Must-have Items for Entertaining Outdoors


1. Grill

You can’t have a backyard party without a barbecue grill. Today’s grill units come in a variety of sizes and offer built-in storage and prep space to minimize the hassle of trips indoors. Many also feature accessories such as rotisseries, warming plates, and side burners for diverse cooking methods.

Weber Summit Grill Center

For a list of leading grill manufacturers and resources, visit our Outdoor Kitchens & Grills Buyers’ Guide.


Photo courtesy of 2011 Weber-Stephen Products LLC. Used with Permission



2. Grilling Tools & Accessories

Every grill master needs to have a good set of grilling tools, especially when cooking for a large crowd. The three main grilling utensils: a spatula for flipping burgers and positioning food; a pair of tongs for gripping meats and vegetables; a fork for piercing and turning meats. Look for grilling tools with long handles to protect your hands from the heat.

Weber Grill Accessories
Photo courtesy of 2011 Weber-Stephen Products LLC. Used with Permission


Another important grilling tool to have on hand is an instant-read meat thermometer. This will take the guesswork out of cooking and ensure that meat, poultry, and other cooked foods have reached a safe internal temperature.

Digital Meat Thermometer
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com



3. Outdoor Dinnerware and Glassware

If you typically resort to disposable paper plates and red plastic cups for your outdoor affairs, consider investing in outdoor dinnerware and glassware made from hard plastics like melamine or acrylic. These worry-free options are durable, lightweight, and environmentally-friendly because they can be washed and reused. They also come in an array of vibrant summer colors and patterns just like your indoor tableware.  

Melamine Outdoor Dinnerware
Photo courtesy of Hayneedle.com

A large, self-serve beverage dispenser makes it easy to serve a big group of people and will also cut down on waste like empty water bottles and soda cans. Use it to serve homemade iced tea, lemonade, or a fruity summer drink.

340-ounce Beverage Dispenser
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com



4. Outdoor Serving Items

It’s important to serve food outdoors when entertaining in your backyard. This eliminates the hassle of running inside to grab additional food items and also keeps guests from having to make trips in and out of the house—often with dirty shoes or wet feet—to grab food or supplies. The type of outdoor serving items you’ll need will depend on the number of people you plan to entertain and the type of food you’ll be serving. 

 

An outdoor extension table is a great item to have when entertaining because it allows you to easily adjust the table size to your needs. Extend the table for additional seating during larger gatherings or fold down the leaf when space is limited.

Outdoor Extenstion Table
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com

A fold out bar can come in handy if you regularly entertain outdoors or host large parties. It offers both countertop space for serving food and/or beverages and storage space underneath for essentials like glassware, dishes, utensils, or other supplies you might want to have on hand.

Royal Tahiti Outdoor Folding Bar
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com

For smaller outdoor gatherings, a portable patio cart can keep supplies within reach. Stock it with dishes, utensils, ice, paper towels, condiments, and other necessities. When the party is over it can be used for easy clean-up: just load it up with dirty dishes and wheel it back inside.  


Outdoor Patio Cart
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com




5. Insect Control


When eating and entertaining outdoors it’s expected that a number of mosquitos and insects will be flying around. Keep bugs away from food by keeping it in covered storage containers or under mesh food tents. Umbrella drink covers will prevent insects and debris from getting in beverages and will also help guests keep track of their drinks.

Place citronella candles on outdoor dining tables to repel pests while guests enjoy their food. Set citronella tiki torches or mosquito lamps around seating and social areas for added protection at night. See more tips on bug protection.

Candles around Outdoor Patio
Photo courtesy of Gasper Landscape Design & Construction; Photography by Rob Cardillo




6. Backyard Shade Products


Make sure you have enough shade for your guests so that they don’t get uncomfortably hot and retreat indoors. Table and freestanding patio umbrellas offer relief from the burning sun while guests eat and socialize. Some patio umbrellas can be tilted and turned with the movement of the sun to provide optimal shade throughout the day.


