The 4th of July long weekend is right around the corner, so get ready for many days of chilling, grilling, drinking, or all of the above. If Memorial Day allowed you to test run your summer hosting and partying strategies, 4th of July is time to bring out your A-game. While Independence Day is a complicated holiday to celebrate, to me it’s always been more about spending hot summer days amongst people I love. As a kid growing up in Texas, 4th of July was the day my parents would host pool parties and grill while our neighbors set off fireworks. Now as an adult, it’s an excuse to spend the day doing the same — cooking, serving, and enjoying great food with my friends and family.
Whether your weekend plans involve a chill barbecue at someone’s house, an all-day rager at the beach, or something in-between, I’ve curated a list of more than 50 items that will help you be the best holiday host (or guest) you can be.
Think of it as your 4th of July Starter Pack, but with almost everything you could possibly need to cook, eat, and more throughout the day. The best part: we’ve organized everything into sections so you can focus on the items you’ll need for specific activities. And since there’s still plenty of warm months ahead, you can continue to use whatever you grabbed for this weekend. Read on for our guide.
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Regardless of whether your weekend plans involve traveling to a park or beach, or if you plan on hosting friends or family at your home, chances are there’s going to be a form of outdoor dining involved. While it’s tempting to use your everyday set of plates, it would also be smart to invest in durable dishes that can take a beating and not be destroyed with a single drop. I also recommend grabbing some insulated wine bottles or glasses as well, because nothing kills the vibe like swigging warm rosé when it’s sweltering outside.
While we love earthy ceramics and servingware, it would be the ultimate party foul if you or your guests shattered one of your beloved East Fork pieces. Play it safe with these melamine platters that are perfect for serving skewers straight off the grill, or assembling burgers.
A Festive, Fruit Print Platter
If a simple speckled platter doesn’t speak to you, this citrusy one designed by Vera Neumann is the perfect addition to any summer meal dined al fresco.
Soft Wine Glass Markers
If you’re going to spend all day vibing at someone’s yard or rooftop, these wine glass markers will help everyone keep track of their own drinks. Plus, if you’re still dipping your toes into the whole “socializing with other people again” thing, the soft felt rings make for a great subtle item to fidget with.
Salad Servers For Greens
These olivewood servers are great for dishing out salads, and have a warm earthy look ideal for an outdoor dining spread.
Keep Your Rosé Chilled All Day
This insulated wine glass may look like the adult version of a sippy cup, but I’ve found that they’re ideal for chilled wine or ice cold cocktails on sweltering hot days. Since the cup is triple insulated, you can easily nurse your drink throughout your July 4th party, and not worry about it going lukewarm.
Save Some Trees With Reusable Table Napkins
Not only are these cloth napkins more substantial and sustainable than using paper napkins, but they’re the right amount of festive without being overtly Independence Day themed.
Thoughtfully Designed Napkins
These cloth napkins are also great for any outdoor dining setup and have more of a general summer vibe. You can also use the included pocket to store or transport utensils for a barbecue or picnic.
Some Shatter-Proof Glasses
If you’re hosting, you may want to pick up some outdoor wine glasses that won’t shatter when dropped. We like these bright, dishwasher safe ones.
Keep Your Bottle Cold
An insulated cup or glass isn’t going to do you much good if your bottle of wine has been baking in the sun. This Vinglace chiller will do the trick of keeping your wine at its optimal temperature to enjoy.
Picnics in parks seem fun and breezy in theory, but can be stressful to execute with more than a handful of people. I once arrived at a park right when it opened to secure an Independence Day spot only to be informed by a lovely woman that people had been camping out for grills since 2 a.m. that morning. Thankfully, she shared her grill with us and we were able to have a great time, but it taught me that if your plans involve public spaces, you’re going to need contingencies upon contingencies. If you’ve already covered the picnic essentials, these are some items that will help upgrade your experience, from fun yard games to a brilliant basket/table combo.
If You Want Your Own Seat
Picnics are fun, but sitting on a blanket can hurt your back after a few hours. Sure, your friends may call you extra for bringing your own folding chair with an armrest caddy, insulated drink pockets, and a fold out side table, but you’ll be chilling comfortably all day long, which is what really matters.
If It’s A Garden Soiree Vibe
I’ll be honest, I have no idea how to set up or play croquet, but I’m sure it’d be a fun activity to have for your July 4th picnic guests (it’ll certainly be the most unique one at the park).
A Multitool For Whatever The Day Throws At You
Anything can go wrong when you’re attempting to party outdoors. It’s best to be prepared with a multitool that can act as a foil cutter, bottle opener, corkscrew, and a pocket knife.
