When you’re between the ages of 2 and 12, your birthday is the social event of the year. Anticipation is intense.
Which is one reason that planning a child’s birthday party can be so stressful: The expectations can run very high indeed. Once you factor in a handful of sugared-up kids racing around like antelopes and cake-smeared furniture, getting additional help (or hosting the party somewhere else entirely) looks appealing.
Fortunately, there are many charming and engaging venues in the area, good for a range of budgets. These creative, stress-free and, most of all, fun party plans will make you look like the parent of the year. You’ll be just as excited to celebrate as your kid.
Carson’s Store Noank CT
Carson’s Store is now available to rent for private events and functions. There is no event to small. Whether you are looking for a simple meeting place, somewhere to host a child’s birthday party that your kid’s won’t soon forget, or a private dinner party or rehearsal, we would love to help plan your next special gathering.
Venue: Restaurant & Playground
What they offer: Vintage Old School Diner, Ice Cream Parlor and Playground
Prices: Call For Custom Pricing
The Art Truck, Glastonbury
You know those popular spots where adults gather to drink wine and make paintings? Subtract the merlot, add a cheerful arts instructor and some cupcakes, and you’ll have an idea what The Art Truck, brainchild of artist and owner Maura O’Shea, is like. Basically, you choose from an extensive list of themes, including “Party like a Robot,” “Paint Like Picasso” or “A Royal Party.” On the appointed date, O’Shea rolls up to your house (or you go to The Art Truck’s shop in Glastonbury); then, she provides the art supplies and instruction, and kids go to town creating their own masterpieces. For an extra $150, they’ll throw in some cupcakes for children to decorate and enjoy, too. The party lasts about an hour, and is good for children ages 3 to 9.
What they offer: Up to 16 children, one-hour art project, at your home or in the Glastonbury boutique.
Contact, location: Morgan Fippinger Urgo, client services, 30-C Hebron Avenue, Glastonbury, 844-287-2789 , www.thearttruck.com
Prices: $399 for one-hour basic party; more options available.
Stew Leonard’s, Children’s Cooking Party, Newington
If your pint-size chef pores over your copies of Bon Appetit, it’s probably an indication he or she will love this idea: Stew Leonard’s in Newington offers cooking parties for groups of 10 or more and will cater to their favorite cuisine or meal. You can choose from among classes with Italian, Mexican, cupcake or finger food themes. (On behalf of parents everywhere, too bad there’s not a put-dinner-on-the-table-on-a-Tuesday class, right?)
Besides ingredients, and, of course, some tasty kid-made dishes, Stew Leonard’s will provide invitations, a craft, paper goods, pizza, cake or cupcakes, games, balloons and juice. Other options are a pirate theme, princess party or a makeup and dance party.
Venue: Stew Leonard’s
What they offer: Parties in their party room, foods, crafts, cake.
Contact, location: Jenn Polaski, 3475 Berlin Turnpike, Newington, 860-760-8100, www.stewleonards.com
Prices: 11/2 hours. General party, $240 for 10 children. Cooking party, $270 for 10 children. More options available.
Carousel, Hartford and The New England Carousel Museum, Bristol
Ready to throw the most Instagram-able party ever? You’ll want to talk to Louise DeMars, executive director of the Bushnell Park Carousel and the New England Carousel Museum in Bristol. Both venues are gorgeous: The Hartford location has a vintage carousel from 1914, complete with rearing, elegantly painted horses sporting lacquered flowers and bows. The museum in Bristol has a large, renovated party room for big to-dos and a working carousel. For added charm, the museum offers several themed party options, including carousel, knight, firefighter and tea party.
Venue: The New England Carousel Museum
What they offer: Themed birthday party, two hours. You bring food, decorations and gifts. Deluxe and basic packages also available.
Contact, location: 95 Riverside Ave., Route 72, Bristol, 860-585-5411, www.thecarouselmuseum.org
Prices: A carousel theme party at the New England Carousel Museum in Bristol includes a tour of the museum and unlimited carousel rides, $12 per child, $3 per adult.
Westmoor Park, West Hartford
Two words: mini donkeys. Their names are Olive and Peaches, and they’re just as adorable as you imagine. Of course, tiny donkeys are not the only attraction for birthday parties at West Hartford’s Westmoor Park. As Rosemary Aldridge, the park’s office assistant, explains: “For the first hour the children can take a walk on our nature trails with a park naturalist. After that, the children can interact with our animals: chickens, goats, sheep, rabbits, a horse and cow.” Plus, of course, Olive and Peaches. The park also has a discovery room with reptiles, turtles and amphibians — for kids who are into that sort of stuff.
Venue: Westmoor Park
What they offer: A two-hour party for 15 children, Saturdays and Sundays only. Party room, nature walk, interaction with animals. Good for all ages. You bring snacks and cake.
Contact, location: Rosemary Aldridge, 119 Flagg Road, West Hartford, 860-561-8260, www.westmoorpark.org
Prices: $150 West Hartford residents, $175 nonresidents.
