Making Children’s Birthday Party Memories
By Tracy D. DeStazio
Some of the most precious memories I have of my children growing up occurred on birthdays.
In fact, one of my proudest “Mommy moments” was riding horseback through the dappled sunshine of a perfect fall day at my daughter’s seventh birthday party. It was “a day at the ranch,” with a barbeque lunch by the campfire, horse mane brushing, bunny petting, s’more roasting … you get the idea. My daughter remembers it fondly even now, many years later.
There’s a lot to be said about hosting a children’s birthday party off-site, where the noise and mess are handled by someone else. Alternatively, many creative and talented parents plan children’s birthday parties at their own homes and design and produce their own themes, food, decorations, cakes and activities.
Either way you choose to do it, a tremendous amount of time, energy, and love is often devoted to making every birthday party a success.
Kirsten Owen, a Gulfport mom to four young boys, said that some of her favorite parties were hosted at home.
“It’s as if we took more ownership of these parties,” she said. “They seemed more special to me because I was very invested in them.”
One of her masterpieces was a murder mystery party for her 13-year-old. Character descriptions and assignments, props, medieval decorations, and awards for those who solved the murder — and for best actor/actress or best dressed in costume — were all carefully thought out and executed by Owen.
“I was happily surprised to see how involved all of the children were in solving the mystery and how they enjoyed playing their roles,” she said. “My son says it was his favorite party he’s ever been to, and he still talks about it almost a year later.”
Owen also makes the birthday cakes herself, allowing her kids to choose their own flavor combinations of cake and frosting.
“I truly enjoy having the pleasure of making all of their cakes,” she said. “It’s a special tradition for our family.”
Whether you wish to foot the bill for an all-inclusive party or do it all from scratch, what matters most is “making memories with your family and friends,” said Salina Domino, co-owner of Domino House Special Events and Florals, and events coordinator for Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, both of Gulfport.
“What makes children’s birthdays memorable [for them] is being with their friends and how special they are made to feel,” she said.
“In planning a birthday party for your child, it doesn’t have to be the most extravagant,” Domino continued. “Who you are with can make the best birthdays ever.”
Domino suggested delving into what your child is really interested in, whether that be a book character, a favorite color, a hobby, or a beloved song.
“Whatever the theme is, create a total package around it,” Domino advised.
Domino recommended that the most successful birthday parties are the ones that are planned with your child.
“It is their special day,” she said. “It might not be what we [as parents] would like to do for our birthday, but it is what they want. It is all about them for that day!”
No matter the budget, “children need to feel involved and appreciated on their special day,” she added.
Birthdays are a special day full of fun and memories. They represent the day that person came into this world. For that, Owen concluded, “there’s no better reason to celebrate!”
Following is a sampling of a few birthday party venues on the coast:
— Altitude Trampoline Park, Gulfport: (228)314-3316
Parties include jump time, party table, and party host.
— Big Play Entertainment Center, Biloxi: (228)388-7529
Packages can include bowling or arcade, plus food and host, depending on level of package. Venue also has bumper cars, go-karts, a laser maze and mini-golf.
— Escape This Biloxi, Biloxi: (228)331-1100
Book your game time in one of several themed escape rooms. Your group has an hour to put together all the clues in the room, complete the objective, and escape the room. (Not for small children.)
— Finishline Performance Karting, U.S. 90 in Biloxi: (504)377-8221
This go-cart racetrack venue offers two different sized tracks and two speeds of racing, concessions, arcade and party rooms.
— Golden Gate Skateland, D’Iberville: (228)392-4395
Party package includes skating during regular skate session, skate rental and party room for one hour of use.
— Hint Hunter Puzzle Rooms, D’Iberville: (228)273-4064
Choose from five different themed rooms, with 30 or 60 minutes (depending on the room) to solve the mystery and exit as winners. (Not for small children.)
— Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, Gulfport: (228)896-9182 ext. 1750
Parties include a tour of the facility and a pre-decorated party room (three themes to choose from), goodie bags, crafts and paper products. Optional “dolphin experience” upgrade allows birthday child and guests to touch one of the dolphins.
