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Piece of Cake : More parents are opting for a no-muss, no-fuss approach to birthday parties: They're paying the price to let skating rinks, art and computer centers, gyms and bowling lanes play host to the kids.


Today, and every day, in Ventura County, there are 500 kids having a birthday. That means, of course, that at least 500 parents each day are searching for ways to celebrate the momentous event.

Having six, eight, 10 or more sugar-charged children in the house for several hours strikes terror in the hearts of many parents, especially those who have done it before. Besides the noise, chaos and general over-stimulation of the celebrant, there's the cleanup after they finally leave.

There is a way to do this so that you and the kids have fun, the guests never have to set foot on your new carpet again, and, best of all, there's no cleanup!

The out-of-home birthday party.

The number of local facilities providing birthday party services has grown significantly during the last few years, easing birthday woes for hundreds of weary parents.

Janet Falat of Simi Valley, mother of Marykay, just turned 6, sees real advantages to celebrating birthdays outside her home. "They do everything for you," said Falat, who recently threw a party for Marykay at Paint Pals Clubhouse in Simi Valley. "They show the children how to use the paints, they serve everything, they clean up. It's a do-nothing party for me."

Thirteen-year-old Jennifer Curran of Westlake Village decided to have a bowling birthday party this year.

"It's fun, and gives everybody something to do," she said. Jennifer's mother, Janet Curran agrees. "They can entertain themselves, keep score on their own and it's a more adult-type activity."

A tour of Ventura County birthday options revealed enough variety to guide you through the gamut of toddler through teen celebrations.


Paint Pals Clubhouse

2360-G E. Las Posas Road


The two-hour party at Paint Pals Clubhouse (Camarillo and Simi Valley) begins with each child's selection of a ceramic to paint. After donning smocks, birthday guests are shown to a table equipped with paint, brushes and a turntable and paint plate for each child.

When painting is complete, children may free play in the black-light or shadow-box rooms; encase themselves in a bubble in the giant bubble room; face paint; play with puppets, costumes or the giant kaleidoscope.

Guests then gather for karaoke singing and games before the birthday cake is served.

The guest-of-honor leaves a personalized hand print on the wall and guests get their ceramic as a party favor. Invitations are included.

Cost: $6 per child up to 25 children, plus $30 service fee; for 25 or more children, the service fee is $50. Refreshments, paper goods provided by parents.

Ventura County Gymnastics Center

487 Dawson Drive


The Ventura County Gymnastics Center offers birthday parties for children from toddlers through teens.

Parties may be 1 1/2 to two hours, with activities tailored to the age group.

Children may participate in activities on the trampoline, the rings, through an obstacle course or in jousting games, with the birthday child honored throughout the playtime.

Two instructors are provided for groups up to 20; additional instructors for larger groups.

After gymnastic activities are completed, celebrant and guests go to a designated area for refreshments and gift opening. Each child receives a coupon for a free gymnastics lesson.

Cost: $6 per child, 1 1/2 hours; $7 per child, two hours. $30 deposit, five-child minimum. Refreshments, paper goods provided by parents.

World Stars Gymnastics Training Center

508 Constitution Ave.


Two-hour parties at World Stars begin with various activities such as the trampoline, obstacle courses and other gymnastic games. Activities are geared to each age group, beginning with toddlers.

Two instructors organize activities and oversee groups up to 20, with additional instructors added as needed.

Following the games, guests go to a decorated table for birthday cake, included with the package.

Cost: $225, includes cake and paper goods.


California Cartwheel Center

1111 Rancho Conejo Blvd., Suite 510


California Cartwheel Center hosts birthday parties for children ages 5 and up, with a group maximum of 25.

Gymnastic games are led by instructors and vary in difficulty according to the age of the celebrants.

In addition to the usual gymnastics package, California Cartwheel Center offers a sleep-over option for children 7 or older. Sleep-over parties start at 7:30 p.m. on Friday or Saturday night and continue until 8:30 a.m. the next morning.

Cost: Birthday parties are $130 per hour of gym time for up to 14 children. There is a $25 per half-hour fee for use of the facility for refreshments. $3 per additional child.

Sleep-overs are $235 for up to 20 children. Each additional child, $7. Parents provide refreshments; discounts available for California Cartwheel members.


Discovery Zone

864 Wagon Wheel Road


Popular with the active preschool and elementary set, Discovery Zone (Oxnard and Simi Valley), is equipped with brightly colored tunnels, foam padded mountains, moonwalks, ball pools and an obstacle course.

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