Jungle Cruise Party


Viola’s 9th birthday fell right after our “Animal Kingdom” trip to Disney, so we pushed the party back a few weeks until the weather was a little bit warmer--- it’s hard having an April birthday! I’m really glad we did because the weather was beautiful the day of her party and the kids had a lot of fun playing in the yard which we are never able to do in April. 

Viola loves animals and wanted to do an “Animal Themed” birthday party. Having just returned from Disney this quickly turned into a Jungle Cruise themed party--- I’m not sure whether this was more her idea or mine! On our trip we also ate at the Skipper Canteen for the first time and that was definitely another bit of inspiration for this party. (Skipper Canteen, by the way, is definitely my new favorite Disney restaurant!!)I had so much fun – maybe too much fun! – working in a bunch of Jungle Cruise nods that I’m pretty sure nobody got except me and one other person (thanks for laughing at my jokes, Doug!) So, for my own edification, I’ve included the Jungle Cruise references along with this party blog post!

You can check out my pinterest inspiration board for more ideas!


Animals! – Animals was the theme of the day, and the girls pulled up every “wild animal” stuffed animal that they had in the massive hoard of stuffed animals. We had monkeys and owls and snakes and cheetahs and tropical birds and more, oh my!


Room Wraps – We used a combination of room wraps from previous parties: the tiki wraps from our Luau party, and the waterfall wrap that we used for our Moana party  a few months earlier. Because we pushed Viola’s party back until it was warm, we didn’t cover the windows because there was no snow to hide.

Jungle Navigation Co. port – We turned our front area into the Jungle Navigation dock. The kids picked up their safari gear and animal scavenger hunt check lists here. We had lots of Disney souvenirs, props from previous parties, stuffed animals, houseplants, … not to mention all the ‘artifacts’ that we have as part of our home décor, to make a great vignette. I brought the jungle Cruise, Swiss Family Tree House, and Tiki Birds posters up from the basement playroom, along with the girls’ lemonade stand, too. I printed up a bunch of posters and pinned them to our pin board with a selection of Animal Kingdom Disney trading pins! It was cute… even if no one else got the jokes!


Our Disnspiration:


Basecamp – The girls share a sparkly pink princess teepee, which we used for basecamp. In keeping with the theme, though, I covered the pink sparkly tulle with grass skirts from our luau parties. On the jungle cruise, basecamp had been infiltrated by curious gorillas, so we added a few stuffed monkeys to our teepee. Again, I’m pretty sure no one got this joke but me…. Regardless, lots of fun was had playing in the teepee.

Our Disnspiration:

Schweitzer Falls – the water room wrap from our Little Mermaid party was repurposed as a waterfall to cover up our fireplace… Schweitzer Falls, to be exact! Some brown paper vines and strategically placed leafy vines, and the ol’ ring toss alligator completed the look…. Though I’m pretty sure only myself and 1 other person got the Schweitzer falls reference or the sign that said “backside of water”!


Our Disnspiration:


Tables - We did not bring out the spindles that we usually use for our parties because Viola and her friends have gotten too big for sitting on the floor! (gasp!) so we added all the leaves to our dining room table and had the kids sit around that… which was mayhem. I much prefer there little tables! But we were able to reuse our luau trim with some inexpensive leaf-print vinyl tablecloths I found at our local party store.



Trader Sam’s Cannibal Buffet – Our buffet for this party consisted of fruits, trail mixes, sandwiches cut in animal shapes, creepy crawly bug candy, and blue water bottled from Schweitzer falls! The biggest hits, though, were the platter full of ZEBRA CAKES and the watermelon slices cut into gingerbred shapes… what else would you expect from Trader Sam’s Cannibal Buffet?!

(The girls and I had so much fun creating our "not cannibal" menu!)

(The girls and I had so much fun creating our "not cannibal" menu!)

Our Disnspiration:

Jungle Waterfall Cake – After the success I had with the Moana cake (http://www.princessrants.com/princessrants/2018/4/5/moana-party ), I decided to give it another go with this “jungle waterfall” cake. I followed the same instructions of freezing the layers before frosting, and used Piroulines again for that bamboo/tropical look. I alternated chocolate and vanilla and the hardest thing was keeping my family from stealing them! I purchased candy leaves, flowers, and butterflies and lots of sparkly blue sprinkles for the waterfall. Inside, the cake layers were dyed darkening shades of green. The kids loved the cake and I loved the final look. I can’t wait to make another one!  



Animal Scavenger Hunt – When the kids arrived their first stop was the Jungle Navigation Co. Dock, where they picked up their safari gear and their Animal Scavenger Hunt card I had created to match the stuffed animals that the girls had hidden throughout the house and yard. This was our first party where it was warm/dry enough for the kids to play in the yard, and it definitely helped having them outside for a portion of the day. This was Viola’s 9th birthday and since the kids are all getting older, I forwent the carnival style games and goodie bags that we normally have done! The scavenger hunt kept the kids busy while our main entertainment was set up. They returned their completed scavenger hunt cards to me to receive their goody bags and – of course – they got to keep their safari gear! I also bought a roll of round animal stickers that looked like badges and gave them out to the kids throughout the day and they stuck them to their safari helmets.


Goody Bags – Goody bags were fill of animal print novelty items – pens, fans, candy, fuzzy notebooks, as well as little plastic animal figurines. The kids also received binoculars, plastic pit helmets, animal print bandanas, and canteens.

Animal Education - The main event of the afternoon was a visit by Mark Rosenthal from Animal Magic and his amazing animals. The kids learned a lot about animals and were able to see a lot of different ones including tarantula, sloth, a baby fennec fox, snake, and others. Mark was so knowledgeable and the kids LOVED chatting to him. He kept them occupied for hours! If you are doing a party in SE Michigan I would absolutely recommend him!