Bubbly Spa & Creativity Center, Manchester
Because your kid is so well-mannered 364 days a year, why not spoil her a little on her birthday? That’s the premise behind birthday parties at Bubbly Spa in Manchester. Besides mani-pedis, owner Elisha Buhler offers crafts, karaoke, sparkly makeup and cupcake decorating. “We also have a decorated T-shirt party, and we can do mobile parties where we come to your home. We also have parties for teens, preteens and mommy-and-me parties.”
Venue: Bubbly Spa
What they offer: Kids Spa Day party, eight children, cupcakes to decorate, bubbles, games, party hostess, other party options available.
Contact, location: Elisha Buhler, 43 Purnell Place, Manchester, 860-645-1962, www.bubblyspa.com
Prices: $250 for 11/2 hours
Connecticut Science Center, Hartford
Young Einsteins and Marie Curies will be thrilled that the Connecticut Science Center has gotten in on kids’ birthday parties. Your junior scientist can opt for a basic birthday party, in which partygoers visit the exhibits in the museum. Beyond that, you can go for a Glow in the Dark party, a Sparkly Science party or a Sense-ational Play party. Maybe your kid will come out inspired for the next science fair.
Venue: Connecticut Science Center
What they offer: Parties on Saturdays and Sundays. Party room for two hours, paper products, Science Center party host, 18 guests, printable invitations, admission to all museum galleries. Bring your own cake. Customized parties available.
Prices: $295 for nonmembers, $265.50 for members. $12 per additional guest ($10 when hosted by a member).
The Claypen, West Hartford
Instead of the usual trinkets or candies, the goody bag from The Claypen in West Hartford contains something that will last much longer — your child’s own hand-painted ceramic. The customization starts right when the kids walk in. As Assistant Manager Kim Moylan explains, “Kids choose a base, like statues of cats or dogs, jewelry boxes, plates or bowls.” From there, they pick colors and paint away, then The Claypen fires it for a beautiful, permanent ornament. Claypen provides the paint, space and an instructor, while parents pay per child for the pottery, and bring in snacks, food and cake.
Venue: The Claypen
What they offer: During store hours: six to 12 children, one hour (younger children) or 11/2 hours. Instructor, space, paints.
Contact, location: 997 Farmington Ave., West Hartford, 860-233-3322, www.theclaypen.com
Prices: $6 per hour for younger child, or $9 per hour for older child during store hours, plus pottery (typically $10 to $15). When the store is closed, $100 per hour to have the studio to yourselves for up to 30 painters, plus a 15 percent gratuity and the cost of the pottery.
New Britain Museum of Art, New Britain
At most museums, kids are encouraged to not touch, to use their inside voices and generally to act like adults. With a party at the New Britain Museum of American Art, though, they get to act like kids. The activities include a museum scavenger hunt, a hands-on art project in the art studio, and time for cake that parents bring. The museum also will provide themed gift bags for an added cost. Some of the options are a pirate party, an animal safari party and an Impressionist garden party.
Venue: The New Britain Museum of American Art
What they offer: Two hours, museum educator, arts and crafts project.
Contact, location: Kathryn Matsuzakik, [email protected], 56 Lexington St., New Britain, 860-229-0257, Ext. 220
Prices: For members, $15 per child with a minimum of 10 children, maximum of 20. For nonmembers $20 per child.
My Gym, Glastonbury and West Hartford
For a little athlete, a birthday celebration at MyGym in Glastonbury or West Hartford is just the thing to get out all that energy in the most fun way possible. They’ll be pooped afterward — in a good way. Instructors lead kids in activities like tumbling and trampolining for 11/2 hours, while grown-ups hang out and watch. Parents bring their own cake, but MyGym will provide the rest.
What they offer: Deluxe birthday party, 11/2 hours, use of entire gym with gymnastics equipment including indoor zip line, games, decorations, paper goods, invitations in PDF form, up to 20 children.
Prices: Deluxe party, $300 for members, $350 for nonmembers.
Lutz Children’s Museum, Manchester
The Lutz Children’s Museum in Manchester has been delighting children since 1953, and one reason it’s stuck around is its whimsical interior with kid-size storefronts and animal displays. Just as charming, the museum offers many themed parties for your child’s special day. Animal themes focus on nocturnal animals (like hedgehogs or chinchillas), backyard animals (including turtles and rabbits), or reptiles (lizards and geckos). For a tamer option in warm weather, the museum offers tie-dye parties, providing the dyes and T-shirts. Kids with a sweet tooth can choose an ice cream party, making their own with an old-fashioned ice cream maker.
Venue: Lutz Children’s Museum
What they offer: Party room, 15 children, two hours, choice of party activity, museum admission, invitations, Saturdays and Sundays
Contact, location: 247 S. Main St., Manchester, 860 643-0949, [email protected]
Prices: $250 members, $300 nonmembers, goody bags $4 per child, add-ons available.
Creative, simple and (most important of all!) fun, these party plans will make you look like the parent of the year, and your little one will thank you.