I have to admit – My kids’ birthday parties are not my favorite events of the year… At least the planning part.
It’s a bit of an oddity since I used to be run events by trade. And let’s face it – People scrambling for free stuff at those events was not all that different from toddlers scrambling for bubbles and cake at my kids’ parties.
I am not crafty. I’m creative, but not in this medium. I am quickly “over” the details, choosing to skip as many as my kids are too young to notice. People? Food? Cake? Check, check, check – I’m done. Getting the party out of my home and the details out of my hands is a much better solution for us.
I have like-minded friends (although thankfully some of them are much more creative and crafty). A few of us in my local moms’ group have spent the past few years combining birthday bashes since we’d all invite the same people anyway. A few weeks ago, we held a quadruple birthday extravaganza for four kids turning three, my daughter, Abby, included.
We held the party at Grounds For Hope Cafe in Lisle.
Grounds For Hope, located inside the Trinity building, has a massive open area when you walk in the door. To the right, there is an extensive coffee bar with some food available, tables, chairs, couches and even a fireplace. Even on rainy days when it is busy, I have yet to be there when it feels crowded.
To the left when you walk in is KidStreet, a play area in which kids can climb, run, and slide. For younger climbers (like my 17 month old daredevil), parents can fit into the entirety of the structure. Just be careful – the big slide is fast, and involves a lot of static electricity. You’ve been warned.
In addition to the larger play area, there is a separate room with toys and mats for infants along with play sets for toddlers such as a kitchen, dollhouse, etc. There is also a bathroom adjoining this room that has a smaller children’s toilet and a changing table.
Our party was on a Saturday, 4-6 p.m. Grounds For Hope has party packages from which you can choose. We selected the classic. The kids had an hour to play, and then we moved everyone to the third room to which we had access, where tables and chairs were set up with food, cake and gifts. The room included a long low table with chairs for the kids, which worked wonderfully for dinner and cake. There was also a tree house with slide along the wall, which kept kids entertained as well.
The entire space is well-kept and welcoming. With about 25 adults and 15 kids, we had plenty of room. The kids definitely had a lot of fun running around.
We had staff assigned to our party who were incredible – They made sure we had everything we needed, helped break down the party after and provided carts to load everything in and out of our cars. Although the staff was efficient with their help, I never felt rushed or pressured to get out since our “set time” was over.
The negatives were few. During planning, there was some confusion getting in contact with the right person to discuss catering options for the party. If you are looking for food to be provided, you can do it through them, but in the conversations I had, it did not seem to be their strong suit.
However, I actually considered the ability to freely bring in other food to be a positive since many of the places I’ve contacted in the past several years require you to select their pizza and cake meal and pay per person. So, we opted to bring in our own food, drinks for the kids and then paid for the adults to get their drinks from the coffee bar. That seemed to work well for us overall, although next time I’d bring a case of water into our room rather than sending people up front for that.
The other issue was space – As I said, we definitely weren’t crowded. But, since guests were able to move about through three separate rooms, it was hard to ensure that I was talking with all of our friends and family. (I question, though, whether that really happens at any event with young kids.)
Lastly, the tree house in our reserved room was great for everyone except for my family. Austin, toddler escape artist extraordinaire, noticed that even when the door is closed, there’s an opening from the tree house out into the hallway. That led to many laps of the building we would have liked to avoid. I’m still winded two weeks later.
Overall, we had a wonderful experience. Everyone had fun, we were able to provide food and details to the party that made it our own inside their space and the kids left happy and tired.
An added bonus? Grounds For Hope uses some of their profits for world relief projects.
And now I’m very, very glad I don’t have to throw another one of these things until June.
What venues have helped you stay sane during your kids’ birthday extravaganzas?
Note: I was not asked to write this review, nor did I receive anything to write it. The opinions expressed are my own.