14 Fun Ideas for Summer Parties That’ll Inspire New Core Memories

published May 8, 2024
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Credit: Leela Cyd

There’s something about warm weather that encourages everyone to gather together for fun, leisurely outdoor afternoons and evenings that stretch on for hours. Add in a theme, and you’ve got the makings of core memories that you’ll revisit for years — or maybe even turn into an annual tradition.

From afternoons spent on a rooftop playing games with friends to evenings underneath sparkling twinkle lights, hosting a summer soirée at home doesn’t require a lot of space — or even your own space. You can host indoors or out, at home or in public, but the key is pulling together a summer party idea or theme that gets everyone excited to celebrate.

Ready to send out the invites? Here are 14 summer party ideas, from the classic to the quirky.

1. Classic Cookout

You’re probably well-versed in the classic backyard cookout. Invite friends over for a slice of Americana with gingham tablecloths, hot dogs, hamburgers, and the nostalgic smell of a charcoal grill. Jean shorts and baseball hats are the attire of choice for a sunny, casual afternoon.

2. Caftan Party

If you love a Palm Springs meets Palm Beach style moment — especially because it gives you an excuse to put on a flowy caftan and big earrings, and lounge around sipping martinis — you’ll love this theme. Host friends for a Palm Royale-inspired evening on your apartment building rooftop where the only requirement is a bold, bright print. 

3. Summer Solstice Soirée

Gather friends to go out in nature (or a city park!) and recognize the summer solstice. Bring delicious sweets, wear warm colors, and usher in the day when the sun peaks at its highest annual point. 

Credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

4. Inflatable Pool Party

You don’t need a luxurious backyard pool to host a pool party. Pick up a cheap inflatable pool (or two!), fill it up with the hose, stock up on sunscreen, and invite your sun-loving friends over. With good drinks and a nice afternoon, you won’t even miss the deep end.

5. Western Party

Cowboy boots and summer go together like peanut butter and jelly, and with Cowboy Carter still making waves, now’s the time to embrace the sunny country spirit. Put on a classic and modern country soundtrack, set the table with bandana napkins and cactus centerpieces, and bring your friends together for a campy Western evening.

6. S’mores Party

Who doesn’t love the throwback flavors of s’mores? Host a post-dinner s’mores party for a cozy summer evening soirée. If you have a rooftop or a backyard, great, but even if you don’t, you can make s’mores inside. Plus, this is a super budget-friendly party — all you need is chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows.

7. Picnic in the Park

Even if you live in a tiny city studio apartment, you’re not out of the hosting game. You just have to bring your friends to another destination and, when that destination is the park, you can host for free. “I recommend keeping it casual with a ‘bring your own picnic’ affair! Lay out colorful blankets, pop up some pint-sized tables, and let your guests feast and frolic,” says event planner Jennifer Allen.

Credit: Tara Bellucci

8. Tie-Dye Party

Encourage your friends to let loose with buckets of dye, rubber bands, and white T-shirts. Tie-dying seems to die off after childhood, but there’s no reason you can’t invite a little vivid color into adulthood. Plan an afternoon full of fun, color, and creativity.

9. Field Day Party

Do you remember how you’d spend weeks looking forward to field day in elementary school? Recreate that in your own backyard! Gather friends for old-school favorites like tug-of-war and capture the flag, then end the day with a barbecue and beverages.

10. Tiki-Inspired Party

“I love a great Hawaiian-themed event — especially during the summer. You can turn your cozy apartment into a Hawaiian paradise,” says Allen. She recommends decking out your space — no matter how small — with vibrant leis, tiki torches, and bright flowers. Serve tiki drinks and make Hawaiian slow cooker pork for a meal that doesn’t require in-the-moment prep.

11. Ice Cream Social

For a low-stakes party idea that also gives you the opportunity to bring out your most charming dishware, host an ice cream social. Have a few different flavors, pick up sprinkles, crush some Oreos, or give the option for adult ice cream milkshakes. You can even pick up ice cream sundae dishes from a thrift store for a fun touch.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

12. Italian Riviera Night

Citrus and negronis have been having a moment for a few years now, and if you’re still here for it, this summer party is for you. Set the table with bowls filled with lemons, limes, and oranges, make a simple pasta, then mix up the negronis. If you have an outdoor space, string bistro lights for a magical al fresco touch. You’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to Capri, but without the flight.

13. Summer Flower Fete

You don’t need a garden to throw a garden party! Turn your apartment into a midsummer’s night dream with florals scattered all about, then invite your friends over for a party where you make floral arrangements or flower crowns. “Scatter potted plants, light twinkling candles, and set a table that’s as fresh as a summer breeze with linens and blooms,” suggests Allen.

14. Outdoor Movie Night

If you have a rooftop or a backyard, rent a projector and host your own take on a drive-in movie. Order pizzas, pick a classic movie, and set out blankets and lawn chairs in the backyard. You can even find little striped popcorn boxes for an authentic touch.