“Let’s be super low-key and traditional this year, and not act like those over-the-top parents who spoil their children with an extravagant birthday party, OK? We’ll just have a small (but fun) birthday party at home. Order some pizza and cake for 20 kids, party favors, oh, and decorations, snacks (taking into account all allergies), waters and juices, plates and flatware (two sets – pizza and cake), forty rolls of paper towels, and I guess we need some entertainment or a bounce house or something, and we’ll need to clean the house beforehand and for hours and hours afterwards, plus hide any toys the kids would be heartbroken to lose/see broken. Oh lord, I’LL PAY ANYTHING TO GET OUT OF THIS!”
Sound familiar? Yah, we’ve all been there. Parties at home sound so idyllic until you realize you’re throwing a party at home and your guests are not polite, clean, or looking to chat about current affairs. Having a birthday party somewhere else checks all the boxes of happiness and convenience, and is worth every penny.
While South Florida has many birthday party options, we’ve taken into account cost, logistics, fun, and overall ease of planning to compile this list of our current favorites.
“This whole business was born out of mommy guilt,” declares Virginia Aguirrebeitia, the marketing maven turned entrepreneur behind Pod 22, who wanted to create a business where moms could attend to their personal needs while the kids were engaged in play. Though it looks like a regular indoor kiddie playground a la Cool de Sac or My Gym, this spot a haven for moms who are trying to maximize their “me” time while out and about with the kiddies. Just beyond the playscape is a special room where parents (be honest, moms) can get a mani/pedi while the cans run wild. Party packages start at $450 for up to 15 kids and for each party, the mani/pedi station is part of the deal.
8101 Biscayne Blvd. Suite 102, Miami; 305-456-4791 or www.thepod22.com
This dome of fun hits all the high notes in birthday party expectations. Super easy on parents – they take care of all food and cake; the kids are in pure heaven as they rock climb, fly down the spiral slide, brave the ropes course, blast through the laser maze and play basketball in the sky. There is even a blocked-off toddler zone for the little siblings. The format allows for 90 minutes in a private room (if you want it), as well as playtime before and after (they always want to keep going, right?).
1455 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale, in the Southport Shopping Center; 954-525-1816 or Funderdome.net
Ninja Lounge truly has something for everyone. The customizable packages at this 43,000-square-foot facility range from basic dodge ball/trampoline/private room options (or utilizing the soft area for littler ones) to combos that comprise a rock wall, obstacle course, and ninja course all in one! All parties include pizza, drinks, and balloons and they have a variety of cake options. You can also request special characters and activities.
14401 NE 20th Lane, North Miami, (Adjoining the Famous Miami Auto Museum); 786-590-5000 or NinjaLounge.com
Who didn’t want to be a gymnast – or at least swing on some bars and bounce on some trampolines, when they were a kid? This local chain has three SoFla locations, all of which are equipped with a full arena of gymnastics equipment, including a (spotted) aerial apparatus. The basic party package is $450 and consists of a two-hour event for 20 kids and includes goodie bags, plates and cups, six helium balloons, pizza and juice, party leaders and structured activities (the food can be eliminated for a lower cost). The place does a great job of allowing kids to really explore all of the gym equipment, helping them play, then getting them fed and out the door.
2700 Sheridan Ave., Miami Beach, 305-673-7767
2038 NE 155th St., North Miami Beach, 305-944-4277
405 University Drive, Coral Gables, 305-460-5615
Bird Bowl truly is a classic “alley.” Lanes, music, fried food and a large arcade make for hours of fun for all ages. The party packages include 90 minutes of bowling, shoes, food, and activities as well as an arcade game card. Upgrades like candy and, entertainment, and extended times are available as well. For just $19.99 per child, this party is hard to beat.
Bird Bowl Bowling Center, 9275 SW 40th St., Miami; (305) 221-1221, birdbowl.com.
Splitsville Luxury Lanes is bowling turned up a notch – or ten. The dining/dancing/drinking/bowling alley boasts elevated food, cocktails, music, and design. All parties include lane reservations for two hours of play, shoes, sodas, menu items, and a few add-ons. The basic plan – for 16 bowlers – starts at $420 and includes three large pizzas plus two towers of (super yummy) fries. Creative food like sliders, sushi, chicken tenders, cupcakes and more can all be added on. (Cocktails for parents are a nice little bonus to consider).
Splitsville Miami, The Shops at Sunset Place, 5701 Sunset Drive, Suite 202, South Miami; 305-665-5263 or SplitsvilleLanes.com
My Gym has numerous South Florida locations, all featuring fun-filled, active party options – especially perfect for the littler crowd. Packages range from “grand” to “premier” and include full use of the entire facility like the ball pit and gym floor as well as activities, songs and puppets. The well-trained party specialists ensure that children are entertained and assisted – especially on items like the zip line. A 20-kid, two-hour weekend party starts at $425 and includes balloon decorations, tattoos, two party specialists, a “gift” and two free classes for the birthday child. Add-ons like pizza, themed paper goods and a bounce house can be utilized.
Locations in Aventura, Doral, Coral Gables, Kendall, Plantation, Coconut Creek and Boynton Beach; MyGym.com.
Museum Of Discovery and Science
This museum, located in the heart of Fort Lauderdale, is really a special place. The multi-level facility features an EcoDiscovery Center with an Everglades Airboat Adventure ride, a river otters display, a Storm Center, a fossil dig, and a giant megalodon shark; the largest living Atlantic coral reef in captivity housing live sharks, fish, lobsters and the like; a variety of land animals like snakes, spiders, and lizards; an entire floor dedicated to aerospace, an enclosed Discovery Center for children under seven, and a five-story IMAX 3D Theater. Considering all of this, the birthday parties are a pretty amazing value. $400 gets you 90 minutes in a private room with themed activities like animal encounters and science experiments, pizza & drinks for 20, a Carvel ice cream cake, and full-day admission for all guests. Of course, the IMAX showing can be added on.
401 SW 2nd St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-467-6637 or mods.org.
Young At Art
Young At Art Museum is a 55,000 square-foot epicenter of art, inventiveness, imagination, and discovery. Children explore through sound, texture and sight as they move through the many exhibits. Parties here embody a multitude of choices. The basic package – starting at $350 for members, includes use of one themed party room (in exhibits like the graffiti-walled ArtScapes), a creative workshop led by two party hosts, all day museum admission, a gift for the birthday child and basic décor. A full menu of affordable catering options are available as well. For the truly dedicated artists, the full studio experience, starting at $550, teaches techniques like wheel-throwing clay, photography, or still life and portrait painting and allows access to the art studios.
751 SW 121st Ave., Davie; 954-424-0085 or youngatartmuseum.org.