By Melanie F. Gibbs
If the child in your life is an animal lover, Metro Atlanta offers a whole gaggle of birthday party options to tame the beast within. Prices, locations and themes vary widely, so there should be something to tempt just about everyone – whether cute-n-cuddly is their “thing” or if their interests run more toward creepy-crawly.
As with any type of event, be sure to investigate restrictions thoroughly before booking. Because animals are involved, some venues have rather strict prohibitions. (For example, it might not be too surprising that many don’t welcome piñatas, but who would have guessed that some don’t allow balloons, straws or even candles?) Since some of these are outdoor activities, what happens if the weather doesn’t cooperate on party day? Is there a Plan B or are you out of luck? Many parents like to stay with their children at birthday parties – and they might even bring a younger sibling or two along. Does the venue in question allow this, or would additional fees be incurred? Better to know before your guests show up so you can give them advance notice. Also note that some party packages include refreshments, others can provide catered food for an extra fee, and yet others will allow you to supply your own. You’ll want to be perfectly clear what will be on hand when your herd arrives.
Since many venues offer a better rate for “members,” it may be worth investing in a membership prior to booking your party. Not only would you be able to make use of that membership for a return visit, but each of these wonderful institutions can use your financial support.
Ten tempting birthday parties for animal lovers are listed below. When you call them, let ‘em know we sent you.
Would the birthday girl enjoy a private barnyard celebration? Then she and her guests can have The ArtBarn at Morning Glory Farm in Canton completely to themselves to enjoy her special day. Farmer Sue will personally introduce your child and friends to her unforgettable friendly, furry, feathery, fluffy farm family (including giant bunnies, a miniature horse, fancy chickens, a potbelly pig, donkeys, a bull, goats and sheep), take the children for a hayride, and help them create cool art to take home. The birthday child also leaves with a lucky horse shoe.
The Barn has air conditioning and heat, so parties can be booked year-round, rain or shine. An ArtBarn Cake can be catered, or you can bring your own refreshments. Remember to wear farm attire!
A two-hour party at the Farm is $400 for 18 or fewer children. Hand-led pony rides are available for $100 more.
Call 678.319.0286 and speak to Farmer Sue for more details. Located at 208 Roper Road, Canton, GA 30115, Morning Glory Farm is approximately 30 minutes north of I-285 in Hickory Flat. From in-town Atlanta, allow for a 45-60 minute travel time.
Atlanta Botanical Gardens
This one falls in the “know your child” category. A Botanical Garden birthday might not be every child’s cup of tea, but some may just leap at the chance. They’ll want to visit the Children’s Garden, where they can learn how caterpillars become butterflies in the Laugh Garden, see fish and frogs at the Bullfrog Pond in the Soggy Bog, and learn the “bee waggle dance” in the Beehive Meadow. Older children and die-hard frog lovers may also enjoy learning about the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s amphibian program, whose mission is to promote the conservation of amphibians through education, research and in situ conservation. Educational displays are located in the lobby of the Fuqua Conservatory.
The Birthday Package includes all-day access to the Garden, three hours in a private party room, a personal “Birthday Attendant” to set it all up and make sure things run smoothly, a $10 gift certificate to the Garden’s gift shop for the birthday child, refreshments (cake or cupcakes, ice cream cups, fruit punch and/or bottled water), a balloon bouquet and your choice from four party supply themes (plates, napkins, utensils, tablecloth, candles and invitations).
Two price options are offered: The Gardenhouse Classroom accommodates up to 20-25 persons for $300, and the Gardenhouse Workshop or the Georgia Pacific Classroom accommodate up to 50 persons for $400.
Atlanta Botanical Gardens is located at 1345 Piedmont Ave NE, Atlanta, 30309. Contact Special Events at 404-876-5859 ext. 1585 for more information.
Chattahoochee Nature Center
Does your child love to hike in the woods? Observe animals in their natural habitat? Just be outdoors? Then a Chattahoochee Nature Center party might be just right. All birthday parties include a hike or tour of the nature center’s aviaries and new nature activities, plus a live animal presentation (choose from box turtle, snake, opossum and screech owl) and 30 minutes in the Nature Center’s birthday party room.
Several party packages are available for your little animal lover:
- The “Silver Plan” ($155 members, $165 non-members) includes Cookie Cake from Chocolate Chips with your child’s name on it; Sprite or Apple juice; invitations, recycled paper napkins, cups, plates, and candles; nature-themed tablecloth; party favors for each child; special t-shirt for honoree; and free admission for two to the CNC on day of party.
