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Skip the Party: Birthday Party Alternatives For Kids

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This is a list of birthday party alternatives for families looking to celebrate birthdays in a less traditional way.

It is pretty well known that we don’t really “do” birthday parties in this family.  My mom never threw parties for me when I was growing up so it is almost a foreign concept to me.  Add that to the fact that they are usually pretty expensive and that I equate all expenses to the cost of airfare, looking for birthday party alternatives was kind of a no brainer for us.

We aren’t the only ones.  An increasing number of families are starting to move towards gifting their children [or even themselves] with experiences instead of gifts, moments instead of materials, and opportunities over presents.  So here is a list of birthday party alternatives for children of all ages!


You guys had to know this one was going to be #1 on the list.  Instead of hosting a ton of screamingly happy 5-year-olds at the local bounce house, treat the family to a family vacation.  It doesn’t have to be far and it doesn’t have to be extravagant — it’s all about the experience.  If you’re balling on a budget, check out these tips for finding inexpensive airfare.  For bonus points, let the birthday boy or girl help plan their birthday party alternative vacation.  They can choose the destination, the activities, and even down to the restaurants.



If traveling out of your city isn’t an option, explore the city where you live!  A staycation is a wonderful birthday party alternative.  Book a hotel in a nice area, fill the space with balloons, and have a super-powered family sleepover.  Look for hotels with a nice pool or located near a shopping center with fun activities the family would enjoy.



Keep it simple by gathering the family for a family outing.  You can include extended family [or not], a few friends [or not], and find local activities sure to make the birthday kiddo happy.  Some suggestions are:

  • A visit to the zoo
  • Skating at a roller rink
  • Bowling at a bowling alley
  • A family game of laser tag
  • A few laps around the track in go-karts
  • An interactive dinner [like the one at Safehouse Chicago]
  • A visit to a local waterpark [don’t forget to pack your essentials!]



Give your kid the gift of a philanthropic spirit by donating to charity as a birthday party alternative.  They can donate toys to a local shelter, gift a book to their school library, pick up trash in their neighborhood park, or visit a senior living facility.

If you’re in Houston and looking for kid-friendly volunteer options, check out Kids Meals’ Houston.  Small kiddos can help decorate lunch bags used to deliver meals to low income families.



Life is busy.  Between work, family obligations, spousal demands, and all the other things life brings your way, parenthood can go by fast!  Use your kids birthday to commemorate another year of watching them grow in wonder and give them a little one on one time.  Plan a day with just you and them doing any and everything they want to do.  Think of one thing you can do together every year that can become your own little tradition on their birthday like going for ice cream, sharing a cupcake, or seeing a movie.



Introducing your kids to the performing arts is a wonderful gift to give any child.  However, some of the more popular shows can be very expensive.  So why not save that special show as an annual birthday tradition?



None of these birthday party alternatives are exclusive.  Mix it up and do a little bit of everything!  You could even take a trip to Chicago to see Hamilton and go out to eat at a super fun restaurant!


Do you have any fun birthday party alternatives?

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