Thanksgiving outside with people and turkey

How to Have Thanksgiving Outdoors 2020


To have Thanksgiving outdoors, you to have an optimal setting for your dinner table, you need a dry, level, and stable surface. A concrete patio or even a wood deck is your best bet. Ornate stamped concrete will give the best aesthetic as long you carefully place your table and chairs to avoid the grooves in the concrete.       

Decks while being a great setting for dinner tables, tend to have a lot of gaps between the wood so it can be difficult to find an even surface. However, decks can be accented and stabilized with outdoor area rugs. These rugs can be on the pricey side ranging from $150-$350 but they are a great accent piece that will bring the whole set-up together. Decks and patios are not an overnight purchase. A lawn or dirt surface can also work if you take the right precautions. A successful outdoor thanksgiving without a patio and cover will greatly depend on weather conditions.    

outside seating on benches


Where are you going to sit? This is an important situation to figure out. Having Thanksgiving outdoors means your typical dining room table is not going to cut it. There are a few options you have on the type of material you can use. Rattan, wicker, and metal being the most popular. Think about your situation. Which would work best for you. Do you want to be able to keep your outdoor dining area after Thanksgiving? Or do you want to put it away? Beyond the material, think about the pillows. Make sure to find pillows that are not just comfy but stain-resistant. The last thing you want is cranberry sauce staining your nice patio furniture. There is also the option of using a stain proofing spray to protect your fabric.   

Making sure you have enough room for everyone is crucial. How many chairs do you need? Would a round or square table work better? How much room do you actually have in your backyard? All these things need to be thought about before your Thanksgiving outdoors. Whatever you choose, make sure it works for you and will add to the enjoyment and ease of Thanksgiving outside.  

dinner plates on wood table outside


Having Thanksgiving outside can be cold. While we want to make sure we all stay safe, we also want to make sure everyone stays warm. Finding the right heating for your Thanksgiving outdoors doesn’t have to be hard. Assess your situation to help figure out what the best option is for you. Are you looking for something permanent? Easy to set up? Portable? Will you be hanging outside before or after dinner? What is the temperature going to be? These are questions you should be asking yourself.     

There are essentially three options for the type of heating you can choose. Natural gas, propane, and wood burning. We have a wonderful guide to help you choose what type of heating is right for you. Beyond the type of fire you need, think about the structure. Standing portable heaters, fireplaces, fire pits, and space heaters are all good choices. Some of these require proper planning. 

You cannot simply put up a fireplace outdoors for Thanksgiving. This is a structure you would have to install earlier. The same goes for firepits. Though, firepits require less planning. In many cases, you can find a firepit kit and set it up the weekend before you need it. Alternatively, you can use a portable one you can find at the store. This will not give off as much heat, but you can move it around easily. Standing heaters are another choice. These are heaters you can often find in outside seating. For these larger heaters, you may be better off renting one. They are rather large and you may not want to keep them after celebrating Thanksgiving outside. Alternatively, there are mini versions of these. Kind of like a hybrid between standing heaters and smaller space heaters. These are far more portable and can be put on multiple surfaces. If you live in a warmer climate then the sun is your best bet and we are all jealous. Take into account your proximity will be to the heat. Do you need the heat to be closer or further away? A firepit cannot be moved while a portable heater can be placed almost anywhere. If none of these options sound appealing, and you may consider having dinner earlier in the day. Some places stay warm in the day but get extremely cold at night. These places have that flexibility. Planning outdoor Thanksgiving heating is important. The last thing you need is the cold taking away from your food and family. We all want to make Thanksgiving 2020 the best it can be.

Set Up

Now comes the fun part. Decorating. What is your set up going to look like beyond the technical aspects? Since this is probably your first outdoor thanksgiving, your decoration is probably going to be different. Not just because you are celebrating Thanksgiving outdoors this year, but the number of people attending. In the past, you have hosted Thanksgiving for a large number of people. This year, that is not the case. With restrictions in places to keep group activities, specifically holidays, you are cooking and decorating for fewer people. If you typically celebrate Thanksgiving with a small number of people, congratulations! You are able to host Thanksgiving this year with fewer changes than others. For some, cooking for a small number of people is much more difficult than a large number of people. Modifying and planning out your recipes will be necessary. Everyone wants leftovers, but not so many they end up going bad. 

On the topic of seating, you will have far fewer people to accommodate. Look at this as a good thing! Your decorations can be much more elaborate. With fewer people to place for the more, you can invest in decorating for a few. Adding pumpkins, flowers, elaborate place settings, candles, and so much more. While the possibility to decorate more is there, remember the food. Where are you going to put it? Do you want people to have to go back inside to get their food or would you rather keep the food on the table so no one has to get up? This will affect your decorations as well as what you are serving your food in. If you decide to keep your food on the table outside, you will probably want to find heated options. When choosing serveware you will want to take two things into account. Does it have enough sections for your food and do you want to keep it afterward? You may find you need to get multiple servers. If this is the case, do you have room? Do you think you will use the serveware again? A disposable option is better for you. Finding the right option for your holiday is important. After working all day in the kitsch, the food should be kept warm and fresh. 


If Thursday night forecasts are not looking favorably and you already have solid dinner plans with a short guest list, a great solution to keep the elements from affecting your dinner are patio covers and shade structures. Pergolas and awnings are the best choices in terms of cover from the elements and beauty. They can be accented with string lights and fall harvest decorations. These however require months in advance to install in most cases. Attached patio covers are the third and most economic option, where they can be bought at your local hardware store and installed the same day if you have time and the labor force to help you build it. We have a more extensive guide to choosing the correct patio cover here.

 While 2020 has been a year of surprises, we must find ways to find joy. As the year goes on it seems as though more and more people are finding their ways to find joy. While we may not be able to have Thanksgiving with our family and friends, we can find ways to make the holiday as close to normal as we can. Take this holiday to connect with your family in ways you may not have before. Take advantage of the smaller get-togethers to celebrate the family that you can have come over.

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