Ahhh, COVID. Nice to see you in yet another season… NOT.
Not gonna lie, your presence was a tad easier to bear during the warm summer months, when we could easily enjoy socially-distanced driveway happy hours, barbecues, walks with friends, outdoor playdates and more.
But as the temps plummet, we’re going to have to get creative to safely and warmly socialize in the great outdoors — we need to find fun things to do in the winter with friends. Because let’s be honest, we simply can’t hide out in our homes for the entire winter (ugh, even writing that makes me depressed).
Luckily, you don’t have to go into full-on isolation mode. Yes, you can socialize, still (🎉🍾); you just need to winterize your backyard a tad.
Below are some must-have items that are sure to make your #COVIDwinter more bearable, sociable and FUN. So bundle up and transform your backyard into a magical winterland. And if we’ve learned anything from bike, tent and kayak shortages from the summer, the advice would be to get shopping: these things are selling out fast.
Last week, it was freezing in Minneapolis, but my hubby and I still went to our favorite Italian restaurant for an outdoor dinner date. The restaurant patio had plenty of heaters to keep us cozy, but even still… we were cold.
This winter, it’s BYOB: Bring your own blanket. Yes, you can continue dining al fresco or hanging outside, even as the temps drop. This year, nab yourself one of these favorite blankets:
Soft, cozy and warm — the perfect combo for a “hanging outside in the winter” blanket!
Warm, yet lightweight. Perfect to bring along for outdoor dinners with friends, or for those chilly nights hanging outside by the firepit.
These blankets are super cute and come in many different prints. They’re cozy and fold compact enough to take with you to dinner, on a walk, to a friend’s backyard, etc.
Bonus: they’re monogrammable (+$12)! Put your initials on them, or give them to family and friends as gifts. #holidayseasonisaroundthecorner
Portable Bonfire Pits
Portable bonfire pits are all the rage right now. There are many different versions out there, but the one I have personal experience with is:
Solo Stove Bonfire Pit ~ $260- ~ $599
(Price varies depending on which version you get)
We just got the Yukon version (the other versions, which only differ by size, are the Ranger and Bonfire), and though we’ve only used it once, I can already say with certainty that I LOVE IT. With its attractive stainless steel exterior, the Solo Stove is super simple to use, portable and virtually smoke free. No gas or propane required, the manufacturer recommends using hardwoods such as birch, maple, hickory and oak (these burn longer than softer woods).
You can purchase Solo Stove accessories separately, such as the Spark Screen, which protects you from flying sparks or embers, and a protective cover which keeps your Solo Stove safe from the elements.
When we lit our bonfire, our neighbors joined us for some 6-feet-away s’mores fun — I can tell this will be a great way to stay connected with friends and enjoy the winter months outdoors.
We used these sticks over the summer during our road trip up to northern Minnesota and more recently with our Solo Stove!
These sticks are simple to use, easy to clean (yessss!); and because they’re extendable, they keep your kiddos at a safe distance from the flames. Also nice: you can grill with them too.
Whether you go for a bonfire pit or not, a heat lamp may still be a worthy investment to keep your guests warm.
This highly-rated patio heater warms up to 200 square feet of space and has a control valve to easily change to your desired temperature. It gives off a great deal of heat and is a true fan-favorite. Patio hangouts in January? Yes, please!
Some people think this style of patio heater is more aesthetically pleasing than the above-mentioned “mushroom-shaped” heater, which pushes heat downward. Conversely, this heater emits heat from all sides, keeping those sitting near it warm and cozy. Bonus: it’s just so pretty!
This heater is a plug-in model and doesn’t require gas or other types of fuels to run. It utilizes 1,500 watts of infrared heat. Though not nearly as big as the others, this patio heater is easily transportable and comes with a remote control. Great for sitting with a friend or two in a smaller outdoor space.
Whether you’re entertaining or just hanging outside with the fam (and even by yourself!), do yourself a favor and set the scene with some dazzling twinkly lights. Against the wintry white backdrop, fiesta lights make virtually every outdoor space feel cozy, inviting and warm.
