374 Bathurst, 416-603-4347; 3663 Mavis, Mississauga, 905-272-4430; www.balloonking.ca
Founded by Otto Bischof (RIP) 31 years ago, Balloon King Party Centre continues to reign as Toronto's one-stop party-shopping landmark under the direction of Bischof's wife, Stella . Providing not only awesome helium balloons, the jam-packed shop carries pretty much everything that makes a party look like one: banners, decorations, costumes, party favours. While goods dealing with biggie seasonal events (Halloween, Christmas, Easter) claim most of the spotlight, there's also an extensive selection of gear for university-style benders, including leprechaun hats, Hawaiian leis, grass skirts and flash-prompting Mardi Gras beads. Plus items for less rambunctious events like weddings, anniversaries and baby showers. And, if decorating isn't one of your strengths, the Balloon King team can dress up your location with fantastic balloon creations, from triple helixes and rainbow arches to simple balloon bouquets.
Bischof's picks : Instant Hippie Kit, $10.25; piñata, $19.95; water balloons, $9.95; and foil curtain, $9.95.
Look for : Disposable tableware in every colour, 30 years' worth of vintage decorations, helium canister and seasonal costume rentals.
Hours : Toronto: Monday to Friday 9 am to 6 pm, Saturday 9:30 to 5 pm; Mississauga: Monday to Thursday 10 am to 6 pm, Friday 10 am to 7 pm, Saturday 9:30 am to 5 pm.