Budget-conscious families are always looking for innovative ways to make the very most of their leisure and entertainment dollar. For many, that includes planning spring and summer activities that keep them a bit closer to home. Here are several suggestions for warm-weather leisure-time activities that you and your family can enjoy right in the comfort of your own backyard:
Dine al fresco
Whether you’re enjoying a fun, festive dinner with family and friends or a romantic meal for two, food just tastes better when it’s enjoyed in the great outdoors and enhanced by warm breezes. (A nice accompanying bottle of wine doesn’t hurt, either!) If you’re in the mood for a touch of elegance, you can convert your deck or patio to a formal feasting area or delineate a temporary dining space in the yard or garden with a portable canopy, gazebo, or party tent. With today’s incredible variety of affordable furnishings, outdoor lighting, dinnerware, glassware, and accessories designed specifically for dining al fresco, you can make your outdoor repast as chic, laid back, whimsical, or downright unusual as your heart desires.
Meals enjoyed al fresco can be prepared in the kitchen and carried outdoors, but let’s face it, the barbecue grill is where most of the outdoor cooking action goes on in spring and summer. And the options for your outdoor barbecue menu are virtually endless, so there’s no excuse for getting bored with grilled fare. Burgers, brats, steaks, chicken, chops, kabobs, ribs, seafood, pizzas, and even fruits and vegetables are just a sampling of the foods you can prepare on your gas or charcoal grill. Spice up meats with your favorite marinade or dry rub or slather them in your signature barbecue sauce. If you’re new to grilling, a little online research will yield a plethora of delicious recipes and grilling suggestions.
Get in the game
In winter, “family game night” usually consists of sitting around a table and rolling dice or spinning a spinner while scarfing down snacks. But at this time of year, more active backyard games beckon! If you have sufficient space, set up a badminton or volleyball net in the yard and hold a tournament with family and friends. Horseshoes, bocce ball, croquet, cornhole, and lawn darts are other perennial family favorites. Or how about a treasure hunt for the little ones? Hide a fun prize somewhere in the yard or garden, and leave a trail of tantalizing clues for the kids to solve.
The backyard in late spring and summer is the perfect place and time to introduce kids to the camping experience or to do a “dry run” for the whole family in anticipation of a pending camping trip. This is a great opportunity to get a feel for setting up the tent (involving everyone in the project), test all your camping gear (camp stove, lantern, etc.), try out those air mattresses to make sure they don’t leak, and simply experience “roughing it” in a controlled environment (i.e., with all the comforts of home right nearby in case things don’t turn out as planned). Don’t forget to try out the fun stuff, too, such as telling ghost stories, roasting marshmallows, and making s’mores around the campfire. A fire pit or chiminea can be the perfect stand-in for a traditional campfire within city limits.
Bring on the birds
Few things liven up the backyard environment like the color, songs, activity, and antics of our fine feathered friends. If you have a screen room or three-season room overlooking the backyard, that’s the perfect vantage point for observing a bird-feeding station. Keep a pair of binoculars handy so you can get close-up views and better identify your winged visitors. To attract a diverse variety of songbirds and woodpeckers, be sure to provide both seed and suet feeders. Hummingbirds will hone in on special nectar feeders provided just for them. Also, a nearby birdbath in which the birds can both cool off and quench their thirst will be appreciated and keep the birds coming back for more.
Lighten up and decorate
In addition to landscaping with trees, shrubs, annuals, and perennials, you can spruce up your property in other ways for greater sensory impact. For instance, landscape lighting will add a delightful aesthetic touch to your grounds that you can appreciate long after sundown. In addition to shedding a little light on the subject, you can delight your ears with the delicate sound of wind chimes or the soothing trickle of a water feature, such as a fountain or small pond. Or, indulge your inner artist by strategically placing sculptures, wall plaques, glass ornaments, and other tasteful ornamentation around your garden and landscape.
It’s all about creating an attractive, welcoming outdoor living space that gives you the sense of getting away from it all without having to go away.❦