Calling all party people: Ideas for kids birthday parties in Greater Austin

My child had a blast when Courtney of Wild Things Zoofari brought animals over to our house for his last birthday.

“Mom, I want to have my birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese!”

I totally get why Chuck E. Cheese is beloved by many children, but I just can’t make myself get on board. I’m not sure if it’s the noise, the overstimulation or the fact that we are city brimming with offbeat, fun things to do, but these words set me on a crusade to uncover the many alternatives to celebrate the passing of another year.

Although this is by no means a comprehensive list, here is a sample of some of the parties we’ve been to, I’ve had recommended by friends (thanks, y’all) or which I have read about which sound fun. I didn’t include some of the most well-known and franchise-affiliated venues. If you have anything to add, please let us know in the comments, and we’ll add this to our list. I’m hoping to revisit this list in years to come when I’m looking for inspiration:

Advancing Robots – Working in teams of 2, guests add modifications to their ‘bot, then try out their design in the SUMO RING.Robots are programmed to find and “wrestle” the other robot. A team’s ‘bot wins if it pushes the other ‘bot out of the ring or over on its back. During the hour-long event, they’ll make multiple improvements on their design, making it an increasingly skillful SUMO ‘BOT. Hosts must provide a space for the activity to take place.

Alamo Drafthouse – You can bring your favorite video or choose from their themes. On a weekend morning, kids can eat pizza and milkshakes while they watch a movie while parents can eat off the brunch menu.

Archery Party – Taking inspiration from the movie Brave, book a group archery lesson (disclosure: I’m not really sure that Archery Country can do parties, but private lessons are available.)

The Art Garage – Several options are listed, including Paint Pottery, Precious Handprints, Butterfly Birthday, Bank on It! and Tie Dye T-shirt parties, although you can customize your own party to suit the birthday child.

Austin Children’s Museum – Several party packages are available. There is a different price for members and non-members. A private party room plus admission for 15 children plus accompanying adults, an email invitation, party books with a pass for the guest to return for free and a party t-shirt for the birthday child are all included in the basic package.

Austin Dog Alliance – Parties include dog-themed decorations, activities, plates/napkins and an agility demo with therapy dogs. Staff will help run the party. For an extra cost, you can add puppies and kittens.

Austin Nature & Science Center – Parties include a 45 minute presentation and the use of a party room with tables and chairs. Several themes available. Birthday party rooms must be cleaned and vacated at the end of the two hour period. Birthday party participants are welcome and encouraged to visit ANSC exhibits and grounds before/after their party.

Austin Rock Gym – Parties include two hours of climbing, all necessary gear, belay instruction and harnesses for parents and room to set up a table for cake and refreshments. Waivers are required for all climbers.

Austin Roller Rink – Several different packages are available and three decorated party rooms are available for an hour and forty-five minutes. The birthday child gets a t-shirt and the children get admission and skate rental. Depending on the package, food can be provided, or you can bring it in.

Austin Tinkering School – Several themes available. Parties serve up to 10 kids, but you can add on additional children at a per kid fee. Parties include a cupcake decorating experience…a rainbow of assorted frosting tubes for decoration will be provided. Cupcakes not included.

Austin Zoo – Two outdoor, covered spaces are available to rent. You can bring in your own food and decorations. You pay per guest, plus a nonrefundable deposit. You may also choose to pay for a train ride or animal feed for your guests.

Blazer Tag – Several party packages are available. The basic package comes with two games of laser tag, either a private room or reserved table in the lobby, invitations and a t-shirt for the birthday child and a pass for a free game of tag on his or her next visit.

Blue Baker – Guests can enjoy a tour and then you can enjoy some yummy treats afterwards.

BookPeople – Several themes available. Parties intended for children ages 1-6. Parties include planning session with BookPeople staffer; 1.5-hour private use of time on BookPeople’s 3rd floor event space; a 15-20 minute story time by a BookPeople party helper; a craft activity (led by BookPeople party helper; crafting supplies provided by BookPeople); goodie bags for all kids attending the birthday party which will include a $5.00 gift certificate, stickers and other trinkets and helium balloons, streamers, and a customizable birthday banner.

Cafe Monet – Several locations and themes to choose from. Minimum of 8 painters. Our Westgate location can seat up to 18 painters, and our Triangle location can have 24 painters! Children’s birthday parties are an hour and a half long and include a handpainted memory plate. All pottery parties will be able to be picked up 7 days later. You can bring your own snacks, cake, ice cream, or order a pizza to be delivered. Nonrefundable party room fee plus per child fee.

