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For some people, throwing a great party is in their DNA. (Patricia Altschul, anyone?) I, too, am one of those people. Whether it’s a Sunday brunch in the burbs for all my city friends or a casual Friday night pizza party with my neighbors, I love being the one to roll out the red carpet … and all of the entertaining swag in my treasure trove. But, if I’m being honest, I don’t love hosting during the winter months when we’re trapped inside. I feel claustrophobic! So as soon as the temps rise above 50 degress, we’re outside.
But from my guests’ point of view, nothing changes just because we’ve stepped into the wild. Entertaining should be seamless whether you’re indoors or out! Read: No crappy folding chairs that you inherited from your in-laws, no exterior flood lights blinding you as you attempt to have a conversation.
Instead, I’ve rounded up 21 entertaining must-haves that together will create a casual but sumptuous ambiance for you, whether it’s on your patio, your balcony or your rooftop. Quality-tested, these products are built to last and will serve a key purpose when you’re wining and dining your friends this summer. Let’s just say, they’re going to be asking when your next shindig is before they’ve even left the premises.
Shop all of our top outdoor entertaining product picks below.
The Bar Cart
If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the bar cart is the heart of the patio. And this one, complete with a stainless-steel beverage tub and ice bucket, is as luxe as it is utilitarian. Top panels slide open to provide double the serving surfaces, the perfect spot for your garnishes and appetizers.
The party shouldn’t end when the sun sets! We’re loving the vintage Edison bulbs in this 30-foot-long string of lights that are — wait for it — solar! Meaning you don’t have to cobble together extension cords to power your twinkling lights this summer.
The Outdoor Rug (That’s Pretty Enough for Indoors)
Is your outdoor living room just not feeling like, well, a living room? Get you an outdoor rug! We love the pattern and hand-braided tassels on this one, and the fact that it was created from recycled plastic bottles by artisans in India. Totally waterproof, just hose the rug off when it needs a cleaning.
The Beverage Tub & Pedestal
We love a beverage tub, but they take up so much precious counterspace! Frontgate’s solution is the genius (and gorgeous) freestanding Optima Pedestal that you can place its coordinating beverage tub on top of. Sturdy and utterly classic, this duo is perfect for an outdoor party, but will look just as beautiful indoors during the winter months.
The 3-in-1 Table
This is a workhorse piece of furniture. Part side table, part cocktail table, full-time ice bucket—what’s not to love?!
The Dining Set
When heading outdoors, we like to keep things structured but casual and this acacia wood picnic table fits the bill. We love the metal base, and the ample seating.
The Heat Source
Let’s face it: Some people are just always cold. And if you really want be the hostess with the mostest, being able ignite a patio heater with the push of a button will win you major brownie points. We love this one from Hanover because it’s able to stand up to even the worst weather, and its square base doubles has a side table to rest beverages on. Bonus: Throw on a puffy coat and enjoy all winter long.
Just like the inside of your home, carefully-placed décor is going to help tie your outdoor living room together, and these lanterns are exactly what you need. Made of steel glazed to look like ceramic, they come in five colors, patterns and sizes and look great clustered on a table or standing solo on the patio. Really though, Grandin had us at the jute rope handle.
Paper plates are so passé. But the risk of breaking your indoors-only porcelain? So not worth it. Enter: Melamine! Unbreakable and dishwasher-friendly, this 12-piece set is pretty enough for your interior dining table, but durable enough for outside antics. We’re loving the subdued driftwood pattern of these Sur La Table beauties.
Keep your minimalist theme going straight through to your serving pieces with this bowl, oversized spoon and fork and rectangular platter. Perfect for shared salads and appetizers, the pieces will set a sedate tone for your alfresco meal.
To Keep the Flies Away
Three words: We. Hate. Bugs. And what’s even more pesky is when those bugs land on the food you’re serving outside. This beachy, boho tray is perfect for protecting your chips and dips, thanks to its retractable cover.
The Mess-Free Food Option
Place paper liners in these burger baskets and your barbecue just got a whole lot more retro. And easier to clean up after.
The Unbreakable Beverage Server
How do we love this dispenser? Let us count the ways. For one, it’s acrylic and won’t shatter if someone accidentally knocks it over. Two, you can offer multiple drinks in one stackable tower (and be sure to make ’em pretty, as they on display thanks to the clear containers!). And three, you can use it as a stacked trio, a duo or just a single server.
If there’s no giant tree offering loads of shade in your backyard, then you’ve got to create the shade for yourself. Establish a cool area by hanging a sun sail overhead—your guests will thank you!
The Family-Friendly Game
As much as adults love conversation and cocktails, it’s good to get your group moving, too, and there’s no better way than with Spikeball, the two-on-two game that’s taking over beaches and barbecues across the country right this very second. As seen on Shark Tank, the game is often referred to as the love child between volleyball and four square. Perfect for adults and kids alike!
The Adults-Only Game
What’s the best way to amp up your civilized get together? Unfold your regulation-length beer pong table. We love this one because of its genius cup holders (less mess!), the white board material (perfect for keeping score … or writing smack) and the fact that despite being eight-feet-long, it collapses into the size of a brief case.
The All-Weather Speaker
No matter how many bar carts or heaters or beer pong tables you have, your party isn’t going to be lit without music. You need a Bluetooth speaker that can stand up to the elements, and doesn’t compromise on sound. Cue: Bose's latest water-resistant speaker that can hold a charge for 12 hours, has 360-degree sound, works with Siri and Google Assistant and can be linked to be paired with another speaker for stereo mode. Oh, and it's cute as a button and transportable given it's small size.
Extra (Stackable!) Seating
While your guests might say they don’t mind standing … if you were to offer them a chair they’d take it in a hot second. For that reason, it’s worth having extra seating (and lots of it!). We’re digging Plow & Hearth’s stackable all-weather wicker chairs that wipe clean and have a reclined seat for relaxing. The best part? Stacking makes for easy storage.
The Fire Feature
Nothing rounds up a group quite like a roaring fire. But nothing can scatter a group quite like a whole lot of smoke in their faces. We love Outland Living’s fire table because it’s a powerhouse, conveniently concealing a five-gallon propane tank (not included) within the table, which provides up to 16 hours of smoke-free flame. For a little added drama, consider purchasing the glass wind fence to maintain the flame (or keep kiddos’ hands away) and add even more flare to the table.
The Midnight Snack
Is your party still missing something? Yup, one last thing. The sweet treat that’s also interactive! Get guests ‘round your fire table roasting marshmallows with this super handy kit and grilling basket (because burns would be a total buzz kill). All you need now is a guitar and a friend who can sing.
The Bug Zapper
Any product with 8,000 Amazon reviews is worth trying, right? Right. Also: Mosquitoes ruin everything.
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