Those darn birthdays–they keep coming around year after year. As the years go by, planning a birthday party for your child that is unique and different can be a challenge. Unless your kid is like one of mine who demands the same annual birthday event (I’m not gonna lie — it has been a wonderful phase), you are probably on the lookout for new ideas.
Fortunately, here in the Austin area, there is no shortage of venues to help your children celebrate their big day. There are perennial favorites such as skating rinks (both roller and ice), bouncy houses, bowling alleys, museums and miniature golf to name a few.
But sometimes we want to mix things up a bit. Austin has much about it that makes it special – why not take inspiration from our delightful city? From Austin City Limits to Barton Springs, to miles of bike lanes, there’s plenty that distinguishes our fair metropolis. What follows are three Austin-inspired birthday themes to make your child’s next birthday celebration a lasting memory.
Music Festival Party
Since Austin has claimed the title of Live Music Capital of the World, of course we had to kick things off with a tunes-inspired event. Take inspiration from Austin City Limits and organize your own musical extravaganza with the guests serving as both the musical entertainment and enthusiastic fans. Provide them with wristbands when they arrive to give them VIP access to the “stage.” Hang up a shiny backdrop on a wall or fence, then use lights or festive strings to rope off a small area in front to indicate the performance area. Offer cardboard or blow-up guitars so kids can really ham it up on stage. Divide kids into bands and have them take turns performing. Add a karaoke machine or just set up a music system and let them sing along.
Food: Create your own “food truck” serving station by setting up a table with signs for different food offerings. Bonus points for serving festival mainstays such as tacos, nachos, barbeque and ice cream.
Favors: Send kids home with temporary tattoos, sunglasses or glow sticks to keep that festival vibe going long after the guitar or drum-shaped cake is devoured.
Get a Move On
Get ready for a ride on the wild side with this birthday party theme that celebrates Austin’s bike and scooter culture. With its many parks and bike-friendly environment, Austin provides the perfect backdrop for a wheels-themed event. Festivities for the party can easily take place in your yard or a nearby park. Start out with a bike and scooter decorating activity. Hand out streamers and stickers for guests to deck out their bikes and helmets. Lay out playing cards and clothespins. Kids can attach the cards to the spokes of their wheels and make a fun tat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat sound as they ride. Organize a parade. Line up the guests behind the birthday child and ride up and down the street (if it’s safe in your neighborhood) or around the park. Encourage lots of whooping and hollering from both parade riders and spectators. Set up an obstacle course with cones, and if the weather is warm, add some sprinkler stations to help cool off riders. If you want to take the party off-site, many local parks feature kid-friendly bike trails. Dick Nichols Park has a 1-mile paved loop trail great for young riders and Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park has several trails for all skill levels. Mueller Lake Park has an easy loop around a lake.
Food: With wheels as your theme, you can serve a variety of round food items. Pizza and bagels can be decorated to look like tires with spokes. Make a pasta salad with wagon wheel pasta. Add some fruit to the mix with orange, kiwi or tomato slices. For a sweet treat, make edible scooters with pretzels stuck into large-sized marshmallows.
Favors: All that riding is sure to make everyone thirsty. Gift each guest with a reusable water bottle and attach a note: Hope you had a wheelie good time!
Backyard Barton Springs
If you are planning an event during the warmer months (which conveniently in Austin can mean anytime between May and November), you can’t go wrong with a pool party. There’s no more famous pool in Austin than Barton Springs. But what about bringing Barton Springs to your own backyard? One of the major traits we all know and love about Barton Springs is that chilly 68-degree water. Recreate the goosebump-inducing experience by filling a large kiddie pool or two in your yard with water…and ice! Toss in a few plastic salamanders in honor of the Barton Springs salamander, and you’ve got your very own Austin swimming hole. Kids will get a kick out of seeing if they are bold enough to wade and play in the icy water. You’ll need to keep replenishing the ice to keep things cold, so have a few ice-filled chests in reserve. Plus, with kiddie pools, kids will stay cool and even non-swimmers can fully join in the fun.
Food: The best food options for a pool party are those that won’t suffer from being too close to some vigorous splashing. Cheese and veggie platters, watermelon slices, sandwich kabobs (without the bread) and pasta salad should satisfy even the hungriest – and dampest – guests.
Favors: You can’t go wrong with pool-themed party gifts such as beach balls, swim goggles, pool noodles and beach towels. Connect it to Barton Springs by adding a cute plastic salamander toy. So there you have it – birthday party fun, Austin-style. Each of these themes can be modified to fit the age range of your child and their guests. Put your own unique stamp on each event through the invitations and decorations. Who knows? Your kids may love their Austin-themed party so much, they’ll ask you to recreate it again and again for years to come!
Carol Kim is an Austin-based children’s book author and freelance writer. Her latest book is “King Sejong Invents an Alphabet.” Learn more at CarolKimBooks.com.