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Celebrating a Birthday at a Theme Park

Theme parks offer a variety of packages for parents looking for someplace a little more special than the backyard for a special celebration.

Written by
Published: July 28, 2004 at 2:13 PM

I'm taking a little break from the theme park tour this week. But here's a look at theme park birthdays while I recover....

Spending the day at a theme park marks a special occasion in itself for most visitors. But theme parks also provide many ways for people to celebrate other special occasions. Such as birthdays.

Granted, a theme park birthday party isn't the cheapest way to celebrate another year in a child's life. Baking a cake and hosting the kids in your backyard will always cost less money than hauling the gang off to a theme park. But the theme park birthday has its advantages. First, you'll return home to a backyard unspoiled by a throng of partying children. And no one will be able to top your child for birthday party bragging rights for a long time. In a moment, I'll throw the page open to parents who held birthday parties in theme parks. But let's start with a look at some of your options.

Legoland California

In Southern California, one of the better deals can be had at Legoland California, north of San Diego in Carlsbad. Legoland's Ultimate Birthday Party actually gets invitees into the park for less than the cost of a regular Legoland admission. In a sense, it is as if Legoland's paying you to have a party. The package runs $31.95 per person and includes park admission, as well as the party in your choice of one of three Legoland restaurants. Compare that to Legoland's regular admission prices of $43.95 for adults and $36.95 for kids. The party itself includes:

  • Party invitations
  • A private room for one and a half hours
  • Place settings and hats
  • Meals with unlimited soda or lemonade
  • Birthday cake (chocolate or vanilla) and candles
  • Gift for each paid child

    The meal depends upon the restaurant you choose: pizza or pasta at Ristorante Brickolini, hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese or chicken tenders at Fun Town Market, or pork ribs, chicken tenders or hamburgers at Knight's Table. The party price is discounted to $12.50 for each partygoer with a Legoland annual pass, since they've already paid for admission to the park. Legoland accepts party reservations at 760-918-KIDS.


    TPI kid Natalie Niles celebrates her birthday at Disneyland's Plaza Inn.

    Knott's Berry Farm

    This Orange County park offers birthday parties in its Camp Snoopy children's section. As at Legoland, the package includes both park admission and a meal. The Knott's parties happen at the Lucy's Lunchbox restaurant in Camp Snoopy and include:

  • Party invitations
  • Reserved tables for one hour
  • Party hats and buttons for all kids, and a special ribbon for the birthday child
  • Kids' and adult meals
  • A personalized birthday cake and ice cream
  • An appearance by Snoopy
  • Gift from Snoopy to birthday child

    The Knott's deluxe birthday package costs $25 per child and $35 per adult, and includes park admission. Knott's regular prices are $12.95 for kids and $43 for adults, through Southern California adults who show ID at the gate can get in for $26.95. Knott's requests that reservations be made at least four weeks in advance, so that tickets can be mailed in time. A deposit is required and arrangements can be made by calling 714-220-5298 between 8 a.m. to 3 p.m (Pacific Time) Monday through Friday.

    SeaWorld San Diego

    SeaWorld offers more than the typical lunch-time party, with guided tours providing the highlight of its birthday celebrations. SeaWorld's packages include:

  • Party invitations
  • Birthday cake
  • Plush animal toy for the birthday child
  • A guided tour of some of the park's attractions, with a chance to touch or feed some animals

    A one-hour tour package costs $285 for up to 25 people, and a two-hour will set you back $445. Neither tour includes park admission, but SeaWorld offers discounted admission tickets for partygoers for $26 (adults and kids). SeaWorld annual passholders can get a 20 percent discount on the price of the tour package, though not the admission tickets. SeaWorld San Diego accepts tour reservations at 619-225-4271.

    Disneyland

    Disneyland Park does not offer the private parties available at other parks, but it does offer a communal birthday party at the Plaza Inn. For $10 per person (on top of park admission), guests get a party hat, sipper cup and individual birthday cake which they can decorate themselves. Mickey and Minnie appear for photos and park hosts lead the guests in songs. Advance reservations are not required, but can be made by calling 714-781-DINE or by visiting the Plaza Inn or City Hall. Disneyland also sells "birthday buckets" in princess, Sorcerer Mickey, Buzz Lightyear and Pooh designs, available at select hotel restaurants and through room service. The buckets cost $20 each and include an individual birthday cake, a toy, stickers and a Disney birthday pin. Call Disney's dining reservations line 714-781-DINE to order.

    Have you held a birthday party in a theme park? Tell us about your experience. Was the party worth the expense? Would you do it again? If so, what advice would you give other parents?

  • Readers' Opinions

    From kathy sussman on July 28, 2004 at 2:27 PM
    Robert what theme park restaurants would be best for birthdays?
    From Jason Herrera on July 28, 2004 at 3:05 PM
    This is a good topic, I've always wondered what parks offer for B-days. Some interesting stuff.

    Looking at that pic, who enjoyed the day more at disneyland, Robert? You or your daughter? ;o)

    From Robert Niles on July 28, 2004 at 4:15 PM
    Actually, Kathy, I'll give other readers a chance to share their opinions on that before I chime in.

    And Jason, Natalie's grandmother (at the time a Disney CM) was responsible for that photo. At the risk of heading off-topic, she took the kids to Disneyland for Natalie's birthday while Laurie and I drove to Vegas for our 10th anniversary. (We had spent our fifth in a hospital maternity ward -- for those who haven't already done the math.)

    From Becky McKenzie on July 29, 2004 at 7:36 AM
    We have taken our son to Disneyland for his birthday for the past 3 years- when he turned 4,5 or 6 years old. We went to Goofy's Kitchen where they have a special birthday package you can purchase for an additional $5. This includes a little bag of goodies and a birthday cake that the characters bring out to him and they all join in and sing. He LOVES it, the characters always come over and give him a little more attention and interaction and the bag also has a birthday pin that he wears through the day.

    Last time we were there though there was a family that was trying to get through the security with wrapped packages for their daughter. They wouldn't let them in until they were unwrapped. I think I would check with the park's customer service before I planned a big surprise in Disneyland for my kids that included wrapped packages!

    From kathy sussman on August 5, 2004 at 9:06 AM
    come on robert please answer my question.
    From Robert Niles on August 8, 2004 at 4:35 PM
    I was waiting to give some other readers an opportunity to share their experiences first....
    From kyle sussman on November 19, 2004 at 7:25 PM
    Well, its been over three months now. Can you give my wife an answer.
    From Robert Niles on November 28, 2004 at 7:15 PM
    Wow, talk about a subject that I thought people would care to discuss... guess I was wrong. (What's the emoticon for a shrug?)

    Personally, for a small group in Southern California, I'd gather at the Blue Bayou at Disneyland. If I had teens or kids in tow, Redd Rocket's would be a better option, with its pizzas and more accessible menu. In neither case are you looking at a true birthday party, but a place for lunch or dinner during a celebratory park trip.

    For smaller kids, between ages 3 and 9, I'd pick Legoland over Disneyland, for the smaller crowds and better attractions for that crowd. Pick one the meal options above for the best admission deal.

    But I'd love to get invited to a guided tour party at SeaWorld someday. You'd have to have the right kind of crowd -- one that would be interested in the animals -- for that to be worth the cash.

    So in general, I'd pick one of the top restaurants at Disneyland, unless your circumstances (and budget) fit better at Legoland or SeaWorld.

    I really have no idea for Orlando, other than the fact that I love Mythos at Islands of Adventure, and many, many folks rave about the character breakfast at Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom.


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