NYC Birthday Party Planning Tips from Local Experts

Everyone wants to make their child’s birthday dreams come true and make the celebration unforgettable! NYC offers such an incredible menu of birthday party options that there is a venue and theme for anything that your child can imagine. Not sure where to begin? We asked The Craft Studio Owner Lindsey Peers, The Playroom NYC Co-Owners Liat Kletz and Tali Shustik, Face Art By Melissa Owner Melissa Munn, and Balloon Saloon Owner Sharon Hershkowitz for their birthday party expertise!

For more birthday party reads, check out The Birthday Party Project: Making Kids’ B-Day Wishes Come True

How can kids and parents both get what they want out of a birthday party?

Liat and Tali: On your kid’s birthday, they want to feel special and, most importantly, excited about their big day! Pick a party that will excite your child – if they are obsessed with PAW Patrol and nothing else would even compare, give them a PAW Patrol Party. Even if it’s not YOUR favorite theme, their excitement and joy will make you a happy parent. Parents want to be able to enjoy the party, too (ideally, with as little stress as possible), so choose a venue that can take care of everything, from decor and food to upgrades and favors. Once you’ve made a few simple choices, sit back and relax as much as you can with all those children running around.

What makes the best parties?

Melissa: In my experience of running an entertainment company that averages 35 bookings per week, as well as throwing a ton of parties for my own two kids, I feel like the best parties are the ones that spark creativity and imagination in the kids. The best parties keep the kids busy having fun so the parents can relax a bit.

How far in advance do you need to plan?

Liat and Tali: We suggest looking at venues three months prior so that you can book and have your date confirmed roughly two months before the big day. Birthday party and venue spaces book up quickly, so you want to make sure you can get your perfect date and time. Invitations should be sent out 4-6 weeks before the party as well, to ensure all your guests have enough time to save the date and can make it to the party. Our children’s schedules can be even busier than our own, so be sure to give ample time and remember to follow up with those RSVPs!

How to begin with the guest lists?

Lindsey: As a mom, I am always struggling with this. You don’t want to hurt feelings but can’t have 75 kids! I always say start with your core group of lifelong friends of your child and then decide if, on top of that, adding in the school class will still be do-able. I think most schools stick to the rule that if you invite over a handful, you need to ask the whole class. So I always say start with who are must invites and then see how many more spaces you have and decide if your wallet and space can handle the class.

Can you share your planning tips like choosing the theme?

Liat and Tali: Choose a theme that makes your child happy and excited about their party, while keeping it slightly generalized so that your options for decorations and details can be endless. Themes like Jungle, Sports, Winter can easily be turned into a cute unique theme for your little one’s name or age, i.e. Two Wild, Sammy’s Sports Club, Winter One-derland, and more. These unique custom touches will wow your party guests and make your child feel extra special. Incorporate the theme in all the details, such as personalized water bottles, table decor, and cake decorations.

How do you make a theme come to life?

Lindsey: Kids have the best ideas about creative themes, so ask your littles (if they’re old enough)! For my 5-year-old, we are doing a game/unicorn theme where kids design a fanny pack to collect tickets as they move around to fun silly carnival game stations. Sometimes what seems like a weird theme you can turn into such a fun and different party. Also, sometimes, just a classic birthday with no specific theme is fun and refreshing.

Any favorite, excellent extras?

Liat and Tali: Face painting, glitter tattoos, and balloon artists are crowd-pleasers. Character Appearances can make a huge impact, but we recommend them for slightly older children so that everyone can enjoy, and no one is frightened on the party day. Choose something you know your child will enjoy, but will also be enjoyed by their guests.

What’s most important to consider when hiring entertainment?

Melissa: The most important thing to consider when hiring people to entertain your kids during a party is to hire people who genuinely love children and go out of their way to engage and connect with your kids and make them feel special. When your entertainer arrives, they should bring the celebration in with them! Top tips: always book enough time to allow each child to participate. After every weekend, I hear, “Wow! The face painting made the party, all the kids wanted it, and all the moms couldn’t stop talking about how amazing it was!” It’s like music to my ears.

Talk to us about food and cake.

Lindsey: Pizza is a standard at most parties, but I like out-of-the-box food too! How about chicken fingers and mini waffles for a Saturday or Sunday a.m.? There are so many options for cake, but I also love a classic homemade pancake decorated with love. I love that at The Craft Studio; we make an ice cream cake – perfect for pairing with mini cupcakes or homemade cake!

What are your favorite favors?

Liat and Tali: We like to offer and suggest favors that kids will use more than once. We all know how frustrating it can be to come home with a bag of breakable cheap toys that will inevitably end up in the garbage. Our favorites include Ty stuffed Beanie Boos, Melissa & Doug art activities and character-themed bubbles. Don’t forget to add a personalized thank you tag to your favor to complete the party with those extra special touches.

Anything else that may be helpful?

Lindsey: Relax and enjoy your party because looking back, that will be what matters! If outsourcing the venue and details of your party, try and let the pros do their thing so you can be in the moment with your child. Don’t have enough party favors? No sweat, explain a box got left at home, and you will bring extras to school for those who don’t have them. Pizza late? Play an extra game and have people take a slice on the way out. Remember, parties are supposed to be fun for everyone, even mom and dad. Enjoy the happiness radiating from your birthday nugget.

Favorite venues?

Naturally, these experts recommend The Craft Studio UES and Tribeca and The Playroom NYC for the best birthday party ever. Melissa also suggests Gymtime Rhythm and Glues on UES, Freshmade in Soho, Dance with Ms. Rachel in Tribeca, and the 92nd Street Y all have what she considers super flow parties and great engaged staff members. Lindsey also loves a party at home if it is small, and having the vendor (like Craft Studio) come to you is a great way to have it run smoothly at home so you cannot stress and enjoy the fun.

Also, make sure to plan early since NYC party venues book up fast.

For more info on all our birthday party experts and their businesses, please visit:

Balloonsaloon.com, Billybeezus.com, Bouncepartyny.com, Craftstudionyc.com, Daveandbusters.com, Faceartbymelissa.com, Theplayroomnyc.com

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