Fall Backyard Gathering Ideas + Activities

Now that we're in September and it's officially fall! 

Sunny days and cool nights signal the perfect time for inviting friends and family over, heating up the grill, and enjoying some fun at a backyard BBQ. 

Adding in new and creative ideas to your next gathering may be just what you need to take your party from fizzle to sizzle!

Here's just a few steps that can help make your outdoor fall gatherings super fun and simple enough so that you can enjoy them too.

Step 1. How To Prepare

No party or gathering comes without a little planning. 

The more you think it through, the more likely you’ll have a killer party that folks will love. 

But first just a few items to have on hand - if you're planning to BBQ not having enough propane in the tank when the grill is fired up is a chef’s worst nightmare. So make sure to buy a new one or refill. Seating - Making sure to have enough seating options and tables for food are obviously important too. Meat thermometer, some bug spray, and prepping condiments and tableware to make sure there's plenty for everyone and ready to go.

Be sure to include these tips in your planning and prep beforehand.
  • Drink Stations - Use colored steel tubs to help direct guests to drinks.  You can add labels or easily rattle off “Booze in blue, water in white, kid-friendly drinks in green”.
  • Keep It Cool - Perishable food can be kept cool by putting items together in inflatable serving trays filled with ice (Amazon has inexpensive and fun options). Smaller condiments can be kept cool in an aluminum baking tray with ice, so food stays safe for the duration of your party.
  • Bugs Be Gone - A clever way to protect sweet drinks from pests is to use paper cupcake liners over the top. Cut an “X” shape in the center of the liners and offer guests paper straws so they can sip and keep unwanted visitors from floating in the drink.

Step 2. Decorating Tips and Ideas 

Spruce up your outdoor gathering with some fun decorations. This really helps set the ambiance and creates a fun and lively mood. 

Here are a few suggestions to help.

  • Paper Table Runner - Using a roll of craft paper, make a runner down the center of your tables and tape ends to the underside of the table.  Scatter washable markers and encourage guests to write their best family-friendly jokes for everyone to enjoy.
  • Photo Booth - A tablecloth secured to the side of a garage with some small-themed props can help set the stage for some great pics. You can even create signs.
  • Effortless Centerpieces - A cute and quick centerpiece idea is to stop by the floral department on your grocery run and grab several bunches of Baby’s Breath flowers which look lovely in various vases and containers tied with a bow of twine. You can also add in the tops of decorative grasses you already have in your yard and flowers that are currently blooming for extra color.
  • Napkin Craft - To keep little hands busy the day of the event, buy a stamp at a local craft store and use water-based, non-toxic ink to stamp disposable napkins. This gives kiddos a job while adding an easy touch to your table decor!
  • Crank the Tunes - Don’t underestimate the power of some good summer music to help set the party mood. Borrow or buy a small Bluetooth speaker to place at the center of the action on a low volume. Create a playlist (make sure you have a charger for your devices so it isn’t the day the music dies) and ask attendees to send in song requests.

Step 3. Backyard Fun

Games and other props are a fun way to create pockets of fun at your party. 

Simple games such as corn hole or other activity stations are ways to gather people who can easily connect over a game or activity at the party.

  • Go Big - Giant versions of backyard games are sure to elicit a wow factor. Recruit your favorite woodworker to create an oversized Jenga set or try Yard Pong with Red Buckets and plastic five-inch white balls. Giant Dice with a trash can for your cup will roll out some laughs guaranteed!
  • Tent Party - Bust out your camping tent and throw in some outdoor pillows to create a special party room for the littlest guests. You could even add some children’s books and a few toys for sharing.
  • Frisbee Tic-Tac-Toe - DIY your game board with a queen-size sheet marked off in squares made of painter’s tape. Get four frisbees from the dollar store in two different colors (eight total) and guests can have a fun time trying to toss their way to a tic-tac-toe win.
  • Pool Noodle Games - Using pool noodles, set up a silly obstacle course for guests to try (limbo, balloon golf into a hula hoop or javelin throw). Noodles can also be used for an oversized game of croquet using noodle arches staked into the ground as the wickets.
  • Anti-Sizzle Stations - If the temperature is going to be extra steamy on the day of your gathering, fill a few plastic pools for guests to dip their feet in (or children to play in — but maybe keep these two pools separate, cause, well, feet). Bring out a fan or two to help circulate the air and borrow beach umbrellas or tail-gaiting tents if your backyard area is lacking shade. You can even purchase an inexpensive mist stand to spray a cooling mist in the air.

    Step 4. Ideas for Beyond the Meat

    The BBQ and other meats on the menu don’t have to be the main event at your backyard party. Adding other dishes and even desserts can provide some diversity and really up the food game. From potato salad to homemade ice cream, folks will be talking about all the wonderful food at the party.

Check out some these helpful ideas.

  • Save Time with Pre-made - Do you have a restaurant in town whose cheesy potatoes or baked beans are to die for? Consider ordering up some of these dishes as a surprise treat for your guests. A large-crowd hack is to put these treats in an oversized crockpot and stir in some additional cooked but unflavored potatoes or beans to help them go further.
  • S’mores Buffet - If you can, borrow a portable fire pit or create a campfire and offer guests the ultimate s’mores for dessert. Check out some of the new unique marshmallow flavors in grocery stores and online. And set out some fun additional toppings like peanut butter, shredded coconut and individually wrapped peanut butter cups for a delicious campfire treat!
  • Share the Menu - Utilize an online sign up to ask guests to bring their favorite side dish or for a twist on the idea, have guests bring a marinated or seasoned meat to share with two other people and you provide the sides, grilled veggies and fruit to round out the menu.
  • Grill Something Different - Vegans are all in for something delicious on the grill so throw on some innovative substitutes like seasoned cauliflower, portabella mushrooms or watermelon steaks. For your carnivores, an idea is to go international with your meat and try a Korean or Latin spice rub.
Step 5. Top This - 
Your guests will be delighted to dress up their sandwich, hot dog or burger with these yummy toppings: 
  1. Buffalo sauce and blue cheese or ranch dressing on pretzel buns 
  2. Marinara and mozzarella slices on Italian bread slices 
  3. Caesar dressing, slaw, crumbled croutons on a brioche bun 
  4. Fresh out of the air fryer onion rings and feta cheese
  • Friendly Competition - If you know your group would like to flaunt their foodie prowess, how about challenging guests to bring their best side dishes and drinks? Examples might be the most unique potato dishes, most deliciously flavored Sangria or best appetizer that will change your life (for the better, of course!).
  • Cheers to Fall - Serve up a signature cocktail that can be modified as a tasty mock-tail  Or let guests play bartender with mixers like flavored seltzers, fruit juices, ginger beer and garnishes. Serve drinks in festive cups and raise a glass to celebrating summer with your favorite people!

Backyard gatherings are a great way to reconnect with family and friends in a casual setting. With these extra ideas and activities, you can create lasting memories and turn up the heat on fun at your next summer backyard party.


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