Kids Parties 2016 / The Best Party Venues Around
Not sure where to throw your kid’s next party? We’ve got your answer here. With the help of our readers, we’ve rounded up the best party destinations for kids in the Dallas area. This year’s winners of our Best for Families: Kids Parties awards have something special in store for every child. Whether you have a nature lover, video game player, painter, dancer or comic book reader, you’ll find the perfect place to celebrate his special day. Consider this our present to you, Mom.
Best Party Venue for History Lovers
DallasChild and FortWorthChild (tie) Winner: Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
Party like it’s 1499 at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament. Swordplay, horsemanship, gallantry and costume meet in the arena at this G-rated dinner theater suitable for toddlers on up. Parties of 10 or more get the royal treatment: a special birthday announcement about the lucky lord or lady for the entire arena to hear, a group photo, a cheering banner, a slice of cake and a souvenir castle cup to drink from while feasting sans utensils on chicken, ribs or even soup. Gather in the Great Hall before the show begins for pre-tournament activities and an add-on self-guided tour of the dungeon, which houses medieval-era torture devices (for kids 13 and older). Or take a stroll through the horse stables before you take your seat in the castle. The Birthday Package is $7 per person plus the price of admission; add-ons and upgrades cost extra.
FortWorthChild (tie) and NorthTexasChild Winner: Grapevine Vintage Railroad
Hop on Grapevine Vintage Railroad’s 1920s-era coaches pulled by “Puffy,” the 1896 steam engine, or “Vinny,” a 1953 diesel locomotive, for one of the 60- to 90-minute rolling excursions. One popular option takes passengers down the historic Cotton Belt Route to the Fort Worth Stockyards. Reserve a private coach outfitted with tables, where cookie cakes will be served for your child’s special celebration. First class tickets, $26; touring class tickets, $18. Note: Birthday party bookings are not available during special events.
Best Spot for a Bowling Party
DallasChild Winner: Bowl & Barrel
If your idea of a bowling alley involves a dimly lit video arcade and questionable frozen hamburgers, think again. At this upscale venue, bowlers and birthday-goers order made-from-scratch food — everything from cheese and charcuterie boards to a bacon burger — from lane-side servers. (A kids buffet with items like mini corn dogs and a fruit board is available for $7.50 per child.) And the younger set don’t need to be bowling experts to enjoy themselves — bumpers, ramps and special light-weight bowling balls turn gutterballs into strikes and spares. Each lane accommodates eight guests and is rented by the hour: $30 per lane Sunday–Thursday and $50 per lane Friday and Saturday. If you want to bring your own cake and decorations, head over to the alley’s dining space and celebrate to your heart’s content. Shoe rentals are $5 each.
FortWorthChild Winner: Alley Cats
Let Alley Cats frame your party from start to finish for the ultimate hands-off party planning experience. All you have to do is pick up invitations from the venue then wait for the big day while the pros set up the ultimate bowling bash for your kid. Hour-long lane session (plus laser tag and rock climbing)? Check. Pizza and soda for even the pickiest eater? Check. Balloons and a personalized birthday cake? Check and check. The birthday boy or girl walks away from the shindig with a T-shirt and a bowling pin sports bottle; you walk away with a smile knowing the cleanup is handled. Packages start at $299.99 for up to 10 guests.
NorthTexasChild Winner: AMF Lewisville Lanes
If a bowling party is up your kid’s alley, she’ll have a ball at AMF Lewisville Lanes. Parents who want hassle-free planning love that each of the three party package options build in costs for food as well as entertainment. In the most popular option, the Unstoppa-Bowl package, each kiddo receives your choice of two meals off the menu (like chicken nuggets with fries and a slice of cheese pizza) and sips soda during a fun two-hour bowling session. The birthday boy or girl even takes home a pin for guests to sign to commemorate the event. Six kids per lane. Packages start at $14.99 per child.
