Fun and Creative Themes for Your End-of-Summer Barbecue

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These themes will bump up your final backyard bash

Shutterstock / Syda Productions

As the last days of summer sneak up on us, cooler days will soon force us to head indoors for our festivities. That means it’s time to host the last few backyard barbecues of the season. Since these are the final days of summer, make your last barbecues a little more special. Elevate your average summer grilling session to a full-blown end-of-the-season bash with themed décor, amazing dishes, and activities that bring the fun.

Fun and Creative Themes for Your End-of-Summer Barbecue

Shutterstock / Syda Productions

As the last days of summer sneak up on us, cooler days will soon force us to head indoors for our festivities. That means it’s time to host the last few backyard barbecues of the season. Since these are the final days of summer, make your last barbecues a little more special. Elevate your average summer grilling session to a full-blown end-of-the-season bash with themed décor, amazing dishes, and activities that bring the fun.

Barbecue Beach Day

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Nothing is more summery than a day spent at the beach. Showcase the seaside by grilling up lobster tails and shellfish. Clams, oysters, and mussels do especially well on the grill. If you’re feeling a little more chef-like, make Maine-style lobster rolls. For those who might be allergic to shellfish, grilled salmon or cod are healthy and delicious alternatives. Create placecards for each guest by writing his or her name in permanent marker on a shell. Make centerpieces by placing flowers and utensils in sand buckets in the center of the table, and give your friends inexpensive sunglasses as a take-home favor.

Carnival Night

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Bring the fun of a night at the fair to your backyard with a carnival-themed barbecue. Easy homemade spun maple sugar echoes florescent blue and pink carnival cotton candy. Any food on a stick is “fair” game for this party, so serve your guests beer-battered corn dogs and watermelon slices or grilled corn on popsicle sticks. Candied or caramel apples are the perfect treat for dessert. You can easily set up carnival games for guests to play while the food is grilling. Corn hole, darts, horseshoes, or ring toss are easy enough to play with a corndog in hand.

Cinematic Summer Party

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A movie screening is a great idea for outdoor summer fun. String up a sheet to project the film onto and fire up the grill while the sun starts to set — by curtain call, your dishes will be ready. You can even draw menu inspiration from the movie you’re screening! A create-your-own-flavor popcorn bar with classic popcorn boxes lets your guests customize their popcorn to their tastes. If you’re making flavored popcorn, try out a fun recipe like this birthday cake popcorn. Lay out boxes of movie candy for your guests to choose from and offer soft pretzels with nacho cheese to complete the movie night menu.

Retro American Barbecue

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Amp up the quintessential backyard barbecue burger with an all-out American affair. Deck out your party with checkered tablecloths and napkins, strings of lights, and 1950s American memorabilia. Serve up classic Coke in glass bottles with paper straws alongside grilled beef burgers. For an interactive activity, set up a toppings bar with all the classics, like pickles, onions, and tomatoes, but also include some more modern toppings like guacamole, bacon, and blue cheese. Finish the meal with a root beer float or classic brownie for dessert.

Hawaiian Luau

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Travel a little further than your hometown beach with a Hawaiian luau theme. Deck out guests in leis and create centerpieces with hibiscus or orchid flowers. Serve island-inspired tiki drinks inside of coconuts, like a Blue Hawaiian or Voodoo Punch, to get the luau started. Then, continue the theme with Kalua pulled pork sandwiches topped with spicy slaw or grilled pineapple.

Seafood Boil Bash

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Who says your backyard bash has to center around the grill? Mix it up with a spicy seafood boil inspired by the crawfish boils of Louisiana or the blue crab boils of Maryland. Add sausage, corn, red potatoes, shrimp, or mussels to the boil to make it a complete meal. Serve your seafood with hushpuppies and drawn butter, or mix it up with an creative dipping sauce like this Thai-inspired recipe. Top your table with brown paper or newspaper; outfit your guests with bibs, crab mallets and crackers; and pour the boil directly on the table for a dramatic start to the meal. Make sure to have a lot of napkins handy — this is messy fun at its finest.

Summer Camp Cookout

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No summer is complete without a little bit of summer camp or outdoor camping mixed in. Set up a bonfire and invite your guests to grill hot dogs on metal skewers directly over the flames before heading to the toppings bar set up with all the fixings. Include relish, mustard, and ketchup, but also add in fun toppings like crispy onions, hot peppers, and avocado. While the guests are cooking their hot dogs, make baked potatoes or baked sweet potatoes by wrapping them in foil and placing them directly in the embers of the fire. Decorate your table with earthy tones, natural foliage for a woodland feel, and tin dishwear — the same you’d use on a camping trip! If you’re really getting into the theme, give each guest a cocktail-filled canteen to keep with them throughout the party. Finish the night with s’mores over the bonfire.

Tacos and Margaritas

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Freshly grilled tacos are perfect when paired with thirst-quenching margaritas — on the rocks, of course. Fire up your grill with savory skirt steak, grilled shrimp and chicken — these well-seasoned meats are needed for your delicious tacos. Don’t forget to be creative with guacamole; give your guests options with a few different recipes (we have lots!). Style your backyard with piñatas, Spanish-style patterns, and vibrant colors. — Carlton J. Lockett

Throwback ’90s Barbecue

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Make your guests feel young again with a throwback-themed barbecue. Cook up childhood favorites like tater tots and fried mac and cheese bites to accompany your hot dogs and hamburgers. Take a walk down memory lane by serving your guests Drumstick ice cream cones, Dippin’ Dots ice cream spheres, or cookies and crème chocolates for dessert. Dress your table in bright, vivid colors, and play 90s pop and boy band favorites. After dessert, outfit your guests with classic 90s supersoakers and water balloons for a post-meal water fight.

White Party

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While it is no longer a fashion faux pas to wear white after Labor Day, it is still fun to send off summer dressed all in white. Insist that attendees arrive clad in only white, and make sure your tablescape is pure as well. White sides as well as white desserts make for the perfect spread. Just be careful when serving your guests so those pristine outfits stay clean. - Lauren Gordon