Birthdays That Are So L.A.
Around-the-World Adventures in Ice Cream
The idea began, once upon a time, at a little girl’s birthday party. Adrienne Borlongan, founder and chief flavor master of Wanderlust Creamery (wanderlustcreamery.com), with four L.A.-area locations, is from L.A., but her parents are from the Philippines. She grew up eating lots of exotic foods – including the bright purple Filipino yam called ube – and her adventurous eating always met with a few raised eyebrows, especially around her classmates.
“When I was growing up and my birthday cake was purple, an ube cake, kids from my class would be like, ‘What’s that? Ew! I don’t want to try it!’” she says. This reaction inspired Borlongan to open people’s minds through the language of ice cream. Now, at Wanderlust, every month finds her crafting new inspirations. Always-available flavors include Sticky Rice Mango (Thailand), Pretzel + Rúgbraud (Iceland) – a toasted pretzel- infused ice cream served with caramelized Icelandic rye crumbs – Ube Malted Crunch (Philippines) and Honey Lavender (France).
You can make your child’s next birthday a global celebration by hosting a party at a Wanderlust ice cream shop, or bring the world of ice cream home by renting their charming ice cream cart.
Roving Like Robin Hood
Channel your child’s inner Robin Hood, Legolas, Princess Merida or Katniss Everdeen and hit all your birthday targets, too, when you party with Pasadena Roving Archers (rovingarchers.com). The cheerful, passionate archers from this most enchanting nonprofit will teach your child a skill that appears in lots of storybooks. They’re so dedicated to your enjoyment of the sport they love so much that they all volunteer.
The best way to plan your party with the Roving Archers is to arrange a group class where they can accommodate 10 to 20 partygoers with wonderful personal attention. These sessions take place around noon on Saturday and last two hours. Slots book up fast, so they suggest scheduling your party at least two months in advance.
Lessons are conducted in Lower Arroyo Seco Park, not far from Old Pasadena and the Rose Bowl. The public park has lots of trees for hanging piñatas and is a great picnic spot, with plenty of great restaurants nearby to provide delicacies for your picnic basket. Check out Lark Cake Shop (larkcakeshop.com) for the ultimate in birthday cake indulgence.
Since there is no minimum age requirement, your archery birthday is perfect for the whole family. Partygoers only need to be old enough to take instruction and follow safety rules. After a round of safety lessons, archers learn basic commands, practice shooting at targets and play lots of games. At the end of the day, test your shooting skills by trying to break balloons set up on hay bale targets. Pop one and win the coveted “I Popped the Balloon” pin.
If the party turns your child into an aspiring Olympian, consider joining PRA’s Olympic Archery Development program.
Birthday Biking and Boating
Nothing says L.A. like a swan boat ride in one of the city’s most iconic parks. Wheel Fun Rentals (wheelfunrentals.com) rents beautiful swan paddleboats at Echo Park Lake and Lake Balboa in Van Nuys. When I asked why swan boats and not, say, dragons or ducks, they basically said less is more. The swans seem to keep in tune with the flora and fauna of the lakes, while also appearing Disney-esque.
Some of the first swan paddleboats came to U.S. shores via a Boston company called, not surprisingly, Swan Boats. They have been manufacturing the charmers since the 1800s. Two sizes are available. One seats two adults and two kids under 10, while others can accommodate up to five adults. Swan boat birthday parties last two hours, which includes safety instructions, loading and unloading, and life jackets for all ages, including infants. During your 90 minutes of water time, you might want to switch seats so that everyone can take a turn pedaling.
At Echo Park lake, if the weather is too hot, you can pedal close to the fountain in the center of the lake and chill in the spray. You can even have a picnic on the water in your boat. Bring your own snacks or have The Beacon Cafe prepare a meal for you. Mention Wheel Fun Rentals for a discount. After your ride, have fun with Discovery Agents, an app that takes you on a treasure hunt of history around the park.
At both locations, you can also rent bikes and specialty four-wheel surrey cycles or incorporate boating and bikes with a Free For All package. Guests receive birthday wristbands that allow them to hop on the bike of their choice, ride on the bike path around the lake, jump into a boat, then do it all again as many times as they wish. In the Surrey Scavenger Hunt, groups of people ride surrey bikes around the park and hunt for answers to specific questions.