A Traditional Picnic Basket
You don’t need to have a picnic basket in order to have a great 4th of July picnic amongst friends. However, it does make for a perfectly valid excuse to splurge on a classic wicker basket that you can load up with snacks and other goodies for any future picnic endeavors.
Can Covers For Incognito Park Drinking
If you’re not lucky enough to live in a place that has picnic rules that allow drinking in parks, these can covers disguise your favorite hard seltzer and will help you avoid a hefty open container fine.
A Basket That Converts Into A Table
The convenience of enjoying your food away from dirt and grass would have been enough to recommend this product, but this table also converts into a carrier basket to help you transport your cheese and bread to and from your picnic destination. The sides of the basket swing open to turn into a small flat surface that won’t immediately be overrun by ants, and it has enough room for a personal-sized charcuterie board and a glass or two of wine.
A Set of Mini Cheese Boards
If you’re bringing a whole cottagecore meal spread to a park, you might not want to bring a heavy serving board that weighs more than all of your food and drinks combined. These miniature marble boards are wide enough to display and serve your cheese and crackers, but won’t take up all your valuable picnic blanket space.
A Yard Game Everyone Can Play
If you forgot how to socialize and talk to people over the last year, break the ice with an oversized version of your favorite bar game. There’s minimal conversation required, plus you can play and drink at the same time.
Some Easy-To-Pack Picnic Cutlery
The reusable cutlery from this set snaps together so your utensils don’t get jumbled at the bottom of your bag or picnic basket. It’s also handy to have for workweek lunches and is dishwasher safe.
Beach or Pool
If you’re headed to any body of water this Independence Day weekend, you’ll need a few things to stay cool. No matter what your strategy is for beach, pool, or lake days, you can’t go wrong with packing an oversized towel, an insulated tote bag, or a water bottle to stay hydrated.
An Oversized Beach Towel
If you’re headed to the beach this 4th of July, may we suggest this oversized, luxuriously absorbent cotton towel? This towel is large enough to work as a decent blanket on the sand, and the tassel fringe is fun without being overly fussy.
A Classic Beach Tote
An insulated tote will keep your drinks and snacks cool for hours on a hot beach, and the external pockets on this L.L. Bean bag are handy for storing essentials like car keys or your phone.
A Bright Tasseled Beach Blanket
This extra large beach blanket has a classic striped design that’ll never go out of style, and comes with a convenient canvas and leather strap to carry it from your car to the sand. There’s even a convenient hole to place a beach umbrella, so you can stay cool in the shade.
If You Are Dreaming Of An Oceanside Resort But Stuck At Home
This inflatable pool has an understated design that was constantly sold out last summer. The modern design and earth tones make it cool and quirky rather than a sad reminder of the island vacations that could have been.
Or If You Wish You Were On A Yacht
Sure, you can try to finesse your way onto someone’s boat this summer, but buying this inflatable pool float takes way less effort. There’s a ton of space to lounge with a beach read or to take a pool nap, and there’s even a little section towards the front where you can load it up with drinks or snacks.
Regardless of whether or not the sun is shining on your 4th of July Weekend, you’ll want to keep a bottle of sunscreen on hand whenever you’re outside. We’re big fans of Supergoop’s mineral based sunscreen, which is a breeze to apply and deflects the sun’s harmful UV rays.
A Lightweight Bottle To Keep You Hydrated
Since my beach trips typically last all day, I usually bring at least two water bottles to stay hydrated. An extra-large Nalgene is lightweight and has handy measurement lines on the side of the bottle so you can keep track of your water intake.
A Bottle That Stores Your Valuables
Going to the beach is fun. Getting your stuff stolen while you’re vibing in the waves is decidedly not. You can tuck your essentials like keys, Airpods, and credit cards into the base of this water bottle to keep them safe.
Growing up in Texas, barbecues and grilling were an essential part of my family’s 4th of July traditions and routines. Now that I live in New York City, I don’t exactly have the space (or money) to invest in a smoker, but these items will definitely help you upgrade your grilling situation whether it be for humble hamburgers or for decadently seasoned pieces of chicken and veggies.
Some Grilling Planks To Smoke Up Your Mains
It’s all about the planks this grilling season. Placing these soaked wood planks on the grill can lend notes of smokiness, sweetness, or even spice to grilled fish, veggies, and more. If it’s your first time, this sample pack lets you try various types of wood so you can experiment with methods and flavors.
