The season of warm weather is quickly approaching. Daylight hours are finally starting to linger a little longer after work, and kids are getting antsy for school to end so they can finally get outdoors and splash in the pool. You’re already daydreaming about curling up on your deck with a nice book and summery drink in hand, basking in the warm sun.
There are so many happy feelings that the end of winter and the start of warm weather bring about. Why not spend every minute you can outdoors this summer?
Set Up Your Backyard for Summertime Enjoyment
It’s much easier to get excited about spending time outside when you have a great space to do it in. Here are five fun ways you can take advantage of the nice weather and make your backyard a fun and festive summer destination:
Outdoor Family Picnic
Whether you’re looking to celebrate a summer holiday like Memorial Day or the 4th of July or you simply just want to get everyone you love together in one place, having an outdoor picnic is a classic and easy way to do some outdoor entertaining this summer. Picnics are the perfect opportunity to stick to classic things like easy-to-make food and simple entertainment options.
Here are a few tips that will create a memorable backyard picnic:
- Food – When serving food to a large group of people, you can’t go wrong with dishes like burgers, hot dogs, salads and fresh fruit at a summer picnic. Feel free to ask your guests to bring along a dish of their choosing as well. This can help take the load of preparing all the food off of you, and it’ll also give people a chance to try something new. Serve food and drinks on paper plates and in plastic cups, as people will likely be walking around while eating. You won’t have to worry about nice dishes getting broken, and there will be less dishes to clean at the end of the day.
Extra Tip: Grilling main dish foods is extra convenient, as it allows the cook to be outdoors with everyone else while cooking, and cleanup is usually quick and easy. However, if you’re grilling for a large number of people, there’s only so much space on the grill for food. If you find that you’re having to cook in waves, keep aluminum foil handy near the grill to keep food warm under an aluminum foil tent while the rest finishes cooking.
- Seating – Many composite or pressured treated decks now come with the option of adding built-in benches along the railings. If your deck already has built-in seating like this, then you’re in luck! Simply add a few pillows along the benches for added comfort and décor, and you’re ready to go.
If you don’t have this option on your deck, it’s always nice to repurpose indoor furniture for outdoor seating. Backless benches can be positioned alongside deck railings for group seating. Dining room chairs paired with coffee or end tables can be scattered about to create little sitting areas, and even small armchairs can be placed around picnic tables to squeeze in a few extra diners.
- Entertainment – Provide some fun games or activities to keep kids entertained while parents socialize. Create a short scavenger hunt for kids to find different items around your yard. The first one to find all items on the list gets a prize or maybe an extra special treat for dessert.
Also, anything with water is sure to provide hours of fun for kids. Things like sprinklers, small inflatable pools and slip ‘n slides are great summer activities. Be sure to mention the water play option to parents beforehand, so they can come prepared with a swimsuit or change of clothes.
Extra Tip: Kids aren’t the only ones who like to have fun at outdoor picnics! Have some games for the adults to play as well. Traditional yard games like croquet, bocce, cornhole (or bean bag toss) and ladder golf are sure to please your picnic attendees of all generations.
- Late Evening Fun – If your outdoor picnic goes late into the evening, a fire is a nice way to end the night. Set up a fire pit in the grass or on a stone patio, and have everyone gather to relax around the warmth of the fire before heading home.
Formal Outdoor Dinner Party
Traditionally, formal dinners are reserved for fancy indoor spaces like family dining rooms — but who wants to sit inside on a gorgeous summer night? Have your next formal gathering outdoors under the stars or in a screened in porch so you can feel the summer night’s breeze while you dine.
Here are few tips to make your formal outdoor dinner party extra special:
- Location – If you’re worried about the weather or you want to keep pesky bugs at bay, a screened in porch is the perfect place to host a formal dinner outdoors. If you don’t yet have a screened in porch, setting up a long, rectangular table on your deck or even in an open grassy area in your backyard can be just as special — and you can add some citronella candles to keep bugs away.
