakes in a variety of flavors for a great value. Various locations, thefoodemporium.com.
Tribeca Treats. With a focus on “intensely flavored edibles,” this bakeshop turns out made-to-order cakes in a variety of flavors. 94 Reade Street, 212-571-0500, tribecatreats. com.
PARTY FAVORS & ACCESSORIES
Crystal Party Supplies. This mega-store provides costumers with personalized balloons, cartoon-character decorations (Scooby-Doo and SpongeBob SquarePants are popular) as well as invitations and ribbons. 4306 Broadway, 212-543-9463.
Dinosaur Hill. Everything offered here is entirely handmade, including a wide variety of marbles, monster finger puppets, whistles and activity books. 306 East 9th Street, 212-473-5850, dinosaurhill.com.
Dylan’s Candy Bar. This colorful shop serves up an eclectic mix of candy, ranging from kosher marshmallow twists to their signature chocolate bars in flavors like S’mores and toffee crunch. 1011 Third Avenue, 646- 735-0078, dylanscandybar.com.
E.A.T. Gifts. A myriad of novelty items and party favors—from “singing” candles to magic kits—fill the store’s shelves. 1062 Madison Avenue, 212-861-2544.
Economy Candy. Since 1937, this mom and pop store has been dishing out affordable candy in bulk and also stocks classic treats like kosher Jordan almonds and chocolate Necco wafers. 108 Rivington Street, 1-800- 352-4544, economycandy.com.
Party City. This national chain offers party decorations and favors catering to a myriad of themes, from a jukebox shaped piñata for a ‘50s get-together to a Hibiscus flower hair clip for a luau shin dig. 38 West 14th St, 212-271-7310, partycity.com.
Pearl River Market. Amongst the vast selection of assorted household Chinese goods also lies exotic party favors and accessories like hand fans, parasols, bamboo picks and takeout boxes. 477 Broadway, 212-431-4700, pearlriver.com.
Pylones. Established in 1985, Pylones stocks eccentric and eclectic knick-knacks—think fish pens, painted hairbrushes and jump ropes with animal-shaped handles. Various locations, pylones.com.
The Children’s General Store. Here you’ll find glitzy toys, like felt stickers and princess tiaras, as well as the simple stuff like bubbles. 168 East 91st Street, 212-426-4479.