From the day the Toys ’R’ Us Times Square megastore opened in 2001, parents began dogging the folks in corporate to allow kids’ birthday parties. Now, after a couple of years of downsizing and store closings, the company has figured out—just as zoos, museums, salons, and FAO Schwarz did before it—that it owned a cash cow waiting to be milked. And when it comes to wow factor, Toys ’R’ Us can compete with the best of them, with that 60-foot indoor Ferris wheel. Come party time, guests start out in a balcony-style room that overlooks Barbie’s Dollhouse and the twenty-foot growling T. rex. Then the little ones are led through an activity built around the day’s theme (the Dancing Divas party starts with a round of Dance, Dance Revolution; the Pirate’s Passage has the swashbucklers decorating bandannas and eye patches). After that comes a spin on the Ferris wheel, then back upstairs for cake, punch, and a visit with the store’s mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe. At the send-off, the honoree will get to see his name in lights (assuming he can read) on the electronic billboard outside the store. But what if that’s still not enough hoopla for the birthday boy or girl? “If parents want to go above and beyond the template, we can work with them on that,” says store spokesman Bob Friedland. “It’s up to the parents’ imagination. We can make the birthday party bigger and better.”
Toys ’R’ Us Times Square, 1514 Broadway at 44th St. (646-366-8800, ext. 8578, or toysrus.com); $35 per child on weekdays, $50 on weekends.