No longer content to skate around in circles to Cool and the Gang’s “Celebrate Good Times” or run amok in a backyard in anticipation of cake and ice cream, children want to go faster and jump higher.
Suddenly birthday invitations are coming with waivers.
Just about every weekend this winter, we have driven to Roswell to a building basically made out of hundreds of trampolines for parties. It is called Sky Zone and it may as well be in South Carolina given the proximity to our house. The concept is to take a gigantic empty warehouse and build a trampoline floor and trampoline walls. Yes, the walls are trampolines too, which is the genius of the thing — even if you fall over, you bounce right back up.
The children play an escalated version of dodge ball and try to dunk basketballs through a goal that would give Michael Jordan pause. Sky Zone is just an example of this trend of thrill-seeker birthday parties.
There is a place where children pretend they are Formula 1 racing great Mario Andretti and drive supped-up go-karts around a track. This is Andretti Indoor Karting & Games, and yes, you have to sign a piece of paper acknowledging that there are risks in letting a 10-year-old drive a miniature racecar. This one is in Roswell, which may as well be Alpharetta, or South Carolina.
Contrast this with the extreme birthdays we attended growing up, which peaked with roller skating backwards. The Sky Zone of our day was Jelly Beans, a musky indoor roller skating rink located on Roswell Road in the vicinity of where Mo Mo Ya restaurant is today. That, too, was quite a haul back in the day even though it was just a few miles up the road from our house.
The highlight of those parties was the DJ inviting the party to skate to the aforementioned song. There were no helmets or knee pads. The only safety precaution was a guy in a referee outfit with a whistle who would make you sit out a song if you were skating too recklessly.
The other popular spot for a birthday party was a Howard Johnson hotel on Northside Parkway. It had undoubtedly the best playground in Buckhead, complete with a metal jungle gym shaped like a rocket ship. The playground looked out over Interstate 75. Slightly subdued when you consider trampoline buildings and rocket cars.
As near as I can tell, the escalation started with the so-called jumpy places, where an enterprising business would take an abandoned warehouse — sensing a theme — and fill it with a bunch of inflatable toys, feed the children a bunch of sugar and have them bounce until they crashed or got hurt, which usually occurred simultaneously.
Then parties graduated to rock climbing — still the best parties in my opinion — and indoor laser tag. This will undoubtedly end with our children parachuting from space and riding cheetahs in a few years. Until then I long for a good, old-fashioned skating party.
I think Sparkles, the other indoor rolling skating rink, is still around.
Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.