The best backyard games and activities for the summer

Circumstances have thrust the backyard into newfound prominence as a makeshift vacation oasis. Here are some suggestions to get your backyard in order.

By Will Pankey


Summer 2020 is the year of the backyard.

We’re not going anywhere. The 2020 family vacation has devolved from a globetrotting trip across continents to a day trip to a nearby park or a desolate VRBO out in the middle of nowhere with spotty wi-fi and not a single thing to do but sit around in another house (actually that sounds sort of nice, sign us up). So, in light of that, the backyard now presents itself as a refuge, a sun-soaked paradise where there’s always time for games, grilling, and marshmallows around the fire pit. Here are some ways to take your backyard to the next level this summer.

Summer is the season for cornhole

Who knew that tossing beanbags at a hole could be so fun? Cornhole is a timeless outdoor backyard game, and if your patch of grass hasn’t hosted a regulation cornhole game, it’s about time. This foldable one ensures that once we can hit the parks and beaches again, cornhole will be sure to follow. 

Create a legit backyard putt-putt setup

Now, to be clear, we’re not talking about one of those lame putting green setups where you roll out a sad green tarp and tap balls around while talking on the phone. We’re talking making a full-on putt-putt course right in your backyard. The best thing is that you don’t even have to get that elaborate with it. Please, by all means, spend all summer cobbling together a plywood windmill, but for the less motivated, you can engineer plenty of formidable obstacles with stuff you might have laying around the house. Cut open an old tire and make a loop-the-loop. Slice old pool noodles and make bumper obstacles, take some fallen tree branches and turn them into tunnels, the possibilities are endless. All you need now is your colored golf balls and you’re set.

Roll out the slip-and-slide

When it comes to backyard water activities, the slip-and-slide remains one of the most underrated activities. Maybe it’s because in order to nail the slip-and-slide experience, a lot has to go right. You have to have the right water flow, you have to make sure that your slide is slippery enough, and you must ensure that your slide has no tears, rips and empties out in an appropriate location. When all the stars align, the slip-and-slide undefeated. Our recommendations? If you have the patience, an open slope, and sprinklers, don’t skimp on the slip-and-slide itself. Go all out. Thank us later.

Learn some slackline moves

We’re not really endorsing slacklining so much as making sure we appeal to backyard enthusiasts of all walks of life, so if you have calf tattoos and throw shakas up indiscriminately, you might enjoy a slackline. Slacklining, like so many of life’s pursuits, takes forever to get good at. Trust, you will fall on your ass a lot. And you will fall over and over again until you muster up a shred of balance, but that’s not before waking up sore for a week. That’s what the slackline life is about though, brah. Tie one of these bad boys up between two oaks and hop on. Plus, slacklining has benefits, especially for people over 60 as it improves balance, potentially preventing harmful tumbles. So spot grandma as she hops on and get to slackin’.

Heat up with a fire pit

It’s a simple, dare we say basic backyard accent, but there’s a reason why the fire pit endures: There’s just nothing better than hanging out around the pit with friends or solo. The crackle, the heat on a slightly brisk summer evening, you can’t beat it. There’s a lot of ways you can go with the firepit but might we suggest the square fire pit? It’s the most conducive to get-togethers and is a bit more sleek looking than your usual circular pit. 

A frisbee, a can, that’s right, Kan Jam

Quite possibly the greatest lawn game of all time, Kan Jam has brought hours of joy and competitiveness to BBQs and beach hangouts alike. On the surface, the game is ridiculous. You throw a frisbee at an open can trying to hit it or have your teammate dunk it in the top. It’s silly but do we really want more from our lawn games? We think not. Give Kan Jam a whirl.