Best Birthday Party on Wheels
DallasChild, FortWorthChild and NorthTexasChild Winner: GameTruck
Feed the kids before sending them out to visit the mobile trailer parked in front of the house. That’s because GameTruck lets up to 20 partygoers play Madden, Super Mario Brothers and more than 90 other age-appropriate games on flat-screen TVs. (Read: You won’t be able to peel the kids away no matter how good the cake and ice cream promises to be.) Want to offer the kids something other than more screen time? Or let this party on wheels install pop-up tents and safety bunkers and bring all the gear needed for a high-energy game of laser tag in the yard. Video game packages for 16–20 kids, from $300; LaserTag packages for 16 kids, from $425.
Dallas-Fort Worth area, 972/534-3191
Best Party Place for the 5-and-Under Crowd
DallasChild Winner: Gymboree Play & Music
If cleaning up after a troop of toddlers isn’t how you want to spend your child’s special day, opt for a party at Gymboree Play & Music. For a flat fee, you can spend an hour and a half partying with your tot (ages 1–5) and up to 19 of his friends, and let Gymboree take care of the aftermath. A teacher and a party assistant lead the littles through themed activities in a playroom with slides, climbing equipment and plenty of soft mats in case someone takes a tumble. Choose from a preset theme like Princess Playhouse or Dinosaur Adventures or tailor the party to your child’s favorite character or activity. Prices start at $260 for members and $325 for nonmembers; every child must be accompanied by an adult.
FortWorthChild (tie) Winner: Jump for Fun
Jump for Fun guarantees that the kids will “wear out before the fun does” — and when mini partygoers have free rein in a room full of 11 bounce castles and inflatable slides specifically geared for ages 2–6, we don’t doubt it. Up to 35 tots jump for an hour before heading to a 45-minute celebration in the private party room. Parents appreciate helpful touches like email invitations with RSVP tracking while birthday boys and girls delight in add-on themes like Spider-Man and Mickey Mouse. The ever-popular Frozen theme includes jump time with Elsa plus party favors and decorations straight from Arendelle. Parties are available Wednesday–Sunday; if you want the place to yourself, be sure to ask whether your time conflicts with open jump hours. Packages start at $219.
FortWorthChild (tie) Winner: The Little Gym
For three years in a row, our readers have voted The Little Gym as the place to go for fun parent-infant classes, so it’s hardly surprising that the gyms-slash-play centers throw great parties as well. During your 90-minute Awesome Birthday Bash, an instructor and assistant will lead youngsters through games, music and activities with Lego Duplo, large Lego blocks specifically designed for toddlers and preschoolers. The Little Gym provides a separate party room and decorations like balloons and paper products; you bring the food, presents and energetic tots. The birthday boy or girl receives a special birthday sign and T-shirt. Members pay $289 for up to 15 party guests; nonmembers pay $319; $8.50 per additional guest.
NorthTexasChild Winner: WinKids Sports & Learning Center
Throw your Simone Biles-in-training or American Ninja Warrior fan a party that lets them jump, somersault and climb at WinKids Sports & Learning Center. Choose the gymnastics party package for ages 1–14, where kiddos will be led through 90 minutes of age-appropriate tumbling activities, or opt for the more intense ninja warrior package (also 90 minutes), where tots age 3 and older navigate obstacle courses and play games. Parties available on weekends. Packages start at $280 for up to 15 guests.
Flower Mound, 972/355-9988
Best Swimming Party
DallasChild Winner: Emler Swim School
Wanting to host a swim party, but lacking lifeguards — or a pool? Take your little mermaid (or merman) to Emler Swim School. A two-hour party package includes a party host, swim time in an indoor heated pool, life vests and, yes, two trained lifeguards for you and up to 30 guests. After an hour in the water, kids celebrate in the party room equipped with tables and chairs; parents provide food, cake, place settings and decorations. For an additional $35, a swim buddy will lead pool games and add that splash of love Emler is known for. Swim parties are available year-round. $210 for members; $300 for nonmembers.
