Photo courtesy of Adventure Park at Sandy Spring

Editors' Pick

Best Kids Parties for Fresh-Air Fun

With COVID-19 still a concern, planning a kid’s birthday party can be tricky. Zoom gatherings and car parades have run their course, and not everyone has the backyard space to host a celebration at home. Here are five cool places for parties where you can take advantage of the outdoors.

Climb Time

For kids who like to climb—trees, playground equipment, kitchen counters—The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring offers two birthday party packages that get partygoers off the ground. The Labyrinth, a two-tier climbing structure featuring swinging bridges, ladders and zip drops, is available for private group rentals for ages 7 and older. The $480 party package includes 90 minutes of exclusive use of the Labyrinth for 16 climbers (12 guests and four chaperones for 7- to 11-year-olds), plus nearby picnic space. With the Aerial Forest party option, guests ages 5 and older get access to an obstacle course with 15 trails through the trees (ranging from 12 to 65 feet in the air), made up of swinging bridges and zip lines—along with picnic table reservations. The cost is $49 per person with a 10-person minimum; there are two-hour or three-hour options for the same cost, but the two-hour option includes goodie bags. Bring your own food, or order from the park’s on-site food truck. As an add-on upgrade, groups can also reserve the Black Diamond Area, a private section that includes picnic tables and a firepit stocked with wood. That’s $50 for two hours; $25 per hour for additional time. The park is closed for climbing until March, but the office is open and taking reservations for parties in 2022.

The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring, 16701 Norwood Road, Sandy Spring, 240-847-3352, sandyspringadventurepark.org/groups-parties 


Field Days

Perfect for sports fanatics, the Wheaton Sports Pavilion offers two-hour party packages ($210) with one hour on the outdoor covered turf field and an hour in a party room. Parties can include up to 20 guests, age 6 and older. Groups bring their own sports equipment and refreshments. Favorite activities on the field include soccer, flag football, dodgeball and obstacle races. If you’d rather skip the party room and play sports the whole time, ask about a field rental; prices vary depending on the time, season and whether you live in the county.

Wheaton Sports Pavilion, 11751 Orebaugh Ave., Wheaton, 301-905-3070, montgomeryparks.org/parks-and-trails/wheaton-regional-park/wheaton-sports-pavilion/open-field-programs 


It’s Only Natural

For kids who love the great outdoors, Locust Grove Nature Center is a prime location for a celebration. Run by Montgomery Parks, the Bethesda facility offers packages that include use of the Armstrong Cabin party room (windows and doors stay open for ventilation) and its adjoining outdoor patio, and an hourlong outdoor activity led by a naturalist. Favorite themes include the Dinosaur Discovery, where kids get to dig for fossils; the Campfire Caper, where guests learn about building a campfire, roast marshmallows, and go for a nature walk; and the Stream Splash!, where partygoers can search for fish, crayfish and other wildlife in Cabin John Creek. Party packages are $275 for three hours (including setup and cleanup) and up to 20 children.

Locust Grove Nature Center, 7777 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda, 301-765-8660, montgomeryparks.org/parks-and-trails/cabin-john-regional-park/locust-grove-nature-center/program-events/birthday-parties 


Photo by Rebecca Drobis

Echoes of Fun

With art deco architecture, neon signs and a historic carousel—remnants from its days as an amusement park—Glen Echo Park is an enchanting setting for a party. Groups of up to 30 are welcome to use the free public picnic area, available on a first come, first served basis. For larger celebrations, the park offers a variety of covered spaces for rent, like the Putt-Putt picnic area ($75 for four hours), which comes with six picnic tables under a 10-by-10-foot tent and accommodates 30 to 40 people. There’s a playground with swings and climbing structures, and the carousel runs from April 30 through late September. Party hosts can bring their own food and refreshments. Under normal operations (non-pandemic times), the park also offers party packages that come with an art lesson, a show at the children’s theater, or a visit to the aquarium.

Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, 301-634-2222, glenechopark.org


Party Animals

Hang out with the farm animals at Butler’s Orchard, where packages include the use of a picnic area and full access to the farm park with its giant slides, wooden play structures, pedal tractors and barnyard friends (think goats, pigs, chickens and donkeys). Site rentals range from $150 to $395, depending on the time of year. Party activity options change with the seasons. Harvest Parties (offered June through September, $395) include fruit-picking and a tractor-driven wagon or trolley ride. During offseason parties, groups can also add on trolley or hayrides, campfires and fruit picking if crops are available, for an additional cost. Food packages, such as a picnic meal including hot dogs ($8) or hamburgers ($9), with chips and soft drinks, are available on-site—or you can bring your own refreshments.
Reservations are available from late March through October.

Butler’s Orchard, 22222 Davis Mill Road, Germantown, 301-428-0444, butlersorchard.com