Looking for a winter break outing? A snowy day excursion? Something to do with the family on a weekend? You need to hit up Buzz-a-Rama, the old school New York slot car racing outfit where kids with a need for speed — or just plain fun — can rock out on mini racing tracks. It’s the real deal, lo-fi, and a hot birthday spot too (especially for those winter/early spring babies who can’t party in the parks). Here’s how to get Buzzed!
What’s the Buzz?
Buzz-A-Rama (which takes its name from the moniker of its owner, Frank “Buzz” Perri) is the only spot in New York City where you can race slot cars — little, lightweight, seven-inch plastic cars which zoom around a track, controlled by hand-held rheostats. A slot-car enthusiast himself, Perri opened the Kensington, Brooklyn Buzz-A-Rama in 1965, and outfitted it with tracks from California manufacturer American Model Car Raceway, or as Perri says, “the Rolls Royce of Slot Cars.”
It’s probably no surprise that the place is a magnet for kids (although adults come and play — and race —here, too) and the setting for many spirited birthday parties. (The place has been around so long that “kids” who had their birthdays at Buzz-A-rama now bring their own children to race and celebrate.)
It’s old school, it’s gritty, it’s got a drop ceiling and video games from back in the day — and your kids will love it.
The Buzz Basics
Open only on weekends, Buzz-A-Rama is home to four tracks of varying lengths: yellow (80 feet); black (95 feet) orange (100 feet), and a blue, extra-large “king” track, which is mostly reserved for the pros and adults. Perri says the sweet spot for slot car racing for kids is between the ages of five and 12. (We brought a 3 1/2-year-old and while she wasn’t the most adept racer, she could do it and had a great time.)
Racers pay for equipment rental (the car) and time in 15-minute increments, with prices varying by track, i.e., 30 minutes on the yellow track will cost you $9.50; 15 minutes on the orange track will set you back $6. (If you bring your own car, it’s cheaper, but if you’re the type to have your own car you already know that.)
You grab your car, place it in your assigned colored lane, and use the trigger-equipped handset to control the speed of your car. (Speed regulation is the key factor in successful racing; taking a corner too fast will cause the car to derail.)
A Very Buzz Birthday
As mentioned, Buzz-A-Rama does boffo birthday business, and they pretty much guarantee kids will love a bash here. You can rent out one, two, or all three tracks for a party, with a potential 24 racers behind the “wheel.” (Each track has 8 lanes; additional racers can be accommodated on single or multiple tracks with rotating users, a process Buzz seems to have refined.) Party rentals include the cars, controls, and the time, and each party ends with a “Wildcat Race” — a sudden-death match which tests the skills racers have acquired over the past hour. Price per track rental ranges from $150 to $250.
More to Love at Buzz
Buzz-A-Rama can accommodate your pizza and cake, too, in its very basic “party room,” which you can rent for an additional fee of $100 for an hour. It’s essentially some large tables behind a wall, but the space is encircled by a gallery of vintage arcade games, which kids can play for free when the chowing down is complete. (Pac-Man, Galaga, pinball machines and racing games — they’re all here.)
The Fine Print
Buzz-A-Rama is only open on weekends, and you should always make sure the space isn’t all booked up with parties before heading over.
Interested in booking a party? Reserve it now; demand is high and Buzz-A-Rama is only open from September to just after Labor Day. Be sure to read the extensive info on booking parties, deposit required and more on the Buzz-A-Rama site. Be advised that Buzz himself lords over party proceedings and he runs a tight ship, using a bullhorn to corral excited revelers from one track to the next, to the party room, etc., which if you ask us, is pretty genius.
Note that parties at Buzz-A-Rama are drop-off affairs, although it’s recommended that each track is manned by three adults to replace the cars when they become dislodged from the track — a fairly common occurrence when kids are getting the hang of taking those turns. (You’ll be charged $10 per person for any additional adults over that number.)
69 Church Ave.
Have you and the kids raced at Buzz-A-Rama? Tell us about your time there in the comments below!