FortWorthChild Winner: NRH2O Family Water Park
Suit up (in your swimsuit, not your birthday suit) to make a birthday splash at NRH2O Family Water Park. Your personal party host has you covered from customized invitations to cleanup. Each birthday package also includes full-day admission (even if your party slot is late afternoon), a decorated party island, lunch, ice cream, souvenir cups (with free refills all day) and a special gift for the birthday child. As you hear screams of excitement from Bounder’s Thrill Tower and watch the kids battle it out in Big Squirt water fights, feel at ease knowing vigilant lifeguards are watching too. Parties start at $195 for eight guests and two chaperones. The water park closes for the season September 11 and reopens next May.
North Richland Hills, 817/427-6500
NorthTexasChild Winner: Water Works Park
Host a party that makes a real splash at Water Works Park in Denton. Better than letting the kids play Marco Polo in your backyard pool, Water Works Park’s birthday packages include admission to the slides, lazy river and play pool, plus a cake, ice-cream sandwiches, paper goods and invites. Have a kiddo with a fall or winter birthday? Throw them a wet and wild celebration at the year-round Natatorium’s (NAT) two indoor, heated pools next door. Parties start at $230 for 15 guests at Water Works Park in Denton and $160 for 15 guests at NAT.
Best Party Venue for the Artistically Inclined
DallasChild and NorthTexasChild Winner: Painting With a Twist
Let creative kiddos brush up on their painting skills — and their social artworking — with a party at Painting With a Twist. A resident artist takes kids (age requirements vary by location) step by step through painting a masterpiece on canvas in about 90 minutes. Each child replicates the work, creating their own original art. No experience or artistic talent necessary. Each package includes time for kids to eat (food and drink are BYO). Party packages from $25 per child for kids 12 and under. Prices vary by location.
FortWorthChild Winner: Artful Mayhem Studio
Forget cheap party favors — this kid-centric studio provides tools and supplies for partygoers ages 3 and older to create acrylic masterpieces to take home. The birthday child picks the piece from a library of 130+ examples, then she and her guests recreate the chosen painting with step-by-step instruction. The Artsy Party birthday package includes a short introduction, 45–60 minutes of art marking and 20–30 minutes for eating nut-free treats and opening presents in a personalized party suite. Don’t forget to bring the cake, candles, tablecloth, paper goods and — most important — paint-friendly clothes. The finishing touch? A personalized birthday poster handmade by resident artists to memorialize your child’s special day. $170 for eight kids; $8 per additional child.
Best Party Spot for Science Lovers
DallasChild and NorthTexasChild Winner: Perot Museum of Nature and Science
The Perot Museum of Nature and Science’s formula for a winning party is hardly rocket science: Combine unlimited access to the museum’s 11 general exhibit halls with themed science projects in a private party space for up to 30 partygoers. Littles ages 1–5 choose adventures like volcano or lava lamp demonstrations, while the older crew ages 6–12 opt for more advanced projects such as building a 3-D dinosaur model or film canister rocket. Ninety-minute parties are available 10am–4:30pm on Saturdays and 12:30–4:30pm on Sundays. Members $260–$325; nonmembers $300–$375.
FortWorthChild (tie) Winner: Mad Science of Dallas and Fort Worth
Party in the lab? Probably a bad idea. Instead, let Mad Science of Dallas and Fort Worth send a science-savvy performer to your doorstep to bring the laboratory to you. For the first 45 minutes, the “mad scientist” entertains your mini Einsteins (ages 5–12) with experiments like fitting a hardboiled egg into an impossibly small space. Then the kiddos spend 15 minutes getting their own hands dirty using a recipe to concoct slime they can take home. For an additional fee, learn the (delicious) science behind cotton candy or launch a rocket 300 feet into the sky. Packages start at $204.
Dallas-Fort Worth area, 972/241-0475
FortWorthChild (tie) Winner: UTA Planetarium
A party at the University of Texas at Arlington Planetarium will have your kid seeing stars — literally. A basic package for up to 50 guests includes hour-long use of the beautiful atrium lobby, two large pizzas and an hour-long private screening of a science movie in the planetarium. You choose which flick is shown: Films like One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure are appropriate for preschoolers, while Black Holes is better suited to high school stargazers. Plus, the birthday boy or girl walks away with a yearlong membership to the planetarium. Packages start at $299.
