Let’s Party: Cheap (or Free) Places To Have a Birthday Bash
Between the special order theme cake, bouncy house rental or traveling petting zoo, hosting your sweet kiddo’s birthday party can really take it out… of your wallet. When did kids’ parties get so expensive? These days it seems the tab clocks in somewhere between your family’s monthly grocery bill and a semester’s tuition at UW. You could always host the party at home to save on the green. But let’s be honest, cleaning up to host ten of your little one’s closest friends (and their parents), only to have your house back to square one in under two hours? We think not. So, if saving money tops your birthday party checklist, check out these frugally delicious, party-perfect options that won’t break the bank. Outside or inside (did someone say rain?), we’ve got you covered. Party on!
Indoor Options When it’s Rainy or Grey
A new twist on an old fave
Libraries aren’t just for story time any more. That’s right. This toddler hot spot is now the coolest place to host your little one’s next birthday celebration. The library meeting rooms provide the space. You just bring the party. Food, drinks and creative activities will be the only thing on your birthday party checklist this year. Think arts and crafts for the under two crew or classic party games for the big kids. Simon Says, musical chairs and freeze dance are low-prep options that will fit right in. And voila, your party’s planned! Renting out the meeting room is as painless as planning the party. Just choose your library location, download the Application for Branch Meeting Room Use, and bring it to your branch. Piece of cake.
Seattle Public Library
1000 4th Avenue
Seattle, Wa 98104
Primary party rooms
The Blue and Red Rooms at Phinney Neighborhood Center almost sound like they were designed to host kids’ parties. During the week they double as pre-school classrooms so you know they’ll be a hit with your tiny tot on her special day. Packed with toys for partygoers and a sink for easy art clean up (bring your own art supplies, please), both rooms make a perfect rainy day party space. The Red Room opens up to a tot lot play space, if you’re looking for an indoor/outdoor option. If classrooms aren’t your thing, be sure to check out one of the hardwood event rooms at the center. Mirrors make a great backdrop for princess or pirate dress-up parties. And what little ballerina could keep herself from twirling the day away on an open hardwood floor? With the money you save, booking a dance instructor is well within budget. Guests will delight in the plentiful, free parking at the center. Your perfect party awaits.
Phinney Neighborhood Center
6532 Phinney Avenue North
Seattle, Wa 98103
Cost: $25 – $35/hour
A blank canvas
Get inspired by the South Classroom at the Youngstown Cultural Center. Every good artist needs a blank canvas. And creative party planning mamas are no exception. You’ll love the 800 square foot space with hardwood floors and plenty of light. Balloons, music, food and entertainment fill this empty space with excellent party energy for kids who know how to party. Tables and chairs are part of the plan, and parking for guests is easy to find. Remember that if you book outside the center’s regular hours, there is an extra per hour staffing fee ($25). Create away.
Youngstown Cultural Center
4408 Delridge Way SW
Seattle, Wa 98106
Schizophrenic Seattle summers can make even summer parties hard to plan. Inside or outside? Rain or shine? What’s a parent to do? Take the gamble out of your decision making by renting a shelterhouse through Seattle Parks and Recreation. They’ve got you covered… or not. The shelterhouse sliding glass doors are the key to balancing the indoor/outdoor dilemma. Leave them open on a sunny day so that your guests can easily spill out onto the playground, just a hop, skip and jump away. Or close them on a rainy day, and party inside. Not too big and not too small, these Goldilocks just-right size buildings will accommodate between 25 and 35 little ones and parents comfortably. And each shelterhouse offers up something a little different, so be sure to find the one that’s right for you.
