There are many ways to approach a birthday party, but the personality and preferences of the honoree are key. Once you choose the type of party you want, work on making it the best event you can within your budget. Here are four themes and three options for each, listed in order of expense, high to low. (Many venues offer a range of packages with varying prices, so visit the business websites for information.) The rest is up to you.
Flight Academy of New Orleans, 5701 Walter Beech St., (504) 241-9131; www.877flynola.com/aerial.php
Celebrate from thousands of feet in the air while looking down on breathtaking sights of the city. The plane is limited to five passengers.
Steamboat Natchez, 600 Decatur St., Suite 308, (504) 586-8777; www.steamboatnatchez.com
Rent a private room or just cruising the Mississippi River with a group of friends on the Steamboat Natchez. Check the calendar for music performances and jazz brunch. Group rates apply to parties of 10 or more.
Wheel Fun Rentals, 4 Friedrichs Avenue, New Orleans City Park, (504) 300-1289; www.wheelfunrentals.com
Rent a few pedal boats, kayaks or stand-up paddle boards and float through City Park's lagoons with friends, family and the ducks.
Gray Line Tours, Departs from the Gray Line Lighthouse Ticket Office (Toulouse Street at the Mississippi River in the French Quarter), (504) 569-1401; www.grayline- neworleans.com
Taste the New Orleans' most famous cocktails and explore the French Quarter one drink at a time.
Barcadia, 601 Tchoupitoulas St., (504) 335-1740; www.barcadia- neworleans.com
Shamrock, 4133 S. Carrollton Ave., (504) 301-0938; www.shamrockparty.com
These two adult play spots have full bars and food menus. Barcadia features a range of arcade games, including Pac-Man, Mortal Kombat and Beer Pong, as well as life-size Jenga, skeeball, air hockey and more. Shamrock has 23 pool tables, ping pong tables, foosball, mini bowling lanes, a punching bag, hoops and more.
Bayou Beer Garden, 326 N. Jefferson Davis Parkway, (504) 302-9357; www.bayoubeergarden.com
The laid-back atmosphere prevails inside or on the patio, and the drinks menu is brimming with a variety of local brews as well as a full slate of spirits.
Swamp and bayou tour
Gray Line Tours, departs from Gray Line Lighthouse Ticket Office (Toulouse Street at the Mississippi River in the French Quarter), (504) 569-1401; www.graylineneworleans.com
Explore nearby swamps and bayous by boat and see the wildlife that inhabits them. A guide tells passengers about the area and its history.
Haunted History Tours, 723 St. Peter St., (504) 861-2727; www.hauntedhistorytours.com
Guides take you through "haunted" areas of New Orleans and tell you about the ghosts rumored to inhabit them. Explore the dark side with other tour options: vampires, scandal, cemetery and more. Private tours require a minimum of 20 guests.
French Quarter Tour
Free Tours By Foot, 2613 Laurel St., (504) 222-2967; www.freetoursbyfoot.com
Discover the hidden corners of the historic French Quarter and hear stories of authors, artists, priests and pirates on a tour led by licensed, local and freelance tour guides. The tours are pay-what-you-want.
600 Fulton St., (504) 208-5569; www.fultonalley.com
There's food, craft cocktails and boutique bowling in elegant surroundings at this upscale bowling alley in downtown New Orleans. Party size is limited to 12 guests. Validated parking is available for guests.
6601 Jefferson Highway, Harahan, (504) 737-2400; www.colonialbowling.net
Have a classic (or cosmic-lit) bowling party featuring a choice of laneside food and drinks. Party packages require a minimum of 20 guests, but you can have as many as 100.
Rock 'N' Bowl
3000 S. Carrollton Ave., (504) 861-1700; www.rocknbowl.com
Embrace your inner star with a rocking bowling experience featuring food and drinks. The venue can accommodate a party for as many as 75 guests, and there's a party package that includes admission to the music show the night of the party.