Best Party Place for Fun & Games
DallasChild Winner: Dave & Buster’s
No birthday busts here — party packages at Dave & Buster’s pour on the fun with two hours of uninterrupted gaming, dancing and noshing. Each reservation for 10 or more kids features a dedicated party supervisor, rechargeable Power Cards for game play, pretzel dogs and pizza bites, piles of tickets for the birthday girl or boy, and access to the 15th iteration of Dance Dance Revolution, an ever-popular kid favorite available at select locations. (Dallas is one of them!) When it comes to setup and cleanup, don’t lift a finger (but do bring the cake). Packages range from $17.99 to 24.99 per guest; private party rooms are available from $100.
FortWorthChild and NorthTexasChild Winner: Main Event
Got a kiddo who can’t decide if he wants a laser tag, video game or bowling party? Main Event offers customizable party packages to let him do all three or choose other adventures — from virtual games to gravity ropes — to accommodate his interests (and all the kids’ energy levels). So let him invite at least nine friends (48 inches and taller), give them each a $5 FUNcard party and set them loose. Packages from $14.95 per child.
Best for a Sports Party
DallasChild Winner: Topgolf
No golf experience necessary for a hole-in-one party at Topgolf. A reservation for 12 or more comes with your own personal caddy, aka dedicated Bay Host, to set up the hitting area and serve food and drinks. Partygoers enjoy two hours of playtime, a catered meal from the kids menu (with healthy options like carrot sticks and fruit cups) and unlimited drinks. Even if your child is new to the game (think golf crossed with darts), Topgolf’s technology does the scoring for you using microchips inside the golf balls and sensors on the targets. Can’t swing like Spieth? No worries — beginners can still score big. $25 per child.
The Colony, 469/213-5204
FortWorthChild (tie) Winner: AT&T Stadium Birthday Packages
At an AT&T Stadium birthday party, Romo wannabes can toss a football and show off their touchdown dance on Cowboys turf, plus take a self-guided tour of the locker rooms, the Miller Light Club (where the ’Boys gather before entering the field on game days) and the post-game interview room where kids can stand at the podium for photo ops in front of the media backdrop. Each package offers a group photo on the field’s beloved Cowboy Star and a personalized birthday cake. Package upgrades throw in perks like personalized jerseys, footballs and gift cards to the Cowboys Pro Shop. Birthday packages start at $600 for 20 guests.
FortWorthChild (tie) Winner: Globe Life Park in Arlington
Hit your child’s next birthday out of the park with the help of Globe Life Park in Arlington. Three party packages offer a one-hour tour of the Rangers’ home stadium, plus time to eat and celebrate (food and decor are up to you). Upgrade from the basic Birthday Tour to an All-Star Party and add one-hour access to the press box dining area, or go luxe and book the Kid’s Zone, an interactive playground with a larger-than-life baseball bat slide, climbing wall and PlayStation video game console. Each birthday package includes reserved parking in a nearby lot so you and your guests can come and go with ease. Birthday Tour: $5 per child. All-Star Party: $300 for up to 30 guests. Kid’s Zone Party: $550 for up to 30 guests ($650 on game days).
NorthTexasChild Winner: Dr Pepper StarCenter
For the coolest party ever, pack an extra pair of socks and head to one of the Dr Pepper StarCenter rinks, home of the Dallas Stars professional hockey team. All six Dallas-Fort Worth locations offer birthday packages that include time on the ice, skate rental and a place to serve cake and open presents. For additional fees, Princess Elsa will come to the party, the kids can play broomball or an instructor will teach novice skaters the basics during a 30-minute lesson. Bring your own food and drink (some locations have food available for purchase). Packages from $125.
