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Birthday Party

Junior’s birthday is coming up and you’re trying to think of something fun to do. It's getting colder out. What if it rains? A party at your home? Definitely possible. But in case you want to do something else, here’s what you need to know for planning a Bay Area Birthday Party:


-Book as far in advance as possible, especially for weekend parties

-Most party places include set-up and clean-up, and you often get an attendant to help out during the party. But find out in case they don’t.


-Ask what food you can bring in and what you have to purchase from them

-Prices may be cheaper (or you get free add-ons like tokens, more time or goody bags) if you book at less popular times.


Here’s a list of ideas. It is NOT complete by any means. Feel free to add to the list on this birthday party post comments section

SAN FRANCISCO
Randall Museum – Choose an art project and/or animal talk for your party at this popular San Francisco children's museum. They’ll provide the room, an assistant and a project, you provide everything else (decorations, food, paper products). Parties start at $275 (but are partly tax-deductible!) and can only be scheduled on Sundays.

San Francisco Zoo - Invite 12-50 people and celebrate animal style! Parties are Friday-Sunday and last 90 minutes (weekday parties on request). Packages start at $380, including admission, cake, ice cream, train/carousel rides, goody bags and more. Of course you spend extra time at the zoo before or after the party time.

Urban Recess - play in 3,200 square feet of space. Good for kids ages 1-4, and up to 25 kids allowed. They'll provide you with a list of caterers and entertainers if you want to bring in food and extra fun. Parties are $275 for members, $400 for nonmembers. Parties are Fridays-Sundays, and some Wednesday evenings.

San Francisco Children's Art Center - this Fort Mason center is great for creative kids. At the party, kids can paint, play with playdough, make collages, shrink-art and more. Bring your own food and decorations - they'll help you with set up and clean up. Kids bring home their art work plus a certificate for a free class in the future. Parties start at $250 for 90 minutes. Good for ages 2-10.

California Academy of Sciences - I hesitate to post details here because the price is outrageous. That said, I'm sure they'll get some takers. Maybe even you!  Parties are on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon. The party includes snacks (and coffee for parents), eco-friendly decorations, a 30 minute tour, cupcakes and drinks, crafts and activities, Academy admission for the attending kids, VIP access to the rainforest dome, e-invitations and a present for the birthday kid. Minimum 10 kids, max 20 kids. Up to 40 total, including chaperones (one chaperone required per every 5 kids). Prices are $75/kid.
Kids Culinary Adventures - For kids who like to cook, let them make cake...or pizza or mini kitty sugar cookies, cinnamon monkey bread, chocolate and more. Located in Belmont. Parties start at $380 for 10 kids, and parties run 90 minutes.

Junior Gym – Justin and his crew are available for parties too! Parties last 90 minutes, on Friday afternoons and weekends, in the 4,600 square foot facility in downtown San Mateo. The package includes 15 kids up to age 10. Prices start at $200 for Junior Gym members (nonmembers pay $25 more).

Safari Run – This San Mateo facility is fun, but not cheap. Kids ages 4-12 enjoy an hour of playtime, followed by 40 minutes in party room. Cost includes paper goods and tokens for 50 minutes in arcade. Invite up to 20 kids, over age one. No outside heated food or any drinks are allowed – they cater the food, which isn’t included in the price. You can bring cake and two side dishes. Prices start at $350. 

Bounce U in San Carlos (opened in 2009) and Pleasanton offer birthday party packages starting
at $235 (flat rate weekdays) to $399 (all inclusive). Like Pump it Up, the 2 hour party features time in two different bouncy rooms, and your own party space for 45 minutes. You can have 25 kids max, and the best minimum age is 3 (younger kids are allowed).

Burlingamer in Burlingame (duh!) offers active parties with indoor sports. Parties start at $250 for members ($275 for nonmembers), and you can choose from dodgeball, softball, soccer, futsal and kickball. Then there's time for pizza and cake (extra). They can accommodate 10-60 guests.

Peninsula Gymnastics. Get the kids running around on the weekend with an hour of instructor-led gymnastics and activities including parachute, foam filled pit and trapeze, and 30 minutes in a party room. Prices are $130-$250, for kids ages 3-12, and you bring your own food. And they don’t help you set up or clean up. San Mateo location.

CuriOdyssey, aka Coyote Point – At this San Mateo environmental museum, you’ll get a private party room, museum entrance for all guests and free parking (normally a $5 fee per car to enter the park),. Maximum attendance is 24, including parents. They don’t allow balloons or noisemakers. Complete a form which you can get online, and mail or fax it in. Parties cost $155 for members, $220 for nonmembers (includes membership).

