After months of being cooped up inside the house, the joy of summer is being able to go outside and enjoy the warm weather. You can hit the beach, cuddle up at the drive-in or take in an outdoor concert, but sometimes the best times are with friends in your own backyard. Traditional cook-outs can be fun, but why not put together a unique party that really suits your friends’ personalities and interests? After the jump, a few ideas for creative backyard parties. Add your suggestions in the comments.The Jam Session. My neighbor is in a rock band and my best friend plays the harp. Think about your own friends and family, and you’ll probably find plenty of people who can play an instrument. Invite them to display their talent at your next backyard party. You could end up with a eardrum blasting rock concert, a classical concerto, a mellow coffeehouse vibe–or all three. Ask your friends ahead of time for sheet music to their favorite songs. Make copies and arrange a sing-a-long with all of your guests. If you don’t have any particularly musical friends, set up a karaoke machine and start handing out the cocktails. You can apologize to your neighbors in the morning.
The Mini-Olympics. Whether your friends are marathon runners or couch potatoes, you can still have fun with sports and games at your backyard party. Set up a badminton or volleyball net. Add a ping pong table. Cover the patio table with a portable air hockey board. Narrow side yards are perfect for lawn darts, horseshoes, and bean bag toss. If you’ve got a level lawn, set up bocce ball or croquet. For the adventurous party guest, you can even rent a portable rock climbing wall. Set up a friendly competition with team play and give out prizes to winners of individual and multiple events. No doubt you’ll get a gold medal for hosting.
The Tea Party. Tea parties aren’t just for little girls and stuffed animals. Show off your garden and invite all your favorite ladies to a luncheon in your backyard. Ask them to dress up, and even wear vintage hats. Set up round folding tables on the lawn and cover with floral tablecloths. Use your favorite china, and ask your guests ahead of time to contribute any teapots they might own, no matter what style. Stick to greenery for the centerpieces, and consider adding a citronella candle to help keep bugs away. Play classical music on the outdoor stereo. Serve a light ladies luncheon of salads, fruit, and finger food. For an added surprise, enlist all the husbands, boyfriends, and brothers to act as waiters. It’s about time they waited on us.