As COVID-19 continues to impact events in 2021, many event professionals are looking for new ways to engage their guests without the restrictions of an indoor venue. Why not host an outdoor event? They’re better for social distancing and you’ll likely be able to host more guests than you would indoors.
Take inspiration from these 17 creative ideas for your next outdoor event.
1. Bring the theater outside
Indoor theaters are limited for the time being, so take the theater outdoors with a drive-thru Broadway-style production. Have guests drive past different scenes and stop to enjoy brief music and dance numbers with live performers.
You could even offer a drive-thru concessions stand and gift shop.
2. Drive-in movie theater
Drive-ins are cool again. Guests appreciate being able to socially distance in their own vehicles, bring their own snacks and blankets, and control the volume of the movie with their own speakers. Own a traditional movie theater that’s closed or has reduced capacity? Consider using your parking lot to host a drive-in experience. Or work with your local government to take over a public space for a weekly drive-in series.
3. Movie night under the stars
What could be better than watching your favorite flicks al fresco on a warm summer night? Host an outdoor movie theater, where guests can bring their own blankets to set up in designated, socially-distanced pods.
4. I love a parade
Can’t host your normal holiday parade this year? Make it a drive-thru or walk-thru experience instead! Instead of guests standing around waiting for the parade to roll by, allow them to drive or walk past the various floats and decorations.
5. Bring the museum outdoors
The Detroit Institute of Arts has been running an InsideOut program for the past 12 years, bringing high-quality reproductions of its collections to outdoor installations around the region. Take a cue from their success and collaborate with local artists to display their work in an outdoor showcase, where guests can socially distance while enjoying some local culture.
6. Sing it from the rooftops
On a recent trip to Orlando, our team enjoyed a performance by Italian opera singers performing from the balcony of their hotel. The unique setting made it feel all the more special. Plus, it’s naturally socially distanced. Take inspiration from those opera singers and host a balcony concert of your own – maybe partnering with a local hotel or any venue with a similar balcony space.
7. Sparkle with light displays
Who says light displays have to be for winter holidays only? We think they can be festive all year long. Set your up as a drive-thru experience or work with your local government to create a walk-thru display in big open areas such as a public park.
8. Bring on the bubbles
Igloos, gondolas, pods, bubbles. Whatever you call them, by now you’ve probably seen at least one in your city or town. They’re great for social distancing and for blocking out sound from your fellow guests. Use them to set up a chefs showcase, where samples or tasting portions are brought to each pod of guests in a low-contact format.
9. Rethink the food festival
Large outdoor festivals are still on pause, but you can get creative and create a socially-distanced foodie experience. Local food trucks can be an excellent way to showcase the best of what your culinary community has to offer. Limit contact by offering mobile ordering, so guests can choose exactly what they want to sample from each truck and just pick it up when it’s ready.
Prefer to do an all-access-style event? Instead of asking guests to pay for food and drink items a la carte, have your vendors pre-package foods at multiple stations that are easy for guests to just pick up and move on so you can limit contact.
10. Bring back the backyard BBQ
Host a socially distanced picnic, where guests can set up their blankets under shady trees and socially distance from other groups. Deliver a packaged barbecue meal to each blanket, stocked with favorites like ribs, grilled chicken, cold salads, and other summertime favorites.
11. Set up camp
Campfires are the ultimate nostalgia experience. Set up several smaller campfires in a big outdoor space and limit each section to one party (or at least block off each area so parties can easily stay distanced). Set up a few outdoor games that are easy to socially distance like cornhole (bean bags) or bocce ball. Provide s’mores kits as part of your package or offer them as an add-on.
12. A new kind of game day
Bring the bowling alley outdoors with a few rounds of lawn bowling. Set up multiple lanes so parties can separate from one another. Don’t forget everyone’s favorite part of a bowling alley: the concessions stand. Offer items on mobile ordering to limit contact between guests and your staff.
13. Chalk it up
A sidewalk art festival can be a fun way to bring out your guests’ inner artists. Supply each party with a bucket of chalk and other supplies such as stencils to help them create their ultimate masterpiece. Give out awards for the most creative, funniest, or elaborate pieces.
14. Host an outdoor concert series
Live music has been one of the things we’ve missed most during the pandemic. While you might not be able to host many guests inside a traditional concert venue, an outdoor concert series is a great way to bring back the entertainment we all love while keeping everyone’s risk level relatively low.
Allow guests to reserve a designated area where they can bring in their own lawn chairs and picnic blankets. Mark each area with tape, temporary fencing, or some other type of separation so they can stay socially distanced from other parties.
15. Brunch al fresco
Reserve a local park and host a weekly or monthly outdoor brunch series. Bring in local food trucks to handle the food and hire local musicians to provide the entertainment. Your local park may already have picnic benches or other tables where guests can socially distance while enjoying the music.
16. Plan your merchandise and concessions accordingly
If it’s going to be chilly and your event is outdoors, consider stocking your shop with blankets, sweatshirts, and a few other items that might come in handy for guests who underestimated the weather. Likewise, offer food and beverage items that complement the weather, whatever that might be. Hot cider and flavored coffees & teas for cooler temps; popsicles and frozen lemonades when it’s warm.
17. Offer virtual access
Even with an outdoor event, attendance is likely to be limited by local or state ordinances. Give guests the option to join a live-stream of your event, so they can enjoy the entertainment from the comfort of home. You could even re-stream the show on-demand after it ends, so you can continue earning revenue.