A Less Messy Basting Solution
I’m still trying to nail down a perfect Filipino barbecue recipe, but this set is a crucial element to my grill setup. The pot allows me to keep my basting liquid close by, and the integrated brush minimizes the mess on my prep station. The silicone bristles are ideal for drenching food in sauces or for light dabs of an olive oil and herb mixture. Plus, the whole thing is easy to clean and dishwasher safe.
The Reliable Cooler
If your barbecue is anywhere other than your house, you’re going to need a cooler. Yeti’s Tundra cooler is the gold standard in terms of insulation and durability, so you can stash items like cheese, burgers, and more.
Prep And Serving Trays
Staging your food is a great way to keep your kitchen organized while cooking, and that holds especially true when it comes to grilling. These prep and serve trays help you prevent any cross contamination between raw and cooked foods, and the raised texture on the trays will help catch excess drippings.
A Grill You Can Pack With You
If you live in a big city and don’t rely on a car for transportation, getting a grill to and from your barbecue destination can be a unique challenge. Luckily, this grill from Everdure weighs only 15 pounds and has handles to easily carry to your destination (it would also fit into a large totebag or backpack).
Reusable Skewers For Summer Veggies
My latest obsession is charring up thin slices of zucchini, red onion, and bell peppers on my grill, then hitting it with a bright balsamic vinegar just before serving. It’s a bit lighter than standard July 4th fare, and is simple to make. These stainless steel skewers are great if you want to reduce single-use waste and they also eliminate the annoying step of soaking wood skewers ahead of time.
Some Grilling Flavor Essentials
Brightland’s lemon-infused olive oil is perfect for Mediterranean-style grilling and brightening up charred meats or veggies. This set also includes a Wildwood cedar plank and J.Q. Dickinson heirloom salt. Use it to add complex flavors to your grilled dishes and consider grabbing a second one: it also makes for a great gift.
Reusable Cooler Inserts
When loading up my cooler for a trip, I typically stack my drinks and food between layers of ice to make sure everything stays evenly cool. I also like using these soft packs for the sides and tops of my cooler, so I can keep my beer ice cold without having to plunge my hand into ice water to grab a can.
If You Want To Grill On A Budget
You can’t go wrong with Weber’s kettle grill for a barbecue on a budget. Simply load it up with some charcoal and you’re on your way to enjoying burgers, hot dogs, and whatever else your heart desires.
I didn’t go camping until I was an adult, but my Eagle Scout boyfriend has taught me the value of always being prepared. If you plan on spending extended periods in the great outdoors for the long weekend, it’s better to over prepare than to need something and not have it. Along with your sleeping bag and a solid pair of hiking boots, these are the other camping cooking and chilling essentials that are handy to bring along for a holiday getaway.
Keep Drinks Cool With An Insulated Backpack
If you’re camping in a more remote area this 4th of July, you may not be able to haul a heavy hard-sided cooler to your campsite. Luckily this ICEMULE cooler backpack is great at insulating drinks and snacks, and is leakproof to prevent ice cold water from draining onto your back.
A Blanket For Any Outdoor Situation
Rumpl’s puffy blankets are made with 100% post-consumer recycled material (ie, earth-friendly!). They’re warm enough for cozy nights at a cabin or campsite and highly durable so you can place it on the ground for a picnic without ripping or getting soaked. Another great feature: they’re easy to compress and pack in your camping pack. Bring one in case someone gets cold, or just keep it on hand in your car in case of a spontaneous picnic or park hang.
Be Prepared WIth A First Aid Flashlight Combo
A first aid should be a part of anyone’s 4th of July starter pack, not just if you’re camping. This set from Vssl combines a basic first aid kit with a flashlight, so you’ll be prepared for just about anything.
If You Want Precise Camp Cooking
Cooking your 4th of July meal over an open fire or basic camp grill is satisfying to watch and nostalgic, but sometimes you want more control over your heat and cooking. This two burner camp stove has integrated windscreens to maintain consistent flame on your pans, preventing wild temperature fluctuations.
An AeroPress For Perfect Camp Coffee
Many things are easy to take to a campsite for a rural getaway, but great coffee is not one of them. Unless you have an Aeropress that is. The coffee produced with an Aeropress is smooth and rich, and is ideal for groggy camping mornings.
