20 Epic Pool Party Ideas

a group of balloons
Epic Pool Party Ideas Studio DIY

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Summer is a time of favorites for us: beach days, deep orange sunsets, riding bikes, eating ice cream — the list goes on and on. But there's nothing we quite love more than an honest-to-goodness pool party. There's something about breaking out your favorite bathing suit and a snazzy pair of shades, grabbing a towel, a treat, and maybe even a cocktail, and turning those tunes up to celebrate summer with your friends or family. While the everyday pool party is just as exciting today as it was when we were kids, there's always room for improvement. And nothing will make your splash-tastic bashes even more fun than our favorite pool party ideas that take the excitement to the next level.

Looking for new ways to keep younger kids occupied? In need of a food refresh when the burgers and hot dogs simply aren't cutting it? Want some cute presentation ideas for snacks and s'mores? We've got you all covered right here.

Scroll ahead to see which DIY ideas you can incorporate into your yearly pool party to leave your guests gushing about it long after it's over.

DIY Cocktail Cart

You don't have to actually buy a cocktail cart to create one. Any elevated cart will do with the right bar essentials, glasses and, of course, drinks. Not only does a well-decorated cocktail cart add to the decor of any pool party, but it keeps all the back-and-forth trips to the house for refills at a minimum. Whip up a specialty drink in bulk and leave a pitcher of it on top at the centerpiece to your cart. You can do the same with lemonade for kids.

Get the tutorial at Bless'er House »

RELATED: Unique Bar Cart Ideas to Bring Personality to Your Space

cocktail cart
Bless'er House

Get Balloons Involved

Pool floats are a must, but to take the fun to the next level, blow up some colorful balloons, or even ones that spell out words. It'll be an incredible first impression, and make for an epic photo opt.

Get the tutorial at Studio DIY»

a group of balloons
Studio DIY

Self-Serve Snack Bar

Set up this self-serve snack bar with easy-to-restock snacks, and let guests fill up cups or paper bags with their own personal mix. Don't forget the scoopers, though! No one wants wet hands from the pool creating a soggy mess of snacks!

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Get the tutorial at A Night Owl Blog »

self serve snack bar with kettle corn, pretzels and potato chips in glass jars
A Night Owl Blog

Hang Mood Lighting

Backyard spotlights and lamps work fine for lighting purposes once the sun starts to set, but can be pretty harsh and ruin a cozy vibe you might be going for. String some hanging lights throughout the trees and around the perimeter of the pool and yard to create the ultimate ambiance once it starts getting dark out.

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front shot of light bulbs hanging from cable against back yard during night
Mindful Media

Create a Signature Cocktail or Mocktail

In 15 minutes or less, you can have the perfect summer drink, filled with fresh fruit. For a kid-friendly version, skip the prosecco and top it with sparkling water.

Get the Star-Spangled Spritzer recipe »

star spangled spritzer in a glass pitcher with berries
mike garten

Invest in Big Inflatables

Playing around with giant pool inflatables never gets old, whether you're a kid or an adult! Of course, we can't be responsible if the fun gets out of hand and a float or two accidentally pops, but we can promise a bunch of giant inner tubes and flamingo, dinosaur, unicorn and even food-themed inflatables will have all your guests in a fit of giggles.

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woman enjoys a hot summer day in the pool with a giant inflatable flamingo float

Have a Taco Bar (or Any Food Bar Really!)

Food at a pool party can be tricky, especially if you're worried about feeling a LOT of people. A build-your-own taco bar (or rather a build-your-own-anything bar — wraps, ice cream, sandwich etc.) is a great way for every pool party guests to get exactly what they want to eat, plus you can prep all the ingredients ahead of time (for the most part) and set out when it's time to dig in. For the taco bar, grab soft and hard shells, provide some beef, chicken and rice bases and let folks go while with sauces, toppings and more!

two people standing over a build your own taco bar
Gulcin Ragiboglu

Pool Accessories and Toys Chest

Set up a few baskets around the poll area full of underwater toys, bubbles, beach buckets, water guns, beach balls and more to add even more fun to an already splash-tastic day. And when it's treat time, set aside one of those beach buckets, fill it with ice and pop a bunch of popsicles in for easy serving.

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Get the tutorial at A Night Owl Blog »

pool accessories and toys bucket with beach balls, bubbles, buckets and water guns
A Night Owl Blog

Plan Some On-Theme Games

Lawn games are a great way to keep kids entertained when they need a break from swimming. Put a spin on traditional games, like using pool floats and noodles for ring toss.

