Our Annual Party Planner
Parties By the Pros | Party Etiquette 101 | Planning a Block Party
Parties by the Pros
Sometimes you just need to throw a great party! There’s nothing like hosting and seeing all your friends together in the same place. Organization is key. It takes preplanning and thought to host a party that everyone will talk about months after the event. Don’t know where to start? Check out the party places and advice from the pros in this section.
Main Event Entertainment
Main Event Entertainment Is the most FUN you can have under one roof! Enjoy multi-level laser tag, fun-filled bowling and an arcade gallery with 100+ arcade games! We are your event destination with packages for team building, corporate events and stress-free birthday parties. MAIN EVENT HOFFMAN ESTATES: 2575 Pratum Ave., Hoffman Estates, IL 60192. (847) 645-1111. MAIN EVENT WARRENVILLE: 28248 Diehl Road, Warrenville, IL 60555. (630) 393-9400. For more information, visit www.mainevent.com.
LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago
Building birthdays beyond belief for children ages 3-10 years old! Experience a one-of-a-kind LEGO® birthday experience with over 11 attractions including rides, movies, and play areas. Party package includes private room, pizza, drinks, cupcakes and LEGO Mini Build for each guest. ($25 per person, reservations required 3 weeks in advance) 601 N. Martingale Rd., Schaumburg, IL. Visit chicago.legolanddiscoverycenter.com or call (847) 592-9708 for more information.
Kohl Children’s Museum
Another year older and another year smarter! Make your child’s next birthday party one to remember by providing the gift of learning in a fun, unique environment that your kids and guests will love. Flexible packages all include full-day admission for your guests, choice of party length, and curbside assistance for set-up and teardown. Food options are completely your choice as well! 2100 Patriot Blvd, Glenview. For more information, call (847) 832-6923 or visit www.kcmgc.org/birthdays.
Funtopia hosts the most FUNbelievable Birthday Parties! Our packages offer a unique way for kids to have fun and be active on awesome attractions while parents can relax and enjoy the great atmosphere. Two FUNtastic locations:
- Glenview: • 2050 Tower Dr. • 224-432-5435 • www.funtopiaworld.com/glenview
- Naperville: • 2639 Aurora Ave. #103 • 630-718-4327 • www.funtopiaworld.com/naperville .
Sno Daze Tropical Sno
Sno Daze Tropical Sno is the leader in the Hawaiian Shave Ice industry for BEST flavors and people worldwide recognize the Tropical Sno name. We specialize in private parties, Girl Scout badge workshops, fundraising and corporate events. Be the “hostess with the mostess” and book us for your next awesome event or visit our “beachy surf side” themed shop for your next sweet summer treat! Our customers are at the heart of everything we do! 7667 S. Harlem Ave. Bridgeview, IL 60455. 708-458-2216. www.tropicalsnodaze.com.
Fleetwood Roller Rink
Fleetwood Roller Rink Fleetwood Roller Rink is a family owned business. Our venue hosts public skating, birthday parties (our specialty) private parties and fundraisers. We promote family fun for all ages. For “health sake, roller skate.” Come visit us and join in our fun. Skating lessons available every Saturday at 1 p.m. Located at 7231 W Archer Ave, Summit, IL 60501. Call 708-458-0300. Check for our ongoing specials and public skating times at www.fleetwoodrollerrink.com Like us at facebook.com/FleetwoodRollerRink.
Let Your Adventure Begin! Safari Land has everything you need for a complete adventure. Whether it’s bowling, video games, rollercoaster, kiddie carts, food or other fun, Safari Land is the place for your party. Come ride the tiger terror…take a spin in our 360 degree, full-motion, 3D flight simulator, play in our soft play area, or throw some strikes during cosmic bowling. Buy a wristband for only $10 (see details on ad). Contact us to book your next adventure of a lifetime. 701 W. North Avenue, Villa Park. 630-530-4649. Visit www.safarilandfun.com.
Mon Ami Gabi
Mon Ami Gabi is the perfect place to host your wedding or next special event. From bridal showers to rehearsal dinners to business gatherings, you’ll work side-by-side with our seasoned Catering Manager Jessica to plan your special event. With two private rooms located off the main dining room, both feature glass paneled French doors, deep mahogany wood, rich leather banquettes and a mosaic tile floor. Treat your guests to our signature Steak Frites, boutique French wine pairings and decadent dessert. Contact Jessica today at email@example.com. Mon Ami Gabi is located at the east side of Oakbrook Center mall, near Neiman Marcus at 260 Oakbrook Center Oak Brook, IL 60523. monamigabi.com.
