These Pool Party Ideas Are Perfect for Enjoying Peak Summer Days

smiling and laughing group of friends having backyard pool party on summer evening
15 Pool Party Ideas to Celebrate SummertimeGetty Images

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Summertime is here, and we can finally enjoy those luxuriously long, warm, and sunny days that we've waited all year for. If you're lucky enough to have a swimming pool in your backyard, you may already be hatching plans to host a pool party. But instead of inviting your friends and family over and hoping for the best, consider this list of pool party ideas your guide to making the gathering even more memorable.

Even though pool parties are pretty laid-back when compared to other celebrations (like a surprise birthday party or a housewarming party, for instance), you want to be an organized host who can accommodate as many of your guests' needs as possible. Decorating your space, providing various activities and poolside necessities, and setting out various food options and beverages will make guests feel like they're on vacation at an all-inclusive resort, even if they haven't even left the cul-de-sac.

These pool party ideas are versatile, easy, and sure to make a splash. Read on to get inspired.

Put together a DIY food bar

When the sun is shining, seemingly everyone's food cravings become grill-focused. Keep the menu simple by opting for a DIY food station, where guests can assemble their own hot dogs, burgers, or tacos. Instead of grilling by request (which could result in a long wait for hungry guests), grill your meats and veggie proteins in their own large batches, then set out buns, tortillas, cheese, condiments, and other fixings buffet-style. This way, everyone gets what they want, and the leftovers can easily be packed away or sent home with guests.

Do make sure that your buffet isn't sitting out all day, though. According to the Mayo Clinic, you can leave food unrefrigerated for up to 2 hours — or just 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Set your phone timer to remind yourself to pack the food away, and make sure everyone's had their fill before doing so.

Create a hydration station

Celebrating during a scorcher? Make sure all of your guests stay safely hydrated. In an indoor or shaded area, set out pitchers or drink dispensers of ice water, along with recyclable cups or shatterproof wine glasses. You can also put out slices of cucumbers, lemons, strawberries, and mangoes, along with any herbs like mint or basil from your garden to elevate their H20. You can set up a soda maker here as well, so guests can make their own seltzer.

Creatively keep the bugs away

Keep your buzzing party bug-free. Thankfully, there are several different ways to do that. Along with supplying bug repellant to your guests, you can install the editor-beloved Thermacell Radius Zone, which creates an odorless barrier that repels mosquitos from your party perimeter.

Another idea is to set up a cooling fan that provides a gentle breeze while preventing insects from landing on you and your guests. Finally, if you're concerned about your buffet becoming a feast for mosquitos and other insects, you can pick up a set of tabletop fly fans or mesh food tents for peace of mind.

Have a pool float relay race

If the energy is high, put those pool floats to good use by setting up a relay race amongst your guests. Participants can divide themselves into two teams, and starting at opposite ends of the pool, swim to the other side while riding on their float. Instead of passing a baton to their teammates when they reach the other side, they jump off the float while the next person gets on. The first team whose swimmers all cross to the other side wins!

two women jumping into the pool with float
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Spell it out with banners and balloons

While we might associate banners and balloons with celebrating specific events like a birthday or a baby shower, decorating a regular pool party with them makes the occasion feel a lot more special. They also provide fun backdrops for all of your guests' selfies!

Stock sun-safe essentials

This pool party idea ensures that everyone in attendance will keep their cool, no matter how well-prepared (or not) they came to enjoy the outdoors. Keep a caddy near your entertaining area stocked with summer party essentials like beach towels, new flip-flops, sunscreen, aloe, bug spray, paper fans, and sun visors, so guests can easily reach for what they need.

Make homemade snow cones

This sweet treat is fun for guests of all ages. Using a snow cone maker, food processor, or blender, you can whiz up a handful of ice until it turns into a snow-like texture. Then, scoop it into a paper cone and top it with flavoring.

While you can buy store-bought flavors, whipping up your own snow cone flavoring is as easy as making simple syrup: Just reduce equal parts sugar and water with any fruit of your choice by boiling them on a stovetop for half an hour. Once cool, you can use a baster to flavor your snow cone. You can also make it more adult-friendly by mixing a cocktail in a shaker and straining it over the ice.

Swing the day away on a hammock

There's something so inviting about a backyard hammock. If you can hang one up between two shady trees, it'll offer a nice reclined respite for guests after they emerge from the pool. If there's nowhere to hang a hammock on your property, you can opt for a freestanding hammock instead.

Set up the yard games

Make sure there are plenty of activities both in and out of the pool that guests can enjoy, particularly if there are kids in attendance. Setting out lawn games like cornhole, ladder golf, badminton, and bocce allows others to move from one game to another when they want a break from swimming.

Have water balloons at the ready

Aside from splashing around in the pool, here's another way for the kids in attendance to stay cool and keep themselves entertained while the adults enjoy some downtime: Have a bucket full of water balloons ready so they can chase one another around the yard with them.

children having fun with water balloons in the garden
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Serve sweet and savory skewers

When it comes to poolside snacks, the fewer utensils needed, the better. On metal or bamboo skewers, prepare kabobs with different meat and veggie-forward options for guests to munch on as they lounge. You can even prepare sweet skewers with large chunks of fruit like strawberries, melons, and mangos for a twist on the traditional fruit salad.

Set your drink bucket afloat

Make sure nothing stands between your guests and the beverage bucket. For this pool party idea, what you'll need is a round beverage tub that fits in the middle of a pool tube that you can fill with ice and cans for easy grab 'n' go sipping while they float.

Get glowing with solar-powered lighting

Outdoor solar lights can come in handy during your pool party, whether you opt for string lights, garden torches, candle lanterns, or pool accessories that glow on their own after hours. Even though the summer days are long, by sunset, your lighting scheme will need to shift so that there's enough visibility outdoors. Solar-powered lighting creates a party-ready vibe that isn't strictly limited to outlet placement.

Belt out some poolside karaoke

This pool party idea is for those partygoers who aren't shy about belting out a tune. Bust out that karaoke mic, cue up your favorite summertime playlist, and have an impromptu singalong.

Roast s 'mores around the firepit

No pool party is complete without making this decadent summertime staple. Stock up on graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars, and make sure you have plenty of fire-safe skewers on hand so that your guests can make their own s 'mores.

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