Capital Gymnastics – Three locations and three party times (all on Saturdays) to choose from for 60 minutes of gym time, 30 minutes of cake/gift time, a trained teacher, invitations, party shirt for the birthday child and a drink pouch, souvenir cup and sticker for each guest. Host is responsible for the cake and paper goods and outside food is allowed.

Dart Bowl - A minimum of 8 guests is required for a party. The basic package includes one hour of bowling, shoe rental, balloons, utensils, party assistance from staffer and free bowling pass and laser maze coupon for use on next visit. Bumper bowling is available for children and you can add on the laser maze for your guests.

Emler Swim School – Kids can splash and play in heated, indoor pools under the watch of certified lifeguards and then have use of a private party room. Two hour parties allow for up to 30 guests at no additional cost. Custom Evites included, but you must bring decorations, pool toys and refreshments.

The Expedition School – Parties for 8 children or more. Cost includes waterfront lifeguard, SUP guide, boards, canoes, kayaks, paddles, EZ Up Tents, picnic table and an iPod compatible stereo. You can bring your own cake, ice cooler w/ drinks, snacks and cupcakes/cake.

Foodie Kids – Several party packages available and a deposit is required. Parties include food, utensils, party favors for every guest which include a classic white cloth chef’s apron and an additional gift, an individual cake for the birthday child, a gift registry with discount and a 10% discount on an additional party favor gift.

Freedom Party Rentals – Mobile laser tag and inflatable movie screen available. For laser tag, several packages available, which include laser tag guns, barricades, referee pistol, face paint and table cloth for two hours. Parties can accommodate up to 90 players per hour in tournament-style play. The movie screen is two stories high and includes high definition picture and professional sound, as well as set up and clean up.

Game Plan Entertainment – You can rent out their small, private facility, which features classic arcade games, new and vintage video games, air hockey, skeeball, foosball, a DJ sound system and lots of other games all set to free play or you can rent games to be brought to you.

Gorgeous Millie – Parents of babies and toddlers can choose from more than 10 party themes, including Good Night Gorilla and Tents and Tunnels, and have full use of the facility for two hours. Two Gorgeous Millie staffers will set up, “wrangle kids” and clean up.

Heartsong Music – Two hour parties include use of the entire studio and a 45-minute music class in one room. The other room is used for free play and arts and crafts.

iFLY Austin – Parties include indoor skydiving flights, DVDs of your session, a training session, rental of all necessary equipment, personal assistance from a flight instructor during your flights and a personalized flight certificate for each flyer.

Jump! Gymnastics – Parties are an hour and half and can be customized to fit your needs. Standard activities include 45 minutes of gymnastics, 15 minutes of age-appropriate games and dancing and 30 minutes in private party room. Parties are ideal for children between the ages of 2 -10. Parties include invitations, decorations, music, tableware, cake, juice, goody bags, thank you notes, as well as setup and cleanup.

Jump Wild in Dripping Springs – Parties include a reserved party room, table ware, party host and access to the play area, inflatables and trampolines.

Kiddie Acres – Group rate ticket buyers can reserve tables. Cake, juice boxes, bottled water and ice cream are the only foods allowed in park. Pizza, hot dogs, balloons, novelty ice cream, popcorn and goody-bag combos available upon request. There is a two hour limit on tables. Some decorations allowed.

Kiddie Express Train – The Kiddie Express Trains are trackless and are complete with a smokestack, bell and whistle, and a driver dressed as an engineer. The fire truck looks real with light, ladder and siren and a driver dressed as a fireman. Goody bag items are also available.

Kidz ‘n’ Play – Several party packages available. With a reservation, a party room is reserved for 2 hours. The birthday child gets in free with a pass for future admission. You can bring your own food and the venue will supply invitations, utensils, plates, a tablecloth, helium balloons and napkins.

Little Buckaroo Ranch – Several Western-themed party packages are available. All parties include personalized invitations, a party area with hot dogs, chips, punch and bottled water. You can bring in your own cake.

The Little Gyms of Austin- Your group will have the whole place to yourselves for 1 ½ hours with games, music and fun activities created especially for your birthday kid.  The trained instructors will lead all the fun and The Little Gym team will handle everything from setup to cleanup, which means you get to go home to a clean, quiet house when all the fun is done. The basic package includes up to 17 kids (25 max at additional cost), paper goods and utensils, lemonade, and a T-Shirt for the birthday child.  Party favors are also available.

Mad Science – Several party packages are available. The parties are about 45-90 minutes long and are geared to children aged 4-12 years old. You must provide the location. Parties usually start with a magic trick and then proceed with a series of interactive experiments and demonstrations. Goody bags are also available.

