Last year, parents were able to get away with a Zoom party and promise of “next year.” Well, next year is here, and a birthday party at a favorite indoor space still isn't in the cards. However, there are some amazing places to celebrate birthdays in LA right now—it just takes a little ingenuity. Have a birthday party with immediate family or your safe little pod at one of these spots that are outside, maintain social distance, and/or only allow one small group (or party, if you will) at a time.
Most aren’t traditional birthday parties, but all will make a birthday boy or girl feel special and celebrated. From animal encounters to balloon rides to seeing their names in lights, all that’s missing from these parties is the cake. And don’t forget to plan a virtual celebration that all their friends, family, and classmates can take part in.
While we are trying to promote safer activities that occur outdoors or with social distancing guidelines in place, please keep your family and others safe by always wearing a mask and maintaining appropriate distance.
The birthday of a young animal lover will feel pretty darn special with a private tour of the Wildlife Learning Center. The center offers two different tours, both of which include animal meet and greets. These private celebrations are either $159 or $318 for up to 5 people (up to 3 more people can be added for an additional fee). Talk about special: no kid will ever forget the birthday they got to feed a giraffe!
Get out of this world in a hot air balloon. Photo courtesy of California Dreamin'
How about a hot air balloon ride, high in the sky? For birthday celebrations, the balloon basket is decked out with a Happy Birthday banner and a cake is served on the flight. Book a balloon for just your celebrants; Kids must be 6 ½ years old and each balloon ride accommodates from 6-14 passengers. Pilots are fully masked and gloved for safe, open air celebrating. Prices start at $168 per person.
If your little one dreams of Hollywood and wants to see their name in lights, you can make that happen! Simply reserve a time to have a personalized graphic featured on the world famous El Capitan Theatre marquee on Hollywood Boulevard. Package prices range from $25 for just a photo of the marquee, to $200 depending on the length of time you’d like your message displayed. Drive by the theater to see it in person, and take the time for a photo op on the red carpet outside the Dolby Theater across the street, where the Academy Awards are held.
Take a harbor tour and cruise Marina del Rey's harbor. Photo courtesy of Visit Marina del Rey
While Disney’s Jungle Cruise is closed, families can take a private harbor cruise on a 21-foot electric boat. Up to 8 people from the same household can cruise around the Marina del Rey harbor together. Boats are equipped with Bluetooth, so kids can bring their favorite birthday playlists. Lifejackets are on board (and required for kids under 12) and are sanitized after each rental. Prices start at $130 for a one hour rental (that includes the whole party).
A whale watching cruise is a party that makes a big splash. Photo courtesy Island Packers
While December to April-ish is high whale watch season, most companies run year round, and kids can expect to see whales, dolphins, sea lions, and more on most outings. Cruises leave from several different harbors, and prices vary, so families can pick the one that is most convenient. One of our favorite picks for a birthday celebration is to go through Newport Whales and take advantage of the VIP Captain’s Seating for a super special experience. All cruises are currently running at reduced capacity and require masks and social distancing.
There are several places around town that cater to kids who love horses, and a great way to celebrate a birthday is with a private ride for just family and friends. From beach cliff ambles to riding along under the Hollywood sign to baby’s first birthday on a pony, there is an equestrian fete fit for every kid.
A private outing with a (tame) wild animal makes for an unforgettable birthday. Photo courtesy of Sky Falconry
I’m including this one because it’s what my daughter wants to do to celebrate her birthday this year! This little known animal encounter offers a range of experiences, starting with a basic falconry lesson ($70 for kids 6 and up to participate, $35 just to watch) where kids will learn to hold a hawk, cast it into the sky, and call it back again. Kids who are really fascinated with these magnificent birds can have a private Raptor Experience, where they can free fly a hawk and a falcon. Located in Alpine, CA, just east of San Diego.
