Lawn & Garden Outdoor Living

11 Low-Cost Buys to Boost a Boring Backyard

Although it's nice to spend spring and summer visiting fancy parks and outdoor camps, comfort, cost, and convenience keep many families close to home. With some smart shopping, though, you can turn just about any backyard into a destination for fun, games, and seriously awesome cookouts. Read on to see our top picks for turning an average backyard into an out-of-this-world hangout.

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Zip Dee Dee Do Da

Adults enjoy the simple pleasure like, say, swaying in a hammock or soaking up sun on the patio. Kids? They crave novelty and excitement, not rest and relaxation—and who can blame them? Here’s an idea for the next time your children or grandchildren complain that they’re bored: Set up a zip line and in the process, transform the yard into an adventure park. Suitable for ages eight and older, the Slackers kit

Available at
Amazon; $139.99.

Cook Up Some Fun

You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a good grill for your family cookout. This portable Weber grill can be easy transported to any spot in the backyard—and beyond! With easy temperature controls, switching from searing to slow-cooking is a snap. Plus, this portable powerhouse boasts a full 18″ of grilling space, more than enough for a few burgers, a rack of ribs, or a pair of juicy steaks. Available on
; $69.99.

Related: Get Grilling! 10 Best Grills Under $100

Lawn Bowling

Bowling has the reputation of being an indoor sport, one requiring a lot of machinery and equipment. The truth is, with a few game pieces you can bowl just about anywhere, including your own backyard. This wooden lawn bowling set from Hey! Play! allows for easy game play on a freshly cut lawn, and the lightweight pieces make it perfect for kids and teens. Available on Amazon; $35.95.

Related: 9 Outdoor DIYs You Can Do for a Dollar

Family-Friendly "Dark" Magic

What’s cooler than colorful fireworks observed after a backyard campfire? That same rainbow of hues spouting from your personal firepit. Simply add a Magical Flame Packet to the pile of wood the next time you’re entertaining outdoors, and you can expect flashes of electric blue, green, and purple accompanying the standard yellow-orange flames that are central to your favorite summer pastime. Available on Amazon; $23.95 for 25 packets.

Related: No Money to Burn? 9 Fire Pits You Can Afford

Yard Dice

Don’t leave backyard fun to chance. Get the party started with these giant yard dice, instead. Each block is made out of solid wood and is built to last for years. This versatile set can be used to play over a dozen dice games, and is appropriate for all ages. Available on Amazon; $49.99.

Related: 9 Backyard Games to Make and Play This Summer

Portable Table

While we all love a good picnic, we don’t all have room for a bulky picnic table. Problem solved with this portable bamboo buy that boasts a flat surface for snacks and two wine glass holders—perfect for a rendezvous in the backyard or the park. The best part? It sticks directly into the sand or ground, making it just as simple to assemble and enjoy as it is to put away. Available at UncommonGoods; $22.

Related: Buy or DIY: 8 Instant Seating Ideas for a Full House

Classic Cornhole

When it comes to summer fun, it doesn’t get much more American than cornhole. This sturdy, floating PVC pipe model comes with bean bags, and works just as well on the lawn as in the pool. Plus, its small size makes it easy to take apart and store in a small shed or garage. Available on
Amazon; $37.38

Related: 10 Reasons to Reconsider the Aboveground Pool

Dessert Done Right

Don’t let the absence of a backyard fire pit keep you from the summer sweets you’ve been dreaming about! Stock a S’more to Love basket, and you could be cooking up a batch of six anywhere: on the barbecue after burgers, in the oven when you’re picnic rains out, or atop a portable grill at a tailgating event this season. The inventive compartmentalized design heats each S’more stack evenly so that no marshmallow burns and chocolate melts to gooey perfection. Available on Amazon; $20.

Related: 10 Gadgets to Make Your BBQ the Best on the Block

Instant Badminton

It’s a bona fide classic: People have been playing badminton since the 1800s, and it’s still a great game, as enjoyable for the kids as it is for the adults. There’s only one unavoidable aspect that isn’t so much fun—the painstaking setup. That’s the genius of the “instant” badminton set from Zume. It takes not minutes, but seconds to erect the net and get started. An added bonus for households in which things tend to go missing: Because the base of the net doubles as a carrying case, it’s easy to store and keep everything together for the next time you play. Available at Amazon; $79.99.

Related: 9 DIY Ideas for a Summery Backyard

Extending Table

This 2-in-1 cocktail table is an essential for all backyard entertainers. When not extended, it serves as a cozy landing spot for your morning coffee, or as the setting for an evening meal outdoors. But when you pull up on the top and lock it into place, a cooler is revealed—allowing you to keep beverages conveniently chilled for guests, while still offering them a surface to enjoy the barbecue fair you’re whipping up. Available on Amazon; $78.

Related: Double-Duty Furniture: 9 Affordable Favorites That Save Space

Pizza Fire Pit

Delight your friends at your next backyard cookout by adding pizza to the standard barbecue menu. This combination pizza oven and fire pit comes with two pizza stones that allow you to cook delicious, sizzling pizza, then sit back with a slice while you enjoy the sights and sounds of a crackling open fire. Available on; $69.99.

Related: 7 Camping Favorites Destined for Your Home

A Better Backyard

Make your backyard a place you never want to leave.