Throw your child a BEST BIRTHDAY by keeping things simple at home or by heading out to one of the area’s top party spots!
OK, so maybe we can’t all surprise our little ones with a birthday trip to Disney World, but Greater Cincinnati has plenty of ways to “go big” for your child’s special day. Want to party with dinosaurs? Gotcha covered. Throw out the first pitch at a baseball game? Presto! Read on …
Trains rule the day at EnterTRAINment Junction (entertrainmentjunction.com), but birthday parties can really go off the rails (we mean that in a good way!). Enjoy everything from refreshments to party supplies, a private party room and admission to EnterTRAINment Journey, but the real fun lies in the bonus packages and the center’s rotating “journeys.” Kids are drawn to the A-Maze-N FunHouse — a wacky tour that leads you through a mirror maze, a tilt room and more oddities. “Opening the A-Maze-N FunHouse really spoke to our audience and further expanded requests for birthday parties, which were always popular,” says Don Oeters, owner of EnterTRAINment Junction. “But now we have taken it to the next level in attracting the 6- to 12-year-olds because of the mix of unique attractions we offer,” he adds. Party prices range from $159 – $249 for up to 25 guests, with bonus options available.
Reds fans can step into their favorite players’ shoes (or, a-hem, jerseys) at the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum (cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/cin/hof/index.jsp). Parties begin at $175 and kick off in a private room with refreshments, a film on the team’s history and then a tour of the Museum. Kids have a great time calling famous plays in the broadcast booth says Special Projects Coordinator Colin Ethier, or even playing Xbox baseball in the Kids’ Club House, where they can also try on team jerseys. For an additional fee, party-goers get a ticket voucher to a Reds game at the Great American Ball Park. RSVP in advance, Ethier says since the timing of a game effects availability.
Head a little farther south, and you can have a birthday bash at Florence Freedom’s ballpark (florencefreedom.com). “We’re a very child-oriented park,” says Denise Newbolt. Along with a kids’ zone, a summer reading club, on-field activities and campouts, the team’s birthday parties include all the usual fixings, visits with mascots Belle, Liberty and the Freedom, a custom cake from Newport’s Fantasy in Frosting, and best of all, the birthday child gets to throw out the ceremonial first pitch! Parties start at $195 for 10 people.
Action and Adventure
Does your kid love the thrill of the chase? Let him and his friends go nuts with laser tag missions at Lazer Kraze (lazerkraze.com), at either of their two locations or in your own backyard, since these guys will bring the games to you. Parties include two missions for up to ten kids, and all the usual suspects — refreshments, a party room, a party coach and a return pass for the birthday boy or girl. Customizations are available, and a special Munchkin Madness party is available on Saturday mornings for younger kids. Birthday parties at the Erlanger location can range from laser tag to a party in the new indoor trampoline arena. Prices start around $129 and go up from there. Lazer Kraze also offers limo service so kids can arrive in style (an excellent option for the “Diva Spa Party”)!
Just because a venue doesn’t offer a specific party package doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of its offerings. Ozone Zip Line (campkern.org/ozone) is a great place for adventurous young ones (provided they are at least 10 years old, weigh 80 pounds, and you have one willing adult per child). A traditional tour ($75 per person) includes seven zip lines, seven Skybridges and a central tower and takes about three hours. Although most tours stick to eight people, Ozone’s Chris Addison reassures parents that his staff is prepared for birthday celebrations and can manage groups larger than eight. All you need to do is give some advance notice and RSVP at least two weeks out.
Pick a Theme, Any Theme
Ages 1 – 12 can party at Cincinnati Museum Center (cincymuseum.org), with parties for 25 guests in your chosen museum, programming led by an educational presenter, refreshments (including cake) and clean-up. Kids can choose from a bunch of themes, including construction, animals, a tea party, dinosaurs, space or an Egyptian theme. Call at least two weeks in advance — prices are $200 for members and $225 for non-members.