— Kroc Center MS Gulf Coast, Biloxi: (228)207-1218
Party packages include two hours of venue space and party room. Choices include a swimming party; art party (painting on ceramics or canvas); music party (creating and playing an instrument); or princess party with food, makeup and nails service, princess crowns and make-your-own bracelets.
— Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, Gulfport: (228)897-6039
Weekday, weekend, and after-hours party packages include use of a party room and playtime spent in the museum, paper products, and a small gift for the birthday child.
— Margaritaville Resort, Biloxi: (228)271-6354
Offers various party packages to include party room and access to the Escape Family Entertainment Center indoor arcade.
— Monkey Joe’s, Ocean Springs: (228)875-6659
Wall-to-wall inflatables, arcade games, concessions, and a dedicated party room. Packages include paper products, party host, and drinks. Optional add-ons include food and goodie bags.
— Mullet Hop Trampoline Park, D’Iberville: (228)273-2934
Various party packages include one hour of jump time and private party room. Some packages include food, drinks, paper products, host and jumping socks.
— Sal & Mookie’s New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint, Biloxi: (228)207-9697
Offers a children’s Build Your Own Pizza party, with toppings and personal pizzas that kids assemble themselves; two hours in a private party room; chef hats to color; Wikki Stix; and drinks (some packages include ice cream).
— Seward Farms, Lucedale: (228)641-3936
Year-round parties with two hours in a party hut or at the fire pit. Depending on season, packages can also include golf, hayride, cowtrain ride, jumping pillow, yee haw slide, pony rides, corn cannons, corn maze admission, and unlimited access to play areas.
— Tea Celebrations, located inside Sugar Delights Gifts, Ocean Springs: (620)727-2605
Offers children’s tea party packages in a private party room, complete with catered food, teas, and old-fashioned dresses, gloves and hats for dressing up. Options include teacup painting activity.
Following is a sampling of a few birthday party venues in the Pine Belt:
— Extreme Skate Zone, Hattiesburg: (601)261-5330
Three party packages differ based on number of guests and party inclusions. Packages offer 90 minutes at party table or in private party room, drinks, pizzas, paper products and t-shirt gift.
— Grand Paradise Waterpark, Collins: (601)765-8118
Package prices vary depending on number of guests, but include party table for one hour, paper products, balloons, drinks, goodie bags, and choice of food. (Birthday packages do not include admission to the park.)
— Hattiesburg Zoo, Hattiesburg: (601)545-4576
Four different themed party packages include various zoo amenities for 24 guests (including adults), reserved party area, party host, all-day zoo admission, paper products, drinks, cupcakes, ice cream, and gift. Add-ons include additional food; train or carousel tickets; ropes course; or an animal encounter.
— Laser Mania, Hattiesburg: (601)543-0072
Four party packages include laser tag sessions, private party room, birthday cake or pizzas, drinks, table settings, souvenir photo, t-shirt gift, invitations and party host.
— Petal Roller Dome, Petal: (601)544-6500
Birthday parties can either be private or held during public skate sessions (three packages in this category), and include skates, paper products, drinks and party room.
—Pine Belt Level 10 Video Gaming, serving greater Hattiesburg: (601)434-5405
Party packages include either a 90-minute or two-hour block of time inside the mobile video game truck that is outfitted with gaming consoles, a virtual reality station, a selection of video games, and a game coach who runs the party from start to finish.
—Updown Trampoline Park, Hattiesburg: (601)909-9060
Party packages vary, but may include one hour of jump time, 45 minutes in party room, jump socks, paper products, party hostess and gift. Add-ons can include drinks, pizzas or chicken wings.
— Zoofari Kidz Indoor Play, Laurel: (601)319-7397
Pricing varies depending on number of guests, but packages include two-hour party session, themed decorations, paper products, invitations, drinks and gift.
Tracy D. DeStazio is a freelance writer and editor living in Biloxi. She has been married to her high school sweetheart for 23 years and they have three children. Her favorite childhood birthday party memory took place in her very own backyard when she turned 6 years old. All her neighborhood buddies came over to play Duck, Duck, Goose and Hide & Seek. Her mom made a beautiful, coconut-sprinkled white bunny cake with pink licorice whiskers.