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:
Build-A-Bear Workshop The Mall in Columbia 10300 Little Patuxent Parkway Columbia 410-997-3505 www.buildabear.com 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 Multiple locations www.columbiaassociation.org 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 Ellicott City 410-730-4049 www.clarklandfarm.com 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 Columbia 410-872-0060 www.earthtreksclimbing.com No experience necessary for a private climbing party for every skill — and thrill — level. Ages 6+.
Howard County Conservancy 10520 Old Frederick Road Woodstock 410-465-8877 www.hcconservancy.org 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 Columbia 410-313-0400 www.co.ho.md.us/robinsonnaturecenter.htm 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.
Jumpzone 7175 Oakland Mills Road Columbia 410-309-5966 www.jumpzoneparty.com 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 Jessup 443-755-0111 www.kidsfirstswimschools.com 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 Elkridge 410-799-8887 www.martarswimming.com 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 Columbia 410-992-0992 www.playnlearn.com 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 Ellicott City 410-480-0111 11821 Scaggsville Road Fulton 301-317-9936 www.thepotterystop.com 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 Elkridge 410-579-1122 www.pumpitupparty.com 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 Columbia 410-740-9100 www.shadowlandadventures.com/fun96 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+.
Splashdown 10400 Cross Fox Lane Columbia 410-730-7000 www.columbiapools.org 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. Ellicott City 410-480-8000 www.teaonthetiber.com Forget punch and plastic cups. Try a civilized birthday party with scones, jam, fruit and cheese, pastries and desserts. Ages 5+.
Terrapin Adventures Savage Mill 8600 Foundry St. Savage 301-725-1313 www.terrapinadventures.com 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+.