From Peanuts to Dinos
Ten – 15 or more friends can party with the Peanuts gang at Kings Island (visitkingsisland.com) or kick it in the Dinosaurs Alive! Prehistoric Party Pavilion. Dino fans will get a party guide to show off the life-sized creatures, while Snoopy lovers can enjoy a private party room for the birthday child and his friends, including a visit from the Peanuts gang for a small additional fee. Perks include refreshments, discount admission coupons for Kings Island (or in the case of a Snoopy Party, admission tickets to the park and waterpark), reserved VIP parking for the birthday child, special gifts and more. Parties are scheduled at set times, and prices range from $19.99 per person (for a Dinosaurs Alive! Party) up to $41.37 per person (for a Peanuts and Snoopy Party). Discounts are available for season pass holders.
The season for pool parties is here so why not hit up some of the largest pools in the area? Head over to Coney Island’s Sunlite Pool (coneyislandpark.com) for swimming, food from LaRosa’s, ice cream, miniature golf, and Poster Dart at the Games of Skill Arcade. Price is $18 per person, with a minimum of eight. (If your child’s not into water fun, choose the all-day admission to Coney’s Classic Rides.)
Your birthday child and nine of his closest friends can spend the day at CoCo Key Water Resort (cocokeycincinnati.com) — for $29.99 per person, you get two hours of swim time, one hour in a private party room, a birthday meal, cake, a $5 arcade card and more.
Just for the Family
A party with friends is certainly nothing to sniff at, but perhaps your child’s birthday is a great excuse for the family to do something special together. An overnight adventure at Great Wolf Lodge (greatwolf.com/mason) gives you access to their 79,000-squre-foot water park featuring the Hydro Plunge, River Canyon Run and Alberta Falls, as well as awesome games like MagiQuest, themed guest rooms with special areas just for the little ones, an arcade, and the Scoops Kid Spa.
Even planning a party is a perfect chance for some bonding time with your birthday child. Says Krissy McWhorter, “My daughter Mackenzie is a super creative and helpful little girl so she is very involved in her party planning every year. We first decide what we want to ‘do’ for the party. Bowling, bounce house, Minute-to-Win-It tournament (a BIG hit last year), a sleepover, etc. Then we decide on the colors and pattern of the paper goods, including invitations, plate, napkins, tablecloths and other items. We usually make our own invitations since I’m a scrapbooker, but a super easy way to get kids involved is to design one on the computer.” And while baking a cake together may be a little messy, there’s room for creativity here too. McWhorter recommends making cupcakes and simply adding gel food coloring to pre-made vanilla icing.
Mix It Up
If you’re not up for a completely homemade party, consider a combination of an off-site adventure and a party at home. A scavenger hunt at Cincinnati Art Museum (cincinnatiartmuseum.org) followed by some art-making fun in Artworld is a great way to occupy kids before heading into Eden Park for a picnic.
Speaking of picnics, there’s nothing easier than renting a park shelter and providing all the fun and games yourself, but if you want to up your game a bit, consider coordinating your party with one of Hamilton County Parks’ new Picnic & Play Packages at Miami Whitewater Forest (greatparks.org), or with one of Cincinnati Parks’ many nature-themed programs that are designed for all ages (cincinnatiparks.com). The Cincinnati Nature Center’s Nature PlayScape (cincynature.org) gives kids room to explore the natural world, guided by their imagination — you can bring items from home or borrow from the center, including magnifying glasses for inquisitive minds, bug boxes for those who don’t mind a little “ick,” and trowels and buckets for those who just like to get dirty. You can picnic on the grass or benches.
BE A COOL PARTY MOM!
Sure you can let someone else host your child’s party, but be an active participant when it’s time for the special day, says author Marnie Ann Pacino in her book Cool Party, Mom! The Other Three Words Every Mother Loves to Hear (Create Space; $16.95). Find tips, resouces and all kinds of ideas for real moms needing easy-to-do.
Throwing a party does take a can-do mind-set, though. “I am doing everything myself,” says Elsmere mom Erica O’Bryan of her son’s upcoming Lego-themed party. “I made Lego invitations out of card stock and cut out circles to make them look like Legos, I’m making Lego jewelry for the goodie bags, and I’m making my own Lego-inspired cake and piñata.”
With that much homemade goodness, O’Bryan’s party is sure to be remembered!