|What's cookin'?: Party at
the Institute of Culinary Education.
She swore it wouldn’t
happen to her. Julie, who favors Birkenstocks over Prada,
sat at her baby shower a dozen years ago insisting that
the more-bigger-better attitude of the eighties would
have absolutely no influence on how she would
raise her firstborn. And when Katie was born, the first
year was all about breast milk and cloth diapers. The
at-home 1st-birthday celebration was low-key, with the
Grateful Dead in the background, veggie burgers, and
bowls of trail mix.
As the baby approached birthday No. 2, Julie and her
shaggy-haired husband, David, started feeling, well,
pangs. So the invitations went out. Katie’s 2nd
birthday would be a private party for twenty of her
closest toddler friends at the New York Hall of Science
in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park. One shocked mother
said she nearly fainted as she opened the invitation
and glittering confetti fell all over the floor of her
elevator. “We’ve never looked back,”
Julie sighs. “We’re now planning her bat
mitzvah, a year and a half away.”
The strongest-willed among us may hold out for the
homemade cake and pointy party hats for a few years,
but eventually, the kids themselves catch birthday-party
fever. Chelsea Piers, which sprouted into a birthday-party
mecca soon after it opened in 1995, has some 1,800 parties
a year, offering an irresistible range of sports-oriented
activities, from rock-climbing and soccer to inline-
and ice-skating. Same for Central Park: Linda Kaye’s
Birthdaybakers Partymakers, the company that landed
the plum contract to handle all parties at the zoo,
reports about 250 per year.
And newcomers to the birthday-party marketplace crop
up all the time. The folks behind Karma Kids Yoga, a
new downtown yoga studio for youngsters, realized they
could market their weekends for yoga birthday parties.
No headstands here. Instead, kids lumber around the
room swaying their elephant trunks and swish from side
to side in the not-so-Kripalu pose the washing machine.
Kids who want more rah-rah than Om make their way to
the Family Disco in midtown, which opened last fall.
Britney and Justin wannabes cut a rug on the hardwood
floors at Jack Rose, while parents sidle up to the bar.
|Funny business: Some magicians
like David Kaye are always in demand.
On the Upper East Side, Creatability opened last year
as an arts-and-crafts studio; founder Ilyse Rothman
soon offered the space for birthday parties and went
one step further by taking her show on the road. A mobile
Creatability, supplies and all, can travel to a birthday
party anywhere in the city. During a two-hour shindig
at the Institute of Culinary Education, kids don chef’s
attire and prepare a main dish—from an easy pizza
to a complex sushi platter—all from scratch. Each
guest leaves with his or her own decorated cupcake.
Sports-related parties are also very big these days,
particularly, but not exclusively, with boys, who choose
a handful of friends and a beleaguered dad or two and
head off to Shea or Yankee Stadium or the Garden for
a game and as many boxes of Cracker Jack as said dad
is willing to shell out for (at $4 per).
Home-based parties have all but expunged musical chairs
and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey from the birthday-bash
scene. Broadway-caliber magician Arnie Kolodner brings
revamped fairy-tale shows to the party, complete with
scenery, costumes, and very cool prestidigitation. Kids
go home with a goody bag of magic tricks they can do
themselves. For horror-themed birthday parties, which
tend to be the domain of 10-year-old boys, Dr. Blood
is the man of the hour. Magician David Kaye shows up
in a fake-blood-stained lab coat and proceeds to cut
the birthday boy in half.
One Upper East Side mom
took the idea of the at-home birthday party to unforgettable
heights. The week before a complete demolition and renovation
of her East Side apartment, fourteen 11-year-old girls
celebrated her daughter’s birthday by painting
anywhere and everywhere they pleased. Prizes were awarded
for the most creative work.
As for the notion of drop-off parties, parents don’t
seem to be holding up their side of the bargain—they’re
lingering. “It’s become a chance
for all my friends and family to get together as well,”
one Dalton parent explains as she drives uptown in her
minivan. “We’re all so busy these days that
it becomes the rare opportunity to casually socialize
with other adults.”