Got a birthday party to plan? We’re here to help get those creative juices flowing with ideas for kids who like to bake or play sports, and everything in between. We even have parties that come to you! Read on to get the planning started.
For Those in Constant Motion
Brooklyn Builders. This place will make your wall-climbing kids straight-up giddy. They offer several indoor rock climbing terrains for your quests to conquer and knowledgable instructors are there every step on their way up, up, up.
100 S. Morgan St., West Loop; 312-268-0002; Online:
Windy City Ninjas. Got a birthday boy or girl that’s more sporty than spice? Windy City Ninjas' obstacles challenge wanna-be American Ninja Warriors looking to tap their fierce inner Ninja . . . and eat cake with their friends.
2500 W. Bradley Place. North Center; 773-886-1996; Online: windycityninjas.com
Ultimate Ninjas. Chicagoland's newest birthday party spot is pretty exciting, with parties led by pro Ninjas from NBC's American Ninja Warrior, so kids get to celebrate with their favorite stars climbing walls, taking on obstacles and dominating at dodgeball.
Three locations in Naperville, Libertyville and Irving Park; Online: ultimateninjas.com
Actors Gymnasium. Fly from a trapeze, learn to juggle, dance or tumble. Whether your birthday kid aspires to join Cirque du Soleil or just wants to learn a new trick or two, these fetes give kids a chance to experience circus arts in a fun and safe environment.
927 Noyes St., Evanston; 847-328-2795; Online: actorsgymnasium.org
Pump It Up. Kids can jump their energy out having big fun with bounce-worthy inflatables and slides, games galore and a blow-up birthday throne. Add-ons available for glow, super hero, pirate and princess themed parties.
821 W. Eastman St., Near North Side; 312-664-7867; pumpitupparty.com
iFly. Following training with an instructor, your little birthday birds will enter a vertical wind tunnel and experience the freedom of flight. Back at home, your child can see their flight session on the DVD included with the birthday package.
3 Chicago locations in Naperville, Rosemont and Lincoln Park; Online: iflyworld.com
Goldfish Swim School. Party-goers enjoy exclusive use of the facility, while staff guides your guests through games, races and water fun, or simply lifeguard as they monkey around in the 90-degree pool. After you’ve all dried off, enjoy pizza, cupcakes and drinks in the decorated party area.
Locations all around Chicagoland; Online: goldfishswimschool.com
For the Sports Lovers
Naperville Yard and Westmont Yard. Two words make this venue unique. Nerf Wars. While Nerf mischief between siblings happens on the regular, take the battle (and wartime cleanup) out of your house. A party includes access to a play structure, inflatables, field games, invitations, goodie bags and more!
Windy City Fieldhouse. The choice is yours at this mega-complex where sports rule. Pick from scavenger hunts, basketball, soccer, kickball, capture the flag, batting cages and more. Everything is customizable and you can hop from one sporting pursuit to the other.
2367 W. Logan Blvd., Logan Square; 773-486-7416; Online: windycityfieldhouse.com
POW! Kids. For kids who harbor fantasies of being a superhero, Ninja warrior, or any other leaping, jumping or swinging creature, Pow! Kids offers fantastic options. The base party gets kids moving with relays, obstacle courses and agility exercises, with optional add-on themes like Ninja, Nerf Skills, Martial Arts or Superhero.
950 W. Washington, West Loop; 312-829-7699; Online: powkidschicago.com
Bulls/Sox Academy. Staffed by former collegiate and professional players and coaches, budding athletes get a chance to play like the big guys. On the Bulls side, kids learn drills and play on a replicated United Center court while baseball fans hone their skills through a home run derby and batting cage time.
6200 River Bend Dr., Lisle; 630-324-8221; Online: bullssoxacademy.com
Players Indoor Sports Center. Tailor a birthday party package to different age groups so little ones aren't overwhelmed and big kids escape boredom. Young kids stick to kickball and T-ball, while big kids play more competitive games like dodge ball, floor hockey or Bubbleball, a game where players wear an inflatable ball and roll and bounce into each other.
1740 Quincy Ave., Naperville; 630-740-6400; Online: playersindoor.com
MPX Elite. On Friday nights, athletic club MPX Elite turns one of its courts into a retro roller rink complete with upbeat tunes and colorful lights. Parties include skating followed by pizza and drinks – and a balloon bouquet. Not into skating? MPX Elite also offers tumbling parties led by gym instructors.
15301 South Bell Rd., Homer Glen; 708-645-5000; Online: mpxelite.com
For the Future Chefs
Oui Chef. First up? Apron decorating! Once they're properly dressed, birthday guests will make cupcakes, an entree of the guest of honor's choice, lemonade, fresh fruit spritzer and fruit salad. And, finally, they indulge in their creations!