Get the tutorial at Kid Friendly Things to Do »

pool noodle ring toss
Kid Friendly Things to Do

Set Up a Kid's Pool Area

Kids should always be monitored, but make it easier on the parents with a designated kiddie pool area for younger ones who might not be strong enough swimmers to tackle the big pool yet. As always, make sure there's always at least one adult supervising when children are swimming.

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child playing in inflatable kid's pool

Host a Backyard BBQ

When in doubt, go with the expected. Pool parties and backyard BBQs practically go hand in hand. Get the grill going and throw on some steaks, chicken, veggies, kabobs and more that'll leave every party guest eagerly reaching for seconds. Need some new ideas? Check out our favorite grilling recipes below!

RELATED: Insanely Delicious Grilling Recipes to Try ASAP

two people taking over the grill barbecueing during a pool party at a beach house

Create a Poolside Towel Caddy

There's nothing worse than someone forgetting their towel and then, ironically, coming into the house dripping wet to ask you for one. And while we're more than happy to accommodate any guests, our floors don't appreciate the mess! To easily avoid, set aside a towel caddy with extras easily in reach of the pool and/or hot tub. Although, fair warning — we can't promise a few folks won't end up wandering home with one or two of them.

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RELATED: Best Beach Towels for Summer

set of rolled white beach towels in wicker box on poolside, decorated with tropical flowers
Oleg Breslavtsev

Turn the Pool Party into Movie Night

The pool party doesn't have to stop just because the sun has s disappeared. In fact, make it even more entertaining by turning it into a movie screening, with snacks (popcorn and candy bar, anyone?) and plush pool floats perfect for prime seating. Invest in a blow-up movie screen, or go at it the old-fashioned way with a giant white sheet and some clips. The only question now — what are we watching?

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RELATED: Movie Night Ideas to Jazz Up Your At-Home Viewing Experience

group of people watching a movie while sitting in inflatables in the pool at night

Invest in Fun Cups

How adorable are these watermelon cups? You can also get them in a pineapple shape. The best part is, they also act as a little favor for guests.

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a group of colorful objects on a beach
a group of colorful objects on a beach

Build Your Own S'mores bar

How can you enjoy warm weather without a nice gooey s'more? With this tutorial, you don't need a full-fledged bonfire to create marshmallow and chocolate treats — it uses a canned sterno! Set up a little station of roasting sticks, marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers — and of course some more unique add-ins like Reese's Cups, cookies and cream chocolate bars and even fruit — and ready, set, roast.

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Get the tutorial at A Night Owl Blog »

homemade s'mores bar
A Night Owl Blog

Use a Watermelon Whale Fruitbowl as a Centerpiece

Don't let it scare you — this watermelon whale fruit centerpiece can easily be created by the average Joe. With the tutorial at Woman's Day, you can create a truly stunning (and delicious) table centerpiece that also acts as the perfect pool party snack.

Get the tutorial at Woman's Day »

watermelon carved into a whale holding fruit salad
Mike Garten

Set Aside Sunscreen, Aloe and Bug Spray Basket

The only thing that'll ruin the great mood both you and your guest will have after a great pool party? Skin that's sore from sunburn or itchy from bug bites. Make sure everyone has access to the basics by putting out a basket of sunscreen (be aware some folks need higher SPFs than others), some aloe (for those who still might not be able to beat a few rays) and of course bug spray to keep the pesky bugs and mosquitos away.

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RELATED: Best Sunscreens, Tested by Scientists

woman wearing sunglasses, spraying sunscreen on to her arm
Catherine Falls Commercial

Create the Ultimate Oasis

Some lawn chairs and towels will technically do just fine to provide extra seating, but if you really want to bring a sense of rest and relaxation to the party, set up an area with beachy pillows and blankets that guests can rest on in the shade.

pillows and blankets set up outside in a backyard with chairs, lamps and decorations hanging around
Maria Korneeva

Say Hello to a Snow Cone

We touched on the topic of food bars earlier, but for dessert, snow cones are the nostalgic sweet treat that's much easier to serve up than ice cream. Compared to pints of ice cream, toppings, syrups and more, all you need is some shaved ice, syrup, cups and a spoon — all of which come in most snow cone kits. Talk about easy-peasy!

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close up of a hand holding a colorful snow cone
Matt Hoover Photo

Inflatable Pool Cooler

Keep the pool party theme in full swing by using a mini inflatable pool as your cooler. Fill it up with lots of ice, stock it with your favorite drinks and set it aside in the shade to keep drinks ice cold all day long.

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soda or beer cans on ice

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