To a child, birthdays are a huge deal; kids start getting excited about their party weeks or even months in advance. To parents, however, parties can be a great source of stress. Who to invite? What food to serve? What activities to feature? And most important: Where to hold it?
Some families just use their own backyards, but that leaves the parents entirely responsible for every facet of the party. That’s why others choose to hold the party at one of the many local businesses or attractions that offer birthday-party packages tailored just for kids. Costs vary, as do the services offered. (For example, some places provide food, while others require you to bring it). But with a little research, it’s not difficult to find the perfect party location for both your child and your budget. Here’s a handy guide to help you get started:
MT. LEBANON PARKS—One of the easiest local party options for warm-weather birthdays is to rent one of the Mt. Lebanon park pavilions. (Prepare to handle all the food and entertainment on your own). Reservations are first-come, first-served. The cost ranges from $28 to $43 for Mt. Lebanon residents, depending on which park you choose. Pavilions can be reserved online or by calling 412-343-3409.
MT. LEBANON SWIMMING POOL—Pool parties are available on Saturdays and Sundays through the end of August. Cost is $15 per child with an eight-guest minimum and 24-guest maximum. Pizza and beverages are provided. Details online or 412-561-4363.
MT. LEBANON ICE CENTER—The local ice center offers a number of birthday-party packages, both private and during public skating sessions. Private parties are held at the studio rink and cost $215 for 8-15 children or $250 for 16-24. Parties during public-skate sessions can be held at either the ice edge pavilion or in an upstairs party room. Cost for either is $15 per guest, though use of the party room includes an extra $30 fee. Pizza and beverages are provided. Details online or 412-561-4363.
ICE CASTLE—The Ice Castle rink in Castle Shannon also offers birthday parties, all during public skating and with a private party room. There is a “royalty” package that’s $16 per child and a “crown” package that’s $13 per child. Both include skating admission, skate rental and a birthday cake. 412-561-9090.
WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM—Yogli Mogli, the uptown Mt. Lebanon yogurt shop offers three different birthday-party packages, ranging in price from $190 to $290 (with an additional cost for parties attended by more than 10 kids). Parties include time for both games and yogurt and are supervised by a Yogli Mogli employee. The birthday kid gets a tie-dyed T-shirt. 412-207-2291. Betsy’s Ice Cream, just across the street and up the block from Yogli, also does kids’ parties, with games and a quick instructional session on how to make ice cream, but what they do the most of is off-site catering. Full-service catering, including a Betsy’s staffer, you pick four flavors of ice cream and up to 10 toppings, $3.50 a person. Special Mt. Lebanon block party and larger party rates. Self-serve catering, you can get a three-gallon tub for $80, which serves 60. Special rates for noprofits and church groups. 412-668-0379.
BUILD-A-BEAR WORKSHOP—Every kid leaves with a new stuffed friend when they attend a party held at the Build-A-Bear Workshop at South Hills Village Mall. Parties must be for at least six guests and typically last between an hour and 90 minutes. Costs start at $10 per guest and then increase based on how elaborate a stuffed animal the party guests are allowed to create. All parties are supervised by a Build-A-Bear employee who serves as party leader. 412-851-9033 or www.buildabear.com.
SNAPOLOGY—Is there a Lego lover in your family with a birthday coming up? Snapology’s Discovery Center (located at 1699 Washington Road) is a young builder’s dream, as it’s filled with Legos and other types of construction toys. Base price is $225, and that includes two hours of fun split between the main play room and a private party room for 12 kids and four adults. Larger parties incur additional costs. Each guest gets a custom mini-figure. 412-295-1545 or www.pittsburgh.snapology.com.
GYMSPORT—This Bridgeville athletic center will keep your child and their friends busy with a party that includes games and access to much of the center’s equipment, including the trampoline foam pits. Staff members manage the party, which can cost from $200 to $300. (The gold and platinum packages include pizza.) Parties are 90 minutes and can include up to 12 guests. Details. 412-220-1195.
CHUCK E. CHEESE—Twenty-six years after the first Chuck E. Cheese opened in San Jose, California, the franchise remains a popular spot for birthday celebrations. There’s one a short drive from Mt. Lebanon in Bridgeville, off Route 50. Chuck E. Cheese offers a variety of birthday packages, starting at $13 per guest. 412-257-2570 or www.chuckecheese.com.
OOGLES N GOOGLES—This Peters Township business specializes in themed parties for kids ages 3 through 10. Does your child want to be a pirate? A princess? A superhero? Oogles n Googles offers all of these and more. The 90 minute to two hour parties include themed activities, a birthday cake and souvenir photos for each guest. Prices range from $240 to $395, depending on the package. 724- 222-5437 or www.ooglesngoogles.com.
MOVIE TIME—The Cinemark Robinson Township movie theater at Settlers Ridge offers birthday party packages that include a movie screening after the party. Private parties are scheduled prior to the day’s first public movie showing. A party for 20 guests (the minimum required) costs $385, with an additional charge of $9.25 for each additional guest. 412-787-1368. Closer to home, is the Hollywood Theater in Dormont with rental fees starting as low as $300 for four hours. Bring your own cake and show your kid’s favorite movie. 412-563-0368 or www.thehollywooddormont.org.
PITTSBURGH ZOO & PPG AQUARIUM—For $300 (or $250 for members), the Pittsburgh Zoo offers an elaborate birthday-party package, which includes zoo admission for the day, parking, lunch, a favor bag for each child and a zoo-themed cake. Parties are 60 to 90 minutes long, held in the Worlds of Discovery Building and supervised by zoo staff members. A minimum of 15 guests is required, with a max of 35. The zoo recommends you book at least two months in advance. 412-365-6006.
CARNEGIE SCIENCE CENTER—It’s not cheap ($475 for members; $525 for non-members), but you get a lot of bang for your buck with a party at the Carnegie Science Center on the North Shore. Parties are two hours, accommodate up to 20 people (children and adults) and include a private party room, admission into the museum, pizza, ice cream and live science demonstrations. There are a limited number of Saturday and Sunday slots available, so book early. 412-237-3431.
PITTSBURGH CHILDREN’S MUSEUM — Top-of-the-line option is the Extravaganza, a two-hour party in a private room with a “party pal” to lead the activities, a kids’ style lunch, paper products, decorations, a surprise birthday gift for the birthday child, return passes to the museum for the guests, free parking for the guest of honor’s family and free admission to the museum after the party. Saturdays 11 to 1 p.m. or 2 to 4 p.m. Weekdays by request. Minimum of eight children. Members $20 a child, non-members $22. Additional adults $8 each. Details here or 412-322-5058.
OK, we’ve given you 14 ideas to get you started, but if none of those are quite right, don’t hesitate to look for more. Some other possibilities include the area’s many bowling alleys, most of which feature special birthday-party packages. Both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Wild Things offer game-based birthday activities. The various Carnegie Museums offer birthday parties, including sleepovers. The National Aviary offers birthday parties for children, as well. And if you do choose to hold your child’s party at your own home, a host of magicians, face-painters and balloon artists are a just a web search away.