Golf N’ Stuff has just reopened in Ventura, and with fewer players on the courses and a reduction in the number of go karts and bumper boats. Parties can be booked here; they just look a little different than they used to, as everything must take place outside. Or families can just bring celebrants to play mini golf (the popular $18 per person pass for 2 hours of unlimited mini golf allows everyone to play both 18-hole courses). Note: laser tag and the arcade remain closed for the time being.
For kids 48” or taller, a birthday party at K1 Speed is a one-of-a-kind experience. Kids can race head-to-head against family or friends in the 20hp electric karts. The birthday party race packages include medals, scorecards, podium celebrations, photos, and optional catering. It’s one of the few traditional birthday party experiences available in the city, so if your child is a speed demon, this might be just the “ticket.” Parties start at $40 per person.
Scoot around the city and get a bunch of birthday honks. Photo courtesy of the Sunny Day Scoot
Here’s something even the most veteran LA explorers among the Mommy Poppins LA team hadn’t heard of: Sunny Day Scoot. These crazy little open air cars are rentable for your own explorations, or sign up for a tour that a guide leads. Each car seats two people, and one must be an adult with a driver’s license, so this celebration is best for family outings, where you can rent as many cars as you have drivers. Socially distant, outside, and always small or private groups, this is a fun and unique way to celebrate a birthday—and our city.
With reduced hours and capacity, and new cleaning and safety measures in place, Build-A-Bear Workshops across the Southland are opening again. While parties are not available, small groups of a few (up to 4) kids, with parents waiting outside or off to the side, can come and make stuffed animals together. From traditional bears to Harry Potter inspired stuffies and even Grogu from The Mandelorian, there’s something for everyone.
Bring the whole family (and friends!) and rent swan boats or surrey bikes to tour Lake Balboa. Being outside means this can be a socially distanced party, where everyone can explore the grounds, sit on blankets and picnic tables not-too-near each other, and even share cupcakes placed on a separate table, with individual water bottles or juice boxes, and disposable plates.
Sometimes the best birthday present is a cuddle. Photo by Mommy Poppins
The CatCafe Lounge is open, at much reduced capacity. That means more cats per person! If your kids had been begging for a COVID cat adoption, but it wasn’t the right time, give them an hour or more of (masked and socially distant) cat cuddles. If you feel safer staying outside, the Catio is now open—a fully enclosed outdoor space that's safe for cats and humans alike. And if your kitten loving kid happens to fall in love, the cats here are available for adoption, which would make a pretty sweet gift for everyone. A 60-minute visit is $35 per person (ages 7 and up), or you can make it a private party for up to 4 guests, starting at $100 per hour.
An elephant trunk makes a fabulous slide. Or does it? Photo courtesy of the Museum of Illusion
Kids can step into a World of Illusions with 4 unique experiences: the Museum of Illusions, Giant’s House, Upside Down House, and Smash (this last one is for kids 12 and up). This attraction is now open at 10% capacity, which means each group has each area to itself, giving your family the best pictures you’ll ever get here. If you’re like my family, you haven’t taken as many great pictures of the kids in the last year; this will give you dozens of amazing pictures all in one day. VIP entry includes a photographer that will snap shots of the whole family celebrating and posing together (so one parent isn’t always missing from pics). Tickets start at $20 for kids and $30 for adults for just one attraction, or $35-$55 for admission to the three main areas. Children 5 and under are free.
Spend a memorable day on the beach learning to surf. No matter what the abilities are of every member of your family (or small group of friends), CampSurf will provide the equipment, instruction, wetsuits, and shade, for a birthday where your little one may learn a new sport she’ll love for the rest of her life. Contact the company to determine prices for a party, or simply book a small group private lesson for your family.
Got a daredevil who is looking for something new to do? Take a group (family or friends you’ve been in a bubble with) wakeboarding, wakesurfing, wakeskating, or tubing! Anyone 5 and up can learn with Los Angeles Wake. The company is currently operating at Lake Elsinore, which is about an hour and 45 minute drive from LA. Prices start at $225 per hour and can accommodate up to 15 people per boat.