- The Gold Plan ($180 members, $195 non-members) includes the same as the Silver Plan plus fun nature-themed napkins, plates and cups, and a reusable canvas bag for children’s party favors.
- The Platinum Plan ($205 members, $220 non-members) includes the same as the Gold Plan plus an additional animal presentation.
The Base Program Cost covers 12 children, ages 4-12, and four adults. You may bring additional guests for an extra fee.
Chattahoochee Nature Center is located at 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell, GA 30075. For details or to reserve your party, call 770-992-2055 or e-mail email@example.com.
Cochran Mill Nature Center
A nine-year-old once told me that a birthday party at Cochran Mill Nature Center was the best birthday party ever. If your child would like to party with an alligator, python or one-eyed hawk, he might agree. Although the staff reserves the right to select the animals attending your party, that “best ever” event in question did provide opportunity for guests to get up-close and personal with an alligator, a tortoise, a python and a bearded dragon, and those so inclined could even hold a Madagascar hissing cockroach.
For the relatively modest fee of $100 for members/$125 for non-members, kids turning ages 4-12 can invite up to 15 of their friends. Party favors will be provided for all attendees as well as a special gift for the honoree. The fee includes exclusive use of the reptile exhibit/birthday room for 1.5 hours, which includes a 45 minute naturalist-led hands-on educational program with some of the center’s animals. The remaining 45 minutes can be spent with family and friends for cake/ice cream and gifts. All you need to bring is your paper and plastic ware (plates, cups, forks etc.) and any food and drink you may want. Kitchen facilities are available with refrigerator/freezer, microwave and oven.
Twenty minutes south of Atlanta in Palmetto, Cochran Mill Nature Center is located on 50 privately owned, heavily wooded acres at 6300 Cochran Mill Road, Palmetto, GA 30268. Call 770-306-0914 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for m
Elachee Nature Science Center
Kids located north of Atlanta can “Leap into Nature” for their birthdays at Elachee Nature Science Center in Gainesville.
Your Elachee party includes: two hours in a party area (pavilion or classroom), use of a kitchen with refrigerator and microwave, a one-hour educational program with a naturalist, admission to the Center for the birthday child and 12 guests (plus each child may bring one adult for free), a special present for the birthday child, party favors and invitations. Cost is $125 for members and $150 for non-members, and additional children may come for an extra fee.
Party themes to choose among include “Radical Reptiles/Amazing Amphibians” (which includes a visit with a snake or tortoise), “Discovering Dinos” (investigate dinosaurs and fossils), “Going Buggy” (a bug’s eye view of live creepy critters), and “Junior Explorer” (an extended hike). Parties are designed for youths ages 4-12.
Elachee Nature Science Center is located in the 1,500-acre Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve at 2125 Elachee Drive, Gainesville, GA 30504. Call 770-535-1976 for details.
Create a big splash with your child’s party: The Georgia Aquarium says that its “top-of-the-line party” is designed so that the parents get to come and relax while staff does the work.
Each party includes aquarium admission for 15 people (including adults); use of the private decorated party room for 90 minutes; refreshments (cake, ice cream ups and juice or milk); invitations; $10 gift card for birthday child; 10 gift bags; party paper products and utensils; games led by party coordinator; parking for one car; and an animal encounter. Parties for children ages six and under include a visit from Deepo, the Aquarium’s mascot character. Parties for children ages seven and older include a Behind the Scenes tour.
Choose from four themes:
- Deepo Party, recommended for children under the age of six
- Island Party, with an island-themed program
- Pirate Party, with a pirate-themed program
- Ocean Party, with an ocean-themed program
Parties are for children ages 12 and under, although the Aquarium says it is working to design a party for youth over 12, so check back with them if you are interested. All parties are designed for up to 15 people, including adults. Additional guests may join for an extra fee. The cost for all this fun? Annual Pass Holders pay $560, while Non-annual Pass Holders should be prepared to shell out $625.
The Georgia Aquarium is located in downtown Atlanta, at 225 Baker St. NW, across from Centennial Olympic Park. Booking can be made by calling 404-581-4000.
