The kids are getting old; we've had lots of birthday parties in the last couple of weeks.
by grannola on May 17, 2007
The now 9-year-old wanted to go rock-climbing for his birthday ever since visiting the Rock Court at Dalplex with his cousins last year for March Break. The cost for the party was $165 for a maximum of 12 kids. That price included 1½ hours at the rock wall, and then an hour in a small party room. It also included napkins, paper plates, plastic cutlery, decorations, and a balloon for each child.We arrived 15 minutes before the party was to begin, as per the instruction I received when I made the booking. Most of the guests were in the lobby of Dalplex waiting for us. (Dalplex is the athletics complex at Dalhousie University). We waited a couple of minutes for some more kids, and my mom went to check on where we should be. After waiting for about 10 minutes, she came back to where we were gathered, with a staff member to take us to the rock wall, and with two of our missing birthday kids (who had somehow made it to the rock court).I should clarify, the Rock Court and the Rock Wall are two different places. The Rock Wall is near the birthday rooms on the main floor of the building. The Rock Court is downstairs, and is made from a converted squash or racquetball court.So, now, five minutes after the party was to begin, we finally get into the Rock Wall. We have one staff member, but we should have two because there are 12 kids. One of them apparently just didn't show up The one fellow who was there was very polite and apologetic, but there were still a few problems.After a few minutes of climbing without the ropes (they were allowed up to a 'red line' on the wall), the staff member called the Rock Court for back-up. The Rock Court staff couldn't come up because there were people down there too, but they decided to take half of the kids down there. Seemed like a good plan to them, and really wasn't awful, but they didn't let us know what was going on, they just started taking off with half the kids. Not a great plan.The Rock Court staff offered to let the kids continue climbing after the time was up, but the fellow at the Rock Wall didn't. Add the fact that parents were going to arrive on time, and the kids didn't get to climb as long as they should have. The party room was tight for the 12 kids, but it worked. There was a small fridge and a microwave in there, but the fridge did not seem to be turned on so it was rather pointless to bother with it.The other problem was that because it is an athletics club, you need a membership card to get in/out. Mom should have received one at the beginning but didn't, causing more problems. Anytime we needed to go to the car, we needed staff help.
by grannola on May 21, 2007
For the now 5-year-old's birthday, we went to the Funzone at Dalplex, which is where they do the babysitting for members of the Dalhousie Athletic club. It is a large play structure, like you find at fast-food restaurants. They also have a playhouse and a few small toys for the under-3 crowd. (Of course, my not-yet-2-year-old preferred playing with the big kids.)The party cost $120 for up to 20 kids, recommended ages 3-10. It included one hour of playtime on the Funzone, then an hour in the party room which was 'across the hall' from the Funzone. Dalplex supplied the plates, utensils, napkins, and a balloon for each kid. Although they charge for parking Monday-Friday, 7am-7pm, at Dalplex, it is free on the weekends. They have birthdays Friday nights, or Saturday/Sunday afternoons starting at 11am, 12:30pm, 2pm, or 3:30pm. They are not available June 25-September 4th.The Funzone was great for the kids. There was a wall all the way around the play area, to keep little ones from wandering off alone. The downside was that the water fountain and restrooms (both essentials with 4 or 5-year-olds) were outside the enclosure, and thus an adult had to accompany the youngsters. With this age group, lots of parents stay at the party and were very helpful with that. The staff at the Funzone provided very little assistance or supervision of our party.We could not access the party room until after the Funzone because there was another party right before us. (They did have time to send someone in to tidy up while we were at the Funzone). So, the fridge was pretty useless. Also, they did not have any extra napkins out, so we had to hunt for them.The party room was a very long narrow room with a table running down the middle of it. It was set-up for 20 kids, 1 at each end, 9 down each side. We only had 12 kids, so there were lots of gaps and the kids were very spread out. One of the biggest problems was the security. Dalplex has a roof that is maintained by air pressure. This meant that to get in and out of the party area, you needed to go through an air-lock, which required a membership card. We did not have a card (which we should have received when we first arrived for the party), so we had to rely on the Funzone staff to let us in and out every time we needed to get to the front door. The airlock didn't seem to bother the children, but many of the parents complained about their ears after coming through it.The kids all loved it. Some comments were things like "this is the best birthday ever" and "I want to have my birthday here". The parents were much less enthusiastic, complaining about the lack of organization on the part of the staff. (Most of the staff are university students.)
