Inflatable Games Party Idea

  • 01 of 03

    Inflatable Games for a Teen Party

    Bungee Run
    Photo: Stu Forster /Allsport

    Remember those bounce houses and jumpy castles from childhood? Put a spin on the inflatable games concept with this college or 18th birthday party idea: an inflatable games party with plenty of grown-up appeal and an abundance of "wow" factor.

    The Party

    This is a great party for a large group - anywhere from 50 to several hundred people. And it's a natural for a carnival-themed outdoor celebration, with carnival-style food and colorful striped awnings to provide shade. Hire a...MORE neighborhood garage band - extra points if the members are friends of your 18-year-old's - to provide musical entertainment, or load up the boomboxes.

    The Plan

    These games, which are rented by the hour (typically with a four-hour minimum) require considerable space. The game rental company can give you the necessary square footage figures. Plan to use a park or large field. If it's a public park, you may need to reserve the space ahead of time and figure out a plan to handle outsiders who want to join in the fun.

    Consider teaming up with other families in hosting this event. You can celebrate multiple birthdays at once while reducing the expenses (an important consideration for a party like this) and increasing the number of adult helpers. And while teens may not be thrilled at the idea of lots of parents around, they will appreciate the results: plenty of great food, many photographers, and someone to bandage or ice any injuries from overzealous jousting.

    So book the space, reserve the games and send out the invitations - perhaps a DIY confetti-hurling card to get everyone in the mood? In addition to all the games, food and party supplies, be sure to pack plenty of water, ice and sunscreen, and a first-aid kit.

    One caveat: Do not hold a party of this type on a breezy day, and make absolutely sure you hire party rental company staff to install and adequately tether the structures and to supervise them throughout the event. There have been instances, most recently in New York in June 2011, in which high winds and inadequate anchoring sent bouncy houses soaring into the air.

    Read on for inflatable games possibilities and food suggestions...

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  • 02 of 03

    The Games: Bungee Runs, Lazer Tag & More

    Bungee run
    Photo by Carlos de Andres/Cover/Getty Images

    The Games

    Bungee runs, inflatable obstacle courses and other inflatable games give this college or 18th birthday party idea plenty of grown-up appeal.

    Look in your phone book or online for "inflatable games rentals" in your area. The same companies that rent bouncy houses also rent inflatable obstacle courses, laser tag, sumo wrestling suits, jousting set-ups, climbing walls and bungee runs, which are geared toward teens and college age kids. These are frequently used for Grad Night...MORE festivities or for college welcome week activities. But they can be rented by families too.

    Choose activities that can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. A three-lane bungee run, for example, will keep three runners occupied, but they also provide entertainment for spectators. Lazer tag doesn't allow for spectators, but six to 12 people can play at once.

    Depending on the size of the gathering, you may need several games. Prices vary dramatically - $400-$800 or more per game for a four-hour rental- and some games require an operator, a rental company representative who monitors the game. Here's a sampling of possibilities:

    • Obstacle Course: These enormous, inflated contraptions offer slides, tunnels, tubes and other obstacles for partygoers to race through, two or three at a time. Place a large ice bucket, well stocked with water bottles, at the end to rehydrate sweaty competitors. Watch out for weight constraints when you reserve - some obstacle courses are made for young children; you want the version for teens and adults.
    • Lazer (or Laser) Tag: This huge inflatable structure - some measure 25- by 50-ft. - allow six or more players to chase each other through labyrinthine paths and ambushes. Again, provide plenty of water afterward. This is big time, sweaty fun.
    • Sumo Wrestling: Two players don large inflatable sumo suits, then attempt to duke it out, much to the amusement of onlookers. This game does not require much space, typically, just a 16- by 16-ft. square, and expense-wise, it's on the lower end of these rentals, making it a good supplement to bigger, splashier games.
    • Jousting: Two players stand atop platforms in an inflatable pit, trying to whack each other off their pedestals with inflatable jousting batons.
    • Bungee Runs: Runners are attached to a wall by bungees, then attempt to race each other down inflatable lanes before the bungee yanks them back. (Pictured)
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  • 03 of 03

    The Food: Carnival Fare

    Photo by Jackie Burrell

    Party Food

    You reserved space at the park, rented the big inflatable games and invited everyone. All that's left is to plan some great food - and carnival fare is a natural fit for an outdoor celebration. It's grab-and-go snack food, easily served from food carts or stations. For an occasion as special as an 18th birthday party or graduation festivities, you'll want to take the cuisine up a notch. Here's one menu, with plenty of kid and grown-up appeal:

    Caramel Popcorn: Hot, salty...MORE popcorn is delightful anytime, but make your own caramel corn, and it elevates the concept to delicious heights. Up the ante further by spreading the caramel corn out on a waxed paper-covered work surface and drizzling it with melted bittersweet chocolate. Let the chocolate harden, break the kernels apart into clumps, and fill paper cones or small popcorn bags with the sweet and salty treat.

    Chocolate Pretzels: Do the same thing with twisty pretzels, drizzling them with bittersweet chocolate and sprinkles, or dip pretzel rods into melted white or dark chocolate.

    Hot Dogs & Burgers: Every carnival has hot dogs, but yours will be that much tastier if you fill mini-buns with grilled chicken-apple sausages or sliders. Offer an assortment of interesting mustards, relishes, ketchup and salsas.

    Oreo Tower & Dessert Bar: Bake an assortment of mini-cupcakes, cookies, brownies and bars, or make an Oreo tower by piling the cookies (use tiny dabs of frosting as glue) three high and nestled close together on a large platter. Let dry, then start a new layer, again with triple cookie stacks, straddling the first layer, pyramid-style, to form a smaller second layer. Repeat until you have a towering Oreo "cake."

    Drinks: If it's a hot day, you'll want to provide plenty of ice water and other refreshing drinks. Stock ice buckets with individual bottles, or use large glass carafes to make lavender-lemonade, passion tea lemonade and other twists on the classic citrus drink.