Best Movie Theater for a Party
DallasChild and NorthTexasChild Winner: Studio Movie Grill
Cart tiny movie buffs to the movies at Studio Movie Grill, a theater-restaurant hybrid, which takes the planning and the cooking off your plate. Treat up to 20 cinema-loving youngsters to a kid-friendly flick where they order favorites such as popcorn, pizza, burgers, chicken bites and desserts from their seats with the push of a button. Each party package includes a reserved section in the theater. Prices from $5 per partygoer, plus the cost of movie tickets.
FortWorthChild Winner: Cinemark Theatres
Give your child the red carpet treatment with reserved seating (or a whole auditorium) at Cinemark Theatres. Cinemark’s basic birthday package offers your guest of honor and 10 friends a one-hour private party room before or after the flick, plus personalized decorations and printable invites. During the film, guests can munch on their own movie snack packs, which include popcorn, candy and a drink. Party-plus-ticket prices vary by theatre, but expect to pay around $15 per child (3-D screenings are more expensive). If your guest list is longer than the credits, book a private screening party for $392–$475 depending on location (minimum of 20 guests).
Best Party Venue for Animal Lovers
DallasChild Winner: Dallas Zoo
Plan your own animal adventure with the Dallas Zoo’s Zoo-It-Your-Way Birthday option and receive discounted prices on zoo admission ($7 per kid ages 3–11; $10 per adult) for 15 or more guests. ZIYers can set up food, presents and decorations in the first-come, first-served picnic area. For a more structured outing, the Zoofari Package includes all-day zoo admission, a zookeeper-led animal encounter with a snake or other critter, and use of a special private party room. Parties are an hour and a half long and offered at 10am, 12:30pm and 2pm. $475 for up to 20 guests; $9 per additional guest for up to 10 more.
FortWorthChild and NorthTexasChild Winner: Fort Worth Zoo
Whether your little monkey is a zoo regular or first-timer, the Fort Worth Zoo is the best place to celebrate with their pack. Let up to 30 guests go wild navigating the zoo and visiting some its newest inhabitants, like Gus, the 9-month-old baby gorilla. Or invite up to 20 guests to a private cabana at Safari Splash, the zoo’s 14,000-square-foot water play area with colorful slides and animal-shaped spray cannons. Both party packages for ages 1–12 for the zoo and waterpark include full-day zoo admission and start at $400. Ask for an animal presentation (for an additional cost) to let kids get up close with a few friendly critters.
Fort Worth Zoo, 817/759-7555
Best Party Venue for Nature Lovers
DallasChild Winner: Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden
At the Dallas Arboretum, your outdoorsy kiddo and his guests will have acres of ground to cover — 66 to be exact. Groups of 15 or more are eligible to receive special admission pricing at $9 per child (ages 3–12) to the main gardens and $3 to the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, which is full of hands-on activities for exploration and discovery. A child-centric educational tour through the gardens can be added for $7 more per curious kid. When you’ve had your fill of flowers, refuel at the on-site Lula Mae Dining Terrace or Restaurant DeGolyer; prearranged group options include a sandwich, drink and dessert.
Best Birthday Party for Thrill Seekers
DallasChild, FortWorthChild (tie) and NorthTexasChild Winner: Great Wolf Lodge
Parents looking for a truly hands-off party planning experience love the food, activities and adrenaline-pumping water rides to entertain kids at Great Wolf Lodge. Birthday parties for 10–30 littles center around full-day access to the enormous indoor water park. Kids alternate play time in the giant water fort tree house with rides like the Howlin Tornado, where rafters swirl down a six-story funnel. Should the gang need a break, reserve a dry-land add-on activity like building and outfitting a plush toy at the Creation Station. Parties must have at least one adult for every four kids. $55 per party guest; $27.50 per chaperone.
FortWorthChild (tie) Winner: Six Flags Over Texas
Color outside the typical birthday party lines with a day of adventure at Six Flags Over Texas. Fuel up in the first-come, first-served picnic pavilions outside the park entrance, then head inside for an action-packed day of rides at the 100-acre theme park. Truly daring kids dangle their shoes 400 feet in the air on the Texas SkyScreamer, the tallest swing ride in the world, while pint-sized adventurers looking for gentler thrills enjoy water rides and interactive play structures in Bugs Bunny Boomtown. Six Flags offers discounted group admission: $43.99 per person for 10–14 guests and $36.99 per person for groups of 15 or more.
