It never occurred to me to have a kids’ birthday party at a hair salon, but when I was writing a review on Cartoon Cuts for Our Kids, I heard all about their themed parties. They seemed to consist of the exact ingredients my seven-year-old birthday girl would call a good time: hair styling, make-up, nail polish, music, and dancing.
So I decided to book the Rockin’ Rock Star party. (The other themes are Pretty Princess and Tropical Luau.) It quickly dawned on me that the experience isn’t like the other parties I’ve booked at a gym or a bounce place, where you might have the space all to yourself and then a private room for food and cake. This party is more like you treating your kid and her friends to an afternoon at the salon.
We had the party at Cartoon Cuts’ Congressional Plaza location. The back half of the store was basically reserved for our party, though there was no rope or partition so that customers could still have access to the bathroom. A nail/make-up table was set up on one side of the space, and another table on the opposite side held a “cake” (more on this later) and a stuffed white dog and a box of colored markers. Balloon bouquets decorated the entire store, but I don’t know if that was part of the party or just regular salon décor. A kids’ party-rock CD was playing to set the mood. Most parents had dropped off their kids, but those who stayed sat in the waiting area at the front of the store, chatting.
We had nine kids altogether, all girls except for the birthday celebrant’s three-year-old brother. Three stylists were dedicated to the party, plus the nail/make-up person. Once a guest was ready, a stylist would get her into a chair (there were TVs at each station set to cartoon channels) and discuss what kind of style she wanted. Most girls got tie-on braided hair extensions in neon colors. Others got curls or pigtails. Some got a combo of both.
Stylists were flexible and open to do-overs. At first, my daughter had bright yellow braided hair extensions put in, but when it was done, she didn’t look happy. The manager right away suggested that she might prefer to have a tiara instead, since she was the birthday girl. Not exactly the “rockin’ rock star” theme, but my daughter liked the tiara and her princess curls much better.
The nail and make-up table was, needless to say, very popular. Girls got to pick the colors and any extra nail designs. Make-up was their choice of eye-shadow and lip gloss. While girls waited their turn for hair or make-up, they could write a message or make a drawing with colored markers on the white stuffed dog, to be given later to the birthday girl.
My three-year-old son was reluctant at first to get his hair done. I think he thought he was going to get braided hair extensions! But I brought him up to the front of the store where there is a poster of different kinds of girls and boys hairstyles. I pointed out the “faux hawk” style and told him he could have his curly mop done like thatâ€”and the stylist could add cool red hair-coloring too. He agreed to that and he ended up loving the lookâ€”and the attention he got from all the older girls cooing over his cute hairstyle.
Although boys can definitely be catered to, the atmosphere – at least at our party – was overwhelmingly girly and it’s probably a good idea we didn’t invite any of my daughter’s boy classmates.
After everyone had gotten their makeovers, there were games (Duck Duck Goose, Red Light/Green Light) led good-naturedly by the young lady who had done the nails and makeup – with prizes being a feather boa in the girl’s choice of color. The girls danced to the music, giggling when they saw how the boa feathers were flying around. (In the end, every girl got a boa.) Next it was time to sing Happy Birthday and cut the “cake,” which was made of triangular paper-box “slices.” Each slice was filled with candies like Crunch, Laffy Taffy, and Sweet Tarts. Each guest got a slice to take home.
Cartoon Cuts offers this faux cake as an add-on because real cake and other food aren’t such a great idea in a place where hair cuttings are lying around. (The floor in the party space was swept clean, but still.) The manager did tell me that juice boxes and something simple like cupcakes were okay to have in the store, but we decided to have our real cake (an ice-cream one from the next-door Baskin Robbins) afterwards at the outdoor tables near Starbucks. And that worked out great, because after the cake the girls had a chance to run around a bit, showing off their new looks and nails, before their parents picked them up.
Before they’d left the store, they got Cartoon Cuts goodie bags that included lip gloss, eye shadow, tattoos, nail polish, sequined hair bands, bubbles in a guitar-shaped bottle, and an inflatable guitar. My daughter also got a harmonica in her goodie bag. The boy goodie-bag had the bubbles and the inflatable guitar, as well as pirate tattoos and stickers, mini telescopes, and a pirate ring. The bags, a good-value add-on for $5 each, were a big hit.
My one caveat about the party was the fact that we shared the store with regular customers. I felt a bit like the parent on the airplane with the screaming baby. The other people were there to get their hair cut but they had to deal with loud music, boa feathers flying around, and girls squealing. But maybe that’s just me being self-conscious and overly sensitive. The kids had no such qualms. They were too busy having a fabulous time.
Party Planning Details
- Party price is $240 for eight guests, with extra guests $30 each. There is a minimum of eight guests required. The $240 doesn’t include tip.
- Add-ons include the Better-than-a-Cake Birthday Cake filled with candies for $25 and the gender-appropriate, themed goodie bags for $5 each.
- The salon part of the party lasts about an hour and a half. We took an extra half hour for cake and ice-cream afterwards.
- Best time to book parties is when the store is quieter, usually later in the afternoon on weekends. We booked it on a Sunday at 3 p.m. to avoid the really busy time – though it ended up being pretty busy anyways.
- The size of the space and the type of experience this is definitely call for a smaller party size. The minimum requirement is 8 kids total but I would say that that’s also about the size of the party you want to have. If you have too many more, I’d think there would be too much downtime for some kids waiting to get their hair or makeup done.
- You have to reserve parties through the corporate office in Florida but any specific questions are best addressed to the manager of the Cartoon Cuts where you want to have the party.
- At the Congressional Plaza location, the Cartoon Cuts mascot, Ellie the Elephant, can make an appearance at your party for free if you want. (The manager dons the costume.)
Photo courtesy of Kathleen Seiler Neary.