There’s a new sport in town and it’s bloody. The battle of the birthday parties is on and competition is fierce, with parents going to extraordinary lengths to out-do each other. There are chocolate parties, pop star parties, spa parties and animal parties. You can have your party on a bus, on a boat or in a black limo, not to mention camel rides, fire-eating or even renting out an entire water park. If there were a chocolate factory in Dubai, you could probably hire that too. Parents are the Willy Wonkas of the world, competing to see who can produce the ultimate golden ticket.
‘It’s like an annual exam,’ says one very unpretentious mum. ‘I’ve done the bouncy castle party, the bowling party, and the disco party. This year, I’m taking my daughter on holiday for her birthday. It’s an easy way out – less stressful and probably cheaper.’
Even sensible parents get sucked in. Take the invites. What used to be simple pieces of card have now turned into gorgeous gifts – bespoke on beautiful paper or, the big trend, edible invites – essentials piped onto cookies, lollies and cupcakes. Catering has reached greater heights too, (firework cakes, anyone?) not to mention the party bags – my pet hate. I’ve dropped my son off with an Dhs80 gift only to have him return home with a party bag worth three times that. What happened to a slice of cake, bottle of bubbles and a few sweets?
Luckily, there are a plethora of party companies out there willing to wave their magic wands and pull customised, handcrafted and personalised party solutions out of their hats. Putting the entire (oft-painful) experience into someone else’s hands can remove the stress, but it will also up the cost. If you’ve got three kids and you play the party game, this is second mortgage material. But, in the best ‘if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em’ spirit, we’ve put together a plethora of party packages to suit all ages and budgets, as well as our top pick ‘n’ mix options for those brave enough to host the big birthday bash at home. Read on if you dare…
The spa party
Pampering party at Tickles & Giggles
Ideal for Pint-sized princesses over five years.
Cost Dhs250 per child.
What you get E-party invites; party room for two hours with disco/spa theme décor (think hot purple, pink or orange); three salon/spa services for each child in the gorgeous mini spa room; a sparkling birthday toast; party food (nuggets and mini pizzas).
Fun & games Choose from manis including massage and non-toxic nail polishes, a mini glam make-up and yummy chocolate or honey and yoghurt facials. Other options include pedis, nail art, hair colour sprays and temporary tattoos. Little lasses are then let loose in the dressing-up room to adorn themselves in glam gear, like boas and masks, to disco music, before parading in a fashion show. There are tons of extravagant extras: from a Hummer limo service and Karaoke session (Dhs300) to a cotton candy machine or chocolate fountain (Dhs350 each) plus add-on activities like cookie decorating (Dhs25 per child).
We love The jell-o shots and mock-champers toast of sparkling apple juice. Plus, you can pick up the most amazing favours from the store. Take the e-party option, and watch it live on a webcam.
Contact Tickles & Giggles (800 82634; www.ticklesandgiggles.com)
LIKE THIS? TRY… The new Tweenage Rampage party at Barton Portraits where kids get dressed up and made up before taking part in their very own fashion shoot. Julian Barton used to snap the stars in some of Europe’s best teen mags (remember Smash Hits, mum and dad?) so he knows what he’s doing. The party bags, including individual poses and a fun group shot, are some of the best in town, and there are plenty more piks and goodies for the birthday boy/girl, including a mock-up magazine cover and a CD of behind-the-scenes shots from the whole shebang. Dhs2,500 for 10 kids. Check out www.bartonportraits.com
The science party
Discovery party at Mad Science
Ideal for Curious kids (five to 10) who love noise, mess and wacky stuff.
Cost From Dhs1,000 for a 45-minute show and 30 minutes hands-on fun.
What you get A real ‘mad scientist’ brings boxes of fascinating contraptions, buckets, tools and ice chests to your home or venue; a high-energy interactive show on a theme (from Fizzy Physics to Wind & Bubbles); plus hands-on experiments. Upgrade with extras like ‘launch your own rocket’, ‘dry ice experiments’ or ‘cotton candy science’.
