Photo: courtesy of Lone River; Design: Kelly Millington/Thrillist

How to Turn a Simple Backyard Hang Into the Party of the Summer

Main character energy all Summer 2022.

With the weather warming up (finally), it seems like there’s a barbecue every weekend. If you’re hosting one this summer, you’ll want to make sure your friends and friends of friends remember your bash among the many they’re attending. You may already be the best behind the grill, but we have a few tips that can elevate your get-together from low-key to unforgettable. From having props around to play with to keeping your bar fully stocked with the right drinks, we’re dropping all the gems on how to make your next summer fest legendary.

Create a themed dress code

Sometimes you have to let out your inner kid and just be, well, a big kid. And we’re betting your friends would love to tap into that creative fun as well. Choose a theme that best fits your people and send out that group text to have everyone get onboard! You can play with time periods (a Y2K party? That’s hot), specific colors (imagine all your friends dressed in your favorite color, but in their own style), or pop culture references (meme parties are trending right now). The sky’s the limit, so get your crew on board for the shenanigans.

Have food choices for everyone

You can’t have a party without food and snacks, obviously, but while burgers and hot dogs are backyard classics, not everyone will want or be able to chow down on those options. To really accommodate all your guests, you should have options for just about any food lifestyle. There are plenty of barbecue-ready vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian options that will make everyone feel welcomed, which of course will add to the positive vibes. And you can never have too many sides at a cookout – many of which are pleasing for all types of palates.

Stock the bar with ready-to-drink options

Making sure the bar is fully stocked is key to any good party. When it comes to backyard hangs, we’re in favor of ditching bottles of spirits for ready-to-drink cans, which makes grabbing a drink a breeze since they’re more portable than mixing individual drinks. Lone River’s Ranch Rita is the perfect can to add to your home bar because it delivers on the indulgent taste of the classic margarita cocktail with a splash of organic agave nectar and lime — basically, it comes packed with its own summer vibes. Keep cases in the cooler and your guests will thank you for it.

Engineer an inside joke

Being at a party is cool, but being in on a joke is much more fun. If you have an interactive activity going on that everyone can be a part of, you’ll create a unique memory for everyone there and maybe even make it a party tradition. For example, leave out random props, like a pink, furry boa or a comically large pair of sunglasses for people to pass around and take photos with throughout the party. Pair with disposable cameras then watch all your friends get super creative — then develop the film later and share around the photo evidence.

Throw up a screen and showcase a movie

Every party is bound to have a few introverts, so you'll want to keep them in mind, too. Putting up a projector to screen a summer blockbuster or vintage film adds a party activity for the quieter people and a conversation starter. Consider the energy you want for the party when selecting a title — comedies may be a better fit for daytime hangs, while nighttime can play host to a thriller or horror flick. Just make sure to play the movie on silent and turn on the subtitles so it doesn’t throw off the party’s playlist.

Bring out the games

The best parties are equipped for getting every guest to have fun, and let’s be honest, not everyone will be up for making small talk the whole time. This is where your deck of cards and board games come into play. Put out different games around the backyard so they’re ready to pick up when the mood strikes, then watch your partygoers release their competitive edge.