Cool places in Ann Arbor for kids' birthday parties in winter
Every year, just about this time, I start looking for places to have a birthday party. The challenge is to find something indoors that gets out the energy that a 5-year-old boy and his friends can build up on a weekend day.
Here's a list, with a focus on the places that are really good for winter birthdays. I've broken it down by theme. Most of them are appropriate for preschool and elementary school age kids, and they range widely in cost and complexity.
The Exhibit Museum of Natural History, University of Michigan campus, 734-764-0478. Kids ages 4-10 can enjoy at dinosaur or space theme party, plus an optional planetarium show. The program includes a museum tour and opportunities to learn and explore. $195-$215, plus $50 for the planetarium.
The Leslie Science and Nature Center, 1831 Traver Rd. Ann Arbor, 734-997-1553. Critter themed parties for ages as young as 4 and as old as 13, all with outdoor activities. Dress for weather! $150 for a maximum of 15 kids, adults are free.
Snow and ice
Buhr Park Ice Rink, 2751 Packard Road, Ann Arbor; 734-794-6234. Take the kids out and get them good and tired chasing around the ice. The rink has a grand re-opening on January 9 to celebrate the installation of a new ice surface. $130-$200 plus skate rentals.
Huron Hills Golf Course, 3465 E Huron River Dr, Ann Arbor. Huron Hills is the mother of all sledding hills in Ann Arbor, with acres of slopes near the Huron River. You'll want to take a thermos of hot cocoa for the kids, since the club house for the golf course keeps summer hours. Free, bring your own sleds.
Jump and shout
Jump City, 2825 Boardwalk, 734-995-5055. Jump City has an inflatable bounce space that accommodates parties from 15 to 50. You must wear socks to bounce, and they bring the pizza. Prices range from $200 (15 kids, off-peak) to $475 (50 kids, peak).
Xtreme Bounce Zone, 82 Aprill Drive, Dexter; 734-761-3242. You organize your own party and rent the space, filled with six giant inflatables, for as long as you want. $100/hr.
Scrap Box, 581 State Circle, Ann Arbor, 734-994-0012. Bring your kindergarten-age and up kids to this shop full of recycled craft materials, and the birthday party coordinator will help everyone put together a project. $100 for 10 kids, $150 for 15.
Ann Arbor Art Center, 117 W Liberty, Ann Arbor, 734-994-8004. Kids 5 and up make their own party hats and then work on their own masterpiece in mixed media, foil painting or printmaking. $17/child for parties of 8-20; kids bring home a work of art, matted and ready to frame.
Michigan Firehouse Museum, 110 W. Cross Avenue, Ypsilanti, 734-547-0663. This museum, housed in an old Ypsilanti fire station, is full of old fire apparatus. Call for details.
Michigan Academy of Gymnastics, 3900 Jackson Road, Suite #4 Ann Arbor, 734-761-7610. An hour of gym time with an instructor, plus an hour of time in the lobby for the party is $130.
There are lots more places to look for parties, and many more options open up in the summer time when city parks are available. Call in advance to reserve - some places fill up quickly, so it's not too soon to be thinking about parties a month or even three months in advance. All prices listed are from the organization's web sites and are the best available at the moment.
Edward Vielmetti wears a silly party hat for AnnArbor.com. Contact him with your creative birthday ideas at email@example.com.