1. A Is for Apple
Go apple picking, and kids can harvest their own healthy goodie bag while they get fresh air and exercise. Some orchards offer bonus activities, like visits with farm animals.
Sample price tag: Honey-Pot Hill Orchards; Stow, Mass.; $95 for ten children.
2. Teddy and Me
Birthday guests make a furry friend from scratch. Kids choose, stuff, and accessorize their bear and then take it home. Check out buildabear.com for locations.
Sample price tag: Build-A-Bear Workshop; Springfield, Mo.; $10 for one bear per child, six-guest minimum, plus cost of accessories ($2 to $15).
3. Crafty Idea
Paint your own pottery--mugs, bowls, plates--at a ceramics studio.
Sample price tag: All Fired Up; Burlingame, Calif.; party packages starting at $15 per child for one piece per child with two hours' painting time (kids usually take just over an hour to paint one item).
4. Five-Alarm Fire
For a donation, many fire departments offer their space and time. Young partygoers can talk with firefighters, try out equipment, and even hop aboard the truck. But beware, if the fire bell rings, the party is over!
Sample price tag: Gladwyne Fire Company; Gladwyne, Pa.; $200 minimum donation.
5. Factory Tour
From crayons to jelly beans to potato chips--your kids can find out how their favorite stuff is made on a tour of a local factory, with free samples and goodie bags waiting at the end.
Sample price tag: Crayola Factory (visit crayola.com/factory/); Easton, Pa.; $9 per child (or rent a party room for cake and fun, $150, plus $8 per guest).
6. Sundae School
Your local ice-cream shop provides the ice cream and the toppings, you provide the sugar monsters. Contact a parlor in your town, or log on to benandjerrys.com for Scoop Shop locations.
Sample price tag: Ben & Jerry's; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; $15 to reserve the back room, $5.25 per child (includes beverages).
7. Bowling Bonanza
Your party will have a ball bumper bowling at your nearest alley. Don't forget to wear socks!
Sample price tag: Lynnwood Lanes; Lynnwood, Wash.; $48 for 1 1/2 hours of bowling and shoe rentals for eight kids.
8. Gym Dandy
Many fitness clubs, recreation centers, and Ys offer high-energy activities such as swimming, basketball, and games.
Sample price tag: Piedmont Family YMCA; Charlottesville, Va.; $150 for up to ten kids, who work with an instructor and other staffers as needed.
9. Ice Is Nice
Kids can heat up on the ice with skating, games, and music. Skate rentals are often included in the per-child price, and rinks usually have an event room for gifts and birthday cake.
Sample price tag: Rink Side Sports; Gurnee, Ill.; prices from $10 per child, ten-guest minimum.
10. Something Fishy
Touch tanks, crafts, and specially guided kid tours are sure to be fun for everyone.
Sample price tag: Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk; Norwalk, Conn.; $225 for a 25-person birthday-party package for nonmembers or group admission rate of $6.25 each for ten or more.
11. Young at Art
Find a museum that offers special kids' exhibits and programs, and take the gang.
Sample price tag: Coyote Point Museum; San Mateo, Calif.; $255 for up to 24 people (including adults).
12. The Great Outdoors
Host a party at a nature center or botanical garden. The fun includes nature walks, plantings, and other projects.
Sample price tag: Boerner Botanical Gardens; Hales Corners, Wis.; parties from $125 for up to ten children.
13. Say Cheese!
Young chefs design a personal pie and then chow down.
Sample price tag: Nina's Pizzeria; Northport, N.Y.; a make-your-own-pizza party is $12 per child, ten-guest minimum.
14. Karate Kids
Little ones will get a kick out of a party at a martial-arts studio. They can play games and learn real karate kicks appropriate to their age.
Sample price tag: Dinoto Karate Center; Mt. Laurel, N.J.; $149 for up to ten children.
15. Where the Wild Things Are
Head to the zoo and check out the animals by touring with a staff member, or zoo-it-yourself and host your own group viewing.
Sample price tag: Denver Zoo; Denver, Colo.; $11 per child for members, $14 per child for nonmembers.
Copyright © 2005. Reprinted with permission of Parents magazine May 2005 issue.