The Sports Complex
The details: Celebrate your athlete by doing what he loves most—going head-to-head in all manner of sports and games. Make the event extra special by turning it into a color war party, says Amy Shey Jacobs, president of New York- and New Jersey-based party planning company Chandelier Events. Divide guests into two teams, assign each a different color (tell kids to wear it to the party or get inexpensive T-shirts and hand them out when they arrive), and let them face off in tug-o-war, soccer, dodgeball or flag football. Take the theme to the table by including grass flats as centerpieces (get them for cheap at a home improvement store), and top them off with balls from your own backyard. “I also love to give the kids props like miniature foam fingers that you can find at Etsy, Party City and Amazon,” says Jacobs. Score!
Try: Superdome Sports, 134 HopperAve., Waldwick.
Packages start at $395 for up to 15 kids. 201-444-7660,
The Movie Theater
The details: Is she super excited to see Finding Dory this summer? Rent the whole theater out and screen your birthday kid’s favorite flick. Jacobs suggests customizing the snacks for more fun. As kids walk in, they can fill up their popcorn box with plain or flavored popcorn (so easy to make beforehand—then transport and serve it in big plastic storage bins at the party). To amp up the glamour, roll out a red carpet in front of the theater (a bed sheet will do the trick too), and snap photos of kids as they make their way inside. A movie party is a great way to invite a lot of guests for one flat price—the cost stays the same no matter how many kids you have (up to theater capacity). What’s more, the star of the show
even gets her name on the marquee!
Try: Ramsey Theatre, 125 East Main St., Ramsey.
Packages start at $345 for up to 40 guests. 201-825-2090, ramseytheatre.com
The Animal Rescue Center
The details: Got an animal lover? Check with your local shelter to see if they do birthdays. At St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, your group can spend the day hugging and playing with the whole menagerie. (Just confirm no party guests are allergic first). For lunch, cut sandwiches into animal shapes and do cupcakes with bone-shaped cookie toppers—then serve everything in plastic pet bowls. For favors, fill a big wooden basket with stuffed dogs and cats with a sign that says “Adopt-a-Pet” above it. Instead of gifts, ask guests to make a donation to the shelter—just add the details to the bottom of the invitation.
Try: St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center, 575 Woodland Ave., Madison.
Packages start at $17–20/child for up to 15 kids. 973-377-7094 ext. 226, sthuberts.org.
The Recording Studio
The details: Is your kid the next Taylor Swift? Give her a taste of the spotlight as she gets behind the mic for her birthday bash. Rent a state-of-the-art recording studio where pros help her lay down a voice track before the big day (this is her chance to really “Shake It Off”), then at the
party, the studio team teaches her crew to play instruments and dance specialized choreography as they star in their very own
music video. Of course, your lead singer takes home the recording—while the rest of gang is wowed with iTunes gift cards.
Try: The Modern Music Academy, 371 Bloomfield Ave., Caldwell.
Packages start at $750 for up to 20 guests. 973-337-8624, themodernmusicacademy.com.
The details: Take advantage of huge open spaces and a beautiful setting to plan an easy-on-the-wallet, unforgettable birthday at the park.
Laura Himmelein, owner of Party Cake Party Cake in Maplewood, says a spy party is perfect for a big, grassy area. At a recent event she planned, kids channeled their inner double-agents to complete a code-cracking scavenger hunt and a James Bond-style obstacle course—where they had to snake their way under a rope crawl. “When each guest arrived, they got ‘fingerprinted’ and received a secret agent pass,” says Himmelein. “The kids had to work as team to break a code as part of the fun, which led them to their party favor,” which was a cool art kit. Make sure the park has restrooms nearby, she adds, and check with the rec department to see if there are any guidelines, fees or permits required for a park party near you.
Try: Your town’s recreation department.
The Fire Station
The 411: Blow your fireman-obsessed kid’s mind by throwing his next party in a real firehouse. At the Whitehouse Fire Company in Hunterdon County (and probably at your local firehouse too), your birthday kid can celebrate turning another year older alongside actual firefighters, who demonstrate how to wear their gear and work the hoses. Afterwards, the firemen and women set up your party table and chairs inside the engine bays, where the trucks are parked on a typical day. All you have to do is bring in a red, gold and black tablecloth, plates and cups, little boxed lunches and, of course, a fire truck cake. Don’t forget a stack of plastic helmets, so kids can look and feel the part. You can also give away little
Matchbox fire trucks to take home as favors. The highlight? Everyone gets a ride on one of the engines, sirens blaring!
Try: Whitehouse Fire Company, 271 Main St., Whitehouse Station.
$225 for up to 25 children. 908-534-2552, whitehousefirecompany.com
The Yoga Studio
The details: If downward dog is their favorite way to relax, bring all her friends to the studio to get their Zen on. At Mimi Yoga in Hoboken, kids
can practice poses while listening to music and playing games that fit the theme. “We like to play a yoga freeze dance game—when the music
stops, everyone is encouraged to come up with their own yoga pose,” says owner Lisa Hanuka. Party-goers even get a soothing foot rub—make
sure you suggest soft, casual attire on your invitations so everyone feels comfortable. Mimi also provides snacks or pizzas—you just need to bring the cake.
Try: Mimi Yoga, 1001 Bloomfield St., Hoboken.
Packages start at $425 for up to 12 kids. 201-222-1814, mimikidsyogahoboken.com.