What better way to gather new and old friends from around the neighborhood than throwing a block party? Whether you're closing down the street or opening up your own backyard, we've got you covered with guidelines for organizing a successful neighborhood bash.
Start planning the party a few months in advance so guests get plenty of notice to plan to attend and you have enough time for all the preparation. Here’s how to make it all happen.
Form a planning committee.
- Set up a time for an initial planning meeting and invite neighbors to join.
- Decide on a date and time for the block party at that first meeting.
- Set a budget; we recommend asking for suggested donation before the event and at the event's welcome table. If money is a concern but you still want to go all out, consider holding your party on National Night Out, the first Tuesday in August. Many areas waive permit fees for street closures and amplified music on that date.
- Discuss other details, including location, budget, food, activities, food, etc. and ask for volunteers to head up those tasks. Make sure to assign someone to distribute a block party petition to the rest of the neighborhood, as you'll likely have to apply for a permit to block off the street.
Find out your local ordinances for block parties.
- Contact your city's office or public works department. If you decide you want to close off your street, you’ll need a permit and barricades. You may also need special events insurance. Be sure to also ask about amplified music and alcohol policies.
- If you want to have a fire engine visit your block party (in which case you’ll also need to apply to close off the street), call your local fire department well in advance. If you’re planning to invite someone from the fire or police department or a local politician to speak at the event, ask early.
Send a reminder one to two weeks in advance of the party.
- You may also want to post signs around the neighborhood the week of the event, particularly if you’re planning to close off the street so your neighbors remember to move their cars.
Send an Evite invitation at least a month in advance to ensure more folks can make it! Use this BBQ-themed invitation below as a base template or this "Join Us" invitation. Along with the usual date, time and location information, you may also want to include:
- Activities you have planned (for example, a talent show, kids’ parade, etc.) and how to get involved
- What guests need to bring (potluck items, chairs, etc. if applicable)
- Ask if guests would be willing to help out or provide items (trash cans, folding tables, etc.) and their contact info
- The suggested donation will be to cover the expenses of the party and how it will be collected
Set-up and decorations
Layout is key to get people mingling! Set defined areas for particular activities, like sports games and contests, where guests have space to move around and meet. Consider having a welcome table so you can hand out name tags, collect donations to offset the cost of the shindig and provide a sign-in sheet for contact info. After the party, email everyone a neighborhood directory to help keep connections going.
Block parties are usually outdoors, so decorate accordingly. Tie helium balloons on everyone’s mailbox or in the main party area for a simple but festive look. If you want to go more extravagant, you can set up balloon arches.
There's nothing like a few fun activities for guests to bond, and we've got some thought starters.
Fun for everyone
- Host a talent show, using someone’s porch as a stage.
- Rent a karaoke machine.
- Set up a treasure hunt.
- Play volleyball, kickball or street hockey (if your street will be closed).
- Host a limbo or dance contest.
- Have a pet parade.
Fun for kids
- Have a sidewalk chalk drawing contest.
- Hang a piñata.
- Ask a few teens or adults to take turns painting faces.
- Get a three-legged race or tug of war going.
- Have a water balloon toss.
- Rent a jump house.
- Play hide-and-seek.
- If your street will be closed and you invite a couple firefighters to give a demonstration, let kids check out the truck.
Neighborhood trivia & history
- Find out who has lived in your neighborhood the longest and ask him or her to speak for a few minutes about it.
- Ask everyone to include where they’re originally from in their RSVP comment, then display a map with names pinned to respective hometowns at the party.
- Research your neighborhood’s history at the library and create a display board including old photos and interesting facts.
- Plant trees, flowers or a garden, or clean up your block as part of the party.
- Invite your local police, fire or another city department to provide handouts and make a brief presentation on topics like home safety.
Barbecues are usually the go-to for block parties, but make sure you're aware of dietary restrictions. Having a potluck is always an option and if you want to add a twist, make it a contest for the best side dish, best pie, etc. Catering or booking a food truck are also great options and is an opportunity to support local businesses!
Is there any beverage that says block party better than lemonade? It might even be fun to ask some neighborhood kids to make a few batches and set up a homemade lemonade stand.
Keep in mind that although alcoholic beverages are okay on private property, they’re prohibited in public areas like on the street or in parks so don't forget to find out your city's policy. And be sure to have lots of water available.
Lemonade (6 servings, multiply as necessary)
- 8 lemons
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 5 cups water
Juice the lemons. Combine the sugar and 1 1/2 cups water in a saucepan and simmer until the sugar dissolves and let cool. Add lemon juice and 5 cups water. Serve over ice.