Another year of birthdays is here, so choose a menu, stream the streamers, find a face painter, and clean up the house for Junior and 17 of his friends and classmates…wait, maybe not this time. If party planning or hosting is not your strong suit, or you’d rather someone else do the entertaining so you can enjoy kiddo’s big day too, consider these recommendations for in-house or custom events where kids can bake their own cake, climb walls, make art, or star in a play to make this year’s fete the event of the year!

Photo: iStock

Play On

Arts on the Horizon
For children ages 1 to 6,
try a theatrically themed party with Arts on the Horizon in Alexandria, catering especially to this age group. Book a Birthday Workshop where you choose the subject matter and your child and their guests create the adventure. Parties are led by qualified teaching artists and can be arranged at a venue of your choice, with customizable options.


Glen Echo Park
A visit to
Glen Echo Park (don’t forget the historic carousel) and Adventure Theatre is a great choice for kiddo and friends anytime of the year, but when you are the birthday boy or girl, you get seats up front for the latest production at this renowned young audiences. Book a room and a show for a reasonable price and enjoy the help of a party host, access to refrigeration, and a birthday announcement! See also The Puppet Playhouse at Glen Echo.


Photo: Badlands

Climb On

n you can’t get to South Dakota’s National Park, head to Rockville’s version at Badlands indoor play space for all ages, with optional in house catering (you can bring your own cake), for an uber-complete birthday event including an age appropriate activity and the Badlands Signature Candy Cart, basically a goody bag customized for each guest, we can only imagine is a big hit.


Zava Zone
With locations in Sterling and Rockville, Zava Zone offers both trampolines and Ninja-style obstacle courses , best for kiddos ages 5 and up. Packages are available any day of the week making an after school get together possible, and include 90 minutes of play for up to 15 guests.


Photo: Tiny Chefs

Bake Well

Tiny Chefs
Sure, you’ve seen the young foodie
phenoms on Chopped and other shows, but did you ever think you’d find yourself letting your own little guy or gal loose in the kitchen? Let alone with a set of under-age pals? At Tiny Chefs its all about the cupcakes, or an app plus several entrees they turn out . And if your little foodie is a fan of Chopped, Tiny Chefs has got a party package for that.


Cookology boasts luxurious in-house kitchens in two Northern Virginia locations where children in different age groups can choose from a number of cooking party packages with serious menu options including not just a dessert, but a full meal with appetizers like caesar salad kabobs, and kid favorite entree choices.


Photo: Art Jamz

Make Art

All Fired Up
For a reasonable studio fee and the cost of pottery pieces,
All Fired Up in Bethesda or Dupont hosts your young ceramicist (or mosaic artist) and friends for a different kind of burning man party, but in the meanwhile there is painting to be done with tips from party helpers, and space for food and drink. Paper products, balloons, and invites are also included.


Art Jamz
parties and additional studio sessions for kids including a $10 Kidz Graffiti Party, Art Jamz in Dupont is part of the sip and paint craze but does not exclude minors from its registered Unleash Your Inner Artist motto. Attend a freestyle session with your group or book a private party. Purchase canvases. Smocks and choice of music on Spotify provided. BYO cake. Pizza from approved vendors.


Photo: Michael Newton via flickr

Dig Nature

Potomac Overlook Regional Park
Parties at
Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington feature a 30 minute or extended one hour age appropriate hands-on nature activity, and a total of 3 hours auditorium time with tables and chairs, and no restrictions on food. Guests enjoy free all day admission to the park which includes the new Energerium exhibit, highlighting the connection between the human and natural worlds.


Brookside Gardens
Brookside Gardens lush landscape in Wheaton is home to a number of kid friendly party options including summertime’s live butterfly exhibit Wings of Fancy. Choose from themed events with a party host for up to 20 little gnomes who may attend a tea party, paint a pot, or create a fantasy garden setting.


—Carolyn Ross

Feature photo: Istock

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