There are lots of ways to punch up a party by getting guests involved in the action: photo booths with costumes, second-line parades, rock-climbing walls, organized games, inflatable structures, dancing to live music and more. Interactive entertainment is even better when a host doesn't have to devote time and energy to formulating and carrying out the plan. Here are four ideas for effort-free additions that will make your party one guests will remember.
Cigar-rolling station — The Cigar Factory in the French Quarter brings a rolling stand to the party site, along with a person who rolls cigars for two to four hours as guests watch. The cigar roller gets to work, and another staff member describes the process and helps guests with cutting cigar tips, lighting cigars and learning about tobacco blends and their flavors, says Devin Bogle, a manager at Cigar Factory. Hosts generally pick a couple of types of cigars for their guests to sample, and special labels can be printed to commemorate the event (Happy Birthday, names or dates). Cigars available to guests are rolled and labeled ahead of time and aged. "Cigars are like wine in that way," Bogle says. "They get better when they are aged."
Prices are $1,050 for 150 cigars (100 to 200 guests) or $1,500 for 250 cigars (200-300 guests). Packages for smaller groups also are available.
Laser tag and video games — These games appeal to a wide range of guests but often are limited to parties held at the gaming facilities. NOLA Games on Wheels has taken gaming mobile. The company provides high-tech laser taggers and can set up a custom laser tag playing field with obstacles outside or at an indoor venue. It also provides a game coach to explain rules and oversee play. NOLA Games on Wheels also has an air-conditioned video game truck with five widescreen TVs inside and two 60-inch screens outside, so it's possible for 28 people to play at the same time. Stadium seating for 10 allows an audience to watch gamers, and there's a laser light show outside. Games include Just Dance 4, Wii Sports Resort, Sonic Sega All-Stars Racing, Kung Fu Panda, Lego Batman, Minecraft, Super Mario Brothers Wii, Blur and lots more. There are consoles and controllers for PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Wii and Wii U, and screens are equipped with surround sound to make the experience more immersive.
Prices start at $299 for two hours.
The Selfie Mirror — It's always fun to watch people check out their reflections in a mirror. It's even more entertaining when the mirror invites them to ham it up — and takes a snapshot of the moment. The Selfie Mirror setup is a full-length mirror in a gilded frame with a big TV behind it and a professional-quality camera. The mirror acts as a touchscreen that a guest or group can activate, then the TV provides the countdown. It can be programmed to take three to four pictures at a time and guests can choose the one they want. Photographer Eric Miller, owner of MillerFoto and The Selfie Mirror, says the advantages of The Selfie Mirror are that guests receive high-quality, full-size prints, and there's a computer station with a tablet where guests can post the photos to social media right away. Miller also puts the photos on his website, where guests can download them at no cost. The party setup includes the mirror, social media station and two attendants. One person assists guests in using the device and another delivers their photos in protective covers and helps at the computer station. Miller says hosts can personalize the mirror, which is a large box, by wrapping the sides and back, and the photo formats can be customized with names, dates or other info.
The price is $800 to $1,000. "It's the newest thing," Miller says. "It's more expensive than other photo booths, but it's different. We use a better camera and the pictures look awesome."
Virtual reality station — VR Arcade NOLA offers virtual reality experiences including games and travel adventures. The company uses a high-quality headset and cameras set up on a 10-foot-square space to give a guest a 360-degree interactive experience. The company can set up to four stations at a location, which gives guests more time for the 15-minute sessions and also allows for high-score contests among game players.
"We offer participants a chance to immerse themselves in new worlds and incredible virtual experiences," says Devin Regan, who co-founded VR Arcade with David Denny in late 2016. "We tailor the VR experience to the preferences of the participant, whether they want to explore underwater worlds, create 3-D drawings or battle alien spaceships."
There are 20 different games and adventures available at every party, and VR Arcade also can customize a program for the event. The set-up includes attendants to assist guests. There also is a TV screen at each station so guests who aren't playing can see what the player sees through the headset. Regan says one of the advantages of VR Arcade is that there are options for all ages. "The little kids tend to like the zombie games the most, but Fruit Ninja is popular with other ages and is easy to pick up," Regan says, adding that older adults enjoy the less physical adventures such as traveling in Google Earth. "A common misconception is that VR is intended for gamers ... but most of the experiences are for people who are new to technology."
Prices start at $500 to $600 for a three-hour event.