Millenium Youth Complex – Several packages available. Packages include bowling or skating plus arcade tokens, birthday place settings and flyer, choice of hot dog combo or pizza, soft drinks and ice cream.

Moxie Gymnastics and Cheer – Parties included supervised gym time and use of a party room. You supply cake, drinks and paper goods.

Outdoor movie – You could rent a screen or DIY if you can find a projector and host an outdoor movie night with popcorn, popsicles and even have your guests arrive in their PJs.

Park party – Choose from dozens of parks in Greater Austin. At some of the larger parks, you will need to pay to reserve tables. Kids can play and you can bring whatever you need.

Peter Pan Mini Golf – A large, shaded picnic area is available by reservation for parties. There are two large and three smaller picnic tables. Reservations are available in 1.5 hour increments including set-up and break-down. There is no charge to reserve the picnic area. For guests playing golf, standard rates apply.

Pinballz Arcade – All party packages require a nonrefundable deposit. Parties include the party room for 2 hours, tokens for the guests and birthday child, goody bag for the birthday child, pizza and drinks. No outside food or drink allowed in the arcade with any party packages with the exception of birthday cakes/cupcakes.

Playland Skate Center – Parties include admission for guests, skate rental, pitchers of drinks, reserved table(s) for 2 hours (to accommodate the number of children expected), announcement of your child’s birthday just prior to the birthday song, skating games including the Limbo, Hokey-Pokey and Races and cleanup. You can bring in pizza, cake, cupcakes, snacks and ice cream, decorations and paper products (plates, napkins, etc.).

Pop Star Parties - Parties are 2 hours and are based on one Star-To-Be plus 5 of his/her BFFs. The package includes 1 DVD copy of the Starlets’ very own pop star video, all the accessories needed to rock the stage, a glam makeover given by the Pop Stars, and a pop star training class that will help the starlets choose their song, perfect their voice and work on all their pop star moves. The Pop Stars will arrive with a stage and a sound system, a video camera and a wardrobe of accessories for the stars to use. The Pop stars will also perform some of your favorite songs.

Pump It Up – Parties include fun on inflatables, a private indoor arena(s) and party room, a gift for the guest of honor, supervision by our friendly trained staff and invitations and party supplies.

Races2U – Kids can guide small remote controlled cars on a replica of the F1 track, just outside of Austin. Parties are recommended for kids 6 and up, and even adults can get in on the fun. Participants who are not driving during a particular race can get involved as “pit crew”, putting cars back together and back on track, and of course, it wouldn’t be racing without spectators, either.

Rock Island – One friend’s son was invited to a party at Zilker’s Rock Island. The kids met there under the trees on blankets and had pizza, climbed on the rocks, ran around and played kickball. Since the weather is so nice in Austin, this would be such a fun way to spend a few hours!

Snow Rentals – A friend mentioned she had an idea to get a pile of snow for a winter-themed party. How cool would that be for our snow-deprived kids?

SoccerZone Lakeline – Several party packages are available. Two-hour party packages include picnic tables, drink Tower, plates, napkins, utensils, and one hour of field time for games of soccer, dodgeball, flag football, ultimate frisbee, or any other sport you can think of.

Spicewood Farms – Several party packages are available. Parties include an interactive lesson on horses, hands-on grooming, horse rides, games, horse tricks and feeding. Outside food is allowed.

Splash pad – Kids play in your favorite splash pad and you don’t have the stress of having a bunch of kids at a pool.

Stunt Ranch – Basic stunt parties include time on ziplines, low ropes course and picnic areas and you can get add-ons like a high-fall airbag, rock climbing wall, paintball, pyro demonstration and mountains of foam.

Takota’s Ponies – Ponies can come to you for riding (an extra is provided for petting). Geared towards ages 1-10.

Tiny Tails to You – Parties include petting zoo pens with animals, so you need to provide the venue. The birthday child gets first dibs on meeting the animals and kids get one on one time with the animals. Staffers share educational information about the animals.

Trapeze Austin – One or two hour classes and circus workshops available.

Wake up party – A mama friend shared the story of a favorite party she had growing up that she is now hosting for her daughter. The birthday child and parent/s go to each guest’s home and wake them up and bring them to their house for a “fancy” breakfast in their PJs.

Wild Things Zoofari – You provide the space, the Zoofari provides a set number of exotic animals for your guests to meet. Staff provides educational information to guests about each animal and each guest gets to interact with the animals.

Whew, that’s a lot of choices!

A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 6-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau’s words, her mission is to “suck out all the marrow of life”, or in her son’s words, to cultivate in him a love of “advenchers”.