10 Tips for Hosting an Outdoor Thanksgiving

November 5, 2022
10 Tips for Hosting an Outdoor Thanksgiving

Getting Started...

Here in Central Virginia, we are often graced with beautiful weather on Thanksgiving. Comfortable temperatures and sunny skies allow us to take our holiday celebrations outdoors onto our porches, patios, and decks.

Because an Outdoor Thanksgiving features a few extra challenges and obstacles, a thoughtful plan is an absolute must. With our helpful tips, you will be on your way to hosting a truly special Thanksgiving.

tip #1

Have a Backup Plan

Mother Nature is unpredictable and it is important to have a backup plan if the weather doesn't work out. Hosting Thanksgiving is stressful enough; don't add to it by putting all of your trust in Mother Nature.

TIP #2

Add Festive Decor

This is not just another meal you are hosting. This is Thanksgiving! Add to your guests' experience by setting a truly autumnal scene on your deck or patio.

Create a Walkway

Lead your guests to the dinner table with a pumpkin-lined path. It gives the space a special seasonal touch that will elevate the experience for friends and family.

Create a Weather-Appropriate Centerpiece

Your centerpiece should be styled with items that won’t blow away in the breeze. The obvious choice is pumpkins, which can hold other accessories like leaves and branches in place. Or try to create a chic planter with late fall produce like lettuce or cabbage plants.

Keeping Costs Under Control

1.       Take Advantage of Sales: Pumpkins, gourds, and decorative corn immediately go on sale after Halloween as does most autumn décor at craft stores.

2.       Utilize your Landscape for FREE: Try incorporating branches and leaves from your landscape; Pinterest is sure to have countless creative ideas.

3.       It Never Hurts to Ask: If they’re not hosting Thanksgiving, your friends and neighbors might be happy to give you their pumpkins, gourds and other items that will be thrown away as the Christmas decorations start to go up.

Tip #3

Add Warming Elements

Even the prettiest of November days is bound to be chilly at times, especially once the sun goes down. It’s important to be prepared in a variety of ways.

cowboys football game playing on the outdoor TV installed on to the pergola post over the grill island and outdoor kitchen and the wood burning fire place burning in the background

Tip #4

Bring the TV Outdoors

Outdoor televisions and sound systems have truly revolutionized the use of Outdoor Living Spaces. Adding an Outdoor Television to your porch, patio, or deck ensures that you and your guests won’t miss a single balloon of the Macy's parade or snap of the Thanksgiving football games.

a wooden framed chalk painted glass is surrounded by pumpkins, mums and a football at the base of the backyard stone stairs

tip #5

Plan Yard Games

And speaking of games, be sure to provide yard games for your guests to play during pre-dinner cocktails or to work off that second plate. Corn hole, croquet, horseshoes, and touch football are always a hit.

evening fall dining room table is decorated with a bottle of red wine, to candelabras, baby pumpkins and glasses

tip #7

Lighting is Key

Enchanted meals truly depend upon the magic of lighting. String lights always create an enjoyable ambiance and are very versatile in application; lights can be strung on pergolas, arbors, pavilions, and trees. If the winds are calm, consider placing candles throughout the space, including interspersed with flowers and gourds on a festive table. Varying the intensity and source of illumination will add depth and drama to your space.

smoke is coming off the gas grill that is installed on the outdoor kitchen island with stone veneer

tip #8

Utilize Outdoor Cooking Methods

One of the biggest headaches of preparing Thanksgiving is the lack of oven space required for the numerous dishes and desserts. Hosting an Outdoor Thanksgiving should encourage you to use cooking methods other than the oven. Whether you have a grill, smoker, griddle, and/or side burner, all of your outdoor appliances can play a role in your Turkey Day meal.

tip #9

Keeping Food Warm

Keeping food warm outdoors in November can be a challenge if you’re not prepared.

tip #10

Consider Renting (if your budget allows)

Instead of buying paper plates or storing additional sets that will only get used twice a year. Additionally, don’t buy new card tables and fold up chairs that will eventually (or immediately) become a storage nightmare. Make a few quick calls to local party rental companies to see if it’s in your budget. As an added bonus, many rental companies insist on washing their own dishes! Can you even put a price on not doing the dishes after Thanksgiving dinner?!?

Bonus TIp!!!

Craft a Signature Cocktail

A fun way to elevate any gathering is to offer a signature cocktail. For your Outdoor Thanksgiving, consider something like Outdoor Dreams' "Home for the Holidays." This delicious pumpkin-infused, rum cocktail would be perfect around a fire to kick off your festivities or after dinner with (or in lieu of) dessert. The toasted marshmallow garnish adds a layer of fun and is a great way to incorporate your fire feature into the festivities!

Looking for Additional Inspiration?

Click through these fall-themed projects for additional outdoor thanksgiving inspiration

A Backyard to be Thankful For

This couple in Glen Allen wanted a versatile outdoor space that could be used to entertain visiting family and friends. The outdoor space that we created includes a fireplace, two-room patio, pergola, sitting walls, pillars, stepping stone walkways, and comprehensive landscaping and lighting plans. This beautiful transformation truly comes to life as the backdrop for an outdoor Thanksgiving to remember.

Click to see the Project Gallery

A Perfect Fall Retreat

This client contacted Outdoor Dreams to transform his backyard into a space where he could entertain friends and enjoy watching sporting events. For this project, we demolished an old garage and designed this space that includes a paver patio, outdoor fireplace, sitting walls, landscaping, and a custom garage with an outdoor kitchen and bar area.

Click to see the Project Gallery

Lakeview Patio in Powhatan

This client contracted Outdoor Dreams to create a space that would encourage them to get outside more to enjoy their beautiful lakeside property. The resulting patio space features a fire pit, outdoor kitchen, and more; all with an unbeatable view!

The space is staged beautifully for fall and will provide plenty of inspiration if you're looking to host an outdoor Thanksgiving.

A Backyard for Every Season

This stunning project has been designed to provide outdoor enjoyment throughout the entire year. The complete backyard renovation includes a gunite pool, waterfall, paver patio & pool deck, outdoor fireplace, expansive outdoor kitchen, retaining walls, pergola, outdoor television, native landscaping, outdoor lighting, and more!

Click to see the Project Gallery

A Cozy Retreat in Short Pump

Before Outdoor Dreams, poor drainage rendered this portion of the backyard unusable. Simply walking through this area would ruin your shoes and leave a trail of mud following wherever you walked. The resulting space transformed the muddy mess into a multi-purpose outdoor room with a wood-burning fire pit.

Click to see the Project Gallery

Holiday Decorating Tips for your Patio or Deck

Holiday Decorating Tips for your Patio or Deck

Whether you're incorporating your outdoor living space into your holiday gatherings or you simply want to see something festive when you look out your back windows, our tips will help you to create a beautiful holiday scene on your patio, deck, or porch.


Tips for Grilled and Smoked Chili

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Landscape Plants That Create Stunning Bouquets

Landscape Plants That Create Stunning Bouquets

In this article, we suggest a wide variety of landscape plants that can be used to make wonderful and unique flower arrangements. We hope that this comprehensive list inspires you to start clipping the garden and bringing it inside!

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