I went to the bead merchant with some friends for a birthday party (for a 30 year old) recently... we brought wine and snacks, and set about making our own jewelry in the back room.
It was TONS of fun, but be warned: there isn't a price on a lot of the beads and silver, and it can add up in a hurry. Once you've made it into a necklace or earrings... you've bought it.
I only wound up spending about $30, but I only got 2 pairs of earrings out of it. A friend of mine made 2 necklaces, and about had a heart attack when the bill came to $130.
So it's DEFINATELY a fun place to go, but you might ask what the price of your particular beads are before you start being artistic.