When I was a kid, birthdays meant a party with a cake, friends and family at home. Depending on the year maybe we went to Chuck E. Cheese, and there was that time when my parents sprung for a limo on my 13th birthday to drive me and my friends around :)
Raising a child in the city means things are a little different than they were when I was young. We're in an apartment so our space is limited, and last year hosting friends and family at home for Mia's third birthday was fun but overwhelming. This year we opted to gather with our friends and family in one of favorite parks, St. Mary's Playground in Bernal Heights. Thanks to some planning ahead via the SF Parks and Rec website and a few days of dry weather we had a fantastic party. The options for public party locations through SF Parks and Rec are endless and the process is easy—here are a few tips to ensure success on the big day!
Six Steps to the Perfect Park Birthday Party!
- Research locations. Start with the picnic area map of the city if you want to host an outdoor party, or this list of indoor clubhouses if you want to stay out of the elements.
- Pick your favorite park. Think about what your child likes do to most—chances are there's a park that will be perfect. If your kid is a playground lover, find a spot with lots of room for all the guests to play. If they like hiking, select a space with easy trails nearby. If you want a bouncy house like we had, some places are better than others. (My playground reviews can help you narrow down your options!) Visit the park at least once in person before you reserve to be certain it's the right spot for your group.
- Call the Parks and Rec office to reserve the space. Honestly you are supposed to be able to do it online, but the process is muddled, so just give them a call to get started at 415-831-5500. Fees vary but for most picnic sites its about $30 for a few hours, and indoor sites are $30-100 an hour. If you want a bouncy house Parks and Rec will give you a list of their approved vendors—we went with Jumping Jacks Jumpers, and while the arrived late they did give us a discount on the fee.
- Watch the weather. Since we've had so much rain this year I initially opted to reserve the clubhouse, but I kept an eye on the long range forecast and eventually cancelled it in favor an outdoor spot, which worked out perfectly. The rain stopped in time for the grass the dry out, and everyone loved getting some sun after being cooped inside for so many days in a row.
- Use Postmates to deliver the birthday boy or girl's favorite food straight to the park! We brought all the snacks and drinks to start the party (see recipes below), and ordered pizzas to arrive about an hour in after the kids built up an appetite on the playground. That way one parent didn't have to leave to pick up food, which was really nice. Use code VY7J to get your first delivery free, up to $10!
- Clean up after yourself. Part of the deal is that you'll take ALL of your own trash out after your event (even what goes in the park cans at your site), so bring plenty of paper bags for compostable or recyclable items and trash bags for the rest.