5 North Shore spots to party a birthday away

My son’s 7th birthday is two weeks away, and while planning his party, I realized: dang, things have changed. When I was little, birthday parties were at people’s houses. There’d be some games, maybe. Some running amuck outside. Cake, ice cream, boom, you’re done.

For better or worse, birthday parties now are more involved. They’re usually held at a venue, and a little more planning is required. I’m all for it, though, and here’s why: hosting 17 boys at home (my son’s final guest list count) isn’t something that particularly interests me. In that spirit, here are five North Shore favorites that welcome the mess, noise and chaos that any birthday can throw.

The Grove

Travel back in time to meet the dinosaurs, tip your hat for tea, or invite a slithery snake as the guest of honor. These are just a few of the interactive party themes offered by The Grove Interpretative Center. Each two-hour party is led by staff who are passionate about teaching kids the joy of the world around them.

1421 Milwaukee Ave., Glenview


Five Seasons Family Sports Club

Choose from four themes: pool party (indoors or out, depending on the season), old-fashioned party (like the kind we used to have but better, with classic games such as Musical Chairs), sports party (basketball, soccer, dodgeball, tennis, kickball … you get it) or craft party (hands-on crafting resulting in a take-home masterpiece). A party leader keeps the fun flowing, and basic place settings are included. Bonus: the add-ons are endless, from pizza and cake to decorations and invitations. Five Seasons membership isn’t required to host a birthday party.

1300 Techny Rd., Northbrook


Growth Spurts

For kids ages 2–5, this interactive play space is a fun, bright place to party. A variety of structures encourages creativity and role play, from pretend mailboxes to make-believe cooking. Even Elmo’s been known to make a birthday party appearance.

404 Linden Ave., Wilmette



Climb all around, scale up high or explore the cavernous depths of Funtopia, a climbing gym just for kids. Each party package includes pizza or hot dogs, place settings and invitations. Choose an area of the facility for the fun (climbing walls, jungle gym or cave) before the birthday boy or girl gets to shoot down the giant slide and launch high up on the Jump in Air.

2050 Tower Dr., Glenview



Bocce to bowling, pizza to pasta, Pinstripes throws a party that’s fun for the adults, too. Private reception rooms can host up to 200 guests. (If your child has that many friends, I’m impressed. Or deeply sorry. Not sure.) Want to pull out all the stops? Host a pizza-making party led by one of the restaurant’s chefs.

1150 Willow Rd., Northbrook


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