Sweet Street Candies and Goodies
Sweet Street Candies and Goodies is an old fashion candy store that carries nostalgic candy, a wide variety of chocolates, imported licorice and super premium scooped ice cream. Pick from favorites you remember as a kid. We’ll custom design any special occasion gift basket from your candy and gift item selection. We specialize in unique favors, corporate gifts, candy buffets and ice cream sundaes to go. Call us to order gifts for family, friends, clients or for your next business event. Stop in for a sample at 17 W. St. Charles Rd., Lombard. 630-627-8510. (Buy One Get One FREE Ice Cream Cone when you bring in our ad.) www.sweetstreetcandies.com.
Rock ‘n’ Kids
It’s party time! Kid Rock ‘n’ Roll music and dance parties are for children 1-6 years! We take our fun on the road and bring the party to you! During our 45-minute program, your party guests will have a blast with our kid-friendly rhythm instruments and movement props, and will participate in a musical parade, parachute games, a freeze dance, a balloon drop, and much more! From toddler songs to the most current dance songs for little ones, we have it all! Wiggle, giggle, dance and play the Kid Rock way! Contact us for our current party specials! www.rockitkids.com / 847-961-6584.
Odyssey Fun World
The place for out of this world family fun for all ages! Plan your next birthday party here. Boasting 150+ arcade and redemption games, a 4-story soft play center, Laser Tag, numerous exciting indoor rides, and great food! All summer long we offer Go Karts, Mini Golf, Bumper Boats, a ZIPLINE (30 feet high!), and an Inflatable Kidz Park! FREE Movies on the Green every Friday night Mem Day – Labor Day. New FUN special event every Weekend all Summer long! Visit odysseyfunworld.com for exclusive discounts, or call 708-429-3800. 19111 S. Oak Park Avenue, Tinley Park.
Chateau Orleans Banquets
Chateau Orleans Banquets is the elegant banquet hall directly attached to Chuck’s Southern Comforts Cafe in Darien. Not only does it make the perfect destination for weddings, it also can accommodate business meetings, special events, private functions and so much more. The room which can hold up to 300 people can also be divided into different sizes as well to accommodate parties of any size! The room features a spacious dance floor, a stage and a bar. The food is exclusively provided by Chuck’s and the menu offers a wide array of choices for you and your guests. Be sure to take advantage of our newly renovated Gazebo which makes for a perfect picture spot in the spring and summer! For booking and pricing contact James and Jackie our Banquet Managers at 331-431-4000 or visit our website at www.chateauorleansbanquets.com for more information.
Party Etiquette 101:
It happens all too fast: one minute, you’re wiping up the crumbs from the first-birthday cake smash. A few whirlwind years later, your precocious preschooler brings home a stack of birthday party invitations penned by parents you’ve never met. Party evites invade your inbox and group texts detailing last-minute party plans zip back and forth with the urgency of national security missives. Your child has hit the birthday party scene, and it’s hoppin’.
Given that kid birthday parties are big business — the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions reports the kids’ party venues charge an average of $370 per party; add in decorations, food, and favors, and costs can easily top $500 — it’s understandable that parents want to get it right.
That’s easier said than done, though. Parents bring different expectations, cultural norms, communication styles, and budgets into the party planning process, and etiquette can fall through the cracks, says Jacqueline Whitmore, an internationally-recognized etiquette expert, author and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach. And the increasingly paperless world of party communications leaves room for etiquette missteps; per online stationer Punchbowl[ii], 73 percent of parents prefer to send online invitations.
While there’s no formula for the “perfect” party, avoiding these party planning pitfalls keeps the focus where it belongs—celebrating your not-so-little-one’s big day.
In today’s uber-connected world, responding to party invites has never been easier; email, texting, or simply checking a box on a web-based evite takes all of 30 seconds. But these days, many guests mistakenly consider RSVPs optional, says Whitmore. This leaves the party-planning parents to guestimate the guest list, or track down and re-contact all invited guests’ parents about whether they’ll attend. And nobody has time for that.
“It gets frustrating when people don’t reply at all, or respond ‘maybe’ but don’t update as to whether they’ll come or not,” says Raina Johnson, a Tacoma mom of three boys.
“If you’re fortunate enough to be invited to party, respond as quickly as possible,” Whitmore says. Whether you can or can’t attend, respond to invites—including evites and text invites—within a week at the most. And if plans change and your child can’t attend, contact the host ASAP so the food, activities, and party favors earmarked for your child can be repurposed.
A top parental pet peeve: Supersized (or super spendy) soirees that make your casual neighborhood cupcake-and-juice fete look ho-hum by comparison. “I’m tired of over-the-top parties that make my kiddos wonder why we don’t spend $5 grand on their birthday,” says Eagle, Idaho mom of three Lynne Williams. “We went to one a few years ago that had two bouncy houses, hired entertainment, catered food, full bar, craft projects….all for a three year old.”
