Sometimes, you just gotta let a little girl be a little girl. Or a little girl pretending to be a big girl. That's why we're so glad we found Tea Cups & Tiaras. After months of hearing horror stories about over-the-top tea parties with gift registries and spa pedicures, we landed on an appropriate, classic birthday party for our little lady: a bona fide tea party, complete with pink lemonade in a tea pot, crustless PB&J sandwiches, and sliced fruit arranged as daintily as you'd find at a high tea at a fine resort but for far less money. With a standard tea, the girls were also given hats and boas to wear for the duration, but the real draw is just beyond the tea room at this homey spot (where we spotted some grown-up girls enjoying tea on their own), in the party room. There, a vanity table is packed with costumes full dresses, hats, gloves, shoes. Our birthday girl just turned 5, but she's already planning her 6th birthday party at Tea Cups & Tiaras and we'll be happy to grant her wish.

BEST PLACE TO HOST A CO-ED KID BIRTHDAY PARTY

Pump It Up

Face it 6-year-olds don't want expensive party favors or complicated theme parties for their birthdays. They want to jump around, drink soda and make a mess until the sugar high ends and they crash. And chances are, you probably don't want them doing this all over your house or expensive party decorations, so ditch the high-concept birthday and let them get that energy out at Pump It Up. True, it feels a little lazy, but there are advantages to letting the people at the "inflatable party zone" do the work for you: They do all the planning (they'll even preside over the gifts writing down the gift givers' names and bagging up the unwrapped gifts afterward), and you don't have to stress about coming up with a co-ed theme that won't make your kids feel awkward. The kids can bounce, slide and somersault to your choice of tunes, and afterward, pizza, drinks even goody bags are available, for an additional fee. Just bring your own cake.
Castles -n- Coasters
What better way to get out your aggression than to crash giant, gas-powered rubber boats into walls and waterfalls? Figuring out how to maneuver the suckers is half the fun; the steering wheels turn a full 360 degrees, so the challenge is to do more than make crazy circles in the water while everybody else bashes into you. And it's really fun when you get stuck against the wall or your boat dies in the middle of the water, because everybody races to rescue or (more likely) ram you. The boats at C-n-C also have a tendency to float backward when idle, and if drivers stomp on the gas pedal, they can rip into reverse and cause fantastic collisions with other giggling, wet maniacs. Adults love piloting these oversize, motorized doughnuts just as much as kids, and since each boat fits two people, a smaller kid can sit in the passenger seat while you bump and grind.
Mother Nature's Farm
We've tried the bigger, more commercial Halloween festivals, but this year we'll go back to Mother Nature's Farm (humming the Beatles the whole way) to let our kids grab a pumpkin, get their faces painted, and spend a little time in the hay. With a nod to the desert, the folks at this farm not only stock cute crafts in the gift shop, they stock a pen with all sorts of reptiles. (We wish someone had warned us beforehand, so we're warning you.) This is not an all-day affair, more like a quick detour, but with our hay fever, that was perfect.
Glendale Community College
Sure, there are peacocks at the zoo, but how often do you see a large, brightly colored bird wandering around a college campus? You'd cry fowl at least a couple times a week if you attended Glendale Community College. The campus is located right next to Sahuaro Ranch Park, which technically occupied 640 acres until 1977, when the City of Glendale purchased 80 of the original acres. Now the park sits smack-dab in the middle of Glendale, between a fire station and the college and so do the peacocks. The edge of the park bumps right up against GCC's north parking lots, so it's pretty standard to see roosters, chickens and peacocks pecking about between students' cars. The peacocks also stroll the shaded mall between the Life Sciences Building and High Tech centers, along with Gambel's quail and roadrunners.
Wildlife World Zoo
This is the Little Zoo That Could, always to be in the shadow of the bigger, more complete Phoenix Zoo. But this little west-side park is home to some species that that other zoo doesn't have namely penguins. You won't be much reminded of the amazing documentary March of the Penguins; the Wildlife World Zoo is home to only a handful, and they don't march miles in horrendous conditions to eat. They enjoy air-conditioned quarters and a steady supply of fish. But if you've just gotta see one in the flesh, it beats a trip to Antarctica.
No matter how often we visit, we never get tired of seeing the squirrel monkeys roam their 10,000-square-foot habitat just off the Tropics Trail at the Phoenix Zoo, mostly because this is one exhibit where you can get up close and personal no cages involved. Although we've never had one land on our shoulder, we love hanging with the little monkeys (all named with a Star Trek theme, by a Trekkie volunteer), carefully walking through the entrance/exit to make sure none escape and always watching for poop. For once, the animals in the zoo actually look happy to be there and we're happy to be there, too.
Steele Indian School Park
This new downtown dog park, opened in July in the northeastern area of Steele Indian School Park, is gated and divided into sections one for larger dogs, and one for smaller dogs under 20 pounds. The park is off-leash, so canines can carouse untethered in an area that covers almost two acres, provided their owners keep an eye on them. The Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board teamed up with city staff to give the dog park turf enhancements, new lighting and benches, water fountains, shaded areas, and "mutt mitts" and bins for waste disposal, at a total cost of around $73,000. The dog park is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, except during large park events.
If you could see into your dog's dreams, there would be a huge grass lot for running, tons of toys, a never-ending water supply, and maybe a sexy little companion. This one's got it all. The 2.65-acre bark park includes water fountains and benches for owners, plus doggie watering stations and free mitt-mutts for scooping up Fido's little surprises. There are always some extra Frisbees and rope toys lying around, so he's sure to get a lot of exercise. High fences and double-entry gates ensure your pet and his new friends will stay put inside the complex. The socialization doesn't stop with Fido. He may very well find puppy love, but single owners are likely to find a human companion, too. And you can be guaranteed he or she won't mind a little dog hair on the couch!
This park isn't strictly for dogs, but it does have a large, fenced area just for canines, where your pups can play off their leashes. And since there's an area for small dogs separate from the larger dog park, owners of little Chihuahuas and terriers needn't worry about having their little pets trampled or humped on by big huskies and shepherds. There are also water fountains to keep the dogs hydrated, and waste stations for considerate pet owners to dump off their dogs' droppings. The dog park is often undergoing maintenance, but it's set up in a way that allows park staff to always keep at least half of the huge space open.

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