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Summer is officially underway, and we can’t wait to hang with our friends and family. Needless to say, we intend to bring the fireworks for this year’s 4th of July party. From DIY crafts and patriotic decor to a delicious barbecue menu that covers everything from appetizers to dessert, we have 35 ideas that will wow each and every one of your guests. Read on to start planning your most unforgettable July Fourth celebration yet.
How to Decorate
Whether you hang it along the fence in your front yard or on your backyard playset, this DIY project will give your bash a rustic touch. The key to nailing the look is using stencils and tape to get the painted stars and stripes just right.
Odds are you have everything you need to make these simple decorations. If you have multiple small tables set up for your guests to eat at, put one in the middle of each. If everyone’s eating at one big table, consider starting with a wider vase and filling it with extra tissue paper and pinwheels accordingly.
Who knew a few bargain bandanas could do all *this*? Yes, you’ll need to bust out your sewing machine, but this is so much cooler than buying a flimsy, plastic tablecloth from the store. Use a mix of red, white and blue bandanas, or go all-out festive with flag print.
Hang these mind-blowingly simple decorations on a tree in your front yard, the gate posts along the lawn or all around your deck—anywhere the streamers will be able to catch a breeze. Assemble a few dozen yourself, then let your kids go wild with decorative star-shaped stickers.
Button stars + lace scraps + pom-pom fringe = the most unconventional-yet-gorgeous American flag we’ve ever seen. This project is also a great way to clear your craft drawers of leftover fabric, denim or rickrack.
Run with the nautical red-white-and-blue theme or keep it plainly patriotic with a different flag-inspired print. Depending on how formal the seating is at your summer shindig, you can also write each guest’s name on a coaster, so they double as place cards. Did we mention they’re dishwasher safe?
Forget frilly rings of flag ribbon and dyed faux flowers. This rocket-topped take is just as festive without being too over the top. You can even experiment with different sizes of cardboard tubes (like a toilet paper roll or the leftovers from a roll of vinyl or ribbon), so the wreath can tote multiple firecrackers.
You can whip up patriotic bunting out of butcher paper in your sleep. But how fun is this balloon-filled alternative? Ask your kids to help you blow up the balloons, then take turns gluing them to the long paper arches.
It’s just the backdrop for all your grilled mains, festive desserts and cute tableware. The secret? Using a Silhouette Cameo or Cricut to cut the flower petals (it’ll save you a ton of time, and the petals will be consistent in size).
What to Eat
First thing’s first: No barbecue is complete without a refreshing cocktail. This mix of sparkling wine, brandy and fresh fruit is sure to kick the party off right. Use a star-shaped cookie cutter for the Granny Smith apple garnish.
Two summer essentials, one fizzy, creamy libation. It stars layers of blueberry margarita, strawberry margarita and vanilla-coconut ice cream. If that alone doesn’t sway you, how cute is the red-white-and-blue fruit skewer?!
Come summer, we’ll throw anything on the grill—watermelon included. A nice char complements the fruit’s natural sweetness with smoky flavor, while the feta offers a punch of saltiness. (Oh, and if you need help cubing the watermelon, we’ve got you covered.)
While ooey-gooey mac tastes divine with ribs, brisket and just about any barbecue main under the sun, it also tastes pretty damn good all by itself. And when it’s baked in a muffin tin, it becomes a portable treat that’s easy to devour while running amok in the yard.
Let’s face it: There’s no way you’re hosting a 4th of July soirée without burgers and dogs (even if they’re mainly just for the picky eaters). But this Crockpot gem is basically guaranteed to steal the show, thanks to its fork-tender texture and sweet-and-savory flavor. Set it and forget it the night before the party.
Seafood deserves the same respect as beef and pork when it comes to a cookout, and this simple-yet-spectacular recipe is proof. The trick to maximizing the fish’s smokiness is nestling it into an open foil sling on the grill, instead of wrapping it up tightly. Take your pick of trout, catfish, red snapper or branzino.
Much like burgers and dogs, certain sides are just plain necessary. (We’re talking coleslaw, potato salad, corn on the cob, baked beans and grilled vegetables.) But take our word for it: This impressive salad will be just as big a hit as the classics. Your guests won’t be able to decide whether they love the smoky grilled peaches, tangy halloumi cheese or toasty pine nuts most.
Hot, paper-thin Fresno chiles. Tender, crumbly cornbread. A generous slather of honey butter. Yup, sweet dreams are made of these. Pop it in the oven at cocktail hour and it should be ready by the time you’re serving dinner. (Oh, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t suggest drizzling on some extra honey before taking a bite.)
Between the essential s’mores and ice pops, you technically might not need an additional dessert…but why the heck not? After all, not a single guest will mind having a teeny-tiny apple pie all to themselves. Make sure you have plenty of vanilla ice cream on deck.