While the size of the budget and guest list are personal preferences, you can skip some stress (and save green) by focusing on party details your child will notice and remember. And consider this: it will be hard to impress a teenager who’s received mega-parties since babyhood. One way to dial down the crazy is to only include activities and entertainment that can reasonably fit into a 90-minute party—roughly the party attention span of a kindergartener—with enough schedule space for cake and relaxed socializing. That means you don’t need the bounce house, band, slip n’ slide, pizza-making station, and petting zoo. One to two “main event” activities, with a quieter option like crafting or coloring for overstimulated kiddos, is festive without feeling forced.
Scale back on decorations, too, says mom of two Yin Chang, co-owner of L3 Academy, a Montclair, New Jersey learning center that hosts STEM birthday parties. “Kids either completely ignore decorations, or they look at them for five seconds.”
Skip the sibs
As soon as invitations go out, the “siblings welcome?” queries come in. And some parents will show up with their entire brood in tow. This stressful scenario stretches party budgets and party hosts’ patience, because some parties are simply more enjoyable on a smaller scale.
“We do small birthday parties at our house, and if child comes with a sibling or two and both parents, the party triples in size for food, gift bags, and activities,” Gretchen Coulson Smith, Tacoma mom of two, says.
Party activities aren’t always well-suited to younger sibs, says Chang. Her parties can involve experiments with chemicals; though not toxic or dangerous, they’re not designed for toddlers. “We put a minimum age on those party invitations, for safety reasons,” she ways.
Avoid this sticky subject by clearly addressing paper invitation to the invited child, says Whitmore. This gets trickier for evites, which may not allow senders to specific which child the invite is for. In those cases, a quick email or text with “We hope Ameila can attend Jake’s party!” can spare an awkward back-and-forth later on.
On the other hand, “the more the merrier” parents can let guests know that sibs can attend with a simple “siblings welcome!” note on the invitation. When you’re not sure—because of limited space at your venue, for example—write “please inquire about siblings” to head off sibling surprises. And if sibs aren’t on the guest list, consider making the party a “drop-off” celebration (also, of course, indicated on the invitation); parents with young kids may not be able to stay for the party if they need to keep their other children at home.
Goodie bags gone bad
Goodie bags filled with dollar-store junk irk Amy Hussey, a Tenino mom of two. “Keep it consumable so it doesn’t add to the clutter!” Or skip goodie bags entirely—most families won’t miss them.
If you just bear to abandon giveaways, consider a copy of the birthday child’s favorite book, a packet of seeds or a bulb to plant, a single can of Play-doh, crayons and small notepad, or a take-home craft like a hair barrette or a bookmark. A party favor that fosters family time or quiet play after the excitement of a party will be welcomed by guests’ parents—who may be inspired to reciprocate when their child’s party rolls around.
Special occasions: Festive fetes for every guest
If your child has special needs or special dietary restrictions, let the party host know when you RSVP. When you’re the host, ask parents of children with special needs how you can make their child more comfortable at the party; if you’re not sure which children may need accommodations or special foods, check with your child’s teacher.
Parents of children with restricted diets often assume that party food will be off-limits to their child, and may bring their own; if party fare will be allergen-free, let parents know on the invitation. Party locales that tend to be accessible for guests with mobility limitations include children’s museums, bookstores (some have party rooms or meeting rooms), libraries, craft stores, and accessible parks and playgrounds; a simple park outing, arts-and-crafts party, or story time celebration makes for an manageable soiree that’s enjoyable for all.
By Malia Jacobson
Hosting a Block Party
Block parties are a terrific way to get together and meet people in your community. If the party will be on public lands, an application or permit may be required.
Your city officials can provide the orange cones or caution tape to mark where the “boundaries” are for safety.
Make sure that you ask others to participate in the fun of helping to set up and tear down the event. It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors better.
There’s no need for formal invitations. Just print and distribute the flyer with all the details and slip them under doors of all your neighbors doors 4 to 5 weeks prior.
Fun and Games
Provide simple age appropriate activities for kids to do while parents/adults visit. Some suggestions to consider: set up and supervise a bouncy house, obstacle course, sprinkler or slip-n-slide, chalk drawing, Bozo buckets and bean bag games. Provide some background music or a karaoke machine to help break the ice. Encourage the talent in your neighborhood to come forward to entertain the troops such as musicians, magicians.
Which type of block party will work best in your neighborhood?
- Try not to go overboard, it can make people feel the event is too much work…Keep it Simple!
- Barbecues – organizers purchase all that is needed and neighbors provide the money; everyone brings his or her own meat.
- Picnics — everyone brings their own meal;
- Pot luck – everyone brings one dish;
- Catered — everyone shares the cost and the food is purchased.
Ask families to bring their own beverages (BYOB) for adults and kids.
Set up a table for condiments and paper products. Ask people to bring their lawn chairs, blankets, and a tent if they prefer.
You’re going to be having so much fun, your kids will want to stay up playing after the sun goes down. So make sure you can still see where the kids are by passing out glow sticks or just have a basket of cheap flashlights for the kids (and fun-loving grown-ups) for playing flashlight tag.