Birthday Venue Guide: Philly Classics

From the zoo to the Franklin Institute, the most classic venues for your little Philly kid Read more

Want a photo that will last a lifetime? Chose one of these stalwart Philly institutions.

Philadelphia Zoo
What to Expect: A birthday party venue doesn’t get more iconic than this. Your crew will not only get admission to this beloved animal kingdom, but they’ll get a private tour, too.  Add-on options for more behind-the-scene activities abound.
The Breakdown: There are two packages to chose from, and the rules clearly state that there are no substitutions. Both options get access to the zoo for your guests, a private tour, a private room with set-up/clean-up crew, table coverings, free parking for the host, carousel tickets for the guests and a zoo-themed craft. The deluxe package gets you a lot more, like a zoo-on-wheels 20-minute show, fake tattoos and a gift for the birthday star.
The Pricing: The first option is $550 for up to 35 guests (that’s less than $16 each) and $775 for up to 50 guests; the deluxe option is $875 for up to 35 guests (that’s $25 each) and $1,050 for up to 50. Food is not included in either of these options, but you are allowed to bring your own. If you want it catered, the zoo can do that for an additional fee.
You Should Know: They count anyone who is over two years old as a “guest” so you’ll need to be clear that parents, siblings, kids … everyone counts. And if you have even one more person over the allotted number, they bump you up to the next bracket automatically. There are limited time options; parties are only allowed on the weekends in morning or afternoon sessions. Bonus points for easy online registration.

Please Touch Museum
What to Expect: The expert staff here will literally take care of everything, from decorating the room helping you lug in all your stuff from your car. Kids are guaranteed to have fun; the hardest part will be telling them the party is over.
The Breakdown: There are many options at a variety of price points. Each package includes all-day admission for guests, a carousel ride, use of the party space, a dedicated facilitator to help you out and to entertain the kids with games, free parking for the host, paper products, some generic decor, and invitations.
The Pricing: The Unlimited Pizza Party option is the most affordable. You’ll get admission, pizza, apple juice and water, carousel rides, and the room.  It’s $650 for up to 25 people. The next option is the Deluxe Party Small option, which includes everything mentioned above, but instead of pizza, it’s a specialized a la carte menu. That’s $895 for up to 25 people.
You Should Know: PTM counts every person as a guest, so that includes adults, grandparents, siblings, etc. Also, these parties are super popular so book early!

Smith Playground
What to Expect:
 This indoor playhouse and outdoor playground in Fairmount park is so large and multifaceted that kids will be entertained for hours, regardless of the weather.
The Breakdown: The playground is free for everyone, so reserving a space is really cheap. But don’t expect much help — you’ll have a facilitator to check in on you and take out the trash bags, but you’ll have to do everything else yourself.
The Pricing: The only indoor space for parties accommodates up to 15 children. It’s $150. In the warmer months (April through October) the two side porches can be reserved for $275, and hold up to 20 children. The birthday kid gets a shirt and crown. You can decorate as you see fit (just no tape) and bring all your own food. Many people have pizza delivered. You can also picnic in the front lawn, which is first come/first served. See the F.A.Q. for more info.
You Should Know: Parties are only allowed on the weekends and book up about two months in advance.

Franklin Institute
What to Expect: Your child and their pals will be entertained in a she’s-actually-learning-something way here. Plus: The heart!
The Breakdown: All parties include some special stuff for the guest of honor, museum admission, party-room time, an IMAX movie, a scavenger hunt, and special themed activity. (There are many awesome and creative themes to chose from like space adventure or “grassology”.) Parents get a party host to help facilitate it all and clean-up and serve food.
The Pricing: Basic pricing (which gets you all the above) is by party size. Up to 15 guests is $350, 16-25 is $475, 26-35 guests is $575, and 36-50 guests is $725. All adults and kids count as guests, but the birthday girl/boy is free. You can bring in your own food and cake or have the onsite (really good) caterer do it up for you. They’ll even make liquid nitrogen ice cream!
So You Know: While FI will welcome any group, kids aged 3+ will get the most out of the experience.

Academy of Natural Sciences
What to Expect: Dinosaurs! Butterflies!
The Breakdown: At the most basic level, partygoers will get museum admission, time in the party room, and a tour of the hands-on exhibits. If you want to pay a little more, you’ll get a theme, goodie bags, a cake, and a present for the girl or boy of the hour.
The Pricing: The basic, which is up to 20 guests (adults and kids count) is $305 for members or $325 for non-members. Each additional person is $10. To get the themed party, it’s $390 for members or $430 for non-members. Each additional person is $12. We’d definitely recommend paying the extra $50 to get a staff member bring a live animal and talk about it.
So You Know: Bring your own food and drink, or have it delivered.

Franklin Square
What to Expect:
Mini-golf, a huge playground, carousel, and lots of grass for lawn games.
The Breakdown: It’s a city park, so it’s free to use the picnic tables and playground. (See what I did for my daughter’s second birthday party.) But, there is an awesome party pavilion with a variety of package options.
The pricing: Packages start at $380 and go all the way up to $780. They all get you the pavilion, mini-golf tickets, unlimited carousel rides, pizza, drinks, and a facilitator. (The price differences really have to do with size of party more than what you get.) You can add on gift bags.
So You Know: You aren’t allowed to bring in outside food, expect for bottled water and cake. Like the other places, they count each person (adult or kid) as a guest, and you will automatically be bumped-up to the next party size if you go over the allotted number of guests. The pavilion is pre decorated, but you can bring your own stuff, craft activities, or entertainment too. (Entertainment must be pre-approved.) They’ll hook-up guests with $7 parking at a nearby lot, just ask when you book the party.