San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Painless Parties: Making Birthdays to Remember

¡Cumpleaños feliz, te deseamos a ti!Ah, the sound of children singing“Happy Birthday” … dozens of childrensinging “Happy Birthday,” … all in yourhome.NOT a clue who to turn to for help inpreparing a children’s birthday party?Exactly such a dilemma confrontedlocal resident Judi Voorhees recently whenplanning a 3rd birthday party for sonLanden. Armed with the phone book andthe Internet, she went on a search and discoveredKid’s Fiesta in the western SanJosé suburb of Escazú. The end productwas a party for 50 children and accompanyingadults with a sports-carnival themethat the Kid’s Fiesta folks brought to herhouse.“It was a little more than I wanted tospend,” Voorhees said, “but well worth it.”And the rave reviews are still coming in:“The birthday party to end all parties,”described one mom.SOME locales (McDonald’s, BurgerKing) immediately come to mind if you’rea veteran of such affairs in North America.But Costa Rica is loaded with plenty ofother options too, and all provide a site forthat special day for your child.Prices vary with the number of peopleattending.Old standby McDonald’s (257-1112)celebrates birthdays at 26 of its restaurantsaround the metropolitan area. (Smallerfood-court outlets are, obviously, notoptions.) Packages (¢20,000-40,000 [$45-90]) include food for the children — adultspay extra — as well as party favors, a gift,educational games and a host’s services.Expect similar accommodation fromBurger King (209-2500) at 15 of itsrestaurants around country. Its Kids’ Clubparties are designed for children six andunder and include food, party favors, a giftand a host. Kids over seven can enjoy themore elaborate BK Party Extreme, whichtosses in music and a piñata. Packageprices begin at ¢13,000 ($30).A party doesn’t get more educationalthan one held at the Children’s Museum(Calle 4, Ave. 9, 258-4929, ext. 123) in thecenter of San José. A group tour of themuseum and its kids-friendly exhibits isthe highlight of the festivities, but thesefolks also toss in invitations, cake, partyfavors, game prizes, a gift, music and food.(Meals for the adults are extra, althoughthe museum does include coffee and beveragesfor them.)If you’ve attended a children’s party atGymboree in North America, you’ll feel athome at Gymbo (Guachipelín de Escazú,288-2275), although it’s not affiliated withthe U.S. company. A trampoline and climbingwall (with supervision and instruction)are the highlights here. Three-hour packagesrun from $165-225 and include cake,beverages, balloons and invitations.Similar in concept is the highlyregarded CelebrArte (Bello Horizontede Escazú, 228-9487). The place is awashin play areas, games and stands managedby attendants who preside over the festivities,which can be geared to kids of allages. A basic three-hour package for 35people costs ¢80,000 ($180) and includesinvitations, cake, popcorn, piñatas and aclown.Kid’s Fiesta (Guachipelín de Escazú,288-5972) does things up big with invitations,popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs, coffeefor the adults, an ice cream machine,hosts and waiters, karaoke, music and agift for the birthday boy or girl. A three-hourparty for 30 people will cost about$430. These folks also offer a variety oftheme packages and will be happy to bringthe party to you.ON the northeast side, Pims (Guadalupe,280-0416) has two-hour packages for15 children which start at ¢19,500 ($45)and include invitations, decorations, a gift,games, a piñata and hosting services. Cakeis included; other food may be ordered à lacarte. Entertainment such as clowns, puppetsand magic shows comes at an extracost.The Parque de Diversiones (west ofHospital México, 242-9200), the largeamusement park west of the city, canaccommodate up to 30 children at a birthdayparty. Packages (¢70,000-125,000[$150-280]) include decorations and food,as well as a pass for all the rides and attractions.A bowling-themed party at MetroBowl (Guachipelín de Escazú, 288-1122)might just throw a strike for older children.Packages start at ¢33,700 ($75) for 10 kidsand include 90 minutes of bowling, shoerental, ball use, decorations, invitations, agift of a bowling shirt and pin for the birthdayboy or girl, and the services of ahost/instructor. Food and cake are additional.Extra options abound, most famouslyits Cosmic Bowling package (¢50,000[$110]), with fog, disco lights, lasers andthe chance to bowl to The Beach Boys,Britney and Beyonce.IF you wish to make all the partypreparations yourself, but a venue is allyou need, a couple of places offer theirfacilities.The Fútbol Cinco (Pavas, 291-0818)sports club rents out its west-side installationsand is perfect for a soccer-themedparty. Half the field is yours for two hoursfor ¢25,000 ($50); ¢40,000 ($90) gets youthe full field. Both options include use ofthe park shelter to serve food before, duringand after play.If your child’s interests tend towardlions and tigers and bears, oh my, considerSan José’s Simón Bolívar Zoo (BarrioAmón, 233-6701). With advance reservationand the price of admission for eachattendee the zoo will set aside an area foryour party. Adults and children over sevenpay ¢900 ($2); kids ages three to seven pay¢700 ($1.50); children two and under areadmitted for free.

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