Fun & games After a safety spiel, the mad scientist reveals gadgets galore and delivers one experiment after another, ranging from chemical reactions and bubbling solutions, to creating vacuums and magic tricks (think smoke, foam and bubbling coloured liquids) before kids create their own concoctions such as slippery slime, Mad Science putty and super bouncy balls, which they get to take home.
We love The ready-to-go goodie bags (Dhs32 extra per child), loaded with science-themed stuff, like Helix flyers, spy pens and clinging polymer.
Contact Mad Science (056 694 5247; www.madscience.org/uae)
LIKE THIS? TRY… Kidville’s Sizzling Spectacular Science Party A 90-minute package lets mini-Einsteins (aged four plus) create their own science projects. For Dhs2,750 (up to 11 kids, Dhs100 per extra child), you get invites, pizza, personalised birthday cake, party favours, balloons and two party leaders. 04 440 1220
The football party
Footie party with E-Sports
Ideal for Lads or lasses aged four-12 years.
Cost From Dhs700 for one hour, Dhs1,200 for two hours, for up to 20 kids.
What you get An Adidas Birthday Pack for birthday boy or girl; expert coaches; plenty of footie-related games and tons of prizes. Extras (available at a discount) include photographers, football birthday cakes and medals for kids. Parents should provide the catering.
Fun & games The party kicks off with loads of fun footie games and competitions, followed by a mini tournament and matches before prizes are presented (think t-shirts, balls, wristbands and vouchers). Birthday boy gets a rucksack, shin pads and Adidas stuff.
We love That you can create your own sporting package to suit your sprog: opt for a cricket party, tennis party or multisports, a combo of footie, tennis and cricket.
Contact E-Sports (050 856 5814; firstname.lastname@example.org)
LIKE THIS? TRY… Soccer Circus Training Academy offers a 2-1/2 hour package at Soccer Circus (email@example.com) in Mirdif City Centre, for Dhs145 per child (nine-16 kids). This includes two rounds of exciting footie challenges in the training academy, coaches, party room and food from Macdonald’s or Pizza Hut. Or try the Sports Keeko Party from Flying Elephant (04 347 9170). Starting from Dhs1,500, you get an inflatable soccer shootout activity, sports décor, footie pinata and loads of games.
The cooking party
Pizza & pasta-making at Sana Bonta
Ideal for Budding chefs aged five-12.
Cost Dhs80 per child (minimum 10, maximum 50).
What you get The venue at DIFC (decked out with balloons, streamers and banners) for two to three hours; party hats; personalised birthday cake; all ingredients to make food; three dedicated chef hosts; and two games.
Fun & games Three chefs guide the culinary kids through four cooking stations, providing demonstrations and delivering foodie facts, while little ones get stuck into making spinach pasta, kneading dough balls, creating a pizza and juicing oranges (with lots of fun games along the way) before tucking into their own culinary creations.
We love The chefs’ antics, fun games, jolly jokes and lots of entertainment: Chef Mervin juggling oranges is a particular highlight.
Contact Sana Bonta (04 4250 327)
LIKE THIS? TRY… California Pizza Kitchen The package here for older kids (aged 10-14) includes an interactive pizza-making activity at the Dubai Mall restaurant (04 339 9099). Or become a pastry chef for the day at Planet Hollywood and create your very own cupcakes and desserts. You get two hours in the dedicated kids’ play area with balloons and party hats, a mini disco, an entertainer hosting games and a buffet featuring mini burgers and chocolate brownies. (Dhs75 per child, 04 324 4100).
The horse party
Horsing around with HoofBeatz
Ideal for Outdoor-sy kids aged six to nine who adore horses.
Cost Dhs135 per child (groups of 10 or less); Dhs125 per child (groups of more than 10), with birthday child free.
What you get The venue (large tent, stables, outdoor area at Polo club) all dressed up for the birthday boy or girl; party facilitator; gift for birthday child; lots of games (with free prizes of HoofBeatz memorabilia like t-shirts and bags); arts activities; carriage ride; stable tour and equine-inspired snacks; and catering accessories. Parents should provide own party catering.