Green Cantilever Outdoor Umbrelle

Photo courtesy of Overstock.com


You can also keep guests cool and comfortable with a pop-up canopy or tent. These come in a variety of sizes and shapes to fit any outdoor entertaining space. A pop-up canopy or tent can also be used to keep food out of the sun and offers protection from an unexpected rain shower.

Outdoor Party Tent Canopy
Photo courtesy of Hayneedle.com



7. Music & Outdoor Stereo Systems


Music helps set the tone for any party, indoors or out. There are a variety of ways to add acoustics to your backyard get-together. Wireless docking stations for MP3 players and iPods can easily be set out on a table or by the pool. These systems are convenient for outdoor parties, but they are not weatherproof so be sure to look for models that include a splash-proof plastic covering to protect your iPod or MP3 player.

Wireless Music Dock for iPod or MP3 player


Another option is to hook up your indoor stereo system to outdoor speakers. Weather-resistant outdoor speakers can withstand the elements, such as sun, rain, and temperature changes and come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and designs. You can select from outdoor speakers that are mounted to a wall or pillar, freestanding speakers that can be placed around the yard, landscape speakers that are installed inground, and wireless speakers that are disguised as rocks, lights, or planters to blend with the surrounding scenery.


Outdoor Planter Speaker_OSD Audio
Photos courtesy of OSD Audio, Stereostone, Inc and Etón Corporation



8. Outdoor Seating

It’s important to provide ample seating for your party guests so that they are comfortable. While you could invest in additional outdoor furniture like patio chairs, loungers, and sofas, there are plenty of budget-friendly ways to add extra seating when entertaining outdoors.

Folding chairs, ottomans, and even beach chairs work well around the pool area or a fire pit. An outdoor storage bench or cooler can easily double as a seat when you place a cushion or a few pillows on top.

White Adirondack Beach Chair Montego Bay Deck Box
Photos courtesy of Overstock.com


A large blanket or outdoor rug spread out on the lawn offers a simple place for guests to relax and catch up; it can also designate a play/picnic area for the kids. And remember that a retaining wall easily provides a comfortable spot for guests to perch or set down their food and drink.

Outdoor Rug_Natural Terracotta Ashlar Pattern Retaining Wall
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com; Photo courtesy of Red River Hardscapes



9. Outdoor Lighting


A backyard party in the summer is sure to extend into the night, which makes lighting an essential outdoor entertaining element. Outdoor lighting not only keeps the backyard safe as sunlight withdraws, but also adds ambiance and makes an outdoor setting feel more cozy and inviting at night.

String lights add festive sparkle to a pergola, gazebo, or umbrella and help highlight dining/social areas for guests. Tiki torches and path lights can be placed around the patio or pool to help illuminate dark corners and designate walkways. Lanterns and candles are great for table tops and help create a more intimate atmosphere. Additionally, an outdoor fire pit provides both light and warmth to keep guests comfortable on cool summer nights. It also creates a prime gathering spot for conversation.

Pergola with String Lights

Photo courtesy of The Outdoor GreatRoom Company




10. Outdoor Games

Having a mix of outdoor games set up around the yard will keep everyone entertained throughout the day and ensure your guests have a good time at your party. There is a wide selection of outdoor games to choose from, but it’s important to pick ones that are suited for the various age groups of your guests. Lawn games like horseshoes, ladder ball, washers, and bag toss are easy to play and require little equipment and space. These games can also be played in teams, which is a great way for guests to mingle if they don’t know each other well.

Washer Toss Lawn Game Ladder Toss Lawn Game
Photos courtesy of Hayneedle.com


A variety of games and activities can also be played in the swimming pool. Get a group of people involved in some friendly competition with a volleyball or basketball net or keep things small with a floating Ping-Pong table or poker table.

If you’ll be spending Labor Day poolside, check out these fun pool games for kids.