If You’re More Of A Chai Person
I typically go the instant coffee route when I camp, simply because it reduces the amount of things I have to pack. I know that might sound like nails on a chalkboard to coffee enthusiasts, but I’ve found that the powders from Alpine Start are halfway decent in flavor, and are super easy to make (my method: dump a packet into my travel mugwith water, then vigorously shake). The dirty chai flavor is my favorite, as it has enough caffeine from black tea and a little bit of coffee to get me started, but isn’t so potent that I’m too wired. I also love that these can be used with either hot or cold water, so I can enjoy an iced chai latte before a summer hike.
An Easy To Move Cooler
If you plan on taking a long weekend this 4th of July to camp, a hard-sided cooler with wheels brings the best of both worlds in terms of keeping food cool for days and portability.
An Outdoor Game You Can Play Into The Night
Cornhole is basically the unofficial 4th of July party or car camping past-time. It’s easy to play outdoors, you can do so while drinking, and it doesn’t require super elaborate set up or explanation. This set is regulation size (for folks who are sticklers about official rules) and also has LED lights inside the board, so it’s easy to see and play even after the sun sets.
Food And Drinks
I find it best to delegate ingredients and drinks amongst guests so I don’t end up spending a few hundred bucks on feeding everyone and hosting. Trust your most responsible friends with the necessities (burgers, buns, beer), and assign less crucial tasks to your flakier guests (condiments or less popular sides). I still end up buying a few things, either because I’m particular about getting specific ingredients or for dishes that require longer prep or marination time. These items are all ideal if you want to mix up the traditional burgers and hot dogs situation, or if you just want to elevate the day’s dishes.
A Gut-Friendly Soda
You’ll probably be eating lots of delicious foods this holiday weekend, including burgers, grilled proteins, chips, and more. While I love any and all July 4th adjacent foods, they don’t always agree with my stomach, so I’ll be packing these prebiotic sodas to keep my tummy happy. They taste kind of like a cross between a soda and kombucha, and I’ve found they help settle my stomach after a day of grilling, eating and drinking with abandon.
A Cheesy Twist For Veggie Skewers
You truly can’t go wrong with grilling veggies, meats, or anything else on a stick, but I’ve been really into adding this spicy paneer into the mix lately. It doesn’t melt and instead has a wonderful warm, somewhat chewy texture after hanging out on the grill between slices of zucchini and red onion.
A Fancier Mayo For Burgers
I’ll probably cheap out on the actual burgers I use this July 4th weekend by buying frozen patties (sorry to all my friends reading this list) but I’ll go extra hard on condiments to bring out great flavors. Truff’s spicy mayo is perfect for smearing across a toasted burger bun, and this two-pack comes with a regular truffle-infused mayo for friends who can’t handle heat.
Some Refreshing Seltzers
Our Editorial Director Diana Tsui can’t get enough of these seltzers from Sanzo. They come in flavors like Lychee, Calamansi (my favorite) and Mango, and honestly put other seltzers to shame in terms of flavor and taste. These are a great non-alcoholic option that isn’t just a sad 2-liter bottle of soda, and they’d make a pretty solid mixer for cocktails too.
Summer Ready Vinegars To Brighten Up Salads And Slaws
A splash of vinegar is a great way to brighten up everything from salad dressings to grilled veggies or proteins. These flavored vinegars can be tailored for just about any marinade situation, and are made with pure, fermented ingredients. With flavors like black garlic, ramp (!!!), and red miso, you truly cannot miss by adding these to your cooking arsenal.
The Best Black Bean Burgers
If your 4th of July guest list includes vegetarians or anyone else who may avoid meat, these are my go-to black bean veggie burgers. They’re filled with a Southwestern blend of black beans, corn, tomatoes and onions that happily meld together in the burger, and provide plenty of protein. Just note that they’re not vegan, so you’ll want to grill up some veggies or tofu for those on a fully plant-based diet.
Some All Purpose Seasoning Salts
I’ve been using these savory, tingly, and spicy salts from Momofuku Pantry on everything from grilled tofu skewers, grilled veggies, or even just seasoning my everyday meals. Purchase the variety 3-pack, and you can make delicious and flavorful July 4th meals with minimal effort and stress.
I’m definitely a brats over hot dogs person, so I’m willing to pay top dollar for flavorful sausages like beer brats, Italian sausages and more from Catskill Food Company. You can also choose less traditional flavors, like Tzatziki, Maple Date, and Dumpling Sausages to switch things up.
A Hard Booch
Writer Devine Blacksher loves Juneshine’s hard kombucha so much she wrote a love letter to it. Grab a pack or two to bring to a casual Independence Day kickback or keep some for yourself to enjoy all weekend long. Devine prefers the Blood Orange Mint flavor, but this Honey Ginger Lemon would also go great with other summer cookout foods and flavors.