9 Summer Entertaining Ideas Your Guests Will Love
August 17, 2020
The sun is out, the heat is on, and it’s time to make the most of it. This summer, wow your friends and family with some unforgettable parties – social distancing guidelines in place, of course – marked by creative eats, games, and lots of laughs. Step one: Peruse these 9 incredible summer entertaining ideas and pick the one that will make you the talk of the neighborhood.
1: Scavenger hunt
It sounds a bit childish at first pass, but there are ways to make this age-old find-it game a ton of fun for adults. An hour or so before party time, hide several small gifts in your house or yard. As guests arrive, tell them to hunt for their party gift. The first one they find is theirs! You can add another dimension to the game by pairing the gift with a specific drink. If, for example, the gift they find is a mini bottle of wine, their welcome drink would be sangría. The next guest may find whiskey rocks; their drink would be an old-fashioned.
2: Gift exchange
To engage guests on another level, ask everyone to bring a small gift (make sure to put a price cap on purchases), then exchange them at random during the party. You can request that they be themed – “favorite movies,” for example – or simply something seasonal.
If you choose to go the theme route, picking something in the entertainment vein can be extra fun. Exchange movies or music, then devote time during the party to watching/listening to them.
3: Ingredient or course-themed potluck
Potlucks certainly make entertaining easy on the host, but they often turn into a hodgepodge of unrelated – and, frankly, incongruous – dishes. Avoid this mishap by asking your guests to bring something that fits a theme, as well as a specific course or dish type.
For instance, you might align your party with food holidays (e.g. National Potato Day is August 19) and request dishes that fit the ingredient celebrated on that day. Alternatively, frame your potluck around a course and ingredient, like chocolate desserts, and see what deliciousness ensues.
4: Brunch buffet
Entertaining is often relegated to later hours, encompassing dinner, drinks, and dessert. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but what about mixing up the routine and sparking a little AM fun? Assemble an easy buffet feast – a build-your-own breakfast burrito station, chilaquiles assembly line, or breakfast nachos counter, for example – then keep your guests well plied with coffee, tea, and mimosas. The best part: All of the prep is done ahead of time and there’s no serving fuss.
5: Cooking class
Have a gift for cooking? Or maybe you just have a dish or two that everyone loves. Make your fête an interactive to-do with a simple cooking class. The good news here: You don’t have to teach your guests how to make a dish from start to finish. Pick one part to demonstrate or one part they can help with. This pulls back the curtain on some of your culinary magic while keeping your partiers engaged. Plus, they’ll have a vested interest in how the dish turns out.
6: Dinner and a movie
This is an oldie, but a goodie. Sure, you can keep it simple by serving up a lovely meal and putting on a popular flick afterward, but why not spice things up? If you can, set up the movie outside so you can enjoy your film (and required after-dinner tipple) in the cool evening breeze. Or, make it a standing affair and rotate the movie selection every time you and your friends gather. If you’re truly a cinephile, set aside time for after-movie conversation about plot, characters, and movie themes.
7: Progressive dinner
There are actually a couple of approaches to this beloved classic. The first, and most common, is to schedule different meal courses at various homes in your neighborhood. Make sure the meal is cohesive, though, and that you don’t have to walk too far for your next course.
You can also keep this in-house or on-property. Consider serving different courses in different parts of your home. The appetizers can be served in the family room, cocktail party style; the first course in the kitchen at the counter; the main course in the dining room; and the dessert on the patio.
Another entertaining idea: Progressive picnicking. Consider packing up your meal and driving or walking to various parks and green spaces around your town or neighborhood. Set up shop for one course, enjoy it leisurely, then amble off to the location for your next course. Bring lawn games like bocce ball for extra fun.
8: High tea
If you’re not in the mood to assemble a full meal – or simply have a greater affinity for baking – consider mid-afternoon tea as an entertaining idea. If the weather is suitable, hold it outdoors and accompany your tea/coffee selection with traditional finger foods and their complements – cucumber sandwiches, scones, biscuits, jams, jellies, and creams.
As with most fancy teas, you can even supplement your hot beverages with a glass or two of bubbly. What’s better than Champagne in the sun?
9: Dessert-and-drink pairings
For the bakers and mixologists, dessert-and-drink pairings are a must. To heck with the fuss of a full meal and the dirty dishes that result. Focus instead on three desserts and three drinks, each sweet paired with a specific libation. Keep in mind that both the desserts and the drinks don’t need to be full-sized; nibbles and sips are sufficient. If your guests want a bit more after sampling the lot, be ready to mix and slice to sate their appetite.
Looking for more delicious eats and entertaining tools? Check out our Food & Wine category.