2622 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park; 773-799-8451; Online: ouichefchicago.com
The Kids' Table. Kids measure and mix ingredients for their own cakes, whip up savory dishes, like tacos or pizza, and throw back a snack and drink. It's delicious, hands-on fun and the best part is . . . you get to sit back and enjoy!
2337 W. North Ave., Wicker Park & 2864 N. Lincoln Ave., Lakeview; 773-235-2665; Online: kids-table.com
The Chopping Block. During a 2.5-hour block of time, your group will make a meal together, learning about the ingredients, kitchen safety and organization in a fun, party atmosphere.
The Merchandise Mart Plaza, Ste. 107, River North, 312.644.6360 & 4747 N Lincoln, Lincoln Square, 773.472.6700; Online: thechoppingblock.com
Nick's Pizza and Pub. They're the new kid in Lincoln Square, but an old favorite in the 'burbs, Nick's Pizza and Pub offers the coziness of hosting at home, with none of the clean-up. Party guests get to visit the kitchen to make their own pizza and while that cooks, take a fun behind-the-scenes tour of the restaurant. Not only that, but their menu offers built-in fun with a scavenger hunt and we highly recommend the signature colossal cookie dessert.
3 locations in Lincoln Square, Elgin and Crystal Lake; Online: nickspizzapub.com
For Something a Little Different
Dad's Slot Cars. This retro-cool spot has an old-fashioned soda counter where kids can sing Happy Birthday over decadent ice cream delights after they customize and race model cars on an 8-lane track.
700 Lee St., Des Plaines; 847-298-0688; dadsslotcars.com
Archery Custom Shop. Learn a new skill and make like Robin Hood at an archery-themed party. Kids learn how to shoot the target safely in a one-hour workshop, followed by cake and birthday festivities. Everyone has a blast popping balloon targets.
7240 Madison St., Forest Park; 708-366-4864; archerycustomshop.com
Medieval Times. Give your little prince or princess a birthday that’ll make them feel like the star of the castle by adding a side of jousting. Celebrate the big day while watching 6 knights battle it out fast and furious on real horses and enjoy a feast fit for royalty.
2001 N. Roselle Rd., Schaumburg; 847-882-1496; Online: medievaltimes.com
Dylan's Candy Bar. Dylan’s party planners specialize in customizing, well . . . everything! You can even customize buckets with your guest’s name that they can take around the store and fill with any bulk candy of their choice.
445 N. Michigan Ave., Magnificent Mile; Online: dylanscandybar.com
Field Museum. If your kid is more interested in exoskeletons than X-box, then a party where they can step into a bug's shoes, mummify their friends and party with the most famous T.Rex, SUE, may be in order.
Blo Blow Dry Bar Southport. Sometimes you just want to be pampered, and Blo offers just that. Party guests can choose a fun hair style (mermaid braid, perhaps?) and you can bring along treats for them to snack on while the stylists make them feel like princesses. Couple it with a trip to Candyality or Froyo and you have yourself a winner.
Blo Blow Dry Bar, 3821 N. Southport Ave., Lakeview; Online: blomedry.com
For Parties that Come to You
Miss Jamie. If your birthday star just can’t stop the music, a completely customizable party with Miss Jamie from the Farm is a must! She's well-known for her original barnyard tunes and magical puppet friends that share the stage during her interactive sing-along, dance-along performance.
Call 773-609-5045 or visit missjamie.shutterfly.com
The Great Scott. Even parents will get a good chuckle when this magician begins his show by engaging the audience with hilarious jokes that are so great, you'll wish you could trick him into staying longer.
Call 847-361-0924 or visit thegreatscott.com
Princesscapades. Give the birthday star the royal treatment by inviting a princess or fairy over to entertain your queen and her court with a dress-up party, tiara decorating, story time, makeovers, games and dancing. If the guest of honor is less than interested in royalty, check out the Space Wars party options.
Call 773-431-2098 or visit chicagoprincessparties.com
Smarty Pants. You'll wish you were young enough to star in The Big Balloon Show hosted by Smarty Pants and his wife, Miss Dena. This ultimate performance art ends with a larger-than-life balloon creation made on the spot for the birthday star. We’re talking a giant airplane that stays inflated for an entire week.
Call 773-562-6789 or visit smartypantsworld.com
Mad Science. Science is fun and these party people prove it. Making slippery slime, silly putty and super balls are just some of experiments that guests can do—and take home. They offer add-ons like an awesome rocket launch, a dry ice demo, or the tastiest science project of all, cotton candy making.
Call 773-227-3345 in Chicago, 630-393-3322 in western suburbs or 224-676-1635 in the northern suburbs; or visit madscience.org
Where’s your favorite place to host a cold-weather birthday party? Share your secrets in the Comments below.
— Maria Chambers