Winter is a magical time for a party. Typically, people gather inside during the chilliest time of the year, attending get-togethers filled with fairy lights, plaid tablecloths, and pine-scented candles.
But why limit yourself to the indoor activities winter has to offer when some of the most beautiful, exciting elements of the season are actually happening outdoors? There’s something so special about celebrating under an inky black sky and twinkling stars next to a toasty outdoor fireplace, or bundling up with rosy cheeks on a brisk, sunny day. Maybe your guests value the health benefits of socializing in the fresh air, or maybe they just want an excuse to show off their cute new coat. The point is, you shouldn’t let the cold weather or a little snow deter you from experiencing the season in all its glory and taking part in festivities outdoors.
Of course, one of the keys to hosting an outdoor winter party is making sure everyone is kept warm and cozy. So first things first—how are you going to heat up the party, literally?
How do you keep an outdoor winter party warm?
An outdoor winter party works best when you’re able to keep all of your guests as warm and comfortable as possible. Depending on the type of event you’re hosting, here are a few easy ways to keep things cozy:
— Light up the fire pit. This solution provides instant heat, not to mention major cozy vibes. Why not roast some chestnuts while you’re at it?
— Supply extra blankets. Keep big, warm blankets available for guests to use as needed. Extra points if they’re plaid or were handknitted by your grandmother.
– Dole out body warming packets for guests to stick into their mittens and boots. Even if the air is chilly, their fingers and toes will stay toasty.
— Outdoor patio heaters. Set up space heaters throughout the outdoor space and watch your guests do their best impressions of moths.
— Heated party tent. Now we’re getting fancy (and borderline indoor-party). Even a canopy with flaps can help keep cold weather out and heat in.
“Winter Potpourri” by Rifle Paper Co. for Paperless Post.
How cold is too cold for an outdoor party?
Everyone has their own barometer for when being outside is simply too cold to be fun. If you and your guests are shivering more than smiling, it’s a sign to take the outdoor party indoors.
Fortunately, many of our outdoor winter party ideas can be transitioned to inside if the weather decides to take a frigid turn during the festivities. (And if you want to plan an indoor winter party, we’ve got plenty of ideas for those, too.) Now it’s time to plan the perfect winter wonderland event!
“Holiday Mugshots” by Paperless Post.
Hot cocoa and bonfire
Nothing feels cozier on a cold winter night than hot cocoa by an open fire. Invite guests to bundle up and join you outside for an evening under the stars. The party invitations could say something along the lines of:
Join us for a hot cocoa night
And s’mores by the fire
We’re keeping it casual
So wear your snuggliest attire!
Set up a station with tins of hot cocoa mix, hot water and/or warm milk carafes, and a variety of accompaniments, like mini marshmallows, chocolate bombs, whipped cream, and sprinkles. Also, you can’t have a bonfire without s’mores. Set out a platter with skewers, chocolate bars, graham crackers, and marshmallows for roasting.
“Snowbird” by Paperless Post.
Take advantage of the snowfall by planning a snowman-building competition. This family-friendly idea is a great way to escape cabin fevers and have fun outdoors. Invite guests to bring props to share, such as old hats, gloves, sunglasses, and scarves, plus carrots, licorice, and Hershey’s Kisses (for the face), and anything else to help build a snowman family in the yard.
Award prizes for the Biggest Snowman or Most Creative, and take Polaroids or Instax snaps of the creations for guests to take home. As for snacks, keep it simple with pigs-in-a-blanket, chips and dip, and an assortment of holiday cookies and warm drinks.
“New Year’s Dance” by Mr. Boddington’s Studio for Paperless Post.
Dance under the stars
From the jitterbug to the cha cha, nothing feels more festive (and gets your blood pumping) than music and dancing. Set up a makeshift dance floor in the backyard or garage and curate a playlist to set the mood.
Want to make things a little more interactive? Head to a local dance studio or hotel ballroom and hire a dance instructor to teach a specific dance, such as salsa and merengue. Add Latin flair to the dishes and drinks and serve them tapa-style for after the dancing is done. Other dance theme ideas:
– Roaring ’20s with songs from the Jazz Age from classic artists like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Invite guests to don their best fringe dresses and three-piece suits to dance the Charleston at your glitzy outdoor affair.
