There won’t be the usual big community gatherings, hometown parades, and fireworks displays this year but there are still a lot of things we can do to enjoy the holiday. While we may miss the big celebrations of years past, we can still celebrate the day with our closest family or friends. If you’re planning to host a small gathering now is the time to make your shopping list and get your backyard ready for some star-spangled fun!

The first thing that probably comes to mind about the Fourth of July is food—all the delicious possibilities. You want it to be festive and special, but without going overboard and wearing yourself out. Hot dogs and hamburgers are always simple and taste even better when cooked outdoors. A bowl of bright red strawberries and blueberries add a splash of color and flavor to your table. And sometimes the secret to the best food is just in the presentation.

Try this idea:

Hot dog bar

Re-purpose a galvanized metal tub to class up your condiment station for your hot dogs, burgers, or sandwiches. You can get as creative as you want with containers for your sauces, dips, and toppings—wide-mouthed mason jars, ceramic bowls, glass tumblers, etc. Fill them up and put them on ice.

Hot dog bar with corn on the cob for July 4th celebration on the back patio.

Relaxing outdoors with good food and your favorite people may be enough fun on its own. Having one or two backyard games available is a good way to pass the time while waiting for burgers to cook, or to avoid dozing off after over eating, or even to keep certain people off their phones for awhile.

Try this idea:

Backyard Croquet

There are so many fun backyard games to choose from, but you may not want something that will result in balls or badminton birdies being launched over fences—or worse—into your food or otherwise unwanted areas. Croquet is a classic backyard party game that’s easy to set up, and fun for young and old alike. You can make it as casual or competitive as you want.

Friends playing croquet together

You don’t need loud, messy, and dangerous fireworks for a festive atmosphere. To light it up like the Fourth of July you can go for extra outdoor lighting strands, colorful sparklers, and of course citronella candles and tiki torches to keep the bugs away. For table garnishes and centerpieces, the internet is full of simple DIY craft ideas for creative types of all ages. There’s no end to what you can do with paint, twine, popsicle sticks, and washi tape.

Try this idea:

Paper Lantern Lights

Paper lanterns are a versatile way to add pops of color to your party. Of course you can buy pre-packaged lantern & string light sets, but if you already have strings of LED outdoor lights set up it’s easy to just add your own paper lanterns to them. Then you can be creative with choosing colors and placement of the lanterns. Also the lanterns are easy to remove and store away until the next party. You could even set up a craft table for kids to make their own paper lanterns and other decorations.

Japanese Laterns

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