9 fun home entertaining ideas that aren't a barbecue

What Aussie doesn’t love a good barbie? Sometimes home entertaining needs more spice, more sauce or a dash of creativity. Why not try these inspired ideas from Carolyn Tate next time you have a gathering of family or friends?

By Carolyn Tate

A barbecue is one of our great social cornerstones, bringing people together around flaming hunks of protein, and the obligatory salads that go with it. (The onions are more of a hot topic: some consider them optional, while others would never dream of a barbecue without onions).

And look, we’d never tell you to give the old barbecue the old heave-ho, but sometimes it can be nice to mix things up a little bit. If you’re stuck in a bit of an entertaining rut, you might like to freshen things up with a different approach.

There are countless other ways to enjoy gatherings with friends - and avoid arguments about onions. If you're looking to switch things up and try something new, here are nine fun and creative ideas for your next get-together that go beyond the grill.

1. Garden tea party

Transform your garden into a quaint tea party setting. Arrange tables with pretty linens, serve a variety of teas (make them iced in summer), finger sandwiches, and pastries. Don’t forget decorative table runners and floral decorations for that extra touch, and make sure you’ve got some shade. This is no English garden, and the UV rays are vicious.

2. Beach picnic

Pack a picnic and head to the beach to watch the sun rise or set. Bring along some camping chairs for comfort, and some beach games like frisbee or bocce for some added fun. Enjoy the sun, sand, and the sound of waves as you dine al fresco and enjoy the great Australian outdoors.

3. Movie night under the stars

Set up a projector and a white sheet in your backyard and host a fun outdoor movie night. Arrange comfortable seating with camp chairs or bean bags, blankets, and pillows. Popcorn and classic movie snacks are a must, and if you like a theme, go for a rom-com, horror, or action night. Dress up: optional but always fun!

On a warm summer night, a backyard movie night is fun for kids and adults.

4. Bring-a-plate party

Being in charge of all the work is for the dogs! Host a dinner party where each guest brings a dish to share. Not only does this take the pressure off you as you play host, it also allows everyone to try different homemade dishes and show off their own unique skills and favourites.

5. Paint and sip evening

Combine creativity and relaxation by hosting your own paint and sip evening. You may have seen these advertised in your local community, but doing it at home is simple: buy some basic art supplies, canvases, and a selection of wines and non-alcoholic options for a night of painting and sipping. Add some snacks and music and you’ve got a fun night in. Just be sure to make your paint and sip session a judgement-free zone. It’s about the process, not the result!

6. Book club gathering

Starting a book club with your friends is a great idea for those who like regular get-togethers. Take it in turns to choose a book to read each month and gather to discuss it. Pair the discussion with themed snacks and drinks related to the book for an extra bit of fun.

7. Themed dinner party

Choose a theme - like a particular country, era, movie, or just a fun food idea - and plan your entire party around it. This could include themed decorations, costumes, food, and music - the only limit is your imagination. Some ideas are: James Bond, Mexican fiesta, Indian curry night, Medieval meal, 70s kitsch, finger food, or breakfast for dinner.

8. Games night

Organise a games night with a selection of board games, card games, and puzzles. You can also find a range of DIY games that require minimal materials on the internet. This is a great way to stir up some friendly competition and laughter - as long as nobody takes it too seriously!

Board games or participation games like charades and celebrity heads are always fun

9. Cooking or baking class

Turn your gathering into a learning experience by hosting a cooking or baking class. Pick a recipe, gather the ingredients, and cook or bake together. The more experienced bakers can lead, but make sure everyone has a go. And then you can enjoy the fruit (cake) of your labour as a group afterwards.

Each of these ideas offers a unique way to enjoy time with friends, create new memories, and break out of the same-old, same-old of your usual routine. Whether you’re in the mood for something relaxing, creative, or active, there’s an option here to suit every gathering. But don’t rest on that list - there are really endless ways to enjoy relaxed time with your friends. Why not invite them over to have a brainstorming session about other gathering ideas?

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