Fun & games The party begins with a stable tour (think 50 horses/ponies), where kids learn fun facts and get to ‘meet the minis’ (ponies) and touch, pet, feed, groom and tack them, followed by the unique mini carriage ride. Games include a horsey treasure hunt and ‘pin the tail on the pony’ (a cut-out, naturally). There are tons of equine add-ons: pony rides (Dhs15 per child); a mini Al Saheel horse show (Dhs500 for 15 mins), and the rather bizarre Paint a Pony activity (Dhs100 per group of five) where pint-sized Picassos put their paw prints on a real pony (using non-toxic paint, of course).
We love That everything is equine-related, from the nibbles (think apples and carrots) to the party games such as the bucking mechanical horse (Dhs5 per child). Plus, we love that all activities are tailored to your child’s age.
Contact Hoofbeatz (04 330 6266; firstname.lastname@example.org)
LIKE THIS? TRY… The Animal Sanctuary & Petting Farm where a Dhs500 donation delivers a fabulous hands-on farm party, with opportunities for petting, handling and feeding animals. Just 45 mins from Dubai, they’ll help you set up (bring your own catering) and for an extra fee, will organise facepainting and bouncy castles. Contact 050 273 0973.
The green party
Plan it green at Peekaboo
Ideal for Eco-conscious parents who loathe excess.
Cost Dhs95 per child (aged 3-7 years).
What you get A ‘choc-a-bloc-with-natural-toys’ venue (choose from Ibn Battuta, The Village Mall or Mall of the Emirates); three party facilitators; E-Vites (asking guests to wrap gifts in newspaper); reusable dishes, cups and utensils; a clown; facepainting; healthy organic kids’ buffet; recycled party bags with natural gifts like mini plants, homemade play dough and wooden toys; plus a gift for the party child.
Fun & games 30 minutes of green games including ‘fill the bucket’, a recycling race teaching tots to separate and store trash; a ‘paper dance’; and biodegradeable balloon-bending and facepainting using non-toxic, non-allergenic paints. Eco crafts include fashioning picture frames and jewellery from reusable magazines, or choose the culinary option, which lets kids make gourmet goodies like muffins and macaroons, using gluten- and nut-free ingredients. Extras include hair braiding (Dhs10 per child), karaoke sessions (Dhs150) and whacking the Pinata (Dhs240), which spills nasties-free candy.
We love Peekaboo’s green gift registry, letting little ones create a birthday pressie wish list, featuring ‘sponsor an orphan elephant in Kenya’ and ‘adopt a goat to provide milk for a poor family in Africa’. We also love that it’s the only play area in town that doesn’t require a minimum number of kids for its parties.
Contact Peekaboo (04 344 7122; www.peekaboo.ae)
LIKE THIS? TRY… Organic Foods & Café Cooking Party The only Dubai outlet to offer a full organic party, this hands-on 90-minute cooking package not only lets little ones cook up a main dish (from bolognese to fish and chips) but also educates them on organic produce. For Dhs120 per child, kids get a cooking class, party food, a take-out box with food they’ve made, store tour and ice cookies. Add on extras like a baking and decorating cookie session (Dhs50 per child) or a puppet show (Dhs250). Call 04 434 0577
The arrt party
Crafty creations at Kidville
Ideal for Creative kids from five years and parents who want all the frills without the fuss.
Cost Dhs2,750 for the standard 90-min package for up to 11 kids with additional kids at Dhs100 per child, or Dhs6,750 for the two-hour Big Blowout package for up to 20 kids.
What you get The Big Blowout option gets you a huge private party zone; invites; personalised cake; favours; balloons and paper goods; jumpy castle; four party leaders; pizza and juice; a big blowout art table and your own chosen theme.
Fun & games The art opportunities here will literally blow kids away, with painting, sculpting and decorating an array of projects. Choose from decorate-your-own jewellery box to 3D plaster projects or tie-dyeing t-shirts, splatter painting or design-your-own diary. There are tons of add-ons too, including a design-your-own cookie station (Dhs800), the unusual ‘human dog’ (a person dressed as a dog that looks real) and even a pirate show, plus grown-up food for parents.
We love The fact you’re so well looked after and the incredible selection of themed parties. A few of our faves include: Treasure Hunt Party (kids create treasure maps and go on a hunt); Slumber Party (think Pjs and flashlights with hair-braiding and jewellery-making); and the new Dino-Mite Party (a dinosaur dig with fossil finds and relay races).
