Planning a Birthday Party Experience

20+ birthday party alternatives

Our 9-year old son has a vivid imagination when it comes time to plan his birthday party. Supplies for his themes are not easily found at a big-box store or online.  I am usually scrounging around for game ideas, party supplies and goody bag contents the week before the big day. I need inspiration and options months before we begin to plan.

In lieu of the at-home party plan, there are numerous places to hold a child's birthday party for different ages, budgets and interests. Consider these party locales and go-to ideas to get started planning your child’s next birthday party experience.


Digging Into Nature

Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation’s Indoor and outdoor park shelters are available to use for free or for a small rental fee and work well for the age 6 and under set that loves to takeover a playground.

If your child loves finding bugs or is intrigued by snakes and lizards, the nature centers at Latta Plantation, Reedy Creek Park and McDowell Park offer birthday party packages that include a one-hour, nature-based program, and use of an outdoor shelter or classroom for two hours. Party-goers may get the chance to touch a snake or lizard depending on the theme.

Discovery Place Nature also offers themed parties with fun add-ons like an animal encounter, planetarium show and goody backpacks.

Another outdoor option is a party on a farm. Darby Acres Farm and Darby Safari has pony rides and a "touch and feel" educational option. Depending on the season, Patterson Farm offers special birthday packages with pick-your-own berries, face painting, gem mining and a petting zoo. Or bring your birthday celebration to Hall Family Farm for games, races and a hayride.



 Photo by Hans Soneson Waterpark; Photo by Chip Henderson,

Top: Victory Lane Karting. Bottom: Fun is available any time of the year at Great Wolf Lodge. 

Splashing Good Times

For kids who love water, you can’t go wrong with a pool party. Places like Great Wolf Lodge and Ray’s Splash Planet make the pool party an option even during cold months.

Great Wolf Lodge offers birthday packages that open access to the indoor waterpark and do not require an overnight stay. Ray’s Splash Planet is open year-round and features slides, a zero-entry pool, whirlpool and space for water games. Huntersville Family and Fitness Center also offers themed birthday parties at their indoor and outdoor pools, and you don’t have to be a member to book a party.

During summer months, take advantage of Mecklenburg Park and Recreation splash pads and spraygrounds. Latta Park in Dilworth and Veteran's Park in Plaza-Midwood are good options. Both are free unless you opt to book a shelter.


Adrenaline Adventures

Children have a chance to sing “Happy Birthday” while they soar along the treetops at the U.S. National Whitewater Center and Canaan Canopy Tour. Children must be either 40 or 70 pounds, depending on the zip line, to participate at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, and 75 pounds to zip line at Canaan Canopy Tour. Kids can choose their own adventure at Kinetic Heights, which offers an indoor opportunity for zip lining, as well as a warped wall, boulder walls, Parkour training area and Ninja Warrior course.

Trampoline parks like DefyGravity, Sky High Sports and SkyZone allow party guests to flip and fly bouncing from trampoline pad to ball pits and more. All offer structured parties with specific play times and a birthday celebration included.

If your child loves planes, climb aboard at a party at the Carolina Aviation Museum. Parties include a self-guided tour, make-and-take airplanes and a scavenger hunt. Parents may order or bring food in for the party.

For a child interested in learning a new skill with their friends, try Caroline Calouche and Co. Children as young as 5 are treated to a beginner’s class that is lower to the ground but a real acrobatic experience using silks.

Feel the need for speed? Victory Lane Karting parties include two go-kart rides per person, pizza, cake and medals for first, second and third place race winners. The Speedpark at Concord Mills offers different party packages that include mini-golf, go-karts and other games.


Host a Tea Party With Princesses

Dress-up tea parties can be inside or out, depending on the weather. As U Wish Parties is an expert in tea parties and brings the magic of Disney to your home. They bring princess dresses and all the finery for a fancy tea. Princesses and superheroes are also on call for party reservations through Enchanted Elegance and Heroic Venture who were also voted a 2017 Charlotte Parent Readers’ Favorite.


Party at Home

If you opt for a party at home, keep it simple. With fire pits and s’mores making a comeback, an evening cookout for an older child is another way to celebrate. Set up a net for badminton or volleyball. Add an obstacle course, corn hole and bocce ball for an action-filled night at home to remember.


Vanessa Infanzon is a freelance writer in Charlotte. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @morethanVMI.