Once upon a time, children's birthday parties reached their pinnacle when groups of kiddies gorged themselves on pizza while playing in ball pits.
That time has passed.
From fairy princesses to business lessons, birthday parties these days offer anything a kid can dream of to ring in their next big year.
Crumpets and Crowns
When Lauren Oselette was a little girl, she never had an over-the-top birthday party. Her annual celebrations were the standard pizza parties and cookouts.
Perhaps that's why she started the extravagant and charming Crumpets and Crowns birthday tea parties.
"I never had anything like this," she said, looking around at the birthday-party room in her shop, The Cranky Princess.
Painted bright pink with a mural of oversized garden flowers, the Crumpets and Crowns tea room is designed specifically with little princesses in mind.
Partygoers look the part with a selection of dress-up gowns, glittery accessories and tiaras. They dine with dainty china teacups and saucers - sipping lemonade rather than tea - and nibbling small sandwiches and cupcakes. There are even tea cookies with each guest's name written in icing.
"Little girls come in here and get so excited about the costumes," Oselette said. "Once they put on those costumes, they aren't hyper little kids. It's almost instinctive for them to become little ladies."
Crumpets and Crowns tea parties include age-appropriate activities for attendees. Parties for younger girls feature jewelry making and jewelry-box decorating, while older girls can make glitter lip gloss and body lotions.
"They make great party favors," Oselette said.
Party packages range from the basic Princess Delight, which includes the luncheon, a charm lesson, activities, invitations and thank-you cards, to the Princess Paradise, which features the basic package plus a group photo and story time. A la carte options, including a horse-drawn carriage ride, dove release and theme cake, can also be added. Packages start at $298.
"This probably isn't the kind of party you would give your daughter every year, but if you want something memorable, it's a great idea for a special occasion," Oselette said.
Crumpet and Crown tea parties can accommodate up to 12 girls, and parties last about 90 minutes. The Cranky Princess is located at 988 Main St., Stone Mountain. Call 770-879-3553 or visit www.thecrankyprincess.com.
When Scott Shickler started Nirvana Cafe and Grille, he didn't want it to be just another restaurant. Shickler wanted a cafe with a concept his employees and the community could get behind. With his background as a business educator for children, youth empowerment seemed the natural route.
"That's the last thing the world needed was another cafe, so I made mine more than that," he said. "We want kids to be able to come here and learn something and feel better about themselves. That's why our kitchen is called the Empowerment Kitchen."
In the back half of the cafe's Alpharetta location, a long bar with about a dozen stools circles the Empowerment Kitchen. This is where kids can get down and dirty with one of the restaurant's three party options.
For the Perfect Pizza Making Party, attendees strap on aprons, grab pizza dough and load it with toppings. Kids can learn creative cooking skills and play games, as well as get an understanding of healthy eating. All of the pizza dough is whole wheat, and the topping offerings range from an array of vegetables to low-fat turkey bacon and mock ham.
"I want this to be more than a birthday party. I want the kids to learn something, and hopefully, they'll see that healthy eating is easy and still tasty. I've never had a kid know he was eating healthy until we told them," Shickler said.
The cafe also offers a Be the Chef party, where attendees make their own pizza as well as create their own ice cream flavors. The birthday boy or girl can design their own flavor of ice cream and even pick the name. Each child gets a pint to take home as a party favor, Shickler said.
With the Be the Boss birthday package, kids make ice cream, pizza and cupcakes, while also receiving a lesson on how to become a CEO. Shickler has a lot of experience speaking to youngsters about starting a business, and he gives a mini-lecture to attendees.
The birthday packages range from $15 to $35 per guest and last about 90 minutes. The Be the Boss parties last for two hours. For more information, call 678-277-2625 or visit www.eatnirvana.com.
Go ahead, pass the sugar - it's OK for kids to bounce off the walls at Monkey Joe's. In fact, it's encouraged. Monkey Joe's is an indoor playground, featuring inflatable slides and jumps.
Birthday-party packages at Monkey Joe's include invitations, up to two hours of play time and a private party room. Cleanup is no sweat for parents, as the store's employees do all the work. Paper plates, cups, utensils and tablecloths are included in packages, and the birthday child gets a souvenir T-shirt.
Party packages can also incorporate theme parties. But be warned: no outside food, except for cake, is allowed in the store, although pizza can be ordered for $14.95.
Packages start at $139 and can accommodate up to 24 children. Monkey Joe's has locations in Duluth and Norcross.
For more information, visit www.monkeyjoes.com.