Best Jump Park for a Party
DallasChild Winner: Pump It Up
The excitement of a party and the inevitable birthday cake sugar rush can add up to some seriously antsy kiddos. Local parents agree that Pump It Up is the best place to let kids unleash some of that pent-up energy. Kids climb, jump and slide in supervised indoor play arenas filled with giant inflatable climbing walls, obstacle courses, bounce houses and slides. Packages are entirely customizable and feature add-ons like a glow-in-the-dark theme, balloon bouquet or bubbles. After 30 minutes on the floor, retreat to the party room for 45 minutes of BYO cake and presents. Packages start at $139; prices vary by location.
FortWorthChild Winner: Urban Air Trampoline
Take your kid’s party to new heights at Urban Air Trampoline Park, where up to 40 kids can bounce off the walls (literally), compete in games of dodgeball, roll around in a giant foam pit and even slam dunk on an impossibly tall net. Even the most basic party package includes setup, cleanup and complimentary tableware (read: all those pesky extras that are easy to forget, like balloons and napkins). Our favorite upgrade is the Glow Party Package, which instantly transforms your party into a glow-in-the-dark event where kids hurtle through the air illuminated by glow sticks. Packages start at $175 for 10 guests; $17 per additional jumper.
Best for a Frilly Fête
DallasChild, FortWorthChild and NorthTexasChild Winner: American Girl
Get all dolled up (maybe in a child-and-doll matching ensemble), bring those specialty babies and visit the American Girl Bistro for an afternoon tea birthday bash (with hot cocoa too). After buckling doll companions into special pink highchairs, partygoers ages 3 and older dine on tea sandwiches, birthday cake and ice cream. Expanded packages include craft projects such as doll crowns and can be themed around the American Girl doll of the year. All-inclusive packages start at $30 per kid and $20 per adult. Reserve ahead; Saturdays tend to be popular and book up months in advance.
Best Party for Theater Lovers
DallasChild Winner: Dallas Children’s Theater
Sit back and enjoy a live show catered to kids with a birthday party at Dallas Children’s Theatre. Give your kid the backstage experience with a parent-provided celebration in one of the theater’s private party rooms, and catch the featured show, such as the Dr. Seuss-themed Seussical with characters like the Cat in the Hat and Horton the Elephant (on stage Sept. 16–Oct. 23). The cast even sings to the birthday boy or girl in front of the stage after intermission if you sign up on the birthday list in the box office. Room rental is $100 per hour; show tickets start at $14 per ticket for groups of 10 or more.
Best Place to Score a Birthday Gift
DallasChild Winner: Learning Express Toys
The experts at Learning Express are picky when it comes to playtime and take pride in helping you find the perfect gift for the birthday boy or girl — something that’s both fun and educational. Dallas store team members have, on average, over 10 years of experience tinkering with the 9,000 toys in stock, so shoppers receive live game demos and knowledgeable opinions on everything from puzzles and science sets to plush toys.
FortWorthChild Winner: The Mattel Toy Store
The Mattel Toy Store offers Mattel-branded toys straight from the source — that means you pay less for the same quality goods. Find staples like Barbie and Hot Wheels, plus Disney, DC and Star Wars themed toys, as well as games for all ages. Membership in the Birthday Club is the best way to score a gift on your child’s special day; sign up to receive a $5 coupon towards any purchase during your child’s birthday month. Visit the store’s website for weekly specials to save even more all around the store.
Fort Worth, 817/302-3360
NorthTexasChild Winner: Freaks & Geeks
Prepare to be charmed by this shop nestled in a three-bedroom home on Elm Street in Denton. Freaks & Geeks stocks, buys and trades toys, games and comics spanning the generations from the '70s to today. With more than 30,000 vintage and new toys, electronic games and comic mags for purchase, there are literally thousands of ways to delight the video-game enthusiast or comic bookworm in your child.