4 Summer Party Themes
By Kimberlee Courtney
There’s no better way to celebrate summer and beat the heat than with a pool party—and no party is complete without a great theme. From the decorations to the food to the games
, here are four summer party themes to help you create a fun and festive setting.
Transform your backyard and swimming pool into a tropical paradise with a Luau party theme. You can easily find an assortment of luau-themed décor and accessories at your local craft or party supply store.
Here are some fun ideas for Luau party decorations, food, and games.
Luau Party Decorations
Raffia or grass table skirts – adorn patio tables or a buffet table with raffia or grass table skirts to give an authentic island vibe
Tiki torches – line up tiki torches along the entrance to the backyard or around the swimming pool
Leis – hang assorted colors from tree branches or drape across the backs of patio chairs
Inflatable palm tree cooler – for an attractive way to keep drinks cool. A variety of designs and sizes are available and can hold anywhere from 24 to 60 12-ounce cans (plus ice)
Tiki totems – scatter these fun faces around the yard
Fresh coconuts and/or pineapples – arrange on patio tables for inexpensive (and edible) centerpieces
Floral garland – use as a border around the swimming pool, drape across tree branches, or attach to patio umbrellas
Printed beach towels – hang beach towels with a sunset, ocean, or island print on a clothesline or along the backyard fence to create festive backdrops for photos
Luau Party Food
Hawaiian fruit punch – in a large punch bowl filled with ice, mix your favorite juices (e.g. pineapple, orange, grapefruit, cranberry, etc.) with lemon-lime soda or ginger ale; garnish with orange, pineapple and lemon slices
Tropical fruit salad – cut mango, pineapple, and papaya into cubes; combine with mandarin orange wedges, kiwi slices, and flaked sweetened coconut; drizzle with honey and lime juice
Island chicken kabobs – arrange chunks of teriyaki-marinated chicken breast, pineapple, and bell pepper on wooden skewers. Grill 15 – 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until chicken juices run clear. Serve over white or brown rice
Hawaiian pizza (ham & pineapple) – make your own or order from your favorite pizza place—we won’t tell!
Luau Party Games & Activities
Hula Dance-off – separate pool party guests into teams of three or four and see which team can come up with the most creative hula dance
Hula Hoop Contest – have two or three people (or more, depending on how many hula hoops you have) hula hoop until there is only one person left hula hooping. The person left standing then hula hoops against the next group of people. Continue the cycle to see who ends up the hula-hooping champion.
The bright colors, zesty fare, and festive tone of a Mexican Fiesta make it a great party theme for summer. Take your pool party amigos south of the border with these fiesta-themed decorations, food, and games.
Fiesta Party Decorations
Paper fans & streamers – choose bright summer colors like orange, red, pink, yellow, and lime green
Party lights – use multicolored string lights or fun options like chili pepper string lights or mini margarita lights
Mexican blanket – use as a table cover or backdrop for photos
Stick flags – place miniature Mexican or multicolored stick flags in the ground along the perimeter of the pool
Mini cactus candles – these will help establish a southwest theme and can serve as both table décor and party favors
Fiesta tableware – decorate tables with plastic Margarita glasses, fresh limes, colorful vases, and Mexican-themed paper flowers and napkins
Above: Photo courtesy of Chris Nease, Celebrations at Home
Right: Photo courtesy of Party City, PartyCity.com
Fiesta Party Food
Tortilla chips and salsa – for an authentic touch, try this delicious recipe for Black Bean Salsa
Tacos – set up a taco station and let guests pick their favorite fillings and toppings like ground beef, shredded chicken or pork, Cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, lettuce, salsa, tomatoes, jalapeños, sour cream and guacamole
7-layer dip – layer refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, cheddar cheese, sliced black olives, and lettuce; serve with corn or tortilla chips
Mexican grilled corn – top grilled corn on the cob with a mixture of mayonnaise, lime juice, chili powder and Cotija cheese (or Parmesan)
Chips and dip trio – fill tired serving baskets with tortilla chips and an assortment of dips, including salsa, guacamole, and corn relish
Above: Photo courtesy of Chris Nease, Celebrations at Home
Right: Photo courtesy of Tanya Staab
Fiesta Party Games & Activities
Above: Photo courtesy of Party City, PartyCity.com
Pass the Sombrero – like “Hot Potato,” but with a fiesta twist: Instead of a potato, have players pass around a sombrero. Each player has to put the sombrero on their head before passing it to the next person. The person wearing or holding the sombrero when the music stops playing is eliminated. Continue eliminating players until two people remain. The player without the sombrero when the music stops is the winner.
Inflatable Cactus Ring Toss
Pin the Tail on the Donkey
Piñata – choose from a variety of fiesta-themed shapes, like a sombrero, chili pepper, donkey, or cactus
Mariachi Musical Floats – for this take on “Musical Chairs,” you’ll need to have one less float/inner tube in the pool than there are people. Have everyone swim around the pool as you play a CD with mariachi music; when you stop the music, everyone has to swim to the nearest float and jump on; the person without a float is eliminated and one float is removed from the pool. Continue playing, removing a float each time a person is eliminated. The person to sit on the last float is the winner.
