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Where to Have a Children's Party

Martha Stewart Kids, Holiday 2001

There are lots of reasons to have your child's birthday party at home. Home parties are generally less expensive, and you can schedule them for whatever time suits you. But they can also throw your home into chaos, plus you're responsible for all of the entertainment, supplies, and food, and there's cleanup to be done before and after.

A party away from home can be a special treat for children -- and parents. When the party is off-site, the entertainment is usually built in and someone else does the cleaning. These parties are typically more expensive, however, and the date will depend on when space is available. Before deciding, consider how much time and energy you will have to devote to such tasks.

If you opt to have a party away from home, there are many great party places from which to choose. Community centers such as the YMCA, indoor playgrounds, nature centers, petting zoos, and children's museums frequently accommodate birthday parties. Settings such as local pizza parlors or parks are ideal for very young children because they are familiar yet fun. Take school-age kids someplace where they can do activities they enjoy: Gymnastics and dance studios, paint-your-own-pottery places, science centers, miniature-golf courses, batting cages, beauty salons, and laser-tag centers are all good ideas. You can also take a small group of kids to the movies or to sports events.

Starting at around age 9, sleepovers are popular -- but they don't have to be at home. Bill Bercow, a father of three in Boulder, Colorado, found that a hotel with a pool was the perfect venue when his second daughter turned 9. "We rented a junior suite, brought in pizza and cake, and the kids swam for hours until the pool closed. They loved it so much, we did it for three years in a row," he says. "Just make sure to get a room near the pool." Many hotels have weekend deals, making this type of party an affordable option.

Check out your top choices in person so you can see the layout of the space and, if possible, peek in at a party in progress. If you pick a venue that handles most of the arrangements for you, make sure you know what's included in the price: food, drinks, decorations, favors, gratuities, etc. Ask what activities will be included and what restrictions apply. Also, see if a staff person will lead the activities. Some sites require a minimum number of kids, so check into that as well. If a deposit is required, find out if it's refundable and under what conditions. Last, if the facility does not provide food or decorations, make sure you can bring your own, and ask when you can set up. Schedule any food you've ordered to arrive during the second hour of the party, as many places don't have facilities available for warming or chilling.

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