When you’re a kid, birthdays are special. No matter the age or stage, it’s a child’s big day to feel loved and appreciated and to simply celebrate being young and alive. A birthday also provides the opportunity for parents to throw a party that marks the anniversary of one of your most momentous events while showing your child just how much she means to you.
Every child deserves at least one great birthday party that makes a memory your family will cherish forever. When you’re worn out on house parties and can’t bear another trip to the local birthday factory, head out on a destination party in Boston that totally captures what your kid’s all about!
Taking Your Party on the Road
Elisabeth Accardi, founder and owner of Upon A Star Events with 15 years experience planning parties, says a local abundance of things to do is just one reason why destination birthdays make good sense. “In Boston, you’re limited with space. Normally, people don’t have sprawling backyards or they have apartment-style homes,” she explains. Bringing the party out opens up a world of options no matter the size of your group, age of the kids and activities they’re into.
Director of marketing and sales with Boston Duck Tours, Bob Schwartz agrees Boston is the ideal city to plan a birthday outing. “Boston’s known as America’s walking city. It has a lot of fun things for kids to do in a small area. Basically you can walk from one side of the city to the other with no problem,” he says.
Schwartz says Duck Tours, the city’s most popular sightseeing tour, is a great fit for birthday parties. In addition to letting the kids drive a World War II-style vehicle on the Charles River, they offer a customizable experience parents appreciate.
“If you want to spend a little more time in the water we can do that,” he says. “They can have cake and lunch while they’re doing the tour, and they can sing happy birthday out on the river.”
According to Schwartz, Duck Tours is one of a number of unique experiences in Boston that offer something different from being cooped up in a pizza place or gymnasium.
Make it an Unforgettable Outing
An integral part in planning a successful birthday party is keeping the focus on the guest of honor, something Accardi says often falls short despite best intentions. “When we do events, we try to understand what that kid’s about and what [his or her] friends like to do,” says Accardi. Once you have a clear vision of the type of activities your group will enjoy best, the world is your oyster for weaving together a plan for a legendary birthday.
Choose a Theme
While themes aren’t absolutely necessary, they’re effective for creating an environment that captures and holds the attention of your group. Accardi believes it’s important to choose themes that bring everyone together, whether you have a group of boys and girls or a wider range of ages. Schwartz agrees, adding Duck Tour drivers are always dressed as different characters in order to get their guests energized. They’ll do their best to match the driver’s character to the theme of a birthday party, understanding the difference it makes in keeping the children engaged.
Plan the Entertainment
Depending on the size of the group and age of your guests, you could easily choose a few of the most iconic venues to visit in Boston, hit Tasty Burger for lunch, bring along a birthday cake and have a wonderful day. However, booking a guided tour, show, game or activity is highly recommended. “Some sort of entertainment is probably key,” says Accardi. “[Kids] want an activity. They want to know they’re going to have a really fun time.” Not only does it take the onus of entertaining a rambunctious pack of party revelers temporarily off your shoulders, it also provides the adults some time to relax and enjoy the day.
As for keeping kids engaged, Schwartz recommends bringing along stickers and prizes as incentives for behavior and participation. You may also organize a party-themed scavenger hunt as you travel from place to place, or prepare game-show-style trivia questions to test your group’s knowledge of the theme and what they’ve learned along the way.
What’s on the Menu?
Nothing slows down a daytrip faster than a pack of hungry kids. So bringing along a healthy supply of snacks is always wise, in addition to planning a well-timed meal break. But according to Accardi, it’s better to find a convenient fit for food rather than letting it take center-stage. “Parents focus on the food, but the part kids could really care less about is the eating,” she says.
Schwartz’s advice is to choose restaurants that are kid-friendly, flexible and fun. Along with proven stand-bys such as Hard Rock Café and Max Brenner, he recommends a lively spot in the Back Bay called Fire + Ice. “It’s sort of an all-you-can eat restaurant [where kids can] build their own meal,” he says. With a dazzling variety of food choices and a crowd-pleasing ice cream bar, kids (no matter how specific or limited their tastes) get exactly what they want. And if they don’t like it, they can choose something else.
An often more relaxed, cost-effective option (especially in summer) is to plan a picnic or pickup some casual food to bring out on Boston Common. “We sell box lunches you can eat on the duck or take with you. There’s also a lot of places around the Common to get food,” says Schwartz. While you’re there, tie in an activity that fits your theme or just let the kids burn off some energy on the ball fields and playgrounds.
