Practicing social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your favorite fall activities this year. Seeking out excuses to host outdoor parties to look forward to is more important now than ever. After a week of working from home, on the frontlines, or in Zoom school, spending time in the great outdoors can be restorative. Luckily, fresh air is literally what the doctor ordered. Now that the temperatures are starting dip below a hundred (or what feels like it) take advantage of crisp fall weekends to spend time with friends and family while allowing for plenty of space between households. Ahead we break down our go-to fall outdoor party ideas and how to adapt them for social distancing.
Go apple picking with the crew
Apple picking is the ultimate outdoor activity for fall as September and early October are the peak times to go in the US and Canada. Once you decide on a day, organize a caravan to a local apple orchard—Orange Pippin is a directory for pick-your-own apple orchards near you. Check on their site or social media to see if there are any updates to their policies and if they offer any other fall treats like hayrides or petting barns.
Go early in the day and pack a lunch to eat in the orchard. Ham or brie sandwiches pair sliced apples or pack a plowman’s lunch with crusty bread, farmhouse cheddar, pickled veggies like cornichons, and serve with apple slices.
How do you know an apple is ready to pick? Work from the outside of the tree inward. Roll an apple up from the branch and twist it. If it’s ripe, it’ll come off easily in your hand.
Host an outdoor pumpkin carving party
Create a pumpkin-carving station in your backyard by spreading out picnic blankets paired with large bowls, scoops, and carving tools for guests. Ask guests to RSVP, so you know how many pumpkins to have on hand. Look for pumpkins without bruises or cuts that sound solid when thumped. While you are pumpkin picking look for a few small special pumpkins to serve as decoration. We love varieties in muted shades of cream, rust, and green that can adorn your Friendsgiving table well after Halloween. Browse our Friendsgiving invitations to start thinking about November.
Have printed templates available to copy or use as artistic jumping off points. For a little friendly competition, vote on your favorite jack-o-lantern once everyone has finished carving. Pro-tip: To prolong your pumpkin coat all carved sections (including the interior) with a thin layer of petroleum jelly to lock in moisture. For a family-friendly take, consider a no-carve pumpkin painting party instead. It’s still messy but less dangerous than handing over the carving tools to your littles.
Host in the early evening and serve a simple dinner afterward. We love an autumnal soup that you can make the day before (like pumpkin sage, butternut squash, or chickpea with kale) and a hearty salad like fennel or beet. Serve soup in mugs that make it easy for guests to eat while they chat outdoors.
Reimagine Oktoberfest in your backyard
If heading to Bavaria is not in the stars for you this year, host your backyard Oktoberfest instead. Traditionally held in tents, it’s the perfect outdoor party idea for fall. Set up a long table in the garden with a blue and white table setting as a nod to the Bavarian flag.
Any full-bodied lager will work, but if you’re inviting a crowd, order a keg from one of the six breweries that can produce the official Oktoberfestbier: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, or Spaten. From the ceremonial key-tapping to the end of the evening, it’s tradition to sing “Ein Prosit” together. Just skip the cheers this year. Serve pints in German beer steins perfect for stein-holding contests—the last one holding your arm straight out with a full beer wins.
Soak up the brews with brezels and weisswurst (or pretzels and sausage to the uninitiated) straight from the grill. Order in advance from your local butcher or online from a German butcher like Schaller & Weber.
While an authentic ensemble isn’t required why not encourage guests to get into the Bavarian spirit with drindls, lederhosen or traditional hats called tirolerhüte with a call-out on the invitation.
Go for a hike
Celebrate a fall birthday with this outdoor party idea that is as easy as a walk in the park: a hike and a picnic. Narrow down the perfect trail for you and your crew with a site like AllTrails where you can filter for difficulty and elevation gain or preferences like views, waterfalls, dog-friendly, and bird watching opportunities.
Keep lunch simple and streamlined with sandwiches from home or takeout from a local food truck, or farmer’s market on your way. Encourage each household to bring their own reusable plates and cups or bring compostable bamboo dinnerware for everyone. (We like Bambu for plates and cutlery.) Plan to stop at a vista along the trail with a clearing large enough to spread out and decamp for lunch.
You’ve had craft brewery tours and gone vineyard hopping. This year host a cider tasting as your new go-to outdoor party idea. Ask each guest to bring a bottle of cider or have your neighborhood bottle shop suggest exciting heirloom ciders. To get even nerdier hone in on a particular region like farmhouse English, delicate French, or earthy Basque ciders.
For a blind tasting cover the labels with brown paper and label them with numbers when guests arrive. Arrange them from left to right, starting with any ciders made only from apples, then move on to ciders with spices or botanicals, barrel-aged, fruit ciders, and ice ciders.
Serve in glasses meant for drinks with effervescence fluted Champagne or tulip styles. Cider is best at the temperature of white wine (50 to 55 degrees), so let it sit outside for a few minutes before serving to open up the aromas.
You can go two ways with your tasting: rate each cider to declare a favorite or just chat about what you’re tasting as you move through the lineup. Note the color, clarity, and dryness (ciders can range from bone dry to semi-sweet) and any aromatics you taste. Cider can have notes of cinnamon, dill, fennel, citrus, oak, toast, smoke, honey, vanilla, or yeasty, bread-like qualities. Is it still, sparkling, or petillant? Have tasting notes handy to get guests talking about what they are tasting. Set out smaller grazing boards for each family with cheeses, hard sausage, nuts, and olives.
Play outdoor harvest party games
This fall may look different for the kiddos in your house. Plan a weekend harvest party to blow off steam with outside activities like no-contact harvest party games.
Set the scene by hanging a fall harvest wreath made from wheat or corn husks from the grocery store (they’re tamale wrappers) on your front door. Take advantage of pumpkin beer and chilled red wine season. Serve alongside make-ahead handpies that kids can snack on the go. You can even make sweet apple handpies for a delicious dessert you’ve stockpiled. Set out with compostable bamboo plates and fall flowers like zinnias or dahlias. If you party into the evening, stay warm during sweater weather with a fire pit, no need to head inside. A few no-contact games and outdoor activities to set up for kids:
Leaf pile race: Save leaves from raking the yard and have teams of kids pile them into hula hoops. The team with the tallest pile at the end wins.
Wheelbarrow races: Fill a wheelbarrow with leaves and time teams on how long it takes them to cross the finish line.
Make Birdfeeders: Help kids spread peanut butter onto pinecones and then cover them with birdseed for birds.
If you have a friend who is immunocompromised, you’re looking for social distancing activities for senior living residents, or part of your group simply doesn’t feel comfortable yet hanging out outside, there’s always virtual parties! Cheers to the weekend, a promotion, or just because with our ideas for a virtual happy hour, or share in some friendly competition with a virtual game night.
If you’re not sure how to plan virtually, read our complete guide here. No matter what invitation you choose, any design can work for a virtual event. Just add a link to your Zoom call or meeting the event’s location field.