Young's Ice Cream and Candy Bar - This retro Redwood City place would be fun at any age. Party details coming soon.

Celebrate Art Now - In Redwood City, this new art studio offers art parties for kids (they do adult parties too). The basic package is $300, including two hours for 10 kids, and $10/kid over that. They only charge for the kids who participate in the art project, and have coloring, play-doh etc. for younger siblings to stay busy (and a lounge room for the adults to hang out). The price includes all supplies, but you bring your own food, drinks and cake.

C is for Craft - in Palo Alto, this downtown craft studio focuses on kids ages 20 months to 8 years old. The base birthday package is for 15 kids and 30 adults, and runs $300. Each extra child is $7. They provide all craft materials and instruction, you provide the food/cake/drinks.

American Girl: This Stanford Shopping Center location offers the Bistro Birthday Celebration for girls ages 3+, which includes a meal with cake and ice cream, goody bags and doll tiaras for all girls. The Deluxe Birthday Celebration is for girls 8+, which includes everything you just read, plus craft activities, a table activity and a private dining room. You can add on a doll hair salon service or photo for an extra fee. The Deluxe parties are 90 minutes. Check with American Girl for cost.

Snip-its: This Palo Alto kids' hair salon offers theme-filled parties, including Rock Star, Glamour, Hollywood, Slumber Jam and Spa parties. They provide all the essentials, like dress-up clothes, cake or cupcakes, juice, party favors and a special birthday girl gift. Parties start at $280 for 8 guests (only 6 needed for the Spa party). 

SOUTH BAY
Inside Line Racing - Race remote control cars at this indoor race track in Milpitas. Two hour parties start at $295 for 12 kids (race cars), and you bring your own food or sign up for a pizza package.

Wix - Make your own candles, soaps and lotions at this fun Los Gatos party place. Two packages to choose from, starting at $15-22 per guest at this two hour party. Guests will make a candle and a soap (or two candles if kids are 6 and younger).

The Candy Parlour - This Morgan Hill candy shop/hair salon offers treasure hunts for candy/toys, games like "pin the tail on the donkey," crazy hair or glitter makeup/nails, paper goods and more for their 90 minute parties. The cost is $225 for up to 10 kids ($20/kid after). Parties are usually Saturdays and Sundays, but you might be able to request a different day.

EAST BAY
Play Cafe - another Oakland cafĂ© and indoor play space for the younger set. Dress-up, ball pit, train table, books and more. Two hour parties start at $285, running up to $750 for the deluxe version (espressos for parents, face painting for kids...). Nothing on the site says whether food is included or extra.

Aqua Adventure- This new outdoor water park in Fremont would be a great place to celebrate Junior’s birthday. The packages include all-day admission for all guests, a birthday hut for lunch, food, goody bags and more. Packages run $175-$528.

Fairy Land – This miniature Oakland playland is adorable for pint-sized kids. You get an hour in the seated party area, park admission for one kid and an accompanying adult, ice cream cake and punch and paper goods and a few other perks. Fees start at $16 a kid for a catered party, minimum of 10 kids.

Pixieland - Another East Bay kiddie amusement park, Pixieland in Concord offers parties starting at $199 for 10 "riding guests" plus the birthday kid. This buys you 90 minutes of unlimited rides and a party table. Pizza and goody bags are extra, though you can bring your own non-pizza food and drinks.

Silliman Aquatic Center – In addition to the lure of the indoor waterslides and play structure, the community center's party rooms have Wii and Xbox game systems. Minimum party costs start at $10/person ($8 for residents) for swim fee and room use. They go up to $19/person for longer room rental, goody bags, future swim passes and more. Pizza packages are extra.

Playland-not-at-the-beach - Enjoy a three hour party with 30 free pinball machines, free juke box, attractions and exhibits, plus a basic magic show (or upgrade for a nicer one). Bring your own food and drinks. Parties run $150-350 for 10-20 people, and the location is El Cerrito.

Pacific Pinball Museum - If you like pinball, head to Alameda to the Pacific Pinball Museum where the 80 pinball machines are all set at free play. You pay admission for your guests ($15/adult, $7.50/kid), and can rent a room ($50/hour - 2 hour minimum)  if you have food. They also have free play jukeboxes!

Sienna Ranch - Many party themes including horseback riding, archery, orienteering/scavenger hunts, garden pizza party, treasure hunt/adventure hikes, petting zoo, tractor-pulled hay rides and more. Parties run $195-255 depending on the theme, for 8 kids (additional guests are $18-25). Bring your own food/cake. 