- Menu – A formal dinner party is your chance to take your menu up a notch and steer away from traditional outdoor picnic fare. If you want to cook outdoors and use your grill, try to find a unique meat and pair it with grilled vegetables instead of baking them in the oven. Or, if you’re feeling extra fancy, hire a chef to come and prepare your meal for you. This will give you time to mingle and socialize while someone else does the cooking!
Extra Tip: Offer a signature cocktail and have it premixed in a pitcher so guests can help themselves when they’re ready for a refill.
- Attire – If you’ve been waiting all winter for a chance to break out that fancy summer dress, then what better occasion is there than a formal dinner party! Ask your guests to also wear clothes specific to a certain dress code or theme for the evening. Cocktail attire would be perfect for a fancy summer night outside.
- Décor – If your outdoor table options are less than pleasing to the eye, a simple white tablecloth will give it a fresh, yet rustic feel. Dress up the simplicity of the white tablecloth with gold accent pieces and a pastel-colored floral centerpiece.
Extra Tip: Don’t be afraid to use your nice dishes and china for this occasion. If you don’t have enough for everyone, pick up some extra pieces at flea markets and antique stores. It’s totally ok if your dishes don’t match. In fact, an eclectic mix of dishware will feel more rustic and add extra flair to your table.
- Lighting – The right lighting can create instant ambience. Use a combination of candles, lanterns and string lights to make it more romantic. Be sure to vary the size and color of your light choices as well.
Place candles around the table for a soft glow. Secure string lights to your deck or porch using plastic hooks so they can easily be removed at the end of the night without harming your deck. Scatter paper lanterns in the trees and bushes to create a magical atmosphere.
Outdoor Birthday Party
If you or a family member is lucky enough to have a birthday during the spring or summer months, then what better way is there to celebrate than throwing a fun, outdoor birthday party! With nice weather and lots of space for kids to run around, here are a few ways you can have a memorable outdoor birthday party in your backyard:
- Food Choices – Anything goes for menu options at an outdoor birthday party! Sticking to foods that are known crowd pleasers like wings, burgers and pizza is easiest, but if the guest of honor has a favorite meal, try to incorporate that into the menu as well.If you or a family member is lucky enough to have a birthday during the spring or summer months, then what better way is there to celebrate than throwing a fun, outdoor birthday party! With nice weather and lots of space for kids to run around, here are a few ways you can have a memorable outdoor birthday party in your backyard:
Extra Tip: Set up food tables in different clusters around your backyard. Have a designated appetizer section, entrée section and dessert section that are all spread out from one another. This will give your guests the opportunity to roam around and mingle with each another when looking for their next course.
- Keep Pests Away – Summertime is notorious for annoying pests like flies and mosquitoes. Place citronella candles around your backyard and offer guests bug spray options upon arrival. Keep bugs away from food by placing wire mesh colanders or flower pots upside down over food plates and trays. Mosquitoes are not particularly strong fliers, so have a few fans placed throughout your yard. Guests can sit in the breeze, and mosquitoes likely won’t be able to fly in the wind from the fan.
- Music – Birthday parties are all about celebrating, so keep the atmosphere cheerful with some upbeat, light music. Avoid songs or stations that have foul language as kids are likely to be at the party. Make sure the volume is not too loud, either, so people will still be able to carry on conversations.
- Fun – Fun, fun, and more fun! That should be the overwhelming theme of this event. Incorporating something special into the day’s activities will make it all the more memorable. If the birthday guy or gal loves music, have a live band come and play for an hour or two and ask them to play a few favorite songs. If you have a large backyard, renting a bounce house can be a fun addition. This will keep the kids busy for hours, and hey, we all know a few adults who like to get in on the bounce house fun as well! In many areas, bounce houses can be rented for an entire day for a few hundred dollars, and this fee often includes delivery, set up and tear down.
Garden Buffet Brunch
Brunch is a great way to celebrate the weekend on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Why not throw a garden brunch party and have everyone sit outside? The late morning sun will warm up any cool air from overnight without being as blisteringly hot as it can be in the late afternoon.
