Children's birthday parties at home with cake and games will never go out of style. But if you or your child would like to try something different this year, there's no shortage of specialty sites in Howard County eager to host your celebration. It doesn't matter if your child is an artist, an athlete, an outdoor enthusiast or all three -- there is a specialty party designed just for him or her. Here is a sampling of sites to check out in Howard County:
The Mall in Columbia
10300 Little Patuxent Parkway
Talk about a great party favor! Each party guest gets to select, prep and dress his or her own furry friend to take home. All ages.
Columbia Association facilities
Choose from batting cages and ice-skating to swimming and Zumba. No matter what your child's interest, there's a specialized party available at CA locations throughout the county. Other themes include art, magic, princesses and extreme sports. All ages.
Clark's Elioak Farm
10500 Clarksville Pike
Run and play all you want at this outdoor venue, which features a petting farm, hayrides, pony rides, a tree maze, play areas and picnic tables. Open April to November. Fall parties include a visit to the pumpkin patch. Ages 1-12.
Earth Treks Climbing Center
7125C Columbia Gateway Drive
No experience necessary for a private climbing party for every skill — and thrill — level. Ages 6+.
Howard County Conservancy
10520 Old Frederick Road
Partygoers engage in a hands-on activity plus a 45-minute themed adventure ranging from animal tracking and insects to fossils and survival. Ages 5-10.
James & Anne Robinson Nature Center
6692 Cedar Lane
Book a weekend party and be wowed by a planetarium display or a presentation on anything from butterflies to changing seasons to the night sky. Ages 4-14.
7175 Oakland Mills Road
Jump to your heart's content on and in inflatable play pieces for all ages, then celebrate in an adjacent party room. All ages.
Kids First Swim School
7351 Assateague Drive, Suite 394
It's never too chilly in the pool, where the water is kept at 90 degrees. Swim for an hour, then spend an hour celebrating in a party room. All ages.
MarTar Swim School
6901-B Douglas Legum Drive
A lifeguard is always on duty and a party leader is assigned to your group to help with games and arrangements. All ages.
Play N' Learn Playground
9133 Red Branch Road
The Play N' Learn's Playground showroom features swing sets, trampolines, basketball hoops and more, then enjoy birthday cake in a private party room. All ages.
The Pottery Stop
9050 Baltimore National Pike
11821 Scaggsville Road
Provides pottery and everything needed to paint it. Many items and shapes to choose from. Parties range from 90 minutes–2 hours. Ages 5+.
Pump It Up
7184 Troy Hill Drive, Suite H
Multi-room inflatable fun zone and decorated party rooms. Staff handles all party needs from start to finish. New options include pirate and superhero themes. Ages 3+.
ShadowLand Laser Adventures
9179 Red Branch Road
Strap on a lightweight pack and enter the 6,000-square-foot arena for a laser adventure. Party sponsor and private room provided. Ages 6+.
10400 Cross Fox Lane
The giant slide at this Columbia Association pool has been a staple of birthday parties for decades. Parties scheduled October through June only. Ages 1+.
Tea on the Tiber
8081 Main St.
Forget punch and plastic cups. Try a civilized birthday party with scones, jam, fruit and cheese, pastries and desserts. Ages 5+.
8600 Foundry St.
You choose the level of difficulty for partygoers from activities ranging from zip lines, low and high rope courses, to giant swings and even treasure hunts. Participants must weigh more than 70 pounds. Ages 8+.