Time was, when a game of pass the parcel (without the PC prize in every layer), a cheese sarnie, a balloon and a grandma drunk on sherry was all one needed for a child’s birthday party to be a roaring success.
Not so now.
Party bags have spiralled out of all control (and affordability), a party’s not a party without a pony, a petting zoo, or both, and it seems we have to invite THE WHOLE class.
Partied-out parents in the capital do have another choice though. Venues across London are cottoning on to the potential to turn the party panic into a party pleasure.
One of the most unusual is London Dungeons.
The iconic venue, just 100 metres from London Bridge Station, offers “terror-ific” party packages for a minimum of five children.
A thousand years of London’s darkest and most gory history is played out at the attraction with 11 actor-led shows and two scary rides which adds up to an educationally chilling and fun experience.
For £25 per child, staff will see to invitations, arrange priority entrance for the dungeon tour, take a photograph of each guest with one of the ghoulish inhabitants, and provide a “gory goody bag” for everyone.
For an extra fiver a head, each child can be transformed with horror make-up. Why wouldn’t you?!
The party we went to was fantastic. The children were totally absorbed in their adventure through “London’s horrific past” and staff were well drilled in the party routine.
I would suggest children under seven or eight would find it scary though.
✽ To book, call 0871 663 1670 or visit www.thedungeons.com
Just across from the Dungeons is another well-loved London landmark, HMS Belfast.
The magnificent ship served throughout the Second World War and remained at work with the Royal Navy until 1965. In 1971 it was decided to save her for the nation to enjoy, as a unique reminder of Britain’s naval heritage, and she is now open to the public, coming under the umbrella of the Imperial War Museum.
Aside from the vessel’s proud history, it being a wonderful place for children to explore and a hugely educational experience, what also makes HMS Belfast a perfect place for a child’s party is that under 16s are admitted free!
A new, interactive Operations Room which has a plotting table game and simulated radars – has just been unveiled, as well as a “gun turret experience” which offers visitors a chance to see what fighting at sea would have really been like.
Lights, audio, videos and projections will recreate the experience, highlighting the hectic, cramped conditions that would have seen 26 men in this confined space at any one time.
The guns are trained onto a target some 12 miles away in north-west London to illustrate the awesome power of naval gunnery in the Second World War.
Adults pay either £13.50 (which includes a voluntary donation towards the care and upkeep of the ship) or £12.25, and children must have an adult accompanying them.
✽ To book in advance, do so at http://hmsbelfast.iwm.org.uk/ or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 940 6333, Monday to Friday.
The London Eye has fast become one of the most recognisable landmarks the capital boasts.
Opened at the turn of the Millennium to usher in 2000, the structure sits on the South Bank, opposite the Houses of Parliament and just yards from Waterloo station.
The giant ferris wheel, now run by EDF Energy, labels itself a “truly inspirational” venue for a child’s party.
The birthday boy or girl gets to have an exclusive capsule for an hour for their celebration and each guest is presented with a party hat, a London Eye souvenir goodie bag and a birthday cake to share. Perhaps more importantly, parents each get a glass of Champagne!
There must be a minimum of 10 guests which should include three adults. The package also includes the all-important priority boarding pass which bypasses the queue.
✽ To book, call 0871 222 4002 or visit www.londoneye.com and click on ‘tickets and prices’ then ‘children’s party capsule’.
For most Saturdays of the year London’s big football clubs are the beating heart of the city, but they are also open for all kinds of hospitality and corporate entertaining throughout the week and most offer children’s party packages too.
An example is Chelsea FC, which says its parties are “memorable” and given that they include a private tour of the world famous Stamford Bridge stadium, they could well be right.
For £30 per child and £16 per adult, guests are also shown all the behind-the-scenes areas of the stadium and take part in a game of five-a-side football on the club’s innovative inﬂatable pitch.
The Chelsea Birthday Party Package also includes Chelsea FC invitations, a goody bag and a certiﬁcate for each child and must include a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 20 children.
✽ To book, call 0871 984 1955 or email email@example.com.
Fulham FC offers variously priced children’s party platters, with the option to add football coaching skills, a Fulham FC birthday cake and club goody bags. ✽ Visit www.fulhamfc.com or call
020 7862 5372.
But if you would still prefer to stay at home for the big day and let someone else take the strain, a number of “pop-up party” companies are available.
Check out www.londonforkids.net. It has a whole section devoted to fabulous ideas for a celebration from a fashion, modelling and make-up party, to a street dance bash.
DNA Kids also has a bewildering array of ideas (www.dnakids.co.uk). Among its most popular themes are the Spooktacular Monster Party, a Winter Wonderland, the Cool Kids Disco, a Pirates and Princesses party and a Jungle Adventure.
Optional extras – to really cheese off the other Mummies – include snow machines and laser light displays.
✽ For information, visit their impressive website, or call 01621 853000.