There comes a point during a Las Vegas summer when it feels like all you’ve ever known is heat. It’s been hot for months, and it’s going to be hot forever. How to deal? You could dream of autumn leaves and pumpkin spice lattes, but that’ll just make you bitter. Better to throw the most epic pool party this side of the Strip.
To help you along the way (and to butter you up for an invite), we’ve devised this guide for pool party greatness. It’s full of tips, tricks and how-tos, so you have the food, drinks, decorations and music to ensure your bash will be remembered long after the 100-degree temps are gone.
As for how to be the perfect pool party guest, that’s much easier: Arrive fashionably late, leave politely early, don’t come empty-handed (desserts and six packs are classics, though an extra bag of ice can be a godsend), wear sunscreen, stay hydrated, watch your kids, have fun and, of course, don’t be a jerk.
Decorating and Accessorizing
Budget: A basic charcoal grill can be had for under $50 at any home goods or big-box store. You can’t go wrong with the Weber 14-inch Portable Grill ($30 at Target).
Baller: Gas, charcoal, pellet and electric—grills come in all types. For classic cooking and elegance, consider the beloved Big Green Egg ($499-$1,999), depending on size, at Barbeques Galore).
Budget: There are lots of quality, affordable options here, like the large-capacity Coleman Xtreme 50-Quart Wheeled Cooler ($30 at Walmart). Keep your guests hydrated by filling a classic, orange 5-gallon cooler ($20 at Walmart) with ice water.
Baller: When nothing but the best will do, go with Yeti brand coolers, which come with both hard and soft exteriors. Impress your friends with the Tundra 65 ($350 at REI).
Budget: Home-improvement stores sell sun shade fabric you can pitch anywhere you need a break from those burning rays. Try the Easy Gardener 11.8-foot sun sail ($30 at Lowe’s).
Baller: If you don’t have time for a custom job but still want the lux feeling, buy an 11-foot cantilevered octagon umbrella ($2,075 at Barbeques Galore), and pair it with a tabletop misting fan for the ultimate in cool ($400 at Barbeques Galore).
Budget: If you can’t go rich, go kitsch with vintage mid-century modern pink flamingo lawn ornaments ($15 for two at World Market).
Baller: Hire an artist to create a pool-themed ice sculpture. (Try icestudio.com or vegasiceman.com).
Budget: Light the night for free by digging out those Christmas lights. Or go classic with tiki torches, like the TIKI 57-inch Royal Sands Bamboo Citronella Garden Torch ($3.98 apiece at Lowe’s).
Baller: Bistro lighting enlivens everything, and can be enjoyed in the backyard all summer long. Try Edison Style Solar LED 30 Bulb String Lights ($40 per 30-bulb string at World Market). Decorate tabletops with Firefly Solar LED Mason Jar Lanterns ($16 at World Market).
Budget: Load up on SuperSoaker water guns, which run about $15 everywhere.
Baller: Make your party magical with a 7-foot-tall unicorn lawn sprinkler ($50 at Target).
Budget: Pick up some pool noodles from any big-box store (they’re $8 a piece at Walmart) and spend your party money on adorable “inflatable drink flotation devices” shaped like palm trees and flamingoes ($15 for two at bando.com)
Baller: Flotation devices have gone from simple inner tubes to outlandish, maximalist creations. Splurge on an oversize floating peacock or unicorn ($70 at Modcloth.com) or rule the pool with your own Inflatable Island from SportsStuff Cabana Islander ($309 at Amazon.com).
Budget: Don’t just dig a hole in a ground when you can buy a cool (and safe) firepit for under $100. A 35-inch wood-burning steel firepit ($69 at Lowes) will be the literal center of conversation.
Baller: Accent your tabletops with a liquid propane fire bowl ($89 at Lowes). Or skip the middleman and go for a liquid propane fire table. ($499 at Lowes).
Budget: Bed Bath & Beyond has a wide selection of designs and patterns (prices range from about $10-$20). Splurge on a set of animal-shaped Boca Clips ($6 at Bed Bath & Beyond), which clip your towel to your lounge chair in style.
Baller: Think of beach towels as practical decorations that will visually delight your guests and then keep them dry. Get whimsical with pineapple beach towels from Modcloth.com ($36).
Budget: Stay classy with a koozie ($3 at Bando.com) that guests can use and then take home.
