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4th of July Party Ideas

Find the best patriotic desserts, summer recipes, easy outdoor DIYs and fun party games that'll make your cookout the talk of the block. Here, Taste of Home's top 4th of July party ideas (plus a handy checklist!).

By Ellie Martin Cliffe, Senior Editor


1. Make an Edible Centerpiece

Everybody's going to be ogling the dessert table, so why not put it front and center? Display the treats on pedestals of different heights to give your summer shindig a Pinterest-y feel.

For a 4th of July potluck, think stars, stripes and fireworks—a patriotic cake and a red, white and blue trifle are perfect choices. But whatever you do, start with this five-star Juicy Raspberry Pie. Here's how to make that all-star crust:



2. Hang a Buffet Background

This easy bunting banner is festive and fun. With your choice of card stock and yarn, you've got yourself a pretty decoration that matches your party to a T. Tip: Make a banner that lasts. Get the flags laminated at an office supply store before you string them up.

What you need:

  • Flag pattern
  • 12-in. square scrapbook papers or card stock
  • Glue stick or clear tape
  • Yarn
  • Embellishments such as glitter or ribbon (optional)

Directions:

  1. Download and print this flag pattern and placement diagram.
  2. Trace bunting flag pattern onto paper or card stock, as in diagram. Cut out desired number of flags and crease each one along fold line.
  3. Place bunting flags, right sides down, in a row about 1/2 in. apart. Run yarn along inside fold on each; cut yarn, leaving 12 to 18 in. on each end to hang.
  4. Fold each bunting flag's flap over yarn, securing with glue or tape.
  5. Embellish the flags however you like.


3. Plant Natural Insect Repellent

Say hello to friends—but goodbye to bugs—with a pretty pot of herbs. "Plants like lavender, mint, rue and tansy have been used to repel insects for ages," says Briscoe White, co-owner and herb guru at The Growers Exchange. Rosemary, thyme and catmint are popular picks, too. Lightly brush your hand over the herbs to release a natural form of bug spray!



4. Serve Red, White and Blue Food

Get the menu in on the Independence Day action with food that echoes the Stars and Stripes. Bake a flag cake covered with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream; toss up a party mix with colorful candies; or make an appetizer pizza with tomatoes and Kalamata olives. Or get jiggly with it and layer up a Jell-O salad like this one.



5. Set Up a Game Station

Forget the bouncy house and go old-school. Bring out your Twister mat (or paint one right on the lawn!), a croquet set or a couple of beach balls and let your guests have at it. If there's room, start a game of red rover, have a tug-of-war or play catch. Ask your sports-loving friends to bring their gloves.



6. Make Your Own Bingo Game

Add a bunch of personality (and some familiar faces) to a favorite party game. Get the gang together for this group activity that nobody's going to want to miss. Use patriotic jellybeans or M&M's as bingo chips. One for you, one for your card.

What you need:

  • Card stock
  • Family photos
  • Glue

Directions:

  1. Draw your own bingo card, using an odd number of columns if you want that coveted middle spot. Print them on pieces of card stock.
  2. Print photos, cut them out and glue them onto the cards in different patterns.
  3. Put a copy of each photo in a bowl for the bingo caller to draw from.


7. Design a DIY Beverage Cart

Cool drinks are a must at a summer party. For a cuter take on a cooler, place the bottles and cans in a clean red wagon filled with ice. "Kids love pulling it around," says blogger Loralee Lewis of loraleelewis.com. "It's free beverage service!"



8. Keep Your Buffet Table Organized

Use a muffin tin to double as a handy condiment caddy. Fill each compartment with favorite toppings and add mini serving spoons so guests can load up their burgers and dogs as they like.



9. Bring On the Sparklers

If your bash lasts past sundown, sparklers are a must—but pass out glow sticks or necklaces to the littlest guests. Have a contest to see who can snap the best photos of the sparklers in action. Just to be safe (and to save yourself cleanup later), have a bucket of water on hand where people can dunk their spent sparklers.



10. Do DIY Party Favors

Instead of flowers, set out vases of homemade pinwheels. When the party's over, send them home with guests. Then, whenever your friends see the whirligigs, they'll remember the awesome time they had.

What you need (for each):

  • Double-sided patterned paper (premade, or you could glue together your own)
  • 3/16- to 1/4-in.-wide wooden dowel rod
  • Map pin or tack
  • Low-temperature glue gun and glue sticks
  • Paper cutter or scissors and ruler

Directions:

  1. Cut paper into a square. (We cut a 3 1/2-in. square for the small size, a 5 1/2-in. square for the medium and a 7 1/2-in. square for the large.)
  2. Fold paper in half diagonally and unfold. Fold opposite way and unfold, forming two crossing diagonal creases.
  3. Begin at one corner and cut along the crease, stopping about 1/2 in. from the center point. Cut the same way from the other three corners, leaving about a 1-in.-square area uncut in the center.
  4. Pull the upper left corner of each of the four cut triangle shapes into the center point. Adhere each corner on top of the next one using a dab of hot glue.
  5. With a gentle twisting motion, poke a map pin or tack through the front center of the pinwheel.
  6. Poke the pin or tack straight through the side of the dowel rod, about 1/2 in. down from the top, stopping when the point barely shows on the other side. For safety, cover the sharp edge with a small drop of hot glue.



4th of July Party Checklist


4-6 Weeks Out

  • Decide to have a bash! Pick a place, date and time, then spread the word. If the party's outside, come up with a rain contingency plan.
  • Do an inventory to make sure you have enough napkins, plates, utensils, craft supplies, chairs, tables, etc. If not, don't worry. We'll remind you to take care of this later.
  • Make sure your grill is clean and in working order.

3 Weeks Out

  • If you plan to order any of your party supplies online, get shopping.
  • Head to the plant nursery to buy herbs for your bug-free planter. If you pot them now, the plants will have time to fill out so they look party ready.

2 Weeks Out

  • If you asked for RSVPs, check back with the people who haven't responded yet.
  • If you need extra utensils, tables or chairs (or a wagon!), contact family members or friends who could hook you up, or find a rental place in your area.
  • Shop for craft supplies, sparklers and yard games if you don't already have them.
  • Make your party bingo game. Ask friends and family for their favorite selfies if you can't find any on Facebook or Instagram.
  • Create a menu.
  • Water your herbs.

1 Week Out

  • Grocery shop for your pantry-stable items and paper goods.
  • Map out a cooking schedule so you don't get stuck in a cooking marathon the morning of the party.
  • Put together a party playlist.
  • Make the bunting flag banner and patriotic pinwheels.
  • Water your herbs!

A Day or Two Before

  • Run to the store for perishables. Don't forget the ice!
  • Clean the house and make sure your fridge has room for make-ahead dishes.
  • Mow the lawn and, if you're really ambitious, tidy up the garden and make your giant Twister board.
  • Toss canned and bottled beverages into the fridge to chill overnight.
  • Make the pastry for the Juicy Raspberry Pie and prepare the Patriotic Gelatin Salad.

The Morning Of

  • Set up and decorate the party area and game station. Remember to set out trash and recycling bins.
  • Put the finishing touches on your recipes, including the pie.
  • Charge your phone/camera.

30 Minutes Before

  • Fill up your burger-topping caddies.
  • Get dishes ready to serve.

15 Minutes Before

  • Blast the music.
  • Light the grill.
  • Pour yourself a drink. You've got this!