This theme was so much fun for me! We had so much that we were able to reuse from previous parties that I barely bought anything at all for this party. It was pulled together rather quickly and looking back at the photos I keep thinking of more things that we have that we could have used --- how did I forget to bring up the African Chief’s chair and giant butterfly kite? We should have totally put the family tent up in the back yard, too! Maybe we Eva is older I will have the opportunity to do this theme again!!

Moana Party


As soon as Eva saw Moana she was hooked—get it? ;-)

She has been particularly obsessed with Tamatoa and his shiny song. So it was no surprise to me that when her birthday rolled around a few months later that we’d be having a Moana-themed event.

Unfortunately, because the movie was so new that they weren’t many party products available or pinterest-inspiration to be had. On the other hand, since we’d already thrown luau and mermaid-themed parties, I felt fairly confident putting a Moana party together and was really excited to get started!

Eva actually wanted a party devoted solely to Tamatoa, but I was able to persuade her that a Moana-themed party would probably make more sense. 

I made a little video that shows all the decorations as you're walking through the house, plus some fun snippets from the party! Check it out: 


We love re-using party supplies, which is why after every party I carefully take down the decorations, peel the tape off, wrap them up neatly and store them away in giant tubs. My husband makes fun of me, but when Eva decided she wanted her birthday party theme to be Moana, I knew I was all set and had 90% of what I would need to put together a great party for her. And, bonus, the decoration were even cut to size already, which made decorating super easy!



... after!

... after!

Room Wraps - I am a big fan of room wraps because they’re an inexpensive way to really transform a space. We like to cover our bookshelves in our party room with a room wrap to keep the kids from touching the knick-knacks on them, too. For the Moana we went with the tiki/bamboo background that we’d used for our luau party. In addition to wrapping the bookshelves, we had room wraps in the windows that gave the room a warm, tropical feel (and hid the snow outside from ruining the atmosphere!)

Table decorations – Our spindle tables, also, were reused from the luau party with cute grass skirts and tiki mugs filled with tropical flowers, as well as tiki mask plates!


Shiny! – We pulled out the trusty ol’ pirate treasure again for our Tamatoa trove of shiny gold goodies to disguise the fireplace.

Lanterns/Balloons – We strung paper lanterns across the room and mixed the saved sea turtle balloons with new hibiscus patterned helium balloons.

Moana’s ship – Years ago my husband built a little pirate raft which has been used and reused. For the Moana party he re-configured the sail from a pirate-sail to the triangle sailboat sale. Eva and her friends had a lot of fun “steering” and practicing their rope tricks! I had wanted to paint Moana’s emblem on the sail, but unfortunately ran out of time. :-(

Picture spot – I was able to find a promotional Moana standee which I paired with a new waterfall room wrap to create this cute picture spot in the front room. It was a good excuse to buy some new houseplants, too, since I’d killed all of our other houseplants (I have since killed these ones too, alas.) The waterfall was reused a few weeks later for our Jungle Cruise party!

Fun & Games

Luau Lessons – Miss Fran from The Polynesian Dancers of Michigan joined us for this party since the dance lesson from the original Luau was such a big hit. The kids loved learning about the types of dancing native to island cultures like Moana’s.


Games – We do carnival style games where the kids can collect the ‘prizes’ for their goody bags. For our Moana party we did the Limbo, pineapple bowling, and collecting seashells and shiny treasure from the sand traps. The sand relay race was also a big hit again!

The prizes were pretty much the same as our Luau party, so if you’re looking for ideas definitely check out that post here. Hula skirts, luau bears, hibiscus patterned toys and little party games, candy, etc.

Coconut bowling ended up being cut short because the girls were really curious to find out what that "sloshing sound" was inside of the coconuts, so we broke one open and they tasted the coconut milk ... which they all agreed was 'deeescusting!' and tasted like soap!

Coconut bowling ended up being cut short because the girls were really curious to find out what that "sloshing sound" was inside of the coconuts, so we broke one open and they tasted the coconut milk ... which they all agreed was 'deeescusting!' and tasted like soap!


Buffet – We did a scaled-down version of the same food we served for our luau party. Despite the fact that I LOVED the pineapple upside down cake and dole whip, those weren’t huge hits with the kids, so we stuck to candy sushi, sand dollar cookies, and I ordered a pineapple pizza which perplexed many of the kids who chose cheese instead. Le sigh. For party candy, we of course had to have a dish full of all the shiny gold candy we could find!


The cake - Eva is a bit ‘spoiled’ in that she has seen several of these parties now and has opinions when it comes to what she wants for her parties. She was particularly particular about the cake which she described in detail and even drew a picture of! This was my first time doing the cake myself (our friend Becky had done our Ariel and Luau cakes, and I had to call her several times for advice/support as I was going through the cake making process!) I learned a lot of tricks that made it easier than I was anticipating! Namely, Becky told me the secret was in freezing the layers before frosting so that the frosting would go on smoother. WHAT?! That would have never occurred to me, but it worked like a charm!


Eva wanted a cake that was “the ocean” and went “down to the realm of monsters”. I carved out a section of the bottom of the cake (which I reinforced with a hidden Tupperware) to create Tamatoa’s cave full of shiny gold coins. For a first try at making a birthday cake, I’m very proud of how this turned out!


The exciting unveiling of the party was Eva’s ‘big present’ which was actually a very small HERMIT CRAB! Which, of course, was named Tamatoa! 


All in all, we had a lot of fun and made great memories. Now that we've thrown a handful of parties, I am getting more comfortable taking on more things myself, like the cake and photography (which was done by my husband) than I was with earlier parties when the girls were younger. I can't wait for the next one!