This set of 100 LED fiesta lights are solar-powered, meaning they utilize solar energy to work. They come with a solar panel, which needs to face the sun, and can be mounted in the ground, onto a railing, pergola (we have ours on our pergola), etc. Available in three colors: warm white, blue and white.
These outdoor LED lights are super durable — strong enough to withstand snow, rain and wind — and will create a beautiful ambience on your patio, deck or yard.
Hand and Feet Warmers
Having friends and family over for an outdoor hangout? Be everyone’s favorite hostess with the mostest and pass out hand and feet warmers to keep all fingers and toes toasty warm.
HotHands Variety Pack ~ $12
With this variety pack, you get 5 pairs of hand warmers, 3 pairs of toe warmers, and 5 body and hand super warmers. These slide inside your gloves, socks, pockets or jacket and do a great job of keeping you nice and warm. FYI — they can only be used once, so best to stock up NOW, so you always have some on-hand when you’re entertaining outdoors.
A few years ago, one of my best friends got married at the end of December OUTSIDE in Minnesota. To say it was cold would be a huge understatement (we’re talking maybe 10 degrees). They passed out these hand and toe warmers to every guest; and I kid you not, I stayed warm(ish) out in the snow for a solid hour-and-a-half… the hot cocoa they offered guests didn’t hurt either ;-).
Another must-have item you’ll want to get for winter is a (or several) thermos. Take it with you when you’re out and about (fill it with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, soup… whatever you want to keep warm while on the go), or invite friends over for an outdoor happy hour and pass out the hot cider, hot toddies or any other deliciously warm drink to all your guests.
Your “old faithful” thermos option, this bottle should keep your liquids hot for a good 12 hours or so. Bonus: It’s dishwasher safe — yay!
You may also want to check out Thermos’s 16-oz food jar with a folding spoon here.
Who doesn’t love Yeti? Totally leak-proof and, like the above-mentioned option, dishwasher safe (can you tell I really love when things are dishwasher safe?!). This is a great rambler for all sorts of warm drinks. If you want a true Yeti thermos (for food and whatnot), check this out (~ $20) — it’s 16 oz and comes with a folding spoon (mmmm… hot soup!).
Brit’s sister gifted her this triple-insulated champagne flute, and she says it’s ah-mazing (I’m gonna go ahead and agree with her — I want one stat). This flute can hold a half a bottle of champagne (!!) and will keep your drink cold and full of bubbles. Plus it comes in a ton of fun colors and glittery finishes. Sweet!
If champagne’s not your thing, check out Corkcicle’s awesome insulated stemless glass — perfect for keeping your wine chilled or your cider hot. Charlene and I both have one, and we’re big fans. I especially like the sliding sip-through lid — super easy to sip from without spilling all over myself!
Fun activity idea: Make a hot chocolate bar, providing thermoses for everyone, hot chocolate, marshmallows, peppermint and more! Can you say “fun” and “YUM”?!
Plug and Play Hot Tubs
Lifesmart Bermuda DLX 20-Jet 4-Person Spa ~ $3,999 – NOW $2,999
I know what you’re thinking — a hot tub?! What a pain to install, and so much work to maintain. But hear me out: all you have to do is fill this bad boy with water (a garden hose will do the trick), plug it in, and you’re in business. Reviewers love the ease of use, its portability and the way it maintains its temperature.
Bonus: relax in your new spa while sipping a bevvie from your BrüMate Champagne Flute!
Just because winter is approaching doesn’t mean we have to isolate indoors. Hopefully we’ve given you a bit of inspo for fun things to do in the winter with friends. Look at it this way, it’ll be a winter none of us will ever forget. Memories, y’all. Here’s to our #Covidwinter (raising hot toddy in the Yeti rambler).
As always, please share your own ideas for hanging outside with pals this winter in the comments below! Stay warm and safe, friends.