24 Fun Backyard Games to Play This Summer (Beyond Just Cornhole)

published May 6, 2024
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friends having garden party while children playing in backyard during summer weekend
Credit: Maskot/Getty Images/Maskot

Whether you’re hosting friends for a backyard cookout or just trying to pass the long, sunny days of summer, sitting around in lawn chairs and sipping on a glass of ice-cold lemonade only goes so far. That’s why you need a playbook of backyard games in your back pocket to entertain adults and kids alike.

These 24 backyard games strike the right balance between nostalgia and genuine fun. There are differing skill levels to make sure everyone feels welcome, from the friend who can’t get enough competition to the one who’s just here for social hour. Some require equipment, others just need a child-like level of energy, but all will add memories to your backyard afternoons.

1. Cornhole

Let’s get the obvious option on the table first: Cornhole is such serious backyard business that there are now nationwide competitions. But you can pick up a set for under $100, and challenge your friends to a rotating cornhole tournament.

2. Bocce Ball

While an official bocce ball court is nice, all you really need is a semi-flat surface and a set of balls. You can play with up to eight people, which is perfect if you have a large group or if there are kids that you want to include on the team. 

3. Croquet

Grab your fanciest drinks and take turns whacking wooden balls with a ballet. Croquet has been around for nearly 1,000 years and something about it just feels sophisticated (although it actually originated with French peasants in the 13th century!).

4. Mini Golf 

Who needs a golf course when you have your own backyard? Grab a mini golf set and create a personal course at home. Obstacles are up to your own discretion.

5. Lawn Bowling

Set up lawn bowling in the driveway for some throwback fun. This wooden set is as cute as it is functional, and it even works inside on a rainy day.

6. Lawn Tic Tac Toe

If tic tac toe on a piece of paper is fun, it’s even more fun when you play a life-size lawn game version. Lawn tic tac toe is easy to set up, and you can quickly move through rounds so everyone gets a turn.

7. Ladder Golf 

Ladder golf is one of those backyard games that you’ll quickly become committed to mastering. There’s skill involved in perfectly throwing the bolos, but it doesn’t necessarily take athletic talent — just the exact right spin on the toss.

8. Outdoor Checkers

A set of outdoor checkers is the perfect game to tote along to someone else’s backyard. You set it up on a small rug, which means it’s ideal to play during a backyard barbecue or a picnic, and it’s light enough to carry wherever you go.

Credit: Oleksandr Nagaiets

9. Lawn Dominoes

Again, games are just more fun when they’re bigger! This set of lawn dominoes turns a classic game into a group activity — perfect to set up on a picnic table or deck. 

10. Giant Jenga

If your stress level can handle regular Jenga, why not put it to the test with giant Jenga? This jumbo-size set stacks over five feet tall, which means the fall is even more dramatic.

11. Ring Toss

Put your aim to the test with a game of ring toss. This is one of those games that can bring out the most competitive streak in people, and getting those rings on the target is harder than it looks!

12. Bucket Ball

Bucket ball will bring back college memories, but with a more wholesome twist. You set up a pyramid of buckets, then try to toss balls into the buckets. You take away a bucket each time you make one in, aiming to get to zero. 

13. Limbo

If you’re hosting a retro-themed party, then limbo feels like the right choice for a backyard game. All you need is something you can hold horizontally to form a limbo stick. That could be a yardstick, a Swiffer, or a broom.

14. Velcro Toss

Get a Velcro toss set with more than two paddles to have a backyard game that’s equal parts nostalgic and fun. It’s hard not to catch the ball, thanks to the Velcro, which makes this a great game for kids.

15. Yard Yahtzee 

What’s not to love about shaking up large-scale dice in a bucket and then tossing them across the yard? That’s why yard Yahtzee is one of the most fun backyard games — and it’s guaranteed to be unexpected.

16. Hopscotch

Have a driveway? And some chalk? It’s time for an old-school game of hopscotch. We guarantee jumping around will bring back carefree memories.

17. Egg-and-Spoon Race

Depending on your tolerance for a mess, an egg-and-spoon race will always get people laughing. Balance an egg on a spoon and then — surprise, surprise — it’s time to race. The object is, of course, to reach the finish line without dropping the egg.

Credit: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock.com

18. Tug of War

Want to channel camp vibes? Grab a long rope and challenge your friends and family to a backyard game of tug of war.

19. Double Dutch

Remembering how to jump rope is hard enough, but why not make it even tougher? Grab a friend, plus two more friends to twirl the rope, and see if you two can stay in unison.

20. Capture the Flag

Capture the flag is one of those iconic childhood games that brings back memories of afternoons stretching into evening and the sheer terror of thinking the other team is going to find your flag. Turns out, it’s just as much fun as an adult.

21. Wheelbarrow Race

For the ultimate no-equipment backyard game, challenge a group to a wheelbarrow race. It’s a great workout in addition to being one of the silliest games you’ll play this decade.

22. Potato Sack Race

After you have a wheelbarrow race, you might as well pull out the potato sacks and start hopping at top speed. Spoiler: This game is so much harder than you might remember.

23. Hook and Ring Game

Set up a hook and ring game outside, and you’ll always have entertainment at the ready. This is the ideal game for that one person who likes to fidget while they chat. You can stand there with a drink in hand, trying to get the ring on the hook, and not worrying about whether you’ll actually win or lose.

24. Laser Tag

If you want to really elevate the backyard games, set up laser tag for the kids (and the adults!). This is the ultimate evening backyard game.