Every year, I struggle to find the perfect way to celebrate my youngest boy’s birthday.
As parents, there’s a lot of stress surrounding birthday parties and lots of questions: Who should we invite? Do we invite all the classmates or teammates? Will any of them show up? How much is it going to cost? Will anyone RSVP?
It was much easier when he was just a baby — a small gathering of family and friends at our house was good enough to provide excitement and smiles.
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Here are some unique birthday outings that focus on making memorable moments with your child.
Mom can don her Super Woman cape and fly at iFLY, which has two North Texas locations, in Hurst and Frisco (where this video was shot).
For the thrill seeker
The experience: A couple of years ago, my youngest son watched his dad and brother take off at iFly in Frisco. He was captivated by what he saw so when he was asked what he wanted for his birthday and his answer was “I want to fly,” I knew he was recalling his time as an observer.
What children will like: What child would not want to learn to fly? The flight center, which now has a location in Hurst, allows children as young as 3 to join the fun. The experience lasts about 1 hour and 45 minutes and each flight is the equivalent of 1.5 skydives.
When we went, my son was super-excited and his enthusiasm was apparent even after the instruction time before his flight. However, he got nervous during the actual flight. The flight instructor did such a good job of quelling his fears and encouraging the other participants to support my son.
What parents will like: What made the experience special for my youngest son was to be able to do it with his dad and and older brother. Younger flyers would do well with a support group to join in the experience. Considering the cost per flight, this would be an option for a small birthday celebration.
Cost: Flights start at $69.95 per person, which includes two flights and a personalized flight certificate. A party package of up to 12 people costs $669.95 and includes 12 free video clips of the flights.
Locations: 663 N.E. Loop 820, Hurst; 8380 Texas 121, Frisco
For the foodie
The experience: If you have a budding chef, the classes at Young Chef’s Academy are the perfect way to get a taste of culinary skills. Instructors give hands-on training to kids ages 4 and up in a group setting. Each child dons an apron and participates in creating the food in a safe, fun environment.
What children will like: My son’s group created rainbow cupcakes in which they followed all of the steps of the process from measuring and mixing the ingredients to preparing the frosting. Of course, they were able to taste their sweet treats.
What parents will like: Each child took turns and the instructors were keen on hand washing and safety. At the Fort Worth location, there was a viewing area so parents could snap photos and watch the children work on their edible creations. Children are given the recipes to take home.
Locations: 6333 Camp Bowie Blvd., Suite 260, Fort Worth; 9350 Pasadena Drive, Suite 300, Frisco
Cost: Classes start at $35 per child; birthday packages start at $300 and include the child and up to 10 guests, decorations, invitations, drinks and recipe cards.
For the adventurer
The experience: If you haven’t been to Medieval Times in a while, you’ll find that the food has gotten better, the show is more spectacular and the experience is just as festive and fun as in the past.
Inside the walls of the medieval castle, you will be assigned a banner color and sit on your side’s section in the stadiumlike seating area. Then, you will be whisked into a world of knights, royalty and real-life jousting and battles.
What children will like: Our sons, 7 and 16, got a kick out of the spectacle and the storytelling of the fast-paced tournament. Of course, they loved eating food with their hands, as all kids do.
What parents will like: The menu has a vegetarian option, and the food was well-seasoned and tasty. It’s nice to have a venue where food and entertainment is included in one price.
Cost: Tickets start at $36.95 for children 12 and younger; $60.95 for adults. The “Celebration” package can be added for an additional $18 per ticket. The package includes VIP and priority seating; a cheering banner and rally towel; group photo for each member of the party; birthday cake; and a personalized announcement during the show.
Location: 2021 N. Stemmons Freeway, Dallas
For the artist
The experience: To be honest, I was a little leery about enrolling my son in a painting class but he wanted to give it a try. So, I enrolled him and friend in a Saturday workshop at ArtCastle in Hurst.
After viewing the example of what they would be painting, I thought there would be no way he could match that artistry. I was wrong. Parents drop off their children, ages 6 and up, at the three-hour workshop. The children are led by a patient instructor who guides them, step by step, through the process of creating their own masterpiece.
What children will like: My son and his friend immensely enjoyed the session and the results were quite impressive. His advice: If you are able to follow directions, you’ll do a good job.
What parents will like: The moms were able to get away for the afternoon and catch up. We were also able to witness the final touches on their projects.
Cost: $35 per child, which includes the painting materials and instruction. The studio also offers camps and birthday packages. Call for package prices.
Location: 491 W. Harwood Road, Hurst
Info: 817-285-9800; http://artcastleschool.com/
Parents will be putting a child safety kit together at Keller ATA Martial Arts, hoping to never use it to find their missing child, or worse.
For the martial artist
The experience: If you have an active child, boy or girl, a taekwondo party could be the best match. Children will learn basic moves, self defense and play games. Parents provides snacks and desserts.
What children will like: My son took classes from owner Mary Nero, who does a great job of engaging children, teaching skills and focusing on self-defense techniques and self-respect. He enjoyed the instruction and interaction.
What parents will like: The self-defense tips are priceless. Children learn how to avoid dangerous situations and build confidence.
Location: 102 Navajo Drive, Keller
Cost: Packages start at $140 for up to 10 kids for an hour and a half lesson.
For the problem solver
The experience: Escape rooms are all the rage. Who would think that putting teenagers in a locked room for an hour would be appealing? That’s what we did when our oldest turned 16. He and his friends went into the “Pirate Chamber” at the Secret Chambers in Fort Worth where they worked as a team to find clues and solve problems.
What children will like: Initially, this was meant for the older children but the folks at Secret Chambers allowed our youngest, my husband and I to join in the fun. Our youngest son, 6 at the time, had the best time helping the older kids and was able to help find clues.
What parents will like: The teamwork and problem-solving aspects of the experience really work well for all ages. It’s like a video game that comes to life, but they aren’t sitting staring at a screen. They need to participate in order to win.
Location: 2350 Mall Circle, Fort Worth
Cost: $25 per person
A group of people search for the pieces of a pirate treasure map in an escape-room game at Secret Chambers in Fort Worth to see if they can figure their way out in one hour. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)