Ross Playfield Shelterhouse
4320 4th Avenue NW
Seattle, Wa 98105
206-684-4052 (reservations through Loyal Heights Community Center)
Cost: $35/hour, with a 2 hour minimum ($225 refundable deposit)
Madrona Playfield Shelterhouse
3211 East Spring Street
Seattle, Wa 98122
206-684-4788 (Reservations through Garfield Community Center)
Cost: $35/hour ($225 refundable deposit)
Outdoor Options for Those Sunshiny Days
Your own cabin in the woods
Pack your sleeping bags and long johns and get ready to get your camp on at Camp Long in your own cozy cabin. Perfect for adventurers of all ages, cabins sleep up to 12, in 3 double bunk beds. Each cabin has running water, a grill and a fire pit to really get the party started (think camp songs around the crackling fire, not Beavis and Butthead). And little partygoers will find plenty to wear them out in this 68-acre outdoor wonderland. With trails to roam, a climbing wall, and an open field the Seahawks could play on, they’ll barely have time to sit down for cake. To sleep or not to sleep? If that is your question, consider playing for the day and packing it in before the sun sets. Both the reservation and the price are the same either way, and you still get to mark the bargain column on your budget checklist.
5200 35th Avenue SW
Seattle, Wa 98126
Cost: $50 ($50 refundable deposit)
Give me shelter
It’s hard to beat an outside birthday party on a sunny Seattle day. Thank goodness there are 26 different parks throughout the city for these pitch-perfect days. So celebrate under the sun, near beaches or playgrounds, and rent a shelter or picnic table through Seattle Parks and Recreation. Just fill out and mail in the picnic application for your big day. On the day of, remember to tape a “reserved” sign to the table about an hour before your event. And be sure to bring your picnic permit to the party. Picnic tables seat about 8 – 10 and the shelter capacities vary significantly. Some of the shelters can get pretty pricey. But our top three favs won’t break the bank. Here they are, our top 3 kid-friendly shelter and picnic table picks.
1. Golden Gardens shelter #1 is perfectly poised for playground play on their awesome play structure.
2. Seward Park shelter #1 has gorgeous views and easy access to the park, which is right behind the shelter.
3. Gas Works shelter #1 is a kite flyer’s dream with plenty of space to run and watch the boats go by.
1. Lincoln Park, picnic tables #45 & #46 will keep the little tots occupied between games and cake with a great view of the ferry’s comings and goings, and swings.
2. Matthews Beach, picnic table #5 is right between the swimming beach and the play area. It’s an ideal spot for partying minis and their parents.
3. Carkeek Park, table #29 makes feeding the little tots easy. The nearby grill, swings and views are hard to beat on a sunny birthday.
Seattle Parks and Recreation
Cost: $50-$70/half day for shelters; $10/half day for picnic tables
Fire it up
Grab your sand toys and roasting sticks for this sunny day location that really takes the cake (because you’ll be munching on birthday s’mores instead). The fire pits at Alki Beach are a great late afternoon party option in the summer. No reservations are necessary for these first come, first serve favorites, so be sure to get there early and plan to stay for dinner. Keep the kiddos busy building sand birthday cakes (beach sticks make such great candles) and castles while you fire up the grill for some open-fire roasted goodness. Hot dogs and fruit make a quick and easy beach meal for mini partygoers. Top it all off with s’mores and unbeatable views and you’ve got yourself a real party. Happy birthday? We think yes!
1702 Alki Avenue SW
Seattle, Wa 98116
A little bit of everything
When you think of Jefferson Park, think of a little kid’s paradise. It’s got an all ages playground, spectacular spray park with slides, zip line, swings, and lots of space to run. You won’t need party games for this one. A little bit country, 100% rock ‘n’ roll, Jefferson Park takes the cake for an all out summer birthday bash. Set up a picnic on the grass or use the picnic table that overlook the spray park slides as a central location. Then let the little tots roam free and party to their hearts’ content. If a grass picnic doesn’t suit you, check out the shelter rentals for a more formal option. There are three throughout the park. Your peewee party paradise awaits.
3801 Beacon Avenue South
Seattle, Wa 98108
What are your favorite budget-friendly birthday locales? Share them with us in the comments section below.
Photo credit: Seattle Parks and Recreation website; Susie Fitzhugh for Youngstown Cultural Center; Phinney Neighborhood Center; Bonnie Gilbert