We all love a good birthday party, but they’re not quite the same when you’re grown up.
As youngsters, we counted down the days until the next time we could go wild at a soft play venue or enjoy a birthday treat at one of our favorite restaurants.
Over the generations, how and where we celebrate our birthdays has changed, with popular chains evolving and some locations living only in our memories.
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Many had birthday parties at home, but if you were a kid in Manchester, chances are you remember some of these locations from the surrounding area and beyond.
The list below is not intended to be exhaustive but does include some of your suggestions made on our social media. But if there’s anything you think we should have included, let us know in the comments section.
1. Alphabet Zoo
For many Mancunian kids, the Alphabet Zoo was the place to have a birthday party.
For years it delighted generations of children – and tested the mettle of youngsters with the infamous blue and white slide.
Now called Kidsaurus Play Center in Stockport, the thrill of sliding down the ‘blue monster’ at the Alphabet Zoo was incomparable.
2. Nice view
Opened in 1836, Belle Vue Zoo began life as a small private collection of birds owned by gardener John Jennison – but his vision for a huge Victorian amusement park soon expanded it into much more – Manchester’s own theme park.
Generations of thrill-seekers flocked through the gates, not just for the animals, but also for the theme park’s legendary fairground rides and circus shows.
Mounting debt caused the zoo to come to an end in the 1970s, and the park, once described as a “showground of the world,” closed its gates in 1982.
3. Crazy Warehouse
Running wild in the soft play followed by coloring and pizza – Wacky Warehouse used to be one of the best kid’s birthday parties.
A national brand, kids of the 90’s or 00’s will have memories of ball pits, steep slides and rope bridges.
It’s an odd mix, with a soft play center in a pub, but it’s a fusion that works and there are still some in Greater Manchester, from the Barlow Croft pub in Didsbury to Mottram Wood Pub and Carvery in Hyde.
Before the fast food chains we know today, Wimpy’s were the only burgers in town, and many will remember the Oxford Street establishments in Manchester and the Piccadilly Plaza complex in Piccadilly Gardens.
Over the years there have also been Wimpy branches in Salford, Middleton, Stockport and the Arndale Centre.
Today Wimpy’s closest to Manchester are those in Huddersfield or Birkenhead and the chain has just 67 restaurants in Britain, fewer than 500 during its peak in the 1970s – but many used to go there for a birthday treat.
5. Role City
Many will remember visiting Rollercity in Rochdale for a birthday party.
The much-loved roller-skating rink was a major attraction for teens in the 1980s and was owned by comedian Bernard Manning’s son, Bernard Junior.
In 2012, The Manchester Evening News reported how Rollercity in Rochdale reopened for the first time in 20 years after a £150,000 makeover, still going strong ten years later.
6. Gorton Tub
Manchester’s very own indoor water park in the inner city – many held or attended a birthday party at Gorton Tub.
Gorton Tub opened in 1988 and was the place every kid wanted to go and tons of memories were made.
Thousands of kids spent hours in the chlorinated water before heading out for a Slush Puppie and a chocolate bar, or a burger and chips.
It was later renamed and became known as the Kingdom of Neptune, after the Roman god of the sea. It closed in the early 2000s.
One of the more unusual locations on the list – at one point hosting a kid’s birthday party in Asda was actually a thing.
It is said that Asda designed a room for celebrations and some Mancunians may remember going to a party at one of the local venues years ago. Unfortunately, the supermarket giant no longer offers its party services.
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8. The Dutch Pancake House
The Dutch Pancake House closed a little over ten years ago and is known for its huge menu and gigantic plates.
Based on the corner of St Peter’s Square and Oxford Street, it opened in 1996 and was the perfect treat to celebrate your birthday with family and friends.
The building it used to house – Elizabeth House – was demolished to make way for the gleaming new St. Peter’s Square 1.
Anyone born in the 80’s or 90’s will have fond memories of birthdays and family days out at Camelot Theme Park.
Located a few miles outside Chorley in Lancashire, it first opened its doors in 1983, attracting many in Greater Manchester.
Operated until November 2012, it featured medieval-style attractions including the Knightmare and the Whirlwind.
Largely gone but not forgotten, McDonald’s play areas were a thing of grandeur.
A trip to a local McDonald’s would turn into hours of climbing around the playpen and ball pit.
Many Mancunians will remember hosting or going to a Ronald McDonald party at a branch, where they played games, everyone got a balloon and enjoyed a Happy Meal.
11. Charlie Chalks
Kids of the 90s and early 90s will remember the Charlie Chalk Fun Factories, as part of the Brewers Fayre sites, later known as Brewsters.
A number of pubs in and around Greater Manchester are said to boast the multi-level indoor play area known as the Fun Factory.
And who could forget mascots Charlie Chalk and later Brewster the Beer?
12. Starvin’ Marvin’s
In 1995, American themed Starvin’ Marvin’s came to Greater Manchester and became another exciting place for a birthday treat.
Part of The Celebrated Group, it was the chain’s first restaurant to open in England, followed by a restaurant in Merseyside the following year.
In February 1996, The Liverpool Echo reported how diner in Merseyside had everything American, “from the jukebox to the containers full of jelly beans.”
13. Mayfair Cinema
The former Mayfair Cinema in Whitefield, Greater Manchester, has welcomed generation after generation of first dates, weekends with friends and birthdays.
It opened in 1956, but was closed in the 1990s.
After another life as a nursery and then a showroom, the building was demolished in the early 2000s.
14. Pleasure Island
Pleasure Island on Otterspool Promenade, Merseyside, had everything a child could wish for – all in the same place.
From the Rollerdome to Qasar laser games, there was an attraction for everyone and it was a sad day when Pleasure Island closed in 1997.
Pleasure Island attracted many children from elsewhere including Manchester to visit and some were lucky enough to celebrate turning a year older there.
15. Pool Parties
A number of MEN readers mentioned celebrating their own or even friends’ birthdays at local swimming pools.
Where do you celebrate a birthday as a child? Let us know in the comments below.
Pool parties have been popular for generations, from just swimming and making the most of the pool to tackling huge inflatables.
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