Backyard Carnival Buffet

Hold on to the last sweet days of summer—and usher in the fun times of fall—by staging a party on the lawn, complete with an old-fashioned game arcade and family-friendly fare.

A photo of homemade carnival food in the backyard and a photo of apples

With school back in session and September breezes moving in, Labor Day marks the arrival of the prime season for alfresco evening meals. So gather your family and friends this holiday weekend, and cook up a carnival-inspired smorgasbord perfect for any palate. And while you’ve got the gang together, throw in some extra fun with DIY lawn-game ideas from our Game Day in the Great Outdoors.

A photo of people enjoying a backyard carnival

A vintage Airstream trailer, decorated in cheery bunting and colorful balloons, sets the mood for this merry get-together. The menu is filled with easy-to-manage dishes, so formal seating isn’t required. Scatter quilts and throws around the yard for guests to gather on, and drape a wooden picnic table with a mix of vintage linens to use as a serving station. Young and old alike will love the culinary offerings that showcase the best of September—roasted corn, chicken drumettes, and veggie salad layered into tiny Ball jars. Add to that a sweet pear-honey tea, dipped apples, and a cover-worthy caramel-apple pound cake, and you’re sure to be crowned Queen of the Carnival.