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12 must-haves for hosting Thanksgiving outside

Bundle up for a cozy outdoor Thanksgiving.

People passing dishes around a Thanksgiving table. Credit: Getty Images / PeoplesImage

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Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and since some COVID-19 restrictions are still in place, you might consider heading outdoors for dinner. If you’ve already bought yourself a set of outdoor furniture to socialize with friends and family and maintain social distance, you’re halfway there. Here are some other products you may want to check out before hosting Thanksgiving dinner outside so you can enjoy a good meal while following safety guidelines.

1. String lights for the perfect outdoor vibe

Light up your backyard with these string lights.
Credit: Getty Images / gorodenkoff

Before installing, make sure your patio or backyard space has an outlet for the lights to be plugged in.

Make a plan for how you want to decorate your backyard or patio space for your guests. String lights not only provide some essential lighting at night but also can help elevate your dinner experience by adding a touch of warmth and intimacy. Decorate your deck with colorful mums or other seasonal flowers to add pops of color.

Get ZOIC 500 LED String Lights on Amazon for $33.99

2. Festive flowers for a decorative table

Flowers can make a great centerpiece
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

Flowers can make a great centerpiece on the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Whether you’re a guest or a host this Thanksgiving, you may want to think about the flower arrangements for the table. If you’re going to someone’s Thanksgiving party, check with the host and see if they’ve got a particular theme or color scheme in mind. Our editor tried this flower delivery service that has a variety of flower arrangements to pick from.

Order a floral arrangement from 1-800-Flowers starting at $34.99

3. A patio heater to weatherproof your dinner plans

Patio Heaters
Credit: Hampton Bay

Patio heaters are popular this year—snag yours before they're sold out.

Depending on which region of the country you live in, the November weather conditions can vary. We think it’s best to plan for a little chill just in case—go ahead and weather-proof your Thanksgiving celebration so you and your guests can enjoy a warm and cozy dinner together. Patio heaters are one of this year’s biggest hits, but you may also want to get a pop-up canopy in case of rain.

Get the Hampton Bay 48000 BTU Stainless Steel Patio Heater at Home Depot for $169

4. A fire pit for warmth and ambiance

You may want to check out fire pits if you're spending more time outside this year.
Credit: BioLite

If you plan on hanging out with friends outside this year, you may need a fire pit.

A fire pit will add warmth and entertainment to your Thanksgiving celebration. We tested a few fire pits this year, and our editors especially loved the Solo Stove. In addition to backyard entertaining, it's also great for camping.

Get Solo Stove Bonfire at Solo Stove for $249.99

5. An outdoor grill for cooking the bird

Portable grill
Credit: Reviewed / Lindsay D. Mattison

If you want to entertain your guests while cooking, you can set up an outdoor cook station.

If you’re tired of roasting your turkey, you may consider smoking or grilling outdoors. If your backyard has limited space or you’re new to grilling, check out these portable grills as a start. Our top pick for gas grills, the Weber Q 1200, has cast-iron grilling grates and two side tables to hold food and condiments. It’s spacious enough for a spatchcocked bird, if you’re feeling adventurous.

Get Weber Q-1200 Portable Propane Grill at BBQ Guys for $219

6. A chafing dish for keeping food warm

Keep your food warm with these chafing dishes.
Credit: Getty Images / Malkovstock

These foldable ones are easy to store after use.

Whether you’re getting meal kits delivered or cooking everything from scratch, serving food outside could be challenging when it’s cold out. Chafing dishes, those shiny metal contraptions you’ve likely seen at buffet restaurants, can help solve this problem. Don’t forget to grab some chafing fuel to heat things up.

Get the Alpha Living 8-Quart Foldable Frame Stainless Steel Chafing Dish, Set of 4 at Amazon for $169.99

7. Décor to help you set the table

Decorate your table before guests arrive.
Credit: Parachute / Goldune

Brighten up your table with bold patterns and vibrant colors.

Just because you’re outdoors doesn’t mean you should skimp on décor. A table runner and napkins in complementary shades can help tie your table together. We love these from Goldune because they’re made using sustainable materials. And since you’re outdoors, it’s totally safe to throw some candles into the mix!

8. Compostable plates for eco-friendly dining

Compostable plates are better for the environment than the plastic ones.
Credit: Getty Images / jgoriss

These heavy-duty plates are great for hosting dinner parties.

Some people may opt for single-use plastic plates to spare themselves from washing dishes, which is understandable. But there are better ways to conveniently host dinner parties—these compostable plates are a more eco-friendly option and can offer the same level of ease as the plastic ones.

Get Heavy Duty Compostable Plates, Pack of 20, on Thrive Market for $1.79

9. An insulated food tote for traveling

Goldune's insulated food bag can help you transport food easily.
Credit: Goldune

If you're in charge of transporting dishes, this insulated food tote can help.

If you’re traveling to a bring-your-own-food style Thanksgiving party, you’ll need an insulated food tote to keep your food hot and your drinks cold. These lightweight cooler bags are made with supernatural paper (yes, it’s a real thing), which has a low carbon footprint compared to cotton and plastic.

Get the Sustainable Walrus Cooler at on Goldune for $36

10. Hand warmers to keep you comfortable

Hand and toe warmers can help you and your guests stay warm.
Credit: Getty Images / Naja

Hand and toe warmers can help you and your guests stay warm.

In 2020, hand and toe warmers are no longer items reserved for winter sports. As I’ve had a few hang-out sessions with my friends outside this year, I find these warming pads truly useful in case the temperature drops after sunset. Your guests (and your extremities!) will thank you.

Get HotHands Hand & Toe Warmers at Amazon for $20.37

11. An entertainment system for watching the game

Get a projector for Thanksgiving entertainment.
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

A projector can make bringing entertainment to an outdoor Thanksgiving easy.

For many Americans, Thanksgiving isn’t complete without football. And the good news is, you can easily stream the games outdoors with the help of a projector. We tested the best portable projectors and found the Anker Nebula Mars II to be worth buying. Not only does it pack up like a lunchbox, but it also provides top-notch quality screenings.

Get the Anker Nebula Mars II Projector on Amazon for $499.99

12. Blankets for relaxing

Hide under the blankets after dinner.
Credit: Getty Images / damedeeso

Remember to bring blankets when it gets chilly.

Nothing is better than sitting by the fireplace and hiding under a blanket while gazing at the stars after a delicious meal. A soft, fleece outdoor blanket will make your Thanksgiving party the coziest ever.

Get the Waterproof Outdoor Blanket at L.L.Bean for $59

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