Party Central


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It’s not often you have a 40-foot-tall Brachiosaurus at your birthday party, let alone a life-sized Anchisaurus or a Therizinosaurus. You will at The Dinosaur Place at Nature’s Art in Oakdale (860/443-4367 or Dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes “roam” these 50 wooded acres and outdoor parties (held April through October) give kids the run of the land, including a 1.5-mile walking trail, playground, life-sized maze and Monty’s Splashpad with more than 30 dino-themed water features (open Father’s Day weekend through Labor Day). Cost is $24.99 per guest and includes choice of pizza, hot dogs or chicken nuggets, beverages and ice cream, tablecloths, utensils and paper goods, and a gift for the b-day child. Indoor packages with themes like “Fabulous Fossils,” which lets kids unearth a dinosaur fossil in the Bone Zone, and “Radical Rocks,” which lets guests mine for crystals and tumbled stones in Jackpot Pine, are available year-round.

Attention thrill-seekers: The “Wooden Warrior” roller coaster makes its debut at Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury (203/758-2913 or this month. And then there’s last year’s bold addition: the “Free Fall ’N’” family drop tower, the grand carousel (you’ll notice we’re getting progressively more “sedate” here), the “Saturation Station” water-play area next to the beach on Lake Quassapaug, and, of course, classic kiddie rides like the dune buggies and helicopters you once “braved.” The $250 party package includes 10 unlimited all-day ride and “Saturation Station” passes for the young ’uns to try them all, four adult “Saturation Station” passes, use of the birthday “Fun Zone” for pizza, beverages and ice cream, and a balloon bouquet and 50 arcade redemption tickets for the birthday kiddo.

“Penguin Palooza,” “Ocean Locomotion” and “Beluga Blast” are but a few of the wet-and-wild celebrations to be found at Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration (860/572-5955 or Packages ($400 for nonmembers) include 1.5 hours in a private learning lab with a party host and themed program, a private touch tank of wiggly, giggly sea creatures or a live reptile, cake, tableware and utensils, a party favor for each child, and admission to the aquarium itself for 15 guests. The aquarium will also bring the party to your house if it’s within a 75-mile radius of Mystic. Traveling parties include a touch-and-learn session with various creatures of the sea and one-hour programs that range from “Under the Sea” for guppies 3 and under to “Amazing Sharks,” for ages 10 to 13. Cost for nonmembers is $230 for up to 30 children.

Long Beach Skateland in Stratford (203/378-9033 or has been a local landmark for more than 50 years. Perhaps you once roller skated here—with ribbon barrettes in your hair and Olivia Newton-John on the sound system. Your mother might even have skated here. Long before that, back when trolleys would drop off the resort crowds at Long Beach, it was the site of a dance hall where beach-goers would swing the night away to Big Band sounds—you’ve gotta love a place with so much history behind it. Better still: A retro two-hour private skating party here is the bargain of the bunch—just $135 for up to 30 guests including skate rentals. Can you do the “Hokey Pokey” and “Chicken Dance” on roller skates? Absolutely.

Splash, crank, clang, giggle. There’s no shortage of opportunities for kids to explore at the newly expanded and more-spectacular-than-ever Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk (203/899-0606  or—some 100 hands-on activities, in fact. Two-hour parties for 25 guests include a private party room, T-shirt for the birthday kid and invitations. Celebrations for those 4 and under are $450 for nonmembers and also include giant soft blocks and drums. Parties for 5 and older are $500 for nonmembers and also include a craft and a museum guide. Us? We’d be happy spending all our time in the new “Energy Lab”—a 1,500-square-foot, million-dollar, wet, wild and wonderful exhibit where kids learn all about the science of energy.

“Critter Craft,” “Animal Encounter” and “Zoo-rrific” parties at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport (203/332-4243 or are centered in the 52-acre zoo’s Carousel Building. Packages vary by price (between $300 and $450 for nonmembers) and offerings (perhaps a visit from a chinchilla or lizard, a craft—or both) but include admission for at least 15 kids and 15 adult guests, four carousel rides per child, pizza, soft drinks and paper goods, and a gift for the birthday child. Before (or after) the party guests can explore the zoo itself, which includes a South American rainforest, New England Farmyard (gotta get a picture of the kids with the giant cow) and more than 120 species of animals: Golden lion tamarins and Siberian tigers and spectacled Andean bears—oh, my!

The Maritime Aquarium in South Norwalk (203/852-0700 or focuses primarily on the marine life of one body of water: our own Long Island Sound. A noble cause, an admirable cause but one that feels just a bit unsettling when the kids stand next to the aquarium’s 110,000-gallon Open Ocean exhibit and stare into the steely eyes of one of the big ol’ sand tiger sharks that, yes indeedy, call the sound “home”—yikes! On to the harbor seals (they don’t come much cuter), the docile charms of the loggerhead turtles, the acrobatic river otters, and more. Two-and-a-half hour parties for 25 guests are $315 for nonmembers and include a craft, guided tour of the aquarium, up-close-and-personal encounter with the intertidal-zone residents of the touch tank (horseshoe crabs do like to have their bellies rubbed), private party room and a T-shirt for the guest of honor.

For more suggestions for places to party, click here.

Party Central

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