Editor’s note: In an effort to help Wheeling families navigate what’s offered here, this story presents some options for kids’ birthday parties. Be on the lookout for an upcoming story on children’s summertime activities.
Pinterest-perfect birthday parties probably have multi-layer professionally designed cakes, décor to rival Martha Stewart’s best efforts, and carefully thought out games and activities, including adorable treat bags for each attendee to take home to remember the stunning party.
But if (like me) you want a wonderful and memorable birthday party for your child without spending months designing invitations and handcrafting a unique Pin the Tail on the Donkey game, the key is location, location, location. And Wheeling has lots of locations to choose from for birthday party fun.
Open since April 2018, Tripp’s Fun Zone, located in the Elm Grove Plaza, is perfect for a mini-ninja and high-energy birthday parties. Never worry that the constantly changing weather will ruin an adventurous party — there are indoor bounce houses and an obstacle course at Tripp’s.
Proprietor Joseph Bond, with the input of his 9-year-old son and business namesake Tripp, has provided Wheeling with lots of active entertainment. Kids ages 2 to 7 will enjoy this location. The giant, inflatable obstacle course lets them compete with their friends to climb, slide and jump. A huge Connect Four game is a head-to-head competition on a grand scale. The ball pit is a highlight for younger kids as is the small climbing unit with a slide. A variety of playhouses provide an opportunity for imaginative play.
Two different bounce houses round out the offerings. One larger bounce house includes a slide and a giant game of Twister inside the inflatable structure with room for lots of kids to stretch and tangle their limbs.
Brian and Kim Phillips of Wheeling chose Tripp’s as the location for their son Owen’s first birthday party. They appreciated the cleanliness of the facility and the variety of activities for the celebrant and his guests. “It’s enclosed, so it’s easy to watch all the kids,” Kim said. Owen enjoyed “bouncing on all the inflatables, and the bubble machine was a big hit,” she added.
Tripp’s is open for free play Tuesday through Friday and every other Sunday. The facility is available for parties on Saturdays and the opposite Sundays. Parents are welcome to bring décor in their child’s favorite theme and provide cake and snacks in the seating area.
Two levels of parties are available at Tripp’s. The standard party is for up to 26 guests and is held during open play hours. The private party option gives exclusive use of the entire play center and can be held on the weekends when Tripp’s is closed to the public. Larger groups — up to 50 guests — can be accommodated. Tripp’s hosts about 17 parties each month, so these high-energy parties need to be planned about two months in advance.
Located in the former South School in Martins Ferry, this giant space allows for endless options of fun. The large cafeteria holds 90 people and has lots of space for snacks and gifts.
Renting by the room allows parents to host a party of any size. There are princes, superhero and Ninja Turtle bounce house rooms, as well as a Mickey and Minnie Mouse-themed ball pit room. The main attraction at Blazing Fun has to be the gym full of high-energy fun. An obstacle course even adults can enjoy, a 12-foot inflatable slide, surfboard and a bungee run are all housed in the school’s former gymnasium.
Gary and Dana Rose of Martins Ferry held their daughters’ birthday party at Blazing Fun recently. “The girls’ birthdays are close together, so being able to rent multiple rooms was great for a joint birthday party. The older kids played in the gym, and the younger kids enjoyed the princess bounce house room. Plus, having the multipurpose room allowed for adults to have space to socialize.”
During the summer months, Blazing Fun can bring their parties to any location. A rock climbing wall, 24-foot slide and photo booth can be rented for an impressive party in your own backyard. Schools and festivals rent the equipment as well, but, owner Debbie Spano is excited to bring these exciting physical challenges to parties all over the Ohio Valley.
Conveniently located in downtown Wheeling, the Children’s Museum has something for every kid. A climbing wall, kinetic sand table, giant building blocks, a fully stocked craft corner and endless opportunities for pretend play, the Children’s Museum will entertain high-energy kids just as well as those who prefer quiet crafts.
Jim and Darcie Wetzel of Wheeling recently celebrated their daughter’s eighth birthday at the Children’s Museum. “It was affordable and easy, with almost no preparation on our part. But the highlight for Charlotte was that there was a lot of indoor space to run and play in. That was important with the cold weather we usually have in February.”
The facility offers four different birthday party packages from which to choose. All levels have access to the private party room with tables and a refrigerator for snacks and supplies. The three top levels also provide 20- to 30-minute themed programs. Themes include dinosaurs, princesses, art, crazy concoctions and superheroes. Terra Crews, director of the museum, is always adding new themes and is available to create new themes with families.
The top party levels may also include cupcakes, goodie bags, face painting, ice cream, drinks, table coverings, pizza and more. Check their website for complete information for party bookings.
