I wanted to postpone the birthday party madness as long as I could, knowing full well I would spend too much time and money and make myself crazy when something more low-key would mean just as much to the little dude. That theory worked OK for birthdays 1, 2 and 3, when we spent the party money instead on an overnight at the beach, a trip to Adventure Island and an aquarium day with the grandparents.
But then we started getting invited to parties. Really fun parties. And Nate wanted to know when his party was going to be.
I started Googling. It’s really hard to find something different but not crazy expensive. I wanted indoors (August in Florida, enough said) and I did not want to have to clean my house. I remembered a friend’s party a few years ago for her little boy — at the Tampa Firefighter’s Museum. I gave them a call, the price was right and it was available. I booked it.
Nate loves firefighters, so the theme was a good fit, and I liked knowing the fee would benefit the nonprofit. I went a little nuts on the planning, but less nuts than I could have, because the venue really did most of the work for me.
Which is to say, if you have a small child in Tampa with even a passing interest in firetrucks, you need to check this place out. You can tour it on your own, but for birthday parties, it is really magical.
The museum is housed downtown in the former Station 1, built in 1911. It’s a wide open space with exposed brick (automatically making your decorations look better), two antique fire engines, hoses and a play firetruck for the kids, outfitted with hats and jackets. The museum sets up tables for adults and children, as well as an area for you to set up food and gifts/favors. It’s an odd time of day (10-noon) but if you have a small child, it’s not that bad. You’re probably up by then anyway, and you’re done in time for naps. If you’re lucky — we couldn’t convince our birthday boy to nap after all the excitement.
The kids were content to run wild and go on and off the firetruck, and the parents got to relax or check out the displays on their own. But what made it truly special was a trip across the street to a working fire station. The guys were so great with our pack of 4-year-olds, explaining all the cool things the trucks did, putting on their gear for us and even sliding down the pole. We weren’t rushed, and when an alarm did go off (they had to check out a false fire alarm), they had us step aside while the truck pulled out, and then another firefighter finished the tour.
We returned to the museum for “lunch” and cupcakes, and the kids all left with my favors and a huge goodie bag from the museum — complete with a hat, pencil, activity book, stickers and temporary tattoos.
The Tampa Firefighter’s Museum really is a hidden gem in this area and amazing option for parties. And you are free to keep your house as messy as you want.