Party ideas for a New York-themed bar mitvah

Mitzvah in Manhattan

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Hit a home run with a Yankee stadium cake for your candle lighting.
Use street signs and lamps as table centerpieces.
Make each table a different neighborhood in New York, such as Little Italy.
New York-themed cupcakes offer bite-sized bits of the big city.
Need a balloon animal idea? Try a Central Park squirrel.
Honor the rejuvenation of the Lower East Side with a centerpiece and table-theme idea.
Have kids ride the Charging Bull of Wall Street!
Decorate with apples.
If your kid likes several New York sports teams, incorporate them all into a clever cake.
Dry pasta, in a Little Italy-themed area, can make a cost-friendly and cute decor statement.
Bring Chinatown to your banquet hall.
Want something more imaginative than a Chinese buffet? Try dim sum!
Make your guests feel like they’re in Times Square with Broadway ads as a decorative backdrop.
Graffiti walls are authentically New York.
And if you do choose to have a graffiti wall, hide a Banksy under a piece of cardboard, just like savvy East New Yorkers (just don’t charge your guests $20 to take a peek).
Have guests learn how to dance like the Rockettes.
Statue of Liberty crowns make great party favors and are fun photo props.
If you happen to live in New York, take your bar mitzvah photos in an iconic area, like Central Park.
King Kong climbed the Empire State Building, Trump that by eating it!
Place “I heart NY” T-shirts on a street vendor table and give them away to your guests.
Serve New York cheesecake for dessert.
Give your guests a sweet throwback with Manhattan Specials.
A NYC tourist would not forget to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, so don’t forget to include it in your party!
Incorporate the Big Apple into your candy bar.
Striking Yankee decor.
It takes a big cake to hold all of the Big Apple’s iconography.
Guests will scream for egg creams.

Your kid hearts New York — the energy, the food, the sights, the sounds, just not the smells (and we don’t blame her). Her ringtone is “New York, New York,” she won’t eat bagels from your local deli because they’re not made with New York water, and she once brought home a pigeon as a pet.

If this sounds like your kid, let her take a bite out of the Big Apple with a New York-themed bar mitzvah. And you can send your guests on a Gotham getaway to the greatest city on earth without even leaving your banquet hall. Here is how to create an Empire State of Mind anywhere in the world:


New York is known for its food, so have fun with your cuisine. Set up a “China Town” buffet with an array of Chinese treats like chicken and broccoli, Peking duck, chow mein, vegetable dumplings, pork buns, and fried rice. You can also have a Jewish deli spread, with plenty of bagels, cream cheese, lox, and knishes. Have food carts selling pretzels, nuts, hot dogs, gyros, falafel, and ice cream pops. And don’t forget what New York is most famous for — pizza! For an interactive flair, try a make-you-own-pizza station and offer variety toppings like pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers, artichokes, arugula, and prosciutto.

For dessert, offer New York-style cheesecake, Italian ices, cannoli, and egg creams. Create or purchase cute New York-themed cookies with images of taxis, the Statue of Liberty, iconic “I Heart New York” T-shirts, and of course, a big apple. Bake cupcakes and top them off with New York street signs, hotdogs, and pretzels.

And what do New Yorkers love more than the city itself? Hint: there’s a reason it is the city that never sleeps.


Add a coffee bar with all of the cream and sugar fixings. You can also hire a barista and rent an espresso machine for a New York-style latte bar.


New York is a big and exciting place, so your party should be just as grand. Marvel your guests with large backdrops of Broadway, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty to get a view of the city landscape. And don’t forget sports! Is your kiddo a fan of the classic stripes or does he prefer the blue-and-orange uniforms? Hang decorative flags that represent your child’s favorite New York team (The Yankees, Mets, Knicks, Nets, Jets, Giants, Rangers, or even the Islanders). Make your guests feel like they are at the center of Central Park with a Central Park gazebo and bench to take photos in, and place large portraits of Playbills of your favorite Broadway musicals.

Design your tables to represent a different part of New York City, like Chinatown, Little Italy, Liberty Island, Coney Island, Grand Central, Greenwich Village, and Yankee Stadium. You can also choose to incorporate your child into a scene — like on the front page of the New York Post with a funny tabloid headline. Use cute New York place card holders with an image of a taxi to direct your guests to their tables or a wall full of MetroCards!


Everyone in New York keeps their eyes peeled for celebrities, so think about hiring celebrity look-alikes. Have a Jay-Z impersonator be your DJ. Or, for an older New York feel, hire a Frank Sinatra impersonator to be your crooning entertainer. You can also choose to hire hip-hop dancers to dance in the style of New York subway performers or have dancers teach everyone how to do the Rockettes’ classic dance.


Give your guests a truly Gotham gift bag with iconic Greek coffee cup keepsake with the bar or bat mitzvah’s name and the date of the party. Customize an “I Heart New York” T-shirt, or a New York sport team’s jersey with your name and date on the back and a fun phrase like, “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere!” You can also give guests Seamless or takeout plastic bags to use at the candy bar.

Check out the slide show above for more great ideas!

Updated 8:35 pm, May 20, 2015
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