Any kid would love a birthday party that involves robots, piles of Legos and building giant people-sized structures. That’s what the RNR Discovery and Learning Center in Fulton can offer for a celebration.
Anya Baker of Wheeling is very glad she chose RNR Discovery and Learning Center for her daughter Eva’s eighth birthday. Having four children of her own, Anya noted, “It was the small kindnesses of the owners going the extra mile to get the party just the way I wanted it. From carrying cake into the building to helping kids with building projects, they were conscientious of making sure she loved her special day.” Eva loved the “special Legos behind the counter that they allowed her and her friends to play with. She felt they were just for her, as the birthday girl!”
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They offer two different levels of party experiences at the play center. The Builder’s Bash provides a space for play as well as typical birthday celebrations and snacks. Parents can bring food and décor in their child’s favorite theme.
In the Themed Parties, owners Chris and Kelly McCoy provide fun activities related to Minecraft, Pokemon, Disney Princess or Mickey and Minnie Mouse. For all the parties, attendees are given “play all day” passes and, best of all, the facility sets up as well as cleans up after the party. Parents can relax and watch their kids explore and play.
For more information about parties, visit their website.
The Fulton Fun Factory is crammed full of exciting, active fun for kids. There is a grand total of seven bouncy playhouses and obstacle courses in two rooms as well as a party room with tables and chairs.
Great for all ages, Fulton Fun Factory has age-appropriate fun for younger and older children.
Bounce houses in several sizes make it easy to accommodate children of different age and ability ranges at the same party. The popular obstacle course with two tracks allows friends to race to the finish.
Owner Beth Hinebaugh has been told repeatedly that her facility is the perfect place for kids to “get their energy out and for parents to have a low-stress party.” Kids have more than enough activity to fill their two-hour party, and parents can relax knowing they are in a safe and clean play space.
The Fulton Fun Factory has party times available on weekends and evenings, but parties should be planned two to three months in advance. Their website has more information on booking and availability.
Do you have an animal lover? Then Oglebay’s Good Zoo has a dream-come-true birthday party package. Any party has admission to the zoo for 25 guests and use of the exclusive party room for two hours. Attendees can celebrate all day long with the birthday boy or girl by strolling the zoo and enjoying all the exhibits throughout the day.
The very best part of the party experience at the zoo is an animal encounter. Party guests get up-close with up to four animals, such as an American alligator, guinea pig, barn owl and many others. Most of these animals can be touched and observed. Zookeepers are knowledgeable and are excited to answer any questions the kids have about the animal friends.
Families can also choose activities such as feeding the lorikeets and goats, an animal experience or a full tour of the zoo. During the private tour, they will learn about the animals’ diets, environments and how the zoo cares for the animals.
Rides on the iconic trolley are available, and the planetarium can be rented for a movie of the celebrant’s choice on the giant screen.
Does your child ask a million questions about everything from the smallest atoms to the largest gas giant planets? Then a birthday party exploring some of these fascinating topics is perfect. The SMART Centre Market answers kids’ burning questions about their world in a fun and hands-on way.
Owners Robert and Libby Strong have decades of science teaching experience and bring this to the party in a fascinating way. They encourage kids to think about topics like dinosaurs, magnets, magic, space and more.
Dave and Betsy McFarland of Martins Ferry held their daughter’s birthday party there two years in a row because the first time was so much fun. “I didn’t have to buy favors because we just gave every kid a gift certificate to the science shop. Plus, each kid got ice cream from their ice cream shop. The kids loved the experiments, and Mr. Robert is so great with them. It’s so fun to watch him interact with the kids and the way they all light up when he shows them something amazing.”
The SMART Centre Market is endlessly fascinating to walk through, so given the chance to see experiments and play with dinosaur poop is perfect for inquisitive kids.
Art with a Touch, located in Bethlehem, hosts parties for kids with an adult-like flair for art and creativity. The honoree can choose to paint pottery or a canvas for their celebration. Each child has a stylish and hand-designed memento to take home after the party.
Owner Stacey Taylor visited a pottery studio in Florida with her children and enjoyed her experience so much she decided to start her own business in Wheeling. Five years ago, Art with a Touch opened giving Wheeling children and adults the opportunity for a new creative outlet.
While the facility does have regular hours in which guests can paint pottery or glass, create tile mosaics and board art and design canvas art, parties give small groups the chance to celebrate through art. Visit their Facebook page for booking and more information.
Wheeling has a party spot for any interest a child has. From high-energy and physically active parties to cerebral science themes and an artist’s paradise, partying in Wheeling is way more fun than planning the perfectly Pinterest-worthy goody bags.
• Stacey Sacco is a Wheeling native currently living in Martins Ferry with her husband and four children. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work and previously worked for several social service agencies. She is currently the production editor for InWheeling Magazine and a blogger at OV Parent.