MARIN
Bay Area Discovery Museum - this Sausalito hands-on museum is a blast. Parties here includes admission for adults and kids, 90 minutes exclusive use of the use birthday playroom, help with set up and clean up.  Packages start at $199 for 15 kids, and you bring your own food, cake and decorations. Higher priced packages include admission for more kids and parents, plus extra activities (face painting, crafts, goody bags).



VARIOUS BAY AREA KIDS' PARTY LOCATIONS

Build-a-Bear – The kids love picking out their own animal and helping it come to life.
If the party has more than six kids, you’ll get a party leader to keep the kids entertained, an autograph bear for the birthday kid and party favors. The downside is that there’s usually no place in the store to serve cake, so you’ll have to head elsewhere to continue the celebration. Packages range from $10 to $25 a kid (plus optional animal outfits).

Bowling: Bowling is a fun way for kids to spend an hour. Kids can get the bumpers raised so their balls won’t end up in the alley. At Bel Mateo Bowl in San Mateo, parties including bowling time for an hour, shoe rental and lanes. The next hour is in the party room, where kids get pizza, cake and drinks, goody bags and more, before moving into the arcade. Prices start at $12 per guest without food, $17 with pizza and cake.

Lego Store – Since kids love playing here during the day, consider going there for a fun party before the mall opens. $10 a kid (maximum 10 kids) buys you an hour in the store, 45 minutes of it building mosaics or racing Lego cars. Then the kids pick out a party favor, valued at up to $10, which is included in the party price. Have your cake elsewhere. Kids need to all be six or older.

The Little Gym – Another way to get the kiddies active, at this 90 minute party on Saturdays and Sundays. Fee includes invitations mailed for you, paper goods and drinks. Cost is $245 for members, $275 for nonmembers for 15 kids (including birthday kid).

Pump it Up – Since exploding on the scene a few years ago, Pump it Up has Bay Area locations in Sunnyvale, Belmont, Pleasanton, Union City, Oakland, Morgan Hill and San Francisco (coming soon). They book up months in advance, with weekend parties starting every 45 minutes. Parties range from around $180-$280, for a 1.5 to 2 hours, including a private party room. You pay extra for food, balloons and party favors.

Chuck E. Cheese - Most parents hate this place, but the kids eat it up. Weekends can be a nightmare – if you’re flexible and can do a weekday or weekend morning, it will be tolerable. Your party includes 90 minutes with a reserved table, pizza and drinks for the kids, a small cake (you’ll probably need to supplement this with your own), tokens, a show with a Chuck E. Cheese and his employee friends. Goody bags are extra. Expect to pay $12 a kid minimum (plus extra for tokens and pizza for the adults).

Traveling Parties
Edie Bea's Travelling Tea Party - based in Pleasanton, Miss Jo Jo plans etiquette or themed tea parties with fancy decorations, crafts, treats, cupcakes and games. She comes to you, so if you're not in Pleasanton, no worries. Parties run $595 (etiquette) to $695 (themed) for 8-12 kids, with add-ons for goody bags, characters and other entertainment.

Gaming Trucks - Make all the neighbors jealous when this large game truck pulls up at your house for a party. These mobile homes or trailers house all kinds of video games, including multiple television screens, X-Box 360s, PS3, WiiU, and sometimes more. Pleasant Game Truck Party serves much of the East Bay, and there's a Game Truck San Jose. There's also Ultimate Game Truck. The parties cost around $350 for the first two hours ($50 less on weekends) for up to 18 guests. 

Dragonfly Designs - This jewelry making party will come to you, bringing not only the supplies, but the party "Fly Girls" to run everything. Parties vary in size and length, but prices start at $300 for a 1.5 hour party with 10 kids (you can do a 1 hour party for 8 kids for $250). Additional $30 charge for travel outside of San Francisco or San Mateo counties, and you can add more kids for a fee as well.


A few more thoughts:
-Bay Area kid museums (like the Children's Discovery Museum in San Jose, MOCHA (Museum of Children's Art) in OaklandZeum and the zoos.
-JCCs in Palo Alto, San Francisco and Marin. Plus YMCAs. 
-Check out a local pool or swim school for party plans.
-Kids love bowling and mini golf.
-Karate studios also host parties. And indoor climbing structure places like The Jungle in San Jose.
-Pottery painting places are popular, including Color Me Mine which has several Bay Area locations, and Laurel Street Arts in San Carlos.
-Go for tea - at Camellia's Tea Room in BeneciaLisa's Tea Treasures in Campbell, Menlo Park or San Jose.

Bay Area Kid Fun has an extensive list of kids' birthday party locations.
Red Tricycle has some fun ideas for hosting parties outside or at your house.