At-home birthday parties are great if you want to save money, but that also means you have to have the party in your house. No thank you. But, finding kids birthday party places that won’t break the bank can be a challenge, especially considering the kinds of places that kids typically want to go.
However, some good options are both affordable and fun for kids of all ages.
Here are some kids birthday party places that are free or cheap so you can stick to your budget and keep your sanity in check.
10 Kids Birthday Party Places That Are Free (or Very Affordable)
Having a party outside the house is great for a lot of reasons. First, the kids will usually have something to do, so there’s less pressure to entertain. You can keep decorations to a minimum and the refreshments simple too.
It also means that there’s no mess in your house, no worry about kids getting into something off-limits, and the birthday kid feels like they’re doing something extra special too. Plus, not everyone has space or a yard to accommodate a bunch of kids!
That doesn’t mean you have to book an expensive venue or activity, though. There’s plenty of great places to host a birthday party that won’t cost much more than having it in your own home.
Here are 10 kids birthday party places that are free or cheap.
This is my absolute number one favorite free birthday party venue. Some places even offer reservations for free or a nominal fee. There are usually picnic tables, public bathrooms, and shelters. Best of all – plenty for the kids to do!
Borrow some folding tables and serve simple foodYouou could also bring along a portable grill to cook up some hot dogs and burgers if allowed.
2. The Beach
If you live near the water (including lakes), then a beach birthday party is always fun. Especially when trying to entertain older kids.
Pack up the sand toys, grab a bottled water, and have everyone bring a towel. You might also want to get some extra help with supervision, especially if you have a lot of kids coming or they’re not all great swimmers.
Some places also have very inexpensive or even free pools available (especially in condos or apartment buildings) that would also make a great children’s birthday party venue!
3. Animal Shelters
This might vary from place to place, but where I live, the local animal shelter actually offers free virtual birthday parties. Other SPCAs I found charge between $50 and $200 for an on-site party which usually includes everything except a cake.
Birthday kids are sometimes encouraged to fundraise before the party, and that money gets donated to the animal shelter. Shelter parties are great for animal lovers and kids who already have too much stuff. Usually, donations are given instead of gifts!
4. Churches or Community Centers
Our community center costs only $50 to rent for a birthday party and can accommodate fairly large groups. You don’t need to worry about tables and chairs and often they have kitchens that you’re able to use.
Both churches and community centers sometimes have indoor play facilities or kid-friendly spaces that make for great parties too.
5. Hiking Trails
There’s nothing wrong with thinking outside the box when it comes to children’s birthday party ideas. Instead of picking a specific venue or having a traditional party, take the kids hiking. Bonus points if you’re able to reach a fun destination or stop at a playground during your adventure.
Give kids their own bags of trail mix and Gatorade for the journey. For the actual birthday celebration, pack a picnic and serve cupcakes instead of cake.
6. Board Game Cafe
These places usually charge per person, and you can stay and play games as long as you’d like. I’d especially recommend this birthday party location to someone with older kids like tweens and teens.
Be careful, though – the price can go up quickly if you plan to order food while you’re there. Some places have affordable birthday party packages, though. One local to me charges $13.75 per person, including fountain drinks, ice cream, and popcorn plus unlimited board game options if your kid has 5 guests, that’s less than $100 for the entire party, including food!
7. At a Restaurant
Most restaurants that have play places also offer birthday parties. Usually, they come with everything you need, including kids meals for all the guests. For the cake, you’ll have the option to bring your own in or sometimes they sell them too.
Usually, they’re pretty reasonably priced compared to the cost of party food, favors, decorations, and so on.
8. Museums and Zoos
Sometimes these places are expensive, especially if you buy into their party packages. But there are also lots of museums and zoos that have relatively low admission costs.
Plan the party outside of mealtimes and plan to have a cupcake picnic somewhere nearby. Or skip the cake entirely and enjoy the venue! If you and your guests have memberships, this could be a really inexpensive birthday idea.
9. Skip The Party Entirely
Older kids, or ones who only have a couple of good friends, often prefer something low-key over a big birthday celebration.
For the same price as a traditional birthday party, you can usually take 2 or 3 kids out to dinner, to an arcade, to the movies, etc., and have way more fun.
10. Have it at Home
Of course, your home will always be the easiest and cheapest children’s birthday party location. If you can’t find something suitable or the weather isn’t cooperating for an outdoor party, you can always host a birthday at home.
It’s hard to argue with the convenience (especially if you have other kids) of not having to lug anything to and from another location.
The key to keeping this venue frugal is to avoid overspending on decorations and food. Keep the party activities fun and easy while making sure to plan for the space available. Plan some backup games just in case, but don’t make the party too long, so kids get bored.
Ways to Save Money on a Children’s Birthday Party
Saving money on kids birthday party places is only the beginning. You can do lots of other things to have a frugal party without looking like a cheapskate. Here are some other ways to save money on your child’s birthday party.
- Avoid meal times – It’s cheaper to serve juice and light snacks over a full lunch or dinner.
- Keep the guest list small – If you can, don’t invite the whole class. Instead, stick with just the children your kids play with regularly.
- Consider all the costs when making a choice – Sometimes, paid venue parties are cheaper once you factor in the cost of food, party favors, and entertainment at home.
- Invite family instead of friends – You can ask more of your family members (for example, a potluck-style dinner or bring your own lawn chairs) than you can of other guests.
At first, it may seem like a tall task to find a location to host your child’s birthday party without spending a small fortune.
However, choosing kids birthday party places that are free or cheap can be just as fun as picking more expensive venues. Remember, kids don’t remember how much money you spent on their birthday party. All they care about is having fun with their friends and the memories they made!
Tawnya is an elementary special education teacher by day and co-blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned by night.
She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University. She has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer.
Tawnya and co-blogger Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. They teach people how to save money, make money, and understand money.