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Smackdown: Birthday Venues

Illustration by Dan Woodger  
  • Chelsea Piers Field House
    High-energy athletoplex.
    Piers 61 and 62, 23rd St. and Hudson River Park
    Brooklyn Boulders
    Outer-borough half-dome.
    Degraw St. and Third Ave., Gowanus

    Chelsea Piers Field House: The smaller, 30-foot wall in one corner of the massive main floor is the primary one for kids (the 11,000-square-foot climbing gym at the Sports Center is off-limits to under-16s)
    Brooklyn Boulders: There’s a wall for little climbers, but the more challenging walls—including one that has arches shaped like the Brooklyn Bridge— are open to them, too, if they’re up for it

    The Party Package
    Chelsea Piers Field House: 75 minutes of climbing (shoes and harnesses included) and 45 minutes of party time; depending on the size of your group, you get a section of the wall or the entire rock face; experienced staff members can teach them how to climb safely (one instructor per seven kids)
    Brooklyn Boulders: One hour for climbing, including gear, and another hour for revelry; staff-to-kid ratio is one to four

    Chelsea Piers Field House: Families can order from Famiglia Pizza, Abigail Kirsch, or Stonyfield Farms, which has just begun offering organic fare here; no outside food except for the cake is allowed
    Brooklyn Boulders: BYO everything (there’s a fridge) or order in from a large list of approved vendors

    Chelsea Piers Field House: A basic party costs $650 for ten guests and includes your own party room, paper goods, balloons, and candles; for an extra $60, you get pizza and drinks; the all-inclusive package, which comes with invitations, party favors, and the cake, runs $795
    Brooklyn Boulders: $39 per child ($45 for adults if they’re climbing, too) for a two-hour party; parties can be as small as four kids or as large as 16; gotta bring your own plates and cups, though

    Chelsea Piers Field House: Enthusiastic and sporty
    Brooklyn Boulders: Hipster meets hard-core athletics; encouraging and bouncy

    Both are serious fun, but Brooklyn Boulders wins by a half-step for its focus, coziness, and lower prices.

From the 2012 Best of New York issue of New York Magazine