Why not bring the party to you? Reptile Wrangler Ken Panse, a naturalist who has been handling reptiles for more than 20 years, will amaze the kids at your own location, displaying any tropical critters you select, weaving their homelands and habits into the show with colorful maps and props. The Exotic Reptile Adventure is a unique, educational experience for any age group.
After the mood is set by the Reptile Wrangler’s arrival in safari attire, the anticipation rises when your child sees the covered woven baskets and hears rustling sounds within. You can choose which animals will delight your guests; a wide variety of snakes, lizards, tarantulas, scorpions, turtle/tortoise and frogs from all parts of the world are available. See the web site for the complete, amazing list.
Rates run from a 30 minute show with your choice of 4 critters for $125, and a 45 minute show with your choice of 6 critters for $175, up to a 60 minute show with your choice of 9 critters for $250.
When planning, note that an 8 foot square area is needed. If outside, the temperature needs to be 65 degrees or higher.
The Reptile Wrangler will travel anywhere in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, or North Carolina provided arrangements can be made. Contact him via e-mail at email@example.com or give him a call at 770-489-3512.
Nestled in the rolling hills of Cherokee County at the foot of the North Georgia Mountains, Tanglewood Farm offers a 10-acre Wild West Town with more than 100 inhabitants … all of them miniature farm animals! In addition to petting and feeding the friendly animals, kids can enjoy pony rides and hay rides, seasonal arts and crafts demonstrations, and panning for gold and arrowheads.
The Barnyard Bash includes a tour of the Wild West Town, petting and feeding animals, pony rides, use of the indoor Saloon or outdoor picnic area, and a souvenir. The cost of this package is $400 plus tax for 1.5 hours for up to 12 children. Additional fees apply to larger groups and/or longer times. Note that food for the animals is provided for the Barnyard Bash; food for people is not.
Traveling Barnyard Packages, which include hand-raised, friendly miniature farm animals visiting your own site, also are available. Contact the farm for details and prices.
Tanglewood Farm is located at 171 Tanglewood Drive, Canton, GA 30115. Call 7770-667-MINI (-6464) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to book your party.
Yellow River Game Ranch
Strictly speaking, the Game Ranch does not offer special accommodations for birthday parties, but they tell us that parties would be welcome to take advantage of their group admission rates and then bring their own refreshments to the picnic area on the premises. If thoughts of fancy parties have you feeling sticker shock, this may be the option for you!
Stroll along a mile-long trail on 24 wooded acres and encounter over s600 highly sociable birds and animals indigenous to the state of Georgia. In addition to General Lee — Atlanta’s own Groundhog Day celebrity — white-tailed deer, bunnies, buffalo, sheep, kid goats, black bears and a bevy of new-born animals are waiting to be fed, admired and petted on a “nose-to-nose” basis. The Game Ranch says it specializes in “people-friendly” wildlife.
The admission rate for groups of 15 or more is $7 for guests 12 years old and up, and $6 for guests 11 years and younger. (Regular rates run a dollar more per person.) One chaperone receives free admittance with each 15 tickets. Even though you won’t be booking a party, as you would at other animal-friendly venues, call ahead so that the staff can be prepared for your group.
Located at 4525 Stone Mountain Hwy., Lilburn, GA 30047-4527, the Yellow river Game Ranch is just 2.5 miles east of Stone Mountain on Highway 78. Call 770-972-6643 to make a group reservation.
When you think of birthday parties for animal-lovers, this is the Big Kahuna — the Mack Daddy – where “party animals go to celebrate good times.” Great for children ages 3 and up, Zoo Atlanta offers a special package and plenty of entertainment options that are sure to fit your style.
The basic Birthday Party Package includes: 90-minute Birthday Party Pavilion rental; free admission for the birthday child and one parent; 10 additional admission tickets (adults or children age 3 & above); disposable tablecloths, plates, cups & napkins; and catering for 12 guests (choose from the Pizza Party or Sandwich Safari – both include a dessert and punch).
Zoo Atlanta Members can book this basic par
ty for $325 plus tax, but it will run non-members $375 plus tax. The menu of additional options is extensive. Would you like to add cotton candy, or maybe a juggler, magician, clown or animal encounter? All these, and much more, can be had for a price. Call 404-624-5650 for more details or e-mail email@example.com.
Zoo Atlanta is located at 800 Cherokee Avenue, SE, Atlanta, GA 30315, in historic Grant Park, minutes from downtown Atlanta.