– A ’50s and ’60s sock hop. Return to the era of poodle skirts and ducktail haircuts and see who can do their best version of the Twist. For the menu, finger-food versions of diner staples, like sliders and mini milkshakes.
– Throwback jam party with a DJ spinning popular hip-hop tunes. Take it back to the ‘90s complete with Adidas tracksuits, neon everything, and other notable fashion trends of the decade. Hold a dance contest to see who has the best moves. Roger Rabbit, anyone?
The goal is to get guests on their feet and let loose for a few hours. With all that pent-up energy from being inside when it’s cold out, what better way to get the blood flowing and break a sweat?
“Winter Chinoiserie” by Paperless Post.
Following the holiday season, people are ready for a fresh start in the new year. Why not host a Dry January party with hot mocktails and an afternoon of flag football to get the juices flowing?
Start with a friendly game of flag football and then settle in for festive drinks and snacks to follow. Invite a professional bartender to teach your guests how to make alcohol-free drinks, like a Hot Not Toddy or a Peppermint White Russian. Serve in insulated cups to help keep them warm. Then, send them home along with mini mocktail kits for guests to enjoy later. Invitation messaging examples could be:
Ready to shake things up in the new year?
The games (and mocktails!) begin at 2 PM
Saturday, January 8th
“What’s Cooking?” by Paperless Post.
Chili cook-off party
Nothing feels quite as cozy as a bowl of hot chili on a cold winter’s day. Invite everyone to bring their A-game by whipping up a batch of their own unique chili recipe. Either set up food warmers on a folding table or encourage guests to bring their chili in crock pots to plug in outdoors to keep everything heated before it’s time to taste.
Make it a tasting party with a little friendly competition to find out who has the best chili. Since the party will be potluck style, you won’t have to go nutty preparing. However, you should have a few key things on-hand, like:
— Chili toppings. Include small bowls of everything from cheese to corn chips and sour cream to hot sauce. Lay out all the accompaniments buffet-style so guests can customize their chili however they want.
— Mini tasting bowls or cups. Before everybody digs into their chosen chili, invite guests to try each one by setting out mini bowls and spoons.
— Paper and pens. Label each chili pot by an assigned number to solicit unbiased votes. Then, have people mark the number they choose on a piece of paper and put it into a voting box. When all the votes are in, tally them up and choose a winner.
If you feel so inclined, offer a small reward to the chili champ. A gift card or a nice bottle of something to home both work well. Then again, bragging rights alone go a long way, too.
“Intergalactic” by Paperless Post.
Stargazing with telescopes
Enjoy winter’s beautifully clear nights with a stargazing party. Rent a few telescopes to get an up-close view of the constellations or check with local museums or planetariums that may offer stargazing nights open to the public during the month.
If having the party at home, set up outdoor heaters to keep everyone toasty. (Try avoiding lighting a fire pit as it will distract from the stars overhead.) Then, encourage guests to use stargazing apps like SkyView or Sky Map to locate the best constellations. As for refreshments, keep them low-key with a mulled apple cider and a charcuterie or candy board for guests to graze as they gaze.
“Scallop Garland” by Meri Meri for Paperless Post.
A warm winter’s gathering
Every so often, there are those golden days during the winter months when it almost feels warm… at least compared to the typical near-freezing temps. Take advantage and move activities outdoors for the day. As long as there is food, beverages, and entertainment, there’s an outdoor winter party to be had.
Not sure which direction you want to go? Here are a few fun suggestions for outdoor winter parties to keep in rotation:
– Movie afternoon. Set up a backyard projector with plenty of comfortable outdoor furniture and blankets to keep cozy. Provide simple, one-theme snacks. Make sure there’s plenty of buttered popcorn, boxes of candy, warm drinks, and soda to keep guests satisfied during your cinematic event.
– Game night (or day). Set up board games for a spirited competition or host a backyard party during the day with lawn games like bocce ball, ladder rope, and cornhole. Food-wise, keep it low-key by ordering a few pizzas or a large sub sandwich with chips, cut-up veggies, and dips.
– Tailgate party. Invite your crew over for a tailgate party at home. Transform your backyard, garage, or driveway into game day central. Encourage guests to wear their team jerseys and have a TV or projector set up to broadcast the game. As for the menu, think concession stand foods: nachos, hot dogs, and BBQ are all hits.