Nothing is better than that fall crisp air, crunchy leaves and being outdoors. So take advantage of the beautiful autumn weather and host a backyard fall fest. Here are some ideas to get your fest started.
The best part about hosting a fall fest is that decor is practically done for you. Take advantage of those beautiful leaves changing colors as your backyard backdrop. To spice it up, get a few large hay bales for extra seating and toss a plaid throw blanket over them. Break out or borrow a firepit to keep guests warm. Plus, any pumpkins or gourds scattered around will bring the whole thing together.
Apple of my eye
Nothing says fall more than apples, so head to your local farmers market to get in-season apples and create an entire apple dessert bar. Start with the traditional apple pie, maybe even small hand pies for guests to grab and eat on the go. Then amp up the options with baked apples, cinnamon apple chips, apple cider doughnuts and homemade applesauce. Create a caramel and chocolate apple dipping station complete with dips such as sprinkles, crushed nuts, M&Ms and more.
Instead of taking on the entire meal, make your fall fest a cook-off challenge. Whether it’s chili, soups or stews, pick a food and encourage guests to bring their own big pot to share. Then provide the accoutrements like cheeses, onions, sour cream, bread and more. You can make it competitive with anonymous scorecards for each guest to fill out and pick their favorite pot of food.
Providing a few games and activities for the kiddos will keep them busy and allow parents to have some fun of their own. It’s simple to get out a big bucket of water, throw in some apples and let the kids bob away. To have a fun twist on tic-tac-toe, all you need is a small table and mini pumpkins. Use painter’s tape to create a tic-tac-toe board on the table and then mark five mini-pumpkins with an “O” and five mini-pumpkins with an “X.” Or fill a large jar with candy corn and have your guests write down their guess of how many are in the jar to win a prize. Create a pumpkin ring toss by placing a few medium-sized pumpkins in a line.
Create signature fall cocktails for both the adults and kids. For the wee ones or non-drinkers, mix up a batch of fall punch by combining apple cider, cranberry juice and ginger ale.
For adults, mix up a pitcher of apple cider sangria by combining 1 cup quartered and thinly sliced apples, 1 bottle white wine, 1 cup apple cider, 1 lemon juiced, ¼ cup apple brandy and two 12-ounce bottles hard apple cider. Or create apple cider Moscow mules with 1 ½ ounces caramel vodka, 3 ounces apple cider and a ginger beer. Garnish drinks with crisp apple slices or cinnamon sticks.
Creating an area where the kids can be creative and craft can make the party host feel less pressure to entertain. Let them decorate mini pumpkins by providing stickers, googly eyes and Sharpies. Make fall wreaths by cutting a ring from a paper plate and gluing on either fake or fresh leaves. If the idea of paint doesn’t scare you, put out some fall colors and Q-tips to create fall tree portraits.
If apples aren’t your thing, pick pumpkins instead! You could have a pumpkin dessert bar filled with pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie or cheesecake, pumpkin bread or whatever you can think of, just add pumpkin!
Give your guests the gift of fall smells by creating a homemade simmering spice pot that will make your whole house smell amazing. You can really make your own version by throwing whatever you desire into a crockpot with water or simmering in a pot on your stove. To start, try 5 cups water, 2 peeled oranges, 1 apple sliced in half, 3 cinnamon sticks and 1 teaspoon whole cloves. Add more water as needed and enjoy the aroma all day long.
Megan Murray Elsener is a mom of three and columnist for Chicago Parent.