Dress-up Relay Race:
You’ll need these items for each team:
Fake mustache (look for versions that attach with an elastic band, not adhesive)
How to play:
1. Divide party guests into two or more teams (the number of teams will depend on how many sets of items you have)
2. Pile each team’s set of items at the opposite end of pool
3. When someone says “Go,” the first member of each team swims to the other side of the pool and puts on their team’s group of items
4. The player then swims back to the other side of the pool, takes off the items, and passes them on to the next team member.
5. That team member puts on the items, swims to the other side of the pool, takes off the gear, and swims back to the other side of the pool to tag the next player.
6. The cycle continues until the last player returns back to the team. The first team to finish wins.
Under the Sea Party
A backyard swimming pool is the perfect venue for an Under the Sea party theme. Create an enchanting underwater adventure with these seaworthy ideas.
Under the Sea Party Decorations
Tropical fish floats
Bubbles – rent or buy a bubble machine to create the illusion of underwater bubbles
Fish netting – drape decorative fish netting (available at craft and party supply stores) over your backyard fence or use it as table covers
Streamers or crepe paper – use a combination of deep blue, turquoise, and green streamers or crepe paper to simulate water motion and seaweed. Attach varying lengths along the backyard fence, to the backs of patio chairs, and along the edges of patio umbrellas.
Seashells – scatter an assortment of shells on top of patio tables or place in small sand buckets
Coral reef wall decor – these lightweight, vinyl sheets (for indoor/outdoor use) can be attached to your fence with Sticky tack or double-sided tape to create an underwater scene
Photos courtesy of Party City, PartyCity.com
Under the Sea Party Food
Tuna “fish” sandwiches – cut tuna fish sandwiches into fish shapes with a cookie cutter. (You can also make peanut butter and jelly-fish sandwiches.)
Miniature crab cakes
Sea life cups – make these delightful under-the-sea treats pictured below with blue gelatin dessert mix, whipped topping, crushed graham crackers, and molded chocolates
Salt water taffy
Octopus hot dogs – slice hot dogs in half lengthwise, leaving about two inches connected at the end for the head. Turn the hot dog and slice each half again, creating four “legs.” Cut each of the four legs in half again.
Sand dollar sugar cookies – sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar to look like sand
Gummy fish candy cups (pictured below) – place gummy fish in plastic cups with blue candy-coated chocolates to look like they’re swimming in the ocean
Photos courtesy of Tonya Staab
Check out these additional Seafood Recipes for Your Poolside Affair.
Under the Sea Party Games & Activities
How to play:
1. Have everyone get in the pool
2. Choose one person to be the “shark.” When you say "Go," the person who is the shark has to swim around the pool and try to catch one of the other guests.
3. The person that gets caught (or bit) becomes the shark for the next round
Sand art station
Buried Treasure Race
How to play:
1. Pick one person to be the leader and divide the rest of the party guests into two teams. Each team stands at opposite ends of the pool.
2. The leader goes to the middle of the pool and tosses in an assortment of diving toys, such as lobsters, starfish, turtles, and dolphins. When the leader calls out “Go,” the first member of each team swims to the center of the pool, collects as many items as they can, and returns to their team.
3. The leader tallies the number of items each player collected for their team and then tosses the items back into the center of the pool for the next two players.
4. After all the players from each team have taken a turn, the leader adds up the results from each round to see the total number of items each team collected. The team with the higher number wins.
Inflatable starfish ring toss
Photo courtesy of Party City, PartyCity.com
Celebrate the summer holidays, show your support for Team USA in the Olympic Games, or host an all-American backyard barbecue with these patriotic ideas.
Patriotic Party Decorations
Red, white and blue paper fans or lanterns
Miniature American flags – use as both décor and party favors
Patriotic pinwheels – place large ones in the ground around the swimming pool or arrange a few miniature pinwheels inside blue or red sand buckets for a festive centerpiece
Stars and stripes pennant banners – drape across tree branches or the backs of chairs
American flag bunting – hang along the fence or deck rails
Red, white, and blue table confetti
Solar powered floating pool lights – a few red, white, and blue spheres will add a festive ambiance at night
Red, blue, or American flag bandanas – use as placemats or napkins
Patriotic Party Food
American flag fruit kabobs (bottom left)
Snow cones – let guests add their favorite syrup flavor(s): blue raspberry (blue), strawberry (red), or piña colada (white)
Maple-Mustard Country-Style Spareribs
Patriotic parfaits (bottom right) – layer blueberries, raspberries or strawberries, vanilla-flavored yogurt, whipped topping, granola, and flaked coconut
Individual caramel popcorn snack boxes - these can also be displayed as part of the décor!
Hot dogs and hamburgers – set up a buffet table with all the fixings
Grilled corn on the cob
Left: Photo courtesy of Party City, PartyCity.com; Middle: Photo courtesy of Tonya Staab; Right: Photo courtesy of Chris Nease, Celebrations at Home
Patriotic Party Games & Activities
Bobbing for apples
Tug-of-War – this can be played on land or in the pool
How to play:
1. Divide guests into two or three teams
2. Each team gets a bucket filled with miniature American flags (1 flag per teammate). Place buckets on opposite side of the yard.
3. On the count of three, the first member from each team runs to their bucket, picks out a flag, and then runs back to tag the next player.
4. The game continues until all of the members of a team have gotten their flag. The first team to finish wins.
Pie-eating contest - use mini patriotic pies with star cutouts
Photo courtesy of Chris Nease, Celebrations at Home
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