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13 February . 2018

How to host an unforgettable outdoor dinner party

When it comes to hosting an outdoor dinner party at Rancho Sienna, residents have some fun options in addition to their own backyards and patios.

Rancho Sienna’s Outdoor Dining Room is a unique amenity, with a faux wood concrete table, barbecue grill and bocce ball court. It’s nestled under tall trees for shady daytime dining, and the trees are strung with festive lights for evening gatherings.

Now that you have the perfect place, here are some tips for hosting the perfect outdoor dinner party.

Spread the word. Casual is the word for outdoor dining, but you don’t want to have to restart the grill for latecomers. Make sure the invitation says something like, “We’ll be grilling from 6 to 7. Come and get it while it’s hot!” Also, note any attire suggestions and rain plans on the invite.

Have enough seats. The Outdoor Dining Room table seats 10, and the swings can seat even more. If you have more guests, bring some outdoor chairs. Folding chairs are easy to transport, and renting chairs can be an affordable option.

Entertain the kids. With its bocce ball court, the Outdoor Dining Room is ready to help keep the kids entertained. Dating back to ancient Rome, bocce ball has simple rules and is fun for players of all ages. Here’s how to play. This pocket park is also the perfect spot for outdoor activities like an Easter egg hunt.

Setting the table. Keep it super casual and enjoy the smooth, artisanal look of the Outdoor Dining Room table. Or, lay craft paper across the table for a slightly more finished look and easy cleanup. Paper plates are fine, or use an eclectic mix of dinnerware. Enjoy the string lighting above, and add to it with some battery operated candles, tea lights or lanterns on the table. Fresh flowers are a very nice touch. Cut some from your garden, but please don’t pick the wildflowers at Rancho Sienna – they need to reseed for the years ahead.

The eats. Keep the food simple, with salads, sandwiches, fresh fruit and veggies, and a mix of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cold drinks. In warm weather, keep dairy-based sides and dips chilled. Just fill a large bowl with ice, sprinkle it with kosher salt, and place the dip bowl on top. In addition, make sure to have plenty of ice for everyone. Because this is Texas, most everybody knows how to grill. Just in case, here’s an easy grilling guide from Austin’s own Whole Foods.

Banish bugs. Bugs can be a problem during evening parties. Provide bug sprays for guests, preferably natural. Citronella candles also help, and they add to the candlelit ambience. A recent study found that fans are the best way to ward off bugs, so consider bringing a tall fan to your outdoor dinner party. Make sure power will be available at your chosen location; the Outdoor Dining Room does have electrical outlets.

Sweet ending. For an unforgettable finale to your outdoor dining party, consider arranging a visit by a local food truck that specializes in cupcakes, snow cones and other sweet treats. Since Austin is home to one of the biggest concentrations of food trucks in the country, finding one shouldn’t be hard.

If the Outdoor Dining Room is in use, or if you want to try another al fresco eating spot in Rancho Sienna, there are more options. With its picnic tables, grills and sand volleyball court, Greenleaf Park is a popular location for grill outs and picnics. At Sienna House, beautiful Hill Country views make the outdoor gathering area another great venue for open-air dining.

Explore all of the parks and trails at Rancho Sienna, part of our master plan for more than 100 acres of recreational amenities and natural open space.

For even more ideas for places to enjoy outdoor dining, venture a little further out with our Outdoor Recreation Guide to the surrounding Hill Country.