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Super-sized ice cream sundaes back the pedicure stations at Sundae Spa in Waterbury (877/737-3593 or sundaespa.com). Cherries the size of basketballs hang from the ceiling, and giant lollipops and cupcakes line the walls of the party rooms. This is obviously not your mama’s day spa: It’s the state’s first spa designed entirely for kids and since it opened last October, it’s been hot, hot, hot! Party packages can include everything from pouffing and pampering (facials, pedis, manis, hair wraps) to teaching the girls how to stir up their own lotions and potions like lip balms, bath fizz and body sprays in sweet scents like cotton candy and watermelon. The new “Divalicious Dolls” package ($375 for eight guests) includes a hair style/wrap and eye “kandy” application for the girls as well as a lesson in how to style their dolls’ hair. The dolls (seated, but of course, in their own tiny salon chairs) also get their own eye “kandy” applied. A yummy sundae tops off the celebration and each girl goes home with a framed photo.
WORK IT, BABY
The Workshop at the Eli Whitney Museum in Hamden (203/777-1833 or eliwhitney.org) is one very cool place. The folks here are all about learning through what they call “essential experimentation,” and are ready and willing to help the kids get as messy or as noisy as it takes to make sure the “color and sound and feel” of their experiments are everything they should be. The logistics: Two-hour parties are $15 per child with a 10-child minimum and you must be a museum member (family memberships are $45 for the year). Projects to build and bring home range from a pinball machine that teaches force and motion to a reversing switch and buggy that explores electrical and magnetic energy. The staff will even design a custom project to suit your budding scientist’s interests. Told you: Way cool.
THE SILVER SCREEN
Book a party at Bethel Cinema (203/778-3100 or bethelcinema.com) and the landmark independent theater will wish your child “Happy Birthday” on its outdoor marquee for all the world to see—how’s that for a turn in the spotlight? Packages are $245 for up to 10 children (the birthday child and siblings and adults are free) and include a theater all to your own (the cinema has four that seat between 76 and 165), party space for post-show festivities; popcorn, drinks and cake all around; invites, thank-you notes and paper/plastic goods; and a balloon for each guest. Better yet, it’s BYO movie! Just grab any DVD your child wants to see (for the first time or the 50th) and you’re good to go. Suggestion: A widescreen DVD format provides the best picture.
COME FLY WITH ME
The New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks (860/623-3305 or neam.org) has more than 80 aircraft in its kickin’ collection, everything from a VS-44A Flying Boat to a WWII B-29 Superfortress to a Vietnam-era “Huey” copter, all spread throughout three sprawling buildings with a total of 75,000 square feet of exhibit space. Parties ($200 for nonmembers) include admission for 25 guests, a party room for two hours, a coupon for guests to return yet again and one activity, whether “story under a wing,” a craft, a theme-based tour or “open cockpit,” the hands-down favorite that lets the kids explore the ins and outs of at least one helicopter, airliner and war bird. Yes, you may climb in, too.
GIVE IT A WHIRL
The New England Carousel Museum in Bristol (860/585-5411 or the carouselmuseum.org) boasts one of the largest collections of carousel horses and menagerie figures in the country. Two-hour parties take place amid the painted ponies and include a tour of the museum, craft session and time for cake and yummies. Themes include “Carousels” (of course), “Days of Knights” and “Victorian Tea Party.” Prices range from $6 to $10 a child (two adults are free, additional adults are $5). Or, if you gather up a big enough group, you can host one of the hugely popular sleepover birthday bashes at the museum, complete with games, activities and folk art. (Cost is $22 a child, $10 an adult with a 50-child minimum; the museum will help coordinate with other groups to help meet the minimum for the magical evening.) Finally, the museum also runs the show-stopping 1914 Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford, home to 48 majestic steeds, two chariots and a grand ol’ Wurlitzer band organ. Parties are $8 per child, $5 per adult and include two hours of unlimited rides, party space, popcorn and balloons. The carousel is open April through December.
Got an aspiring conductor on your hands? The Essex Steam Train (860/767-0103 or essexsteamtrain.com) offers two-hour parties aboard its thoroughly adorable little red caboose for up to 18 guests. Packages include a T-shirt for the birthday boy or girl, a balloon and goodie bag for each child, as well as a “Ride Free with Adult” ticket for his/her next visit. The caboose can remain at Essex Station ($250) or ride the rails behind an authentic coal-burning steam locomotive for a 12-mile trip through Deep River and Chester and back again ($375). The hiss of the steam, the blast of the whistle and the clickety-clack of the tracks combined with cake, balloons and presents—seriously, what self-respecting train lover could resist?
“Fancy Pants” the zebra donkey is one of 120 animals that call Ray of Light Farm in East Haddam (860/873-1895 or rayoflightfarm.org) home. Then there’s Joe and Mike, the oxen that welcome you as you pull through the gates of the 25-acre farm; African Spurred tortoises Stanley and Stella; peacocks Indigo and Ink; Joseph the Bourbon Red turkey; llamas and guinea pigs; pigs and horses—lots of horses (60 at last count). Down-home two-hour parties are held in a party room off the tack store and include a meet-and-greet-and-pet-and-feed farm tour as well as pony rides and face painting. The $200 price tag is for up to 10 children (adults are free).The feel-good part of it all: Ray of Light is a nonprofit animal rescue and animal-assisted therapy center committed to “helping people make a positive connection with life” through animals.