Baller: Underwater disposable cameras are retro and fun. Modcloth.com has a neat one that resembles a watermelon ($22).
Lay of the Land
When Money is no Object ...
There’s no better choice for a cocktail topper or fruit salad than produce picked fresh from the vine. Set aside a strip of land to grow fruit trees. Apricots, figs, pomegranates, apples, nectarines, pears and plums all grow well in our Southwest climate. If space is limited, plant dwarf peach or lemon trees in large containers.
No one likes to lug furniture in and out of storage for a party. Instead, choose desert-friendly sets that can withstand the Southwest sun and wind. Both marine-grade polymer and teak are good options. They won’t melt, warp or fade quickly. Select pieces with limited metal parts as they will scald in summer. Pro tip: set up multiple seating and lounging areas—for instance, a table, chairs and benches for eating, chaises for relaxing, and a sectional, coffee table and rockers for conversation.
Integrate into your backyard design a built-in barbecue with food preparation space and a mini fridge. Install a patio cover, pergola or palapa (or all three!) to create more intimate areas. Many can be fashioned with lighting and fans. Equip your outdoor living room with a large TV for second-to-none pool movie nights. Pro tip: Add an outdoor shower. Connect to existing plumbing or choose a solar-heated option.
And when it is ...
Use pavers and live ground cover to create lush, inexpensive pathways and seating nooks. Set recycled or broken pavers in a mosaic pattern to save on materials costs. Fill in remaining dirt spaces with plants that can tolerate Las Vegas’ scorching sun.
Add pops of color with greenery. Plant ornamental grasses in clusters for a modern look. The best species for Las Vegas include gooding verbena, purple cone flower, desert marigold, tufted evening primrose and globe mallow in the perennial category, and pink muhly, deer grass and common blue fescue for grasses. Pro tip: Live plant borders are a great way to section off parts of your yard and keep guests from wandering into areas you’d like to keep off-limits. Plants can also help hide unsightly items, such as pool equipment.
Create benches or stools by dry stacking concrete blocks in square or rectangular shapes. Buy foam pads to create comfortable tops, then cover the foam pads with slipcovers made from beach towels. If the cushions get dirty, just slip off the towels and throw them in the wash. Pro tip: Buy cheap plastic planters and paint them a bold color for a high-end look.
Nothing ends a party faster than an injury or accident. Ensure the safety of your guests (and limit your liability as a host) by taking some simple precautions.
Watch the water. A staggering number of children die in pools during parties with multiple adults in the vicinity. Children playing in or near water should always be directly and constantly supervised. Be sure every child is assigned one adult to keep watch over him or her. Even adults should never swim alone, particularly if they have been drinking.
BE RESPONSIBLE WITH ALCOHOL
Ensure that children and pets can’t access any alcoholic beverages. Keep an eye out for guests who are beginning to get out of control, and limit their alcohol intake. Always be sure everyone has a safe ride home, or offer your couch for the night.
Don’t forget to drink water. Alcohol can be dehydrating, so consider alternating water with cocktails.
IGNITE WITH CARE
Build a backyard fire only in an enclosed, contained device such as an outdoor chiminea, fire bowl or firepit. Never light a fire under a covered patio or less than 25 feet from a structure.
PROTECT YOUR SKIN
Apply sunscreen before the party starts, and remind guests as they arrive to slather up. Remember to reapply every two hours. Host tip: Set up a sunscreen station for guests. Stock it with sun block, sunscreen spray and lip balms.
PRACTICE FOOD SAFETY
Keep food and drinks covered. Leave foods refrigerated until serving, and store leftovers promptly. Potato salad outdoors on a 90-degree day can become unsafe in less than an hour. The “danger zone” of picnic foods is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees, the range at which bacteria can multiply rapidly. Keep cold foods at or below 40 degrees until serving time, and keep hot foods at or above 140 degrees. If food reaches the danger zone, throw it away.
STAY SAFE AT THE GRILL
Be sure your grill is at least 10 feet away from your house and landscaping, and never leave the grill unattended. Keep the flame low and controlled. Ensure that hot grills are inaccessible to children and pets, and always soak coals in cold water before throwing them away in a metal container. Never use a grill inside a garage or in an enclosed area, as it can release deadly gas. Host tip: Keep baking soda on hand to control a grease fire and a fire extinguisher for other fires. Never use water to put out a grease fire; the water will only spread the flaming oil, not extinguish the flames.