We’re all dreaming of a summer vacation right now. At the same time, you and your family may be feeling like it’s an impossible time to get away. Don’t despair—if you can’t hit the open road for your annual vacation, the next best option is to simply open your back door.
That’s right—turning your backyard into your own personal campsite is a fun and pretty easy way to experience the great outdoors without packing the car and the bags and (perhaps the best perk of all) no one will ask, “Are we there yet?” Another bonus: indoor bathrooms. Are you sold yet? These 20 backyard camping ideas will make your summer staycation a fun family memory—and maybe even a tradition—for years to come.
Pitch a Backyard Tent
You can go two ways here: Grab your camping tent from the garage and pop it open or get crafty and create a teepee for the kids.
Build a Backyard Fire pit
Camping—even in the backyard—calls for a fire (you can’t have s’mores without it, right?). To keep it contained safely, a sturdy flagstone fire pit will keep the family warm and on a sugar high all night long.
Elevate Your S’mores Recipe
Next-level the regular s’mores trio of ingredients—graham cracker, marshmallow, and chocolate square—with these exciting combinations. We’ll have one of each! Or you could try these campfire dessert treats for a change of pace.
Have a Scavenger Hunt
For a fun camping activity, take the kids on a backyard scavenger hunt. Write the names of insects, flowers, and trees on paper bags, and let them make a run for it. Collect each specimen in the bags.
Play a Backyard Game
Sure, you could bring board games and cards outside, but if you’re in your backyard anyway, why not break out some fun lawn games? All ages will enjoy a game of cornhole/bags, washer toss, badminton, Frisbee, giant Jenga, croquet, and more.
Put a Spin on Campfire Hot Dogs
Ketchup and mustard are classic, but if you have adventurous campers in your crew, add some creative toppings to those buns. Here are a few ideas.
Hang String Lights in the Backyard
Simple string lights add a magical touch to backyard camping. Hang strands of lights from four poles—mapping out your campsite—or hang them inside your backyard tent.
Enjoy a Cocktail
For a refreshing adult beverage, try the Bee’s Knees Shandy, featuring lemon juice, gin, and beer. Use a lager, pilsner, or any other beer you like.
Tell Ghost Stories Around the Campfire
If the kids are old enough for some spooky fun, gather ’round the fire and see who can tell the best ghost story. If you don’t know any, here’s a list to get you started!
Make Camping Bug Bombs
Save the bloodsuckers for scary campfire stories. Sage, mint, and lavender come together for an all-natural, non-toxic way to repel pesky mosquitoes—meaning no one will be itching to leave the backyard campsite.
Try a New Burger Recipe
For an elevated take on classic grilled burgers, try a crowd-pleasing sweet-and-savory pork burger with summer peaches and goat cheese.
Sing Around the Backyard Campfire
We get it—not every family can be the von Trapps, but that’s okay. Make a list of your family’s favorite tunes, grab the guitar or ukulele, and use some spoons or pots and pans to keep the beat. Bonus points if there’s a harmonica player in the fam!
Make Campfire Popcorn
So long, microwave. Your campfire is perfect for making popcorn the old-fashioned way.
Watch a Movie
Turn an old white bed sheet or a canvas drop cloth into the big screen for an outdoor movie night. Spread out blankets, throw pillows in front of the tent, and start the show with camp-themed movies like Troop Beverly Hills, The Parent Trap, or one of these classic kids’ movies.
Become a firefly phenom with a simple keychain flashlight, a mason jar, and some DIY catchers. But remember: Once the light show is over, it’s time for the fireflies to return to the wild.
Add Bandanas to Your Backyard Tablescape
One perk of backyard camping is that you can actually take advantage of the kitchen inside. Pack a plate and wrap it up with a bandana for safe passage to the yard. Bonus: The bandana also doubles as napkin.
Make This Delicious Trail Mix
What do you get when you combine chocolate, peanut butter, marshmallows, and Golden Grahams? One delicious trail mix variation (that can also double as dessert). These S’mores Muddy Buddies will be gone in no time, so make a double batch.
Add a Camping Bathtub to Your Backyard
After you do a little research on stock tank pools, get your own for your backyard and fill ‘er up. It’s great to have a cool dip in before dinner, or create a fun experience for bath time.
Make a Breakfast Sandwich
End your backyard camping fun on a delicious note, and serve these BBQ pulled pork sandwiches for breakfast. They can be made right over the campfire.
Craft a Backyard Camping Mattress
Yoga mats will guarantee a softer (and better!) sleep for everyone when spending the night in a backyard tent. Simply place a yoga mat beneath each sleeping bag, and everyone will feel less stiff in the morning.