Kartbahn Indoor Karting is, as the name implies, an indoor go-kart racing track. It's located in the Bayers Lake Industrial Park, in Halifax.A birthday party here costs about $160 for 7 children. That's the birthday child +6. You can add on more groups of six invitees for an additional fee. This includes about one hour on the race track, then an hour in the party room. It also includes pizza, drinks, ice cream cake, utensils, plates, napkins and decorations.In order to ride the karts, the children must be at least 42". They started off by doing a slow 'yellow flag' lap, then they could go faster. My 9-year-old is apparently a bit of a speed demon, and he ran into the tire walls at least a few times. Because it's not the Indy 500, the 'racing' is done by lap speed. There is an automatic timer that keeps track of everyone's lap speeds. At the end of the racing, the children all received a copy of everyone's lap times.There was an observation window upstairs so the parents could catch a glimpse of their Mario Andretti in the making. The karts the children used were all electric, so the racetrack was much quieter than you might expect. After the racing (and after some of the parents got a turn on the karts), the kids headed up for the food. They loved getting to go pick a beverage out of the pop cooler (each kid got a 500ml bottle of soda, whichever flavour looked good). The pizza was actually two large Pizza Hut pizzas, enough for all the kids and some left for the dads. The cake was an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. Again, it was large enough for everyone to get a slice.This party was great from a kids perspective. Anytime 9-year-olds get to drive, they are bound to have fun. In NS, 8-year-olds are still in booster seats in the family car, so this is especially cool. Picking your own soda, lots of pizza, all good. It would be great for kids aged about 8 up, anyone tall enough to drive a kart, but not old enough to drive a car. (Or old enough to want to be a kids again, like the dads.)The party was even better from a parent's perspective. The kids all had a great time, but the mom didn't have to do any of the work. The food was provided, the cake was there, the room was pre-decorated. The only thing the parents had to bring was the treat bags for the guests. The parents even got to have a ride in the Karts (for an extra fee). If you have little ones to look after, or Grandma can't make it to help out, having very little to worry about is extremely important.Kartbahn has a website, but as of now it doesn't have much info on it: www.kartbahn.ca
by grannola on May 24, 2007
Ok, Ok, it's not a kids birthday party, but it sure was a great birthday party for kids, so I figure it counts for this journal.Sobeys grocery store is celebrating their 100th birthday, and so they threw a party with lots of free stuff to do and eat!The Sobeys closest to us started with a pancake breakfast from 8-11am (pancakes, juice, and coffee). It was in the Heritage Room, which I had never seen before, and I shop at that store at least once or twice a week. It's well hidden behind the juice fridge. From 3-7pm, there was a pile of stuff going on: free hot dogs and pop, sno-cones, and of course, birthday cake. They had a large decorated slab cake, but they hadn't cut it yet when we were there. They had non-decorated chocolate slab cake with white frosting for the early birds. This was all outside, where they also had a mustang show, and a bouncy house for the kids.In the store, along with the standard free samples, there was a bunch more stuff. In the community room—twice in the same day—they had face painting, someone making balloon animals, and cookie-decorating for the kids. The line for the face painting was long, as usual, so we skipped that; none of my kids were particularly interested anyway, so that was fine. The balloon animals were cute though and the two big kids each got one of those. All of my kids did the cookie thing too. The frosting had a lot of food coloring in it, so we didn't let the baby have any because we were afraid he'd be covered in it. He had a chocolate chip cookie though, so he was happy. The big kids both had frosting and sprinkles on their cookies.There was supposedly a coloring contest, but we never did find out anything about that.In the main part of the store, they had a domino display. They blocked off an area with cases of bottled water and the local domino man had a large display set up. He finished setting up around 5pm, but wasn't scheduled to knock them down until 6pm, so we didn't get to stay for that either.There was also supposed to be a magic show, but we had no idea where or when, so I'm figuring we missed it altogether.They were having draws for door prizes based on the number of your shopping cart. We heard that announced a couple of times, but it was hard to hear.One of the cool things Sobeys has going on is the products that are helping celebrate 100 years. Maxwell House Coffee, Kellogg's Corn Flakes, and Coca Cola, have all issued special anniversary packaging. Every time you buy something at Sobeys for the next while you get a ballot and collect-to-win stickers to win cool stuff. There is also a classic truck that will be doing the rounds this summer, with free samples. Cool!
by grannola on May 28, 2007
An indoor rock-climbing party at Ground Zero costs $100 for a non-private party, or $120 for a private party for up to 10 guests. You can add extra guests for 10 each. The parties last for two hours and are available on Saturday or Sunday at 10 or 6pm. They also allow for group bookings at other times for $10-12 per person (depending on the size of the group). Note: they do not accept credit/debit cards, only cash or cheques. The birthday parties are held when the place would otherwise be closed, so the sign says closed when you arrive. That's a bit disconcerting.The parties are well-suited for children aged 8 and up, but all rock-climbers under 18 need to have a waiver signed by a parent. The waivers are available on the website: www.groundzeroclimbinggym.com or when you get there. It is important to remember to check that all the kids travelling together have their forms, or someone will end up making an extra trip to get it.Ground Zero is located in an industrial park area. The shops are set up in a strip mall fashion, but with smaller window fronts and smaller signage than a strip mall. The buildings look quite similar as you drive up, making it hard to figure out which building, and where in the building you need to be. I was glad I had looked up a map on the website and figured out where to go. The building number is clear from Akerley Blvd, but the Ground Zero sign is not so obvious.The kids had a great time, with nine kids and five adults (only one staff member - the rest were parents who stuck around), everyone had lots of turns climbing with the ropes and gear, so they could climb quite high. Of course, the first thing one of the 9-year-olds did was climb (without safety gear of course) up to the area that was restricted to climbers aged 14 and up. The boys are all fearless and had no problem climbing that high, but it really isn't safe, so that was the end of that game. The girls had a bit more problem getting to the top, but they were determined and made it. Many of the boys got up to the top of the wall three or four times.During the down times, the kids had munchies, which was nice that they had something to do while waiting for their turns. It was very handy that the food could be close enough to the climbing area to make that possible.Everyone had a great time, and my 9-year-old immediately asked if he could come back another time. Even the 5-year-old sibling had fun climbing.
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