Bounce houses are great and little people love pinatas. But how about doing something a bit different for your tot’s next (or first) birthday bash? From a kid-friendly rock concert to a bubble bonanza, here are the best and most unique way to wow even the most jaded of LA kids (plus their parents, too!).

photo: Rick Gillard

Sheroes Entertainment: Milo the Unicorn

Nothing says over-the-top (in the coolest, most awesome way possible!) like a real-live unicorn at your kid's birthday party. Sheroes Entertainment, a company that provides mythical creatures to the SoCal entertainment industry, can deliver a stunning, sparkling unicorn to your home for photo opps and rides (kids must be at least 3 to ride the unicorn and all riders must be under 225 pounds). Birthday packages include a visit from Milo, Sheroes' beloved "celebrity" unicorn, plus two attendants to lead him during rides or assist in posing him for pics. Kids will also get the chance to feed Milo a few carrots and learn a little about horses (the unicorn's distant cousins) before he is whisked away.  

Pssst: Can't afford a private unicorn party? Keep checking Milo the Unicorn's personal website for information about public meet-and-greets! 

Cost: $750 and up (not including travel fee, which varies by location).

Online: sheroesentertainment.com

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photo: Send in the Clowns

Send in the Clowns: Carnival Rides

Going for a classic carnival or circus-inspired theme?  Send in the Clowns, an LA-based party company, can help with an assortment of kiddie rides available to rent, including two tiny tot-sized trains and several styles of arcade-style ride-ons (three-person carousels like you see at malls). Or, if you've got the budget, a full-size carousel is also available. All rides (besides the full-size carousel) are recommended for kids under 7. 

Cost: $500 and up for two hours. (The full-size carousel is $3,500.)

Online: sendintheclownsla.com

photo: Magical TeePees

Magical Teepees: Slumber Parties

Once upon a time, slumber parties meant throwing some sleeping bags on the living room floor and calling it a night. Not today. The slumber party business is actually a thing, and companies like Magical Teepees (which has locations in California, Nevada and Arizona) you can plan your child's sleepover as meticulously as if you were planning a wedding (without the 18-month wait). Your slumberers can expect to get individual kid-sized teepees complete with fairy lights, lanterns, sleeping cushions and a variety of themed pillows—plus snack trays, mini shag rugs, and anything else your kid desires to dress up her nighttime soiree (we love the "Unicorn Mania" theme, but there's also a "Camo Nights," "Tropical Jungle," and "Summer Luau", among others.). Magical Teepees also lets you book the perfect sleepover activities, including DIY dreamcatcher kits, pillowcase decorating kits, photo booth props and polaroid cameras.

Cost: $400 for a 4-teepee party; $650 for a 10-teepee party. 

Online:  magicalteepees.com

photo: Airballing LA

Airballing LA: Fortnite Party

Got kids addicted to Fortnite? Get them off the screen and into the real world with a real-life Fornite party! Airballing LA will supply everything you need to get your gamers playing a fresh-air version of the scrappy survival game: That means an armory of Nerf guns, bows & arrows, chalk and smoke bombs, and water balloons—as well as mini trampolines (for bounce attacks!), a human hamster ball (just because), and more than 75 inflatable barriers and obstacles that kids can move around the battlefield. The basic party package also comes with one Fortnite coach to lead the battle. All you need is space big enough to set up the battlefield (public parks work great as long as you get approval from the city first). 

Check out this Youtube video to see what to expect. 

Cost: $650 and up

Online: airballingla.com

photo: BeatBuds

The BeatBuds

Want a music party where Mom and Dad can rock out, too? BeatBuds is like having a a mini rock band come to your home with a full setup and a song lineup that'll get everyone jamming. The LA-based company was founded by two former rock and punk band members who aspired to make a kids' music company that would appeal to parents as much as it does the kids (there'll be no traditional "ABC" songs here). The 55-minute program caters to kids ages 1 to 6, with kids (and parents) invited to jam along using provided percussion and rhythm instruments.  

Cost: $375 for a 50-55-minute interactive music experience. 

Online: thebeatbuds.com

Free to Be Me Drum Circle

Kids love to bang stuff. So why not put their powerful noise-making skills to good use with a drum circle party courtesy of Free to Be Me Drum Circle. Founded by the longtime drummer Sabina Sandoval, Free to Be Me is best known in the South Bay for bringing throngs of strangers together on the beach for magical monthly drum circles. We're talking more than 50 separate drums at work—it's enough to make any drummer sound like a pro just by the sheer power of the group. For birthday parties Sabina will bring as many drums as you want, so that kids and grown-ups alike can sit down and pound away. And it's not just noise: Sabina calls her drum circles "educational rhythmic drumming events," so you can expect her to give a little hands-on instruction on how to rock out before letting everyone have at it.

In any case, you may want to warn the neighbors. Or just invite them!

Pssst: Want to check it out first? Free To Be Me has its public drum circles from 12p.m.-3p.m. on the third Sun. of every month on the sand south of the pier in Hermosa Beach.

Cost: Call or e-mail for prices: 310-944-5475; sabinadrums@gmail.com. 

