West Elm + REI: How to Host a Dinner Party in an Outdoor Space

This year, REI collaborated with West Elm to co-create a collection that makes it easier than ever to make yourself at home outside. To celebrate, we invited West Elm to share their pro tips for hosting a dinner party in your favorite local park or green space.

Summer is all about living outdoors as much as possible, from lazy-day lounging to weekend entertaining. No backyard? No problem. Consider this your invitation to redefine the al fresco dinner party by hosting friends and family at a neighborhood park or waterfront instead. Here’s how to make it your own.

Where: our shared backyard

The ultimate backyard hang isn’t just for those with an emerald-green lawn. Your favorite local park, beach or community garden can make for a perfect dinner party destination. And a distinct advantage to hosting outside the home is that prep and cleanup are often a breeze. To set your soiree up for success, call or visit the park website and confirm hours and regulations, and be sure to reserve space for the day/time you plan to host. Once you’ve nailed down the logistics, it’s time to start party planning.  

A family makes their way into the park with dinner party fixings in tow
An outdoor dinner party is totally doable with the right planning and a few mouthwatering recipes.

What: a park picnic, but make it fashion

Think of what you love most about dinner parties and extend those elements outside. Is it the sparkling wine and even-more-sparkling conversation? The leisurely meal that stretches past sunset? Games played around the table? 

Create the warmth and familiarity of home by going big on style and comfort. Bring beach blankets, outdoor throw pillows or poufs, and acrylic glassware, along with a premade batched cocktail. Forget card-table lawn chairs: These packable, portable REI Co-op + West Elm Outward Rope Chairs with reclined backs keep things comfortable and casual and invite guests to linger for longer. Unbreakable melamine tableware is ideal for outdoor use and feels a touch more special-occasion—not to mention more sustainable—than disposable paper or plastic. 

As for what’s on the menu, lean into dinner party-worthy dishes that are easily packable and portable. Think chicken and veggie kebabs you can precook at home, cilantro lime chicken tacos that are easy to eat on the go, one-skillet pasta primavera bursting with summer veggies or this crowd-pleasing peach panzanella salad

A person scoops up some roasted cherry tomatoes with a wooden spoon
Ditch the traditional dinner party menu and focus instead on portable apps and entrees.

When: you name it

The best outdoor areas are just as inviting during the day as they are at dusk. Plan an afternoon potluck complete with lawn games and crafts for any young children in attendance. Or opt for an evening grill-out followed by lightning-bug chasing, spooky stories and s’mores. A few solar-powered or rechargeable lanterns add instant ambience after the sun goes down.

For more inspiration on making yourself at home outside—from dining al fresco to creating the ultimate outdoor hangs—visit westelm.com. Want even more from REI Co-op + West Elm? Sign up to join our Tiny Picnic Festival and check out the entire co-designed collection here

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