The 15 Best Summer Party Ideas That Will Inspire You to Play Hostess

summer party ideas from tastemaker Athena Calderone, pictured with a friend

 Mirella Cheeseman

Summer is hands down the ideal time to throw a party. Everyone is in a good mood, the weather is beautiful, and there’s a sense of fun in the air. It’s really electric. But are you all out of summer party ideas? You can always throw a barbecue or pool party, but they’ve become everyone’s go-to now. And when it comes to being the hostess with the mostess, you want to stand out from the pack like tastemaker Athena Calderone. You only need to see her swoon-worthy dinner party at her Hamptons house complete with twinkle lights and lavender garland to understand why. If you need a little inspiration, never fear: We’ve found 15 unique themed summer soirée ideas that are easy to plan and even more fun to attend.

01 of 15

Host an Ice Cream Social

ice cream bar

Sugar & Charm

We can always rationalize eating ice cream, but it’s especially refreshing during the summertime. Take a trip back to your youth and re-create an ice cream party complete with a bar stocked with loads of flavors, numerous toppings, and tons of sauces. There are three ways to do this: Buy some ice cream from the grocery store, make your own, or find a specialty shop or creamery near you.

You'll need: Ice cream, tons of toppings, waffle cones, sugar cones, cups, ice cream cone toppers to avoid sticky fingers, bubbly to serve on the side, and an ice cream maker if you’re opting for homemade sweets.

02 of 15

Have a Sit-Down Dinner

summer party ideas from tastemaker Athena Calderone

 Mirella Cheeseman

If you can, plan dinner outside (bonus points if you have a pool as your backdrop). Set up one long table or a few groups of tables with elevated yet casual decorations (string lights are always a go). We strongly suggest having your meal catered so you don’t have to rush around last minute in the kitchen (it will be worth it). Use chic place cards to sit groups of friends who haven’t met next to each other—it will make for livelier conversation. Don’t forget to serve wine that complements your meal.

You'll need: Tablecloths, place settings, appetizers, dinner, dessert, wine, tea lights, twinkle lights, and a curated playlist.

03 of 15

Organize a Movie Screening

outdoor movie night

Sugar & Cloth

Create a mini film screening in your backyard for this summer party idea. (Imitate the Central Park summer movie screenings in New York City.) Have blankets and cushions on hand so guests can get cozy, tons of movie theater-style treats for them to snack on, and even some tissue boxes in case the film is a tearjerker. When you send out the invitation, include movie options that your guests can vote on, but don’t announce the flick until that night.

You’ll need: An outdoor movie screen and projector; blankets, poufs, or chairs as seating; popcorn and popcorn boxes; movie theater candy; and slushies.

04 of 15

Enjoy a Wine Tasting

wine tasting

College Housewife

We rarely meet anyone who doesn’t like wine, and although you serve it at almost every party, why not making this get-together instructional? Hire a sommelier from a local business, and have them lead a wine tasting for your guests. The sommelier will meet with you in advance to discuss which wines you’d like to sip, so make sure you have a headcount a few weeks prior.

You'll need: A sommelier (or wine connoisseur for a friend), different types of wine, wine glasses, drink tags, appetizers for pairing, and mini-notebooks (so guests can write down their favorite bottles).

05 of 15

Arrange a Backyard Potluck

backyard potluck

College Housewife 

If throwing a full-blown dinner party sounds a little overwhelming, have all of your friends bring one dish for a potluck. Set up the whole spread indoors so the bugs can't get to it and then bring your plates outside to eat.

You'll need: An outdoor dining table and chairs, and a game plan for who should bring what.

06 of 15

Plan a Cocktail Party

backyard cocktail party

Sugar & Charm

Cocktail parties are the retro trend that should be brought back. They don't involve a whole lot of planning—just have the ingredients for your favorite cocktail on standby, as well as a couple of light bites. Take your cocktails out to the balcony or yard if the weather's nice.

You'll need: A well-stocked bar and bar snacks like nuts and chips.

07 of 15

Perch on the Porch

Front Porch Design Ideas - Rattan Daybed
Courtesy of Byron Bay Hanging Chairs

If you have a generous-sized porch, whether it's screened-in or fully open-air, take advantage of it. Set out rocking chairs or even an outdoor dining table if there's room for it, and then whip up some lemonade for a family-friendly get-together.

You'll need: Plenty of seating, lemonade, and snacks.

08 of 15

Have a Beach Picnic

beach picnic

College Housewife

If you're lucky enough to live near the ocean, gather up your friends for a picnic at the beach. Try planning it for dinner time so you can watch the sunset and not be at risk for a sunburn.

You'll need: A picnic basket, beach blankets, easily packed food, and drinks.

09 of 15

Take Your Party to the Boat

woman on boat with friends

 Getty Images/Bob Thomas

If you own a boat or want to splash-out and rent one, host your party on the water. Your friends will definitely want to come to this soirée.

You'll need: Food, drinks, and some good music. Oh, and a boat.

10 of 15

Have a Flower Arranging Party

flower arranging

Darling Down South

Everyone wants a fresh bouquet in their kitchen when summer arrives. So why not make your own with your friends? A flower arranging party is a super unique way to go home with a party favor.

You'll need: Plenty of flowers and greenery for arranging. Buy them from your local florist or pick them from your garden.

11 of 15

Light a Bonfire

beach bonfire

Sugar & Charm

Whether at the beach or in your yard, a bonfire is always a hit if the weather gets a bit chilly at night where you live. Gather around to chat, drink, and roast s'mores.

You'll need: Firewood, all the ingredients for s'mores, and some beers to go around.

12 of 15

Set Up a Hot Dog Bar

hot dog party

Half Baked Harvest

Hot dogs are the food of the summer, but wait: Don't just buy any old franks and buns. Splurge on some nicer quality meats, breads, and condiments to make this casual get-together feel special.

You'll need: All the fixings for hot dogs and drinks.

13 of 15

Host a Tapas Party


Sugar & Cloth

What's less intimidating than serving a full three-course meal is serving tapas. The petit dishes meant to be shared are great for a chill get-together.

You'll need: All of the ingredients for your tapas as well as a tasty cocktail to go with them. May we suggest sangria?

14 of 15

Plan a Taco Tuesday

taco night

I Am A Food Blog

Your summer party does not need to fall on a weekend. Taco Tuesday is the perfect opportunity to meet up with your friends mid-week. Lay out all your favorite toppings and allow your guests to build their own tacos. And don't forget to make margaritas—the taco's ideal companion.

You'll need: The ingredients for tacos and margaritas.

15 of 15

Host a Sangria Soirée


Sugar & Charm 

You can make sangria in a multitude of flavors, from white to red, so plan your party around the refreshing summer beverage. Sangria is best enjoyed in the yard

You'll need: All the ingredients for sangria, from peaches to white wine and plenty of snacks.

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