Online: freetobemedrumcircle.com

photo: John Paulsen

Sheroes Entertainment: Mini Mers Pool Party

Little swimmers who want to be "part of that world" will flip for these picture-perfect mermaids who come to your party ready for land or water. Sheroes Entertainment's authentic-looking mermaids are so good they're routinely used in film and television. Book a "Mini Mer" party package and you'll get at least one mermaid who will lead your little swimmers in water games and other activities—plus a Red Cross-certified lifeguard to make sure all swimmers stay safe. Don't have a pool? No problem! "Walking Mermaids" are also available. Or, if your little Ariel wants something even more authentic, Sheroes can arrange a beach visit where your little mermaid-hunter can "find" a mermaid at a pre-arranged beach location. 

Cost: Starts at $445 (Must be ages 4 and up for water parties; all ages for land parties). 

Online: sheroesentertainment.com

photo: PlayCreation Kids

PlayCreation Kids: Sensory Party

If you've got little ones who love to play with their food, a "Sensory Party" with PlayCreation Kids will get your kids spaghetti-laden, color-smeared, and flour-dusted—all before the birthday cake is cut! OK with the mess? Get those little hands dipped into paint, give them some canvases and let them at it. Or, if you prefer a cleaner experience, there are "non-messy" party options, including bowls of uncooked rice or lentils, pom-poms and beans that your kids can dig their hands into and explore. Craft stations for older kids—as well as music centers with various instruments for kids to play—can also be arranged. 

Cost: $475 and up, depending on package. 

Online: playcreationskids.com

Bubblemania: Bubble Party

Now's your chance to put your kids in a bubble (at least for a few moments)! Bubblemania will bring zillions of bubbles to your home for kids to marvel at, sit inside of, and create. Master "bubblologists" will show your little bubble-blowers the science behind the soapy orbs then demonstrate some of the coolest bubble masterpieces around—including rainbow bubbles, square bubbles, triangle bubbles, bubbles that bounce, and bubbles inside of bubbles. The indoor portion of the show culminates in a grand finale, wherein every kid gets the chance to be inside a bubble. Then, kids are whisked outside where they get to make their own bubbles using a variety of advanced bubble wands. Indoor-only and outdoor-only parties are available, though the bubble show can only be done indoors.  

Cost: $170 and up, depending on the party package. 

Online: bubblemaniaandco.com

photo: Lovebug & Me

Lovebug & Me Music

If it's a first birthday you're celebrating, we love multiple award-winning LoveBug & Me Music and its team of "music educators," who will get your kids singing and dancing with the help of great tunes and fun instruments that even the smallest mini-musicians can master. Your party-goers will gather around for a music circle with personalized songs, dance, instruments, drums, parachute play, games and bubbles—plus optional face painting or glitter tattoos. 

Cost: $220 and up. 

 

Smokey's Fire Truck

What kid (or grown-up!) doesn't wish they could go for a ride-along on a fire truck? Smokey's Fire Trucks, based in Costa Mesa, turns that dream into a reality. Run by two active-duty LA firefighters, Smokey's delivers a real-live (1981 Crown) firetruck—fully equipped with lights, sirens, horns, hoses and authentic fire equipment—to your doorstep, then lets everyone hop on for a ride around the neighborhood. When they get tired of riding around to all those (fake) fires, the little firefighters can try out the working hoses. All kids get a plastic fire hat, and the birthday boy or girl gets a picture book delivered by the firefighters themselves.

Cost: Call for pricing. Note: There may be an additional charge for driving distances 30 plus miles from Costa Mesa.

Online: firetruckbirthdayparty.com

Puppies & Reptiles for Parties

If your birthday girl or boy is a dog-lover, the aptly-named Puppies & Reptiles for Parties will deliver 10 sweet-natured pups for all your guests to enjoy. The party can be set up indoors or out, and as long as there's enough people doing the petting and plenty of warm, cozy laps to crawl into, the doggies will enjoy the shindig as much as the party-goers. Now everybody say, "Awwwwww."  

Cost: $225 for the first hour; $90 for every 30 minutes after that. 

Online: pupsandreps.com

Vita Perfetta: Pancake Art

What, you thought making pancakes was a simple job? Just wait until you see the artistry behind these hot cakes. Party guests can choose from all sorts of fun designs, all of which will make pancakes at home forever pale in comparison. Making these edible works of art takes a little time—and the price tag doesn't exactly make for a cheap breakfast—but it's fun to watch, and way more interesting than cupcakes. 

Insider Tip: Check out this Youtube video to see why you need these pancake artists at your next party.

Cost: $275 per hour plus a $250 set up (includes a pancake artist and an assistant). Two-hour minimum.  

Online: vitaperfetta.com

photo: Melissa Heckscher

Joymode: Home Karaoke

It doesn't have to be a full-on karaoke party to have a karaoke machine ready and waiting. With a monthly membership with Joymode, a local company that lets you rent the sort of stuff you love but don't want to actually buy, it's an easy rental that can take your party up a notch. Joymode's "Home Karaoke" package includes a microphone, a Singtrix Home Karaoke System, and an LED dome party light to turn your home in to a bona fide disco. Just use your tablet or phone to load karaoke songs and let your little rock stars take the stage. 

Good to Know: Joymode also has a backyard movie night package that includes a projector and movie screen; a Wii U rental that comes with Mario games as well as an Outdoor Party Package that includes a tug of war rope, potato sacks, a cotton candy machine and a giant Connect Four board. Party games? Done! 

Price: Memberships range from $22 to $29 a month and may be cancelled at any time. Don't want to join as a member? Single-time rentals are available for $65.  

Online: joymode.com

—Melissa Heckscher

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