Party Time! Excellent!
Our regional party planning guide
Kids’ gyms are a fun, active party trend, as they let kids of all ages run, jump, tumble, slide, bounce (and fall!) in a safe, stimulating environment for kids—even the littlest ones. My Gym in Mechanicsburg, Monkey Joe’s in Camp Hill, and The Little Gym in Lititz are all popular spots, as they offer hassle-free packages that include party set-up, refreshments, decorations and clean-up. Birthday packages at Bogey Macaws in York include play time in a two-story obstacle course and an arcade. Tiny tots up to age 6 can enjoy imaginative play (and cake!) while parents enjoy a much-needed latte at The Playhouse Cafe, a kid-friendly coffeehouse in Lemoyne.
Time for tea
Pretend tea parties are fun, but real ones are even better! Little sophisticates can don vintage hats, sip tea from fancy teacups and nibble on finger sandwiches and other teeny treats at Camellia’s Sin Tea Parlor in Carlisle. (Parents needn’t worry: The “sin” here refers to camellia sinensis, the botanical name for the tea plant.) Both the East and West Shore locations of Olivia’s Tea Room host tea parties with a kid-friendly menu that includes ladybug crackers, ants on a log, and sweetly decorated cupcakes.
The roller-skating and bowling parties I went to in the 1980s are still in style and tons of fun for kids (and will bring back fond memories for their parents). York’s Suburban Bowlerama is a favorite destination, and the birthday boy or girl gets a commemorative birthday bowling pin to take home. Kids can bowl and play arcade games at The Coliseum in Camp Hill. Enola’s Olympic Skating Center features the largest hardwood skating floor in the area and offers a variety of packages to suit any budget that include skate rental and snacks. Parents can even rent the entire rink for large private parties. Want something more fast-paced? Parties at the Laserdome in Manheim include laser tag, arcade games and pizza.
For kids who crave a more cerebral birthday experience, a museum is a smart bet. Plan an intergalactic trip to see Central PA’s largest planetarium at Lancaster’s North Museum of Natural History & Science, or head to the Lancaster Science Factory for educational fun. Kids can explore the science center and watch an IMAX movie at Whitaker Center in Harrisburg or hunt for dinosaur bones and buried treasure during themed parties at the Hands-On House in Lancaster.
Young artists can paint pottery at Color Me Mine. Budding chefs can make pasta, pizza, cupcakes, whoopie pies and other treats at The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School’s hands-on cooking parties in Carlisle. At Young Chefs Academy in Lancaster, kids ages 4 and up get to don aprons and chef’s hats and make pizza or other dishes, such as fondue or Mexican fare. Essen, a Lancaster-based cooking school, brings the party to your house and gets kids involved with fresh, local food and customized parties including cooking and cleanup.
Al fresco events are always fun—providing the weather cooperates. Amusement parks Hersheypark and Dutch Wonderland are sure to please. Kids with winter birthdays can hit the slopes with snow-tubing parties at Liberty Mountain Resort in Carroll Valley and Roundtop Mountain Resort in Lewisberry. Roundtop hosts parties with ropes courses, paintball, ziplines and other mountain adventures during warmer months. At Blue Hound Farm, also in Lewisberry, kids can take hayrides, ride ponies, and pet farm animals. Partygoers at Adventure Sports in Hershey can ride bumper boats, play mini-golf, drive go-carts, or take a swing at the batting cages.
Bring the party to you
For parents who’d prefer to throw a party at home, rest assured that virtually anything and everything can be rented. Make your backyard extra lively with inflatable moon bounces and mazes (even sumo-wrestling gear!) from Big Bright Bounces. Posie the Fairy brings magic to any party with face painting, fairy magic shows and sing-alongs, handmade favors, and more. For a tasty treat, rent your own ice-cream truck from Sweet Willows Creamery in York or set up a custom candy buffet from Georgie Lou’s Retro Candy & Gifts in Carlisle. And, lastly (because not everyone is as clown-phobic as I am), award-winning Jimbo the Clown entertains with juggling, face painting, and custom balloon “lootles” made to resemble the birthday boy or girl.
My Gym: 5103 Carlisle Pike, Mechanicsburg. 717-737-1936; www.my-gym.com
Monkey Joe’s: 3608 Hartzdale Dr., Camp Hill. 717-635-8300; www.monkeyjoes.com
The Little Gym: 235 Bloomfield Dr., #108, Lititz. 717-569-1200; www.thelittlegym.com/LancasterPA
The Playhouse Cafe: 1 Lemoyne Square, Lemoyne. 717-612-1234. www.myplayhousecafe.com
Bogey Macaws: 601 Chestnut Hill Rd., York. 717-747-9663; www.bogeymacaws.com
Camellia’s Sin Tea Parlor: 36 W. Pomfret St., Carlisle. 717-243-6292; www.camellias-sin.com
Olivia’s Tea Room: 5939 Linglestown Rd., Harrisburg. 717-652-5082. 1959 Market St., Camp Hill. 717-737-1293; http://oliviastea.com
Suburban Bowlerama: 1945 S. Queen St., York. 717-848-1632; www.suburbanbowlerama.com
The Coliseum: 410 St. John’s Church Rd., Camp Hill. 717-972-1000; www.coliseumfun.com
Olympic Skating Center: 60 E. Shady Lane, Enola. 717-732-9168; www.olympicskatingcenter.com
Laserdome: 2050 Auction Rd., Manheim. 717-492-0002; www.laserdome.com
North Museum of Natural History & Science: 400 College Ave., Lancaster. 717-291-3941; www.northmuseum.org
Lancaster Science Factory: 454 New Holland Ave., #300, Lancaster. 717-509-6363; www.lancastersciencefactory.org
Whitaker Center for Science & the Arts: 222 Market St., Harrisburg. 717-214-2787; www.whitakercenter.org
Hands-On House: 721 Landis Valley Rd., Lancaster. 717-569-5437; www.handsonhouse.org
Color Me Mine: 4830 Carlisle Pike, Mechanicsburg. 717-731-8500. 5110 Jonestown Rd., Harrisburg. 717-909-8170; wwwcolormemine.com
The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School: 101 Shady Lane, Carlisle. 800-391-2665; www.kitchenshoppe.com
Young Chefs Academy: 1545 Manheim Pike, Lancaster. 717-581-7575; www.youngchefsacademy.com
Essen: 717-391-8270; www.essencooking.com
Hersheypark: 100 Hershey Park Dr., Hershey. 717-534-3900; www.hersheypark.com
Dutch Wonderland: 2249 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster. 717-291-1888; www.dutchwonderland.com
Liberty Mountain Resort: 78 Country Club Trail, Carroll Valley. 717-642-8282; www.skiliberty.com
Roundtop Mountain Resort: 925 Roundtop Road, Lewisberry. 717-432-9631; www.skiroundtop.com
Blue Hound Farm: 125 Pleasant Hill Rd., Lewisberry. 717-939-8159; www.bluehoundfarm.com
Adventure Sports: 3010 Elizabethtown Rd., Hershey. 717-533-7479; www.adventurehershey.com
Big Bright Bounces: P.O. Box 256, Lititz. 717-664-5055; www.bigbrightbounces.com
Posie the Fairy: 717-440-3174; www.posiefairy.com
Sweet Willows Creamery: 2812 E. Prospect Rd., York. 717-718-9219; www.sweetwillowscreamery.com
Georgie Lou’s Retro Candy & Gifts: 22 N. Pitt St., Carlisle. 717-243-1002; www.georgielous.com
Jimbo the Clown: 717-763-9893; www.jimbo-the-clown.com