Elie’s New York

Celebrating With The Kids A Distinct Joy In Manhattan

EVERYONE loves a party—a special time to celebrate a milestone, whether a birthday, anniversary, or family celebration. Everyone who has a child or a grandchild, a niece, a nephew or young friends knows that children and parties are an especially joyous combination, and birthday parties are important rituals of childhood.

Children and their parents can plan a simple event or create a fantastic event. “Just remember,” advises party planner Shaniqua Garvin, “whatever you choose should be about making the child happy.”

Garvin is the kid’s party planner at the Equinox Sports Club, 330 East 61 Street. She has helped plan hundreds of children’s parties.  

“Sometimes, parents try to out-party one another, creating complex, themed events that take many more hours to plan than the party itself lasts. When one child in a class has an over-the-top party, friends may feel pressured to follow that pattern. They can get caught up in the competition.”

“Remember,” she advises, “it’s a kid’s party!”

There are several gyms that offer age appropriate settings. Equinox offers a wide range of party programs for all ages. The addition of an experienced party coach helps organize the party. Keep the games friendly, so everyone wins!

For a theme party, a child can choose a favorite character around which to design a party. Perhaps a superhero will be the choice or an elegant princess will arrive to join the guests. “At Equinox,” says Garvin, “there’s plenty of space for everything from bouncing castles to games of laser tag.”

For the very beary best in birthday celebrations, Build a Bear offers wonderfully creative, and surprisingly economical, parties (starting at $12 per child). There are two “bear factories” in Manhattan: the world’s biggest at 565 Fifth Avenue and another at FAO Schwarz.

“Every guest takes home a charming, new friend,” promises the “pawsonal” party planner. “It’s a beary wonderful experience. Very hands on. We offer snacks and a theme cake — and everything is available kosher, too. There’s breakfast, snacks or dessert platters for adults to enjoy.”

Chelsea Piers on Manhattan’s far West Side, offers team and individual sports including rock climbing, golf, tennis, ice skating, a wide range of team sports and any other activities just begin the list of things to do at a “pier party.” Kosher refreshments are readily available.

For the younger set, an active event with more individual “sporting” activities can be arranged at Gymboree Parties at its 1622 First Avenue location. There are lots of active events where cake and snacks, available kosher, can be ordered. GymTime Parties, at 1520 York Avenue, offers a wonderful time for the younger set, and a kosher option, too.

Special entertainers and artists help make a party unique. Perhaps you’d like a face painter to design a beautiful butterfly with glittery wings or a superhero to decorate your child’s face, or have a balloon artist create a zoo full of bright balloon animals streaming across the room. Older children might find an outing at Bowlmor Lanes in Times Square “striking.” There are 50 lanes.

Some children are happiest with a basic menu of pizza, ice cream, cake and candles. Add a jolly piniata or pin the tail on that donkey and it’s a perfect setting to create laughter and happy memories. “Unfortunately,” says party planner Garvin “traditional, simple parties are becoming few and far between.”

A delicious party (or any time) treat is Steve’s Soft Ice Cream Buffet. The company, founded in Massachusetts, now has a “cool” Manhattan outlet. Owner David Stein says Steve’s gives everyone a chance to custom blend a personal ice cream flavor. Choose the goodies you love from the vast array of sweet, nutty and fruity possibilities and they will be mixed into the creamy, all-natural base. Steve’s will bring delicious Kosher ice cream and mixings to your party at home or party location.

“Look to the city itself for resources,” says my wonderful wife, Dr. Sarah Schlesinger, a creative Manhattan mother. “Visit a firehouse, though be aware that the party may be interrupted if the firemen have to answer an alarm. That should add an exciting moment for the kids!”

Go to the Transit Museum and take a ride on an old fashioned subway car. It’s fascinating. Or privatize a public event. For example, if the birthday happens to occur during its season, run away to the circus with a bunch of five-year-olds. You may even arrange for the birthday child to be part of the opening parade. What a thrill to be part of the show!