Here are a few ideas to get your outdoor brunch party off to a great start:
- Food – Brunch food is a unique combination of heartier breakfast dishes combined with lighter lunch options. Since your brunch will be outdoors, it will be much easier to serve food buffet style on designated tables set up outside.
Have hot foods like scrambled eggs and pancakes precooked and kept warm on warming plates. Make small finger sandwiches and arrange them on tiered trays with each tier holding a different sandwich option. Display bagels, pastries and even silverware in woven baskets or clean garden pots to create a distinctive garden theme.
- Décor – Keeping with the garden theme, use garden statues for centerpieces on the brunch tables. Metal watering cans can hold flower arrangements and be scattered about to freshen up the buffet tables.
- Seating – Don’t be afraid to mix and match seating at your garden brunch. The result of unique chair combinations will be unexpected at each table and give it a whimsical feel. If you don’t have enough chairs for everyone, place larger tree stumps around each table in place of traditional chairs.
You can also create a separate dining area for kids by moving a coffee table outside and placing a brightly-colored table cloth on top. Arrange cushions or pillows around the table for a comfortable place for little ones to sit.
Extra Tip: Include activities at the kids’ table to keep them entertained while their parents enjoy their brunch. Offer crayons and paper for each child to draw with. Or, better yet, place a large sheet of paper over the table cloth so they can draw anywhere they choose!
- Cocktails – No brunch would be complete without a signature brunch cocktail like a mimosa! Set up a mimosa bar with bottles of champagne or sparkling grape juice on ice. Have a few different juice options so your guests can experiment with the flavors.
Orange juice is always a favorite, but you can also include other juices like ruby red grapefruit juice, mango juice and pomegranate juice. Complete the mimosa bar with some sliced fruit for garnishing.
Outdoor Movie Night
Drive-in movie theaters are now a thing of the past, but who didn’t love sitting outside as a kid watching a movie on a beautiful summer night? With the help of a few snuggly blankets, some yummy snack food and a few pieces of movie equipment, your backyard can be outdoor movie central!
Here are a few things you’ll need:
- Equipment – There are four essential pieces of equipment to have when creating a movie theater in your backyard: a projector, a screen, a DVD player and speakers. The projector is going to be the biggest and most expensive piece of equipment you will need.
Good projectors can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars, so if you aren’t yet willing to make that type of investment, renting is going to be the way to go. You can rent a projector online or through your local rental store for around $75 – $100. You can also rent or buy pop-up movie screens, but that’s not entirely necessary. You could very easily hang up a cheap white sheet to have an instant and affordable movie screen.
- Food & Drink – Serve finger food or small hors d’oeuvres for your guests to eat during the movie. Classic movie theater snacks like popcorn and candy are also easy food choices that everyone loves.
Have the food and drink station behind where everyone is sitting on your patio or deck. That way, when someone is ready for a refill, they won’t have to miss the movie, and no one in front will be disturbed.
Extra Tip: Wheel a kitchen cart outside onto your deck and keep it stocked with kitchen and bar essentials. Everything will be in one place so no one has to go looking inside for items like napkins or a bottle opener. When the night is over, you can easily wheel the cart back inside to its proper place.
- Seating – In lieu of chairs, place hay bales in your yard and cover them with blankets for convenient group seating. Or, if you like to lounge during movies, lay out blankets, oversized pillows or bean bag chairs for extra comfort.
- The Movie – Agreeing on the movie can sometimes be the toughest part of movie night! If you’re unsure of what to pick, stick with classics that have mass appeal for all age groups. Try finding a movie that isn’t too long as there will likely be socializing before and after the movie. Or, if you have a lot of kids on the guest list, choosing a few shorter TV shows will allow a chance to take a break in between each episode so kids can stretch their legs and have time to go to the bathroom.
Get Outside and Enjoy It!
You don’t have to have a reason to have guests over and spend a nice warm day outdoors. Sometimes, simply relaxing on your deck and enjoying the sights and sounds of summer is reason enough to gather with family and friends. So, now that warm weather is finally here, get outside, enjoy your backyard and create awesome family memories that will last a lifetime!