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It’s been months since we’ve been able to gather with our friends in normal settings, from restaurants to bars, due to the coronavirus pandemic. But thankfully the great outdoors is still an option if you’re careful about maintaining social distancing rules with some small gatherings. From strategically placed seating to mood-setting lighting, creating the perfect socially distanced outdoor gathering is as simple as implementing a few simple outdoor entertaining hacks.
Here are 12 things you need to take your outdoor gathering to the next level, from highly-rated outdoor seating, popular bar carts, top-tested grills, and more.
1. This spacious seating arrangement
If you have the luxury of space, your outdoor gathering won’t only be more comfortable and roomier for your guests, but safe, too, as guests can distance themselves. Create an intimate vibe with this water-resistant sectional that features the elegant blend of acacia wood and woven wicker materials. The sofa includes two loveseats bound by a corner chair unit, and reviewers find it to be of superior quality: “Was pleasantly surprised at how high quality this couch is! The wood is solid and the hardware isn’t cheap feeling. The fabric looks to be very durable and the cushions fit snug. I would buy a whole outdoor set of this if I could.” Not to mention, most outdoor sectionals retail at over $1,000, so this option is reasonably priced.
2. These popular accent foot rests
Nothing says “it’s five o’clock somewhere” like quite literally kicking your feet up and stretching out. These two ottomans are made with a durable steel frame, all-weather wicker, and two soft cushions available in red or blue. When not in use, they can double as a great end table, coffee table, or low bench. With a near-perfect 5-star rating, reviewers note how these ottomans are great value for their quality and appearance.
3. This festive outdoor bar
By this point, we all own an indoor bar cart. But fewer things are more impressive—and convenient—than an outdoor bar that you can actually use in the sunny weather. This one is finished with a mid-century modern-inspired teak wood, and topped with a waterproof polyester fringe grass canopy that’ll transport you right to the islands. With five stemware holders and seven storage units, you’ll get plenty of use out of this handy piece of furniture all season long. One reviewer says it's “Very good quality. Easy to assemble. The wood material is awesome. Nice and solid construction. When it finished it's nice and sturdy. Looks great! They did a good job designing it. It's actually better than I thought.”
4. The best portable grill we've ever tested
Your guests need something to nibble on, and a communal bowl of chips or popcorn isn’t going to cut it because of close contact and the possibility of virus transmission. Cook up some food that will safely feed a small crowd with our experts’ favorite portable gas grill from Weber that’s compact in size, lights up easily using a lightweight fuel canister, and is easy to clean. Our experts note it provides “beautiful, well-defined grill marks” on burgers while cooking them evenly, and its built-in side tables are sturdy enough to support full plates of food.
5. This bug-repellant candle
On more than one occasion, I’ve had to leave an otherwise enjoyable get-together because I was getting mauled to death by mosquitoes. Since your guests are unlikely to BYOB (bring your own bug repellant), opt instead for this three-wick candle containing powerful citronella that’s sure to keep the pests at bay. It burns for 40 hours straight and comes in a portable container so you can enjoy some bug-free outdoor time no matter when and where. With more than 1,500 reviews and a 4.3-star rating, reviewers attest that it actually works.
6. This space-saving Bluetooth speaker
I love a good compact Bluetooth speaker like the small-yet-mighty Anker SoundCore, which is our experts' favorite affordable portable Bluetooth speaker. Sitting at three inches tall and one pound, a full charge provides up to 24 hours (!!) of playtime, and is both durable and easy to use (which is a bonus when the drinks are flowing and the hand-eye coordination diminishes). Simply sync it up to your phone and enjoy tinny-free tunes from a device barely bigger than the palm of your hand.
7. A personalized beverage tub
It’s really the little things that enhance the ambiance of a get-together. Use this opportunity to get crafty with a personalized message of up to 60 characters of this beverage tub. It's made of rust-free metal holds 24 standard-sized beer bottles and features handles for easy transport, with the option of adding a black iron stand. With a 5-star rating, reviewers say this tub makes for the perfect gift, whether you’re looking to treat yourself or the host at your next outdoor gathering.
8. Our favorite portable projector
Most people are avoiding movie theaters at this time, but there’s no need to skip out on your favorite pastime with friends. Simply spread out, sit back, and treat everyone to a backyard movie night with our tech expert’s favorite portable film projector. There are several ways to connect to it from Bluetooth to an HDMI cable, WiFi, and more, making on-demand entertainment a click away. In dark settings, colors pop, while the volume amps up loud enough to drown out the (very) gentle whir of its back-facing ventilation system when the projector is in use.
9. A comprehensive booze selection
It’s crucial to have a few basic spirits on hand so you’re able to whip up a quick mixed drink or cocktail on the fly. Drizly delivers alcohol straight to your door, and it's top-selling liquor options are a great place to start: Tito’s vodka is perfect for refreshing Moscow Mules or a vodka soda with a splash of citrus. Don Julio tequila is what you’ll need for salt-rimmed margaritas or a round of shots. Captain Morgan rum with a hint of spice adds an element of surprise to rum and coke or Dark and Stormies. And of course, you can’t have an outdoor gathering without a gin and tonic thanks to Tanqueray.
10. A massive umbrella for shade
The sun is undoubtedly a welcome relief from being locked indoors for the last few months, but too much of it is a) unhealthy and b) hot and uncomfortable. Throw your guests some shade with this best-selling umbrella that spans 11 feet in diameter. It’s free standing so you don’t need to insert it directly into a dining table, and you’re welcome to move it around your outdoor space accordingly with the movement of the sun. Best of all, it includes LED lighting to create a starry-skied atmosphere at night.
Of the umbrella’s 4,690 reviewers, one said “We LOVE this umbrella! I had no idea it came with LED lights (clearly didn’t look too much into description haha) but the umbrella is huge with great coverage. We were missing an integral piece for assembly, so aside from having to wait an extra five days to receive the missing piece, assembly was very straightforward. You do need 220+ lb of sand for the base (sold separately). Very easy to use - love it!”
11. This essential bartender set
I used to have this horrible habit of pouring mixed drink ingredients into a glass and mixed them with an old teaspoon, if I was feeling fancy. You will have an audience watching you at your outdoor gathering, so a proper barware set is crucial. A set this handsome (which has over 100 glowing reviews on Wayfair) will actually get you excited about making cocktails—not just drinking them. And look: even if you’re not much of a Moscow Mule person, copper barware is essential in looking like you know how to stock a bar.
12. A fire pit that doesn't take up too much space
A durable, no-frills fire pit like Solo Stove is the answer to "What should we do tonight?" The stainless steel Solo Stove is not only super sleek and easy to store, but it generates heat with very little smoke. The brand claims the ranger burns wood so efficiently that you’ll only be left with ultra-fine ash, making clean up as simple as discarding the remnants. This one is safe for use on a wooden deck, so long as you provide your own heat-resistant barrier or ranger stand. With a near-perfect 5-star rating and several hundred reviews, one thrilled customer says it “Burns evenly and hot. Nothing but ashes remain. For such a small compact product the volume of fire and heat produced is great. Would highly recommend buying if you are outdoorsy in the least bit. Fits great in the Jeep. Transport and cleaning is very easy.”
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on Reviewed.com: 12 things you need for the perfect outdoor social distanced gathering