Mad Hatter's Ball

The Mad Hatter’s Ball returns for its second year on February 22 with a darker twist on Wonderland, bringing together circus acts, costumes, art installations and curiosities with a formal hat party at The Observatory in North Park. The whimsical variety show and immersive “Alice in Wonderland” atmosphere offers a chance to fall down the rabbit hole and begin to believe in the impossible. 

According to event planner Sarina Moretti, the Mad Hatter’s Ball was inspired by “a coming of age story as Alice explores the duality of her true nature. Alice is seduced by the otherworldly wonderland characters as she realizes her adventure is more than just a childish fantasy. This journey reveals her darker side—a shadow self that she eventually embraces, which allows her to be free, courageous and empowered. It turns out her dream self may not be so different from her waking self.”

The evening’s host — the Mad Hatter, of course—will introduce a variety of entertainment, including circus acts like contortion and aerial arts, as well as burlesque dancers and DJs. Art installations include Debi Cable’s 3D Blacklight Art, which comes straight from Burning Man. 

Moretti describes this installation as “transporting you to the other side of the looking glass as you enter a glowing Wonderland that seems to jump off the page and invite you to stay a while.” 

Guests can experience improvisational poetry that will be tailored to their whim at the pen of the inspired Typewriter Troubadour. Also within Wonderland, Moretti hints, “you may stumble upon a curious card game that may at first seem like nonsense. But a little nonsense never stopped the Mad Hatter. Sit down and try a card game that may have you feeling like you took a bite of the wrong tea cookie.” 

Guests can opt to start the evening’s adventure by reserving a three-course prix-fixe dinner in West Coast Tavern prior to the show. This dinner and show package is available at 5:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. seatings for $72. The custom menu from Chef Marcos Navarro includes a shared appetizer, one entrée, choice of a Ketel One Botanicals cocktail or glass of Moet Champagne, parking validation and direct entry into event.

Inside the event, VIP bottle service tables will offer premium seating at a tea party-themed, four-person table for $45 plus a minimum of one bottle starting at $250 on the evening of the event. The add-on includes preferred entry, parking validation, and table service for the duration of the event.

Moretti encourages guests to “dress to impress our distinguished host, the Mad Hatter, by dusting off their finest hat to pair with eveningwear. Gowns, suits, Wonderland-inspired attire, Victorian and steampunk costuming, and elaborate hats are welcomed.” 

The best hatter contest will award prizes to the top three costume-clad guests, encouraging guests to liven up their formal attire.

The Mad Hatter’s Ball, The Observatory North Park, 2891 University Avenue, North Park, northparkcarnival.com7 p.m. February 22 general admission or seated VIP; 7:15 p.m. for dinner and show, tickets start at $20.