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Icing on the Cake

Birthday Celebrations in Indy

February 01, 2011
Birthdays come but once a year, so most parents want to ensure their child has a great time and a memorable experience. Fortunately, Indianapolis has plenty of options for fun and interesting celebrations.

One thing to prepare for is dietary concerns such as lactose intolerance, allergies and other conditions all of which can lead to emotional and medical reactions. With that being said, it's important to make sure everyone is taken care of on the food front.

Sugar and artistry come together at the Icing Academy, where owner/instructor Julie Nolting teaches kids about making cupcake masterpieces. The basic party is adaptable, so Nolting can work around just about any dietary concern or desired theme.

"It's totally customizable," she says. "Anything they want to add, we can definitely add."

She can make gluten-free, dairy-free and can even work around sugar concerns or egg allergies.

"I just need to know in advance," Nolting says.

Another potential issue is if the children aren't actively engaged, something Heather Sink, general manager of Recreation Unlimited, says she's never seen happen there because there's so much play equipment to keep the kids busy.

"The kids just go crazy," she says with a laugh.

Sink says it's next to impossible for kids to get bored or fight over a particular piece of equipment when there are 15 playsets, not to mention trampolines, play tables, dollhouses and basketball goals.

"A lot of times, people don't even get around to opening the gifts," she says. "By the time the kids leave, they are wiped out."

Because everything is indoors, kids can be active and get exercise even when it's cold outside. Community centers like the YMCA are also good for a winter pool party and other indoor sports.

A definite upside to utilizing a venue like Recreation Unlimited, Sink says, is the stress relief for the parents.

"They don't have to worry about the mess at their house," she says, nor do they have to plan any activities or hire entertainers.

Most movie theatres offer party packages; bowling and roller skating are also good fallbacks, as are party centers like Greatimes Family Fun Park, which offers go-karts, bumper boats and miniature golf, in addition to a massive indoor play structure and arcade.

Nancy Nieman, manager of Snapperz Family Fun and Sports, says the center's variety of activities keep kids active and entertained. Besides the four-story playground, airbrushed tattoos, laser tag and laser frenzy game, families will also find bumper cars, bungee trampoline, bowling, bounce houses and an arcade. But the best part for the parents is that a party host is there to help out by serving food, keeping track of the gifts, taking photos so parents can actually enjoy their child's birthday party, as well.

"The parent is nice and relaxed, and they don't have to worry about anything," Nieman says. "They're not stressed out like they would be at their own home."

Even if a child is sulking or throwing a tantrum, Nieman's staff knows how to take care of the situation.

"Our party hosts are well-trained. They're used to that," she says.

For fall fun, Waterman's Farm Market offers hayrides, fresh produce, pony rides, hay bale maze, farm animals and plenty more low-tech attractions.

For a dose of the feminine, Glitz and Glamour is a go-to option.

"We are a girly-girl boutique," says owner Brandi Traut. "It's all about being a girly girl, having fun with their friends."

Birthday girls and their guests can enjoy makeovers (or "glam-overs"), dressing up in gowns and watching themselves sing and dance down a hot pink runway. With princess teas, Hollywood red carpet, and diva spa parties, the boutique offers a variety of choices.

"Every girl at every age loves the spa parties," Traut says.

While home makeovers are fine, she says the entire experience is almost impossible to replicate, with the professional-looking runway, lights and cameras. Each girl also gets a "swag bag" purse with lip gloss and nail polish.

"We do everything for them to pamper the girls," Traut says.

For educational and entertaining programming delivered to your door, Mad Science is one alternative for the future scientists. Birthday girls and boys can also enjoy Indiana Jim's Reptile Experience, complete with turtles, snakes, lizards, frogs and toads.

"They can be our special helper for the day," herpetologist Jim Horton says.

His presentations include gift bags for the guests and prizes for the birthday kid and whoever wins Horton's "flippy frog" game. Horton says kids tend not be scared of the animals, though his largest snake is about seven feet long – one of his "non-touchables." Others, like Bubba the toad, are fine for kids to touch. They might not be the cuddliest animals, but Horton's audiences always have questions.

"Whether you like these animals or not, you find them interesting," he says. "Whether they're creepy or cool, you want to know more about them."

For a wider variety of animals, the Indianapolis Zoo offers party packages, as well and Indiana Wild delivers reptiles, mammals, birds and more, says Alligator Aaron.

"There's cute and cuddly animals, there's creepy animals," he says of the nine animals he brings. "There's something in that nine that everybody will like."

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is a great destination for both fun and learning, says Amy Huffman, sales manager for rentals and events.

"You don't have to bring anything," Huffman says, "All you really have to do is show up, which is really nice for the moms and dads.

Besides admission to the museum, the party package includes tickets for the carousel, Lilly Theater and SpaceQuest Planetarium. Each party also has a theme, usually corresponding to one of the exhibits, like "fashion fabulous" to go with the Barbie: The Fashion Experience exhibit, and dinosaur-, Egypt- and carousel-themed events. Kids can also enjoy the seasonal events, such as winter's Jolly Days or October's haunted house.

"There's always so much fun stuff to do for everybody," Huffman says.

And that's what a child's birthday should be about – fun.

Allison Tyra is a graduate of Indiana University's School of Journalism. An Indianapolis native, she spends most of her time freelancing for various Midwest-based publications, watching too much Glee/Grey's Anatomy and giving into her cats' demands for attention.

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Tags: In This Issue, Local, Party and Entertainment

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