Contact Kidville (04 440 1220; www.mykidville.ae)
LIKE THIS? TRY… The Painting Party at Jam Jar Hire the package through Me & Riley (050 286 7896) and for Dhs2,850, you get a two-hour party for up to 20 kids at The Jam Jar studio (including all facilities) with a canvas for each child, which they take home, and all materials and art instruction. You also get invites, balloons and décor, including catering stuff (though not food), and a birthday child-customised playlist. Extras like catering, party favours and a magic show can be arranged.
The gardening party
Seed planting by Me & Riley
Ideal for Parents who love parties the traditional way.
Cost Dhs350 for set-up/equipment, plus Dhs20 per child for pot/seeds.
What you get Me & Riley will bring all the necessary equipment – a set of four tables, eight stools, plus potting soil, watering cans, plant labels, mini gardening gloves and tools, as well as seeds.
Fun & games With instruction, little green fingers get stuck into potting soil and planting seeds (or even lettuces), before creating their own name stake. There are tons of add-ons, including a fun and fabulous entertainer from Cheeky Monkey’s (Dhs1,400 for one hour) or a package of traditional party games (Dhs600), plus oh-so-natural activities like hand puppet making.
We love All the eco-friendly little extras and delightful details such asedible cookie party invites (from Dhs25 each), 100 per cent cotton drawstring party bags (from Dhs25 each), and gorgeous wooden gift trees on which to display favours (Dhs75 each).
Contact Me & Riley (050 286 7896; www.meandriley.com)
LIKE THIS? TRY… The scrapbooking party Girls aged 8-15 can create fun projects (which they take home) at Paper Lane’s three-hour bash. They can fashion frames, mini books, cards, door handle decorations and more, while the celebrant gets a birthday scrapbook album with a page completed by each of her friends. For Dhs175 (six girls minimum), you get all the materials and instruction, venue, cupcakes, plus party food from Café Ceramique. Contact 04 344 3633.
The dance party
Disco dancing at at Kadomz studio
Ideal for… Trendy tweens who love the limelight.
What you get The venue for two hours; one hour with a professional dance instructor in the dance studio; one hour in The Lounge; party attendant; and buffet including chicken nuggets and pizza.
Fun & games A professional choreographer teaches tykes the coolest moves to their favourite pop songs for the first hour. Hire a DJ to spin the hottest hits or disco lights to set the mood (both at extra costs). The last hour in the funky Lounge provides dazzling dress-up, cool karaoke, PlayStation, air hockey and chill-out bean bags for cosy chats.
We love The extravagant extras: take part in a fashion shoot (raid the outrageous dress-up trunk and be snapped by a photographer), or arrive in style in a limo.
Contact Kadomz Dance Studio, Favourite Things (04 434 1984)
LIKE THIS? TRY… For a party with the X Factor, try Cheeky Monkey’s Popstar Party. Experienced entertainers (they’ve danced on the Brit and MTV Award shows) put over-sixes through their performance paces, with dance routines, songs and a grand performance. The package comes with games, quizzes, balloons and tons more. Call 056 691 3552
The Surfing party
Beach bash at Surf UAE
Ideal for… Active water babies over five years.
Cost Dhs150 plus Dhs200 (up to 10 kids) and Dhs300 (11-20 kids).
What you get A two-hour party on Palace Beach or Moscow Beach, including set-up and clearance; lots of surfing games; equipment and sun block; cool boxes; free stickers and experienced coaches.
Fun & games Coaches entertain kids with surf-style games and competitions on soft surfboards and paddleboards.
We love The fresh air, the price, and that, according to Carl at Surf School UAE, ‘the kids sleep like logs that night.’ We also love that parents are included in the surfing fun.
Contact UAE Surf School (04 399 0989; email@example.com)
LIKE THIS? TRY… Dubai Dolphinarium’s Dolphin party Dhs2,500 gets you a three-hour party for up to 30 kids, hosts, fun games in the marine-themed party room, tickets for the Live Dolphin and Seal Show (including two adult tickets), photos with the dolphins and gifts for birthday child. Other packages start from Dhs799. Call 800-DOLPHIN.