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I love kids’ birthday parties! I enjoy throwing them and, when my kids were smaller, I enjoyed accompanying them. I even like Chuck E. Cheese’s parties! And, if we’d ever been invited to one at McDonald’s, I suspect I would have enjoyed that, too.

My kids are 10 and 13, and over the years we’ve attended and thrown many parties. Bouncy house, at-home petting zoo, roller skating, slumber party, gymnastics, tubing on the Rappahannock, some simple family parties…I feel like we’ve seen a good range of celebrations and there’s been something fun about each.

If you’re debating between an at-home party versus an on-site party, I would say it’s a toss-up. At-home will probably take more work, but may save you a little money. A destination party will be easier, but generally isn’t cheap.

Then there is the worst of both worlds (and why we were insane enough try this option two years in a row is a good question): hosting a party at a local park. We had to haul all the goods with us and had no support at the party site. I’ll never forget how hot Kenmore Park was the year Joe turned 7. We lugged coolers, pizza, drinks, balls, Frisbees, favors and folding chairs to an open spot. The kids played and ate, Joe opened his gifts and, in a matter of minutes (or so it seemed), we were dragging all the stuff back to our van. But did we learn? No!

We repeated our folly the next year, reserving a shelter at Old Mill Park for his June birthday, and almost had a disaster on our hands: tremendous rain and flooding the weekend we initially chose. Fortunately, we were able to move the party a week later and it was a gorgeous, sunny Saturday. We hadn’t learned from our Kenmore experience and we still had to haul every last bit of party gear from the van to the shelter! We also had to keep a very close eye on the kids since the river was still high and no one could go wading.

We got some good stories from our park parties and great memories — sweat and hauling aside. That’s what I wish for you as your kids blow out the candles and welcome another year!


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