While Accardi feels opening presents during a kids’ birthday party often gets lost in the shuffle, she does encourage goody-bag type gifts. “But not something that’s junky the parents are just going to throw away. I usually partner an activity the kids can do at the event with a take-home,” she says. Whether you’re visiting a museum, touring historic sites or attending a ball game, you’ll also have plenty of opportunities to pick up keepsakes your young guests actually get excited about.
Of course, a great birthday party isn’t contingent on how much you spend and the gifts you give or receive. It’s about having an unforgettable group experience that marks a milestone in your child’s life and forges memories so powerful they’re sure to last forever.
Customize Your Perfect Outing
Ready to break free from the same-old birthday routine on an extraordinary destination party in Boston? Read on for a few sample itineraries inspired by our experts to help get the ball rolling.
Head to Fenway Park for an exclusive tour of the centerpiece of Boston sports culture. While there, stop at Game On for a tempting menu of stadium-inspired favorites and let the kids get the competitive juices flowing at Blazing Paddles ping-pong lounge. Finish by taking in a Red Sox game (schedule permitting) for an over-the-top sports experience that hits it out of the park!
Party Tip: Make T-shirts for the kids as keepsakes complete with names and numbers on the back to get your group feeling like one big team. It’ll make it easier to keep track of them, too.
Options: Try the new TD Garden Tour of where the Bruins and Celtics play. Or in place of a Sox game, take your party over to the Emerald Necklace by Clemente Field for a game of wiffle ball in the park.
Fuel up on the imaginative, chocolate-centric bill of fare at Max Brenner on Boylston Street before embarking on an art-themed Duck Tour of the city’s most inspiring locations. Have your driver drop you off at the Boston Children’s Museum to enjoy hands-on exhibits and interactive programs specially designed for inquiring young minds.
Party Tip: Hit the gift shop for crafty take-homes that further fuel the children’s interest in the arts.
Options: Substitute in the Museum of Science or Museum of Fine Arts, Boston depending on your group’s age and interests. Instead of sitting down to eat, grab burgers or box lunches and hit the nearest park. Set up a pop-up studio and use the supplies you found in the museum gift shop to put your party’s artistic talents on display.
Catch a matinee at the Wheelock Family Theatre, coupled with one of their family-friendly workshops or customized birthday packages available before or after the performance. Following the show, walk along the Emerald Necklace to the Gazebo at the Chapel Street Bridge for a dramatic setting to a picnic lunch.
Party Tip: Entertain the kids in the park with theatrical trivia questions for prizes, such as acting props and movie scripts, they can take home as party favors.
Options: See a show in the theater district (Blue Man Group is always popular) and couple it with a Trolley Tour of the famous theaters lining Tremont and Boylston Streets. Finish with a gentle ride on the historic Swan Boats and cake in the Public Garden.
Hop on the Freedom Trail from Bunker Hill toward Faneuil Hall, picking up souvenirs, such as three-cornered hats that put the kids in a patriotic mood, along the way. You’ll find plenty of quick food options near Faneuil Hall Marketplace before joining the ruckus that’s revving up at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum’s interactive Meeting House Experience. There, live actors depicting the Sons of Liberty will whip your group into a frenzy, dress you up in your very own Mohawk disguises and lead you out to dump tea overboard just like they did back on December 16, 1773!
Party Tip: Abigail’s Tea Room in the museum provides a sweet finish with a nice selection of souvenirs and treats to celebrate the birthday.
Options: Book a history-themed Duck Tour and have them drop you off near the spot along the Freedom Trail best suited for a historic adventure. Do the opposite of the trip above, starting at Faneuil Hall and ending up in Boston Common for cake and colonial-era games such as ring toss, marbles and ninepins bowling.
Lead a crew of your child’s closest friends down Newbury Street for a fantasy day of window-shopping and tasty treats followed by a surprise fashion photo shoot at Copley Square. Bring along fun accessories, such as hats, scarves, visual props and hand painted signs, for an energetic pictorial.
Party Tip: Use the photos you take to make individual mini fashion portfolios you can hand out later as party favors.
Options: Book a spa party at MiniLuxe on Boylston Street featuring TeenyLuxe manicures for guests 10 years old and younger. Then bounce over to Robin’s Candy on Newbury for a dizzying array of ice cream, fudge, chocolates and classic novelty candy to put a cherry on the top of a perfect day.