Posted by Dan O'Malley in Home Design

Updated May 2024

Ahh, the long-awaited time has come: your grass is freshly cut, your cooler is filled to the brim with ice-cold beverages, your grill sends up a cloud of smoldering smoke as it heats, and your first summer gathering is only moments away.

We’re all champing at the bit to fill our summer calendars with gatherings with loved ones—so let’s make this year’s outdoor entertainment ideas extra special!

Backyard Entertainment Ideas

Whether you’re one in a rotation of hosts for this year’s get-togethers or you’re volunteering as tribute for the whole summer, use these tips to make your at-home backyard gatherings ones your friends and family look forward to.

Plan Your Outdoor Entertaining Space Comfortably

As everyone catches up at your outdoor party, create multiple options for your guests to sit and chat: one-on-one or in a group.

Set up your backyard with different kinds of chairs, blankets, dining areas, lounging chairs, and even accessories like ottomans, cushions, drink holders, etc.

Space these out throughout your backyard so kids can have their own area, guests can enjoy their food comfortably, and smaller conversations can break out, too.

Pro Tip: Put seats away as you’re doing cleanup—I know it’s one more thing to deal with the night-of, but your grass will thank you!

When it comes to lighting, you want to make sure that as the sun goes down your guests are still able to see and move around comfortably. Use decorative lights to both create the perfect ambiance and accommodate your guests throughout the evening.

Perfect backyard lighting options:

  • Twinkle lights, lanterns, or motion-sensor lighting
  • Citronella candles
  • Fire pit and/or tiki torches

If you’re worried about your energy bill, check out these great eco-friendly outdoor lights!

Pro Tip: Don’t try to impress your guests with a huge bonfire if you don’t have experience building and maintaining one—both for the safety of your wooden fence and for your eyebrows.

Besides just seating and lighting, your guests will also have other needs!

You can station a few items around your backyard space or have small kits for each guest with bug spray, a koozie, and even a reusable cup if your guests plan on returning to your popular backyard bashes all summer long.

Pro Tip: We also recommend having easy-to-locate trash stations—to cut back on those random Solo cups and napkins everywhere—and a basket with a few lightweight blankets, either for additional seating options and/or for once the sun goes down!

If you’re helping your guests squelch that summer heat by hosting a pool party, those have needs all of their own!

Make sure you have plenty of towels for your guests to wrap up in and dry off. You’ll also want to station your lounging chairs where the sun will hit at that time of day so they can catch a few rays and warm up in between jumping in the pool.

Pro Tip: Put together some snack bags for your guests (both kids and adults). Swimming does burn calories, after all!

Outdoor Home Entertainment

Once your outdoor entertainment space is perfectly situated, it’s time for the main events!

Fun Outdoor Games

If it’s not too scorching hot on the day of your party, keep your guests moving with outdoor group games, like kickball, volleyball, badminton, croquet, and more.

If your guests are more in the mood for something to play at the table, we have great game recommendations for that, too!

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to whip out the phone camera to share memories and candid shots from each outdoor gathering with friends and family later—what a great way to capture the best moments of game night!

Create an Outdoor Home Theater

Okay, this will definitely take a bit more planning and setting up, but it’s so worth it. A backyard home theater creates an unforgettable summer movie night experience for your guests and family! You’ll find yourself bringing it out again and again for outdoor gatherings.

Without draining your outdoor entertaining budget, here are the best affordable outdoor theater equipment options for the perfect setup.

An outdoor home theater makes for another great chance to strategically set up those twinkle lights for the ultimate cozy summer outdoor home theater evening (The Princess Bride just got even dreamier!).

Pro Tip: Make sure to stock up on salty and sweet snacks for the true cinema experience!

Outdoor-Friendly Meals and Snacks

Can we all just agree that hot dogs and burgers are SO OVERRATED? Let’s get some healthy and unique options in there, shall we?

And for a sweet treat to cap off the perfect outdoor meal, each guest can make his or her own dessert over the fire—bring out their inner pyro-chefs!

For beverages, make sure you ask your guests ahead of time which kinds of drinks they prefer so you have everything on hand, including tea, soda, adult beverages, and water.

Let’s have a quick chat about water, though. With only 12% of the 35 billion plastic water bottles we Americans dispose every year getting recycled, it’s a good time to reassess your regular water bottle re-stock. Here’s a great compostable option that your guests can refill again and again from an outdoor beverage dispenser.

Pro Tip: Multiple beverage stations make it easier for guests to refill and refresh!

Patio Entertainment Ideas

If you’re hosting a more intimate gathering or are looking for small backyard ideas for entertaining, we’ve got you covered there, too.

First things first, make sure you’re choosing the best patio dining set for your needs and space—check those measurements twice!

A smaller backyard space doesn’t mean you can’t still decorate! Check out these outdoor patio entertainment décor ideas.

Based on your number of guests and your amount of space to work with, don’t plan too elaborate of a meal—the simpler the better so you don’t have lots of side dishes crowding your table.

Opt for a buffet-style meal so your guests can fill their plates in one place and eat their food comfortably elsewhere.

Instead of games that require rearranging your space or moving around, choose tabletop games that can easily be viewed and participated in from all in your party, once the food is cleared away.

For family-friendly crowds, break out Apples to Apples; for adult parties get ready for side-splitting laughs with Cards Against Humanity.

Pro Tip: Still get the summer bonfire experience with a tabletop fire pit!

Now you’re ready for successful and fun outdoor gatherings every weekend this summer! Share your state-of-the-art outdoor hangout space with us and be sure to tag @mihomes!


Dan O'Malley
Dan O'Malley


Dan O’Malley is the Vice President of Product Development for M/I Homes.With over 30 years of expertise in residential architecture and design, Dan has been overseeing the product needs of the company's 16 divisions located throughout the Midwest, Southeast, Nashville and Texas for the past 12 years. Before joining M/I Homes, he was a partner in the Chicago office of BSB Design, a national residential architectural firm, for 14 years. Dan is an expert in all aspects of single-family and multifamily design and has received several awards for his successful projects. He is also a popular speaker at various industry events, including the International Builder’s Show, Midwest Builder’s Show, and Multi-Housing World.

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