Bye, store-bought flag cake. This alternative is a total cinch to make and boasts just the right amount of kitsch without being corny. It’s as simple as layering raspberry sorbet, vanilla ice cream and blueberry ice cream in a springform pan, letting it freeze and frosting the outside.
What to Do
Just like they do on Coney Island. It offers the grown-ups a chance to get in on the nostalgic fun while the little ones have a blast watching their parents chow down. Since a hot dog eating contest could pose a choking hazard for the kids at your cookout, set up a pie eating contest for them instead. Just fill store-bought pie crusts with chocolate pudding and whipped cream, then let them dig in face-first.
Because the best backyard games are the ones you can play with a cold beer in hand. Partner up and squeeze in a few stretches before showing off your bean bag-tossing chops. The winner scores unlimited bragging rights, while the loser gets to run to the liquor store for more ice.
If it’s just you and your fam this year, fill the day with a bunch of projects that the kids will love. Start by trying your hand at a few red-white-and-blue manicures (you can even let the kids paint your nails in return…just be sure to put down lots of newspaper first). Then, hook everyone up with festive face paint designs, like a bald eagle, American flag or fireworks. Let the kids in on the mess by letting them design their own sparkler t-shirts (we love this tutorial from Mom Endeavors), then have a photo shoot with everyone decked out to the patriotic nines.
If there’s anything kids love doing, it’s making a mess. With spray chalk, they can create to their heart’s content without you worrying about cleaning up after them. We love this patriotic set from Testors that lets them draw anything from bomb pops to fireworks on the lawn, sidewalk, driveway or windows. The color will fade naturally in a week, but you can spray it down with water if you’d like to wash it away sooner.
Instruct all the kids (read: their parents) to bring their bikes and scooters for an epic neighborhood display. Set out craft supplies like colored construction paper, tape, markers, streamers and pipe cleaners so they can decorate their “floats.” Give each participant a little American flag to put in their helmet or bike basket, then parade around the block for the community to see. Might we suggest cooling off afterward with a massive pitcher of lemonade?
Potato sack races, an egg toss, tug of war—you name it. Split everyone up into teams and rack up points all day long with different activities. At the end, award the winners with a red-white-and-blue noisemaker, a patriotic goody bag or wearable first, second and third place buttons that they can rock for the rest of the holiday.
If your party is all grown-ups, go ahead and call it karaoke night. If there are kids present, have them each work on a song, dance, magic show, joke or whatever they desire to perform. Set up a clothesline with a few tapestries or tablecloths for a festive backdrop; you can even hook up a real microphone if you’d like. Then, fire up the music and let the show begin. Bonus points for providing props and costumes.
They’ve gotta stay sharp somehow before they’re back in the classroom, right? Ask the kids basic history questions, quiz them on which Americans said famous quotes or even have them fill in the blanks of patriotic songs they’re familiar with. Keep it super low-key and fun with goofy prizes, like a bald eagle mask or colonial wig.
Sure, you could take a field trip to the local movie theater. But there’s no need to leave your comfort zone just to watch a few flicks. Set up a projector in your backyard, lay out a bunch of lawn chairs and blankets and let everyone gather for a socially distant movie marathon. You can even make some fancy popcorn (or red-white-and-blue Chex mix) for everyone to munch on while they watch.
The only thing better than ending the evening with fireworks? Not ending the evening at all, of course. Let the party continue ’til morning by pitching a tent and having an outdoor slumber party with your family. If you have a bunch of guests who are down to stay over, have them bring their own tents and sleeping bags so there’s space for everyone. Before sending everyone home, share brunch together indoors or al fresco.
Using a neutral tablecloth not only lets the food—and your yard—steal the spotlight, but it also allows you to adorn the table with as many vibrant decorations as you’d like (we’re thinking a shimmery red, white and blue centerpiece and flag plates). Better yet, this pick is washable and water- and stain-resistant, so it’s a solid choice for your patio or picnic table.
You’ll be shocked to find how helpful this grilling accessory is on the day of your party. It holds tongs, paper towels, sauces, plates and spices with ease, so you won’t have to leave the barbecue unmanned to run into the kitchen for a forgotten item (or wipe your sticky hands off on your favorite apron).
No one wants to play bartender at their own party. Our solution? Whip up a big-batch cocktail and chill it in a pretty beverage dispenser a day ahead. Right before your guests arrive, set the dispenser on the picnic table so they can serve themselves while you finish decorating, wrangle the kids, grill burgers or cool off with a quick run through the sprinkler.
String lights are hands-down the easiest way to give your basic backyard a fairy-tale upgrade. (And since there are countless options out there that are equal parts sleek and affordable, you won’t have to dig last year’s Christmas lights out of the basement.)
Whether you’re planning to end the evening with wine-fueled conversation or communal s’mores, it all goes down around the fire pit. The durable, high-temperature steel will help even newbies build a stellar fire, while the steel mesh spark guard will keep your guests safe and comfortable. The pit also comes with a poker to stoke the flames as they burn and a cover to protect it between uses.
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