Lightning McQueen Birthday Party Ideas

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A race car in motion.
A race car in motion. (Image: Sergiy Serdyuk/iStock/Getty Images)

Ka-chow! It’s birthday time and your little one has requested a Lightning McQueen-themed fete from the movie “Cars” and “Cars 2.” No worries as there are a variety of racing-themed decorations, food and game ideas you may put together to create your own version of Radiator Springs. Get started early so you’ll have plenty of time to make it a smooth race to the finish line.

Calling Everyone to the Starting Line

Sending out creative Lightning McQueen invitations gets the kids revved up and ready to get to the party. Consider creating the invite out of racing-related items such as a race ticket or a pit pass. Race tickets may be designed to have the party information instead of the car-race information. Design one yourself or look for online sites that let you design ticket-style invitations and print them at no charge. Design a pit pass with a lanyard that doubles as an access pass at the party. Put the information of the party on the front of the pass with a checkered flag and Lightning McQueen graphics. Laminate the passes and ask the guests to bring them to the party. You can buy “Cars” invites and decorate the envelopes by rolling a toy car over an ink pad, then over the envelope to create tire tracks. Great Kids Birthday Parties says to use theme-related wording on your invites, such as “Race on Over for a Party,” “See you at the winner’s circle” and “Party is at (insert your last name) Family Speedway.”

Radiator Springs and the Track

Create the feel the kids are in McQueen's world by turning the party location into the town of Radiator Springs from the movie. Signs named for places in the town can designate play stations or areas. For example, a coloring station might be called “Ramone’s Paint Shop.” Place a checkerboard start line on the floor at the entrance to the party so the kids know they have found the right place. Create large cutout characters to place on the wall or buy stand-up cardboard characters to place in the yard. Party planning site the Hostess with the Mostess recommends draping the tables with red tablecloths. Place black shelf liner down the middle of the table and use yellow duct tape to create lines down the middle. For more of the racing feel, hang checkered flags and pennants on the walls.

Hydration Station and Refueling

Feed your little racers some Lighting McQueen-themed food such as Luigi’s pizza tires made from bite-sized bagel pizzas. Kidz Activities says to group bowls of chips, pretzels and other snacks with a sign that reads “Tow Mater’s junkyard.” Bake cupcakes in empty ice cream cones to make Sally’s cozy cones. Lightning’s co-star, Fillmore, offers organic fuel to all of the residents of Radiator Springs. Do the same for your partygoers by giving them some organic apple juice to quench their thirst. For custom bottled water, wrap a piece of checkered duct tape around the label.

Games and Activities

Keep everyone entertained with “Cars”-themed racing games and activities. Purchase inflatable pool inner tubes for a racing game of musical chairs. Place the inner tubes on the ground in a wide circle; there will be one less than the amount of children participating. Instruct the kids to step in the middle of the “tires” as the music plays. When the music stops, everyone must jump inside of a tire and pull it up around his waist. The child without a tire is out. Remove a tire and keep playing until there is one child left as the winner. Make cars out of cardboard and paint them as race cars. Use nylon belting to make straps to hold them over the shoulders of the children. Let the kids race around a “track” in the yard that is made from a garden hose arranged in a circular shape. Great Kids Birthday Parties says to pull your spare tire from your car for a “Cars” beanbag toss. Place it in the grass or on a piece of cardboard inside and have the kids toss beanbags into the middle for prizes.

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