There is no shortage of fantastic birthday party venues out there — children’s museums, nature centers, climbing gyms — and then there are some that totally suck. We’re talking about places where you could easily lose a kid or two, party hubs that cost a boatload but deliver little, and venues that’ll cause you nothing but headaches. Oddly, some of the worst places to host kids’ parties sound pretty great at first. But when you really look below the surface at what’s actually involved, you’ll realize they’re awful. In no particular order, here are the seven most terrible venues for a child’s birthday.
7. Pro Sports Game
If your child wants to bring one friend to an NHL game and call it their birthday party, sounds great. Taking along two pals is trickier (do trios ever get along?) but probably still doable. Any more kids than that is a very bad plan. First, the cost. Even if the other parents pitch in, the tickets and concessions are astronomically priced, no matter which pro sport or stadium. Then the logistics — picking up each child, driving to the venue with a carful of pumped-up little fans, keeping kids up past their bedtimes. You’ll also contend with crowds and long bathroom lines, both of which can swallow up a child in a flash. Do yourself a favor and just say no.
6. Haunted House
Even if your child insists they won’t be scared, a party at a haunted house is a frightful idea. Let’s say your kid actually does handle the ghouls and mummies like a champ. Will every party guest do the same? Fat chance. Here again, you could have kids in tears—and, very likely, kids taunting the kids in tears. Any time you’re in charge of other people’s children, it’s just smart to steer clear of any activity meant to be scary.
5. Skating Rink
No matter if it’s a roller rink or Olympic sheet of ice, if it involves skating, it’s a huge hassle for a birthday party. You might remember a few black-light-lit cosmic roller-skating parties from childhood, but come on now, were they really that fun? Whether roller skating or ice skating, securing the right-sized skates for each child and getting everyone laced up and onto the rink is a huge time-suck. Then you’ll discover a giant skills gap: some kids will fly while others wobble, maybe getting the hang of it by the party’s end (but probably not). You’ll have frustrated kids, embarrassed kids, “injured” kids, and bored kids. Good times.
4. The Humane Society
Petting puppies and nuzzling kittens might seem like a great birthday idea for your animal-loving little one. After all, it’s usually pretty cheap to hold your event at a local humane society, and the money helps house and feed dogs and cats in need. Noble, yes, but here’s the problem with birthday parties at animal shelters: Every kid’s dreams will be dashed when they don’t go home with a pet. You can bet they’ll start pestering their parents for one too, which won’t win you any points. Hey, we’re all for visiting these animals, showing them love, and of course rescuing them. But those are things you should do with just your kids. Do not plague eight other parents with “I want a puppy!”
3. Corn Maze
If your child has a fall birthday, there’ll be no shortage of corn mazes calling their name. This might be a fun family activity, but holding your kid’s party at a maze is asking for trouble. True, your chances of actually losing a kid in the cornstalks are slim to none (although, who knows what sketchy characters are lurking). But the simple fact that it’s impossible to keep your eye on every child makes this a bad idea. Besides, isn’t the point of birthday parties to get everyone together? At a corn maze, your guests will spend much of their time in pairs or alone. And given that adults can get freaked when we feel like we’re lost, you can count on a few kids flipping out.
2. Public Pool
The pros of holding your child’s birthday at a public pool are singular: swimming is fun. The cons list is a lot longer. First, pools are packed with children. It’s even harder to keep your crew straight from the rest when everyone’s sporting a swimsuit and slicked-back wet hair. Worse, many pool kids are parentless, which means unchecked splashing, screeching, cannonballing, and F-bombs. Then there’s the whole preparation aspect for your guests. Each kid has to bring a bathing suit, sandals, sunscreen, dry clothes, a towel, and a gift. Also, getting pool-ready in the locker rooms and changing back afterward eats up a lot of time. So if you’re doing food, cake, and presents too, how much swimming will they actually get in?
1. Chuck E Cheese’s
“Total rip-off.” “Disgusting pizza.” “Filthy.” “Unsupervised devil-children running wild.” That’s how four of our mom friends described birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Fair enough. Sure, we all thought the arcade/kiddie carnival/pizza joint/animatronic cabaret was awesome in ’87, but now as a parent? Hell no. The incessant buzzing and blaring of video games is annoying enough, but then try keeping tabs on 10 hyperstimulated party guests among 50 random rug rats — it’s too much.
As for cost, you’re looking at up to $17 per kid for Chuck E. Cheese’s basic party package, which includes two slices of pizza, bottomless soda, and 30 play points. The primo package with unlimited points costs up to $27 per child. Considering how much some parents sink into kids’ parties these days, that may not sound crazy. But if we’re talking value, you can do better.