Play Features

1. Bocce ball court. Often what makes a backyard fun is a feature that brings people together socially for a little light competition. There are many games that fit the bill, but bocce ball is high on the list. It’s a relatively easy game for people of almost any age to learn and play. Its design and construction is generally straightforward and inexpensive. And the flat area can be used for other games and activities. Plus, bocce ball is just fun.What to Know About Adding a Backyard Bocce Ball Court

2. Putting green. Riddle says he’s been getting a lot of requests for bocce ball courts as well as putting greens. “We see a lot of neighborhood dads who get together for cigars and putting contests,” he says.

3. Cornhole. Here’s a super low-commitment lawn game. To play, opponents throw corn-filled bags at a raised platform to score points. Simple enough for almost any age, and it can be set up and taken down as needed, no permanent installation required. “We do a lot of combination play areas for things like cornhole that can also be just a play surface for young kids,” Riddle says.

Shop for a cornhole set

Kid Features

4. Treehouse.
 Speaking of young kids, is there anything higher on a kid’s backyard wish list than a treehouse? Construction can be something as complex as a real house, requiring a team of design and building professionals, or simple enough for a family DIY project.7 Tips for Designing a Backyard Treehouse Like a Pro

5. Tent. Backyard camping is another dream activity for kids — and adults. A basic tent will work, or consider a more elaborate glamping-style setup like the one shown here.
6. Play structure. An outdoor play structure keeps kids entertained and moving. Consider swing sets, climbing walls, zip lines, slides and monkey bars.

Exercise Features

7. Outdoor gym. Many design and building professionals have seen a rise in requests for outdoor exercising spaces. A simple shade structure can help keep your surface dry and cool, and it can protect equipment like weights and other gear from weather damage.

8. Yoga or meditation space. Many people have also been looking to their outdoor spaces for a sense of peace and rejuvenation, something a yoga or meditation space can provide. The yoga studio shown here by Chace Architecture sits in a leafy, tranquil Boston backyard with a Japanese-style sand garden and small, intimate walking paths to various zen-like destinations.

Designer Katie Burnet of Rumor Design + reDesign says you can also create a pared-down yoga or meditation spot. “It can look like a space for a mat with some potted plants nearby for greenery, maybe a small water feature or even outdoor artwork if wall space is available,” she says.

9. Basketball court. The NBA Playoffs have a lot of people thinking about basketball right now. And while a front driveway is a common spot for the basket, a backyard makes much more sense from a safety standpoint. The location eliminates the possibility of kids chasing a ball into the street.

If you’re not keen on going the poured concrete route, look for outdoor modular tiles that snap together to create a DIY basketball court. The tiles are perforated to allow water to drain through.

Water Features

10. Small pool. A swimming pool is the ultimate backyard amenityBut bigger isn’t always better. Riddle says he’s designing and building much smaller pools these days, in the range of 4,000 to 7,500 gallons rather than the typical 25,000 to 30,000 gallons.

These smaller custom designs can be heated to hot tub temperatures or cooled to plunge pool comfort. They can feature powerful swim jets that allow a user to tread water in place to mimic swimming laps. And they can be controlled from a phone app. “They also have in-floor cleaning systems so they are just much less to maintain,” Riddle says.

11. Water slide. OK, sometimes bigger is better. And what would a list of fun backyard ideas be without a water slide? Every kid’s fantasy, it turns a backyard pool into a high-energy water park.
Supple Homes, Inc
12. Outdoor shower. For some people, even a small pool is too much to maintain and too much of an expense. An outdoor shower is one alternative. If you need a quick cool-off on a hot day, just step under the spray. Install hot and cold functions to adjust the comfort level, which is handy when it comes to washing pets too.
Alterra Landscape Design

Relaxing Features

13. Outdoor living room. Perhaps above all else, people want their backyards to be relaxing extensions of their interior living spaces. And the best way to do that is to mimic those living spaces with outdoor sofas, tables, rugs, chairs, fireplaces, TVs and other comfortable features.

Shop for outdoor furniture

14. Tiled patio. Here’s another neat interior idea to bring outdoors. Patterned floor tile can be used to create a stylish patio space. “We see man-made tiles like porcelain being used in outdoor settings, but it is important to use a nonslip version of these tiles so when wet they do not become dangerous,” designer Burnet says. “Typically the bold, patterned tiles we are seeing are either a porcelain or a concrete tile. Porcelain, as a man-made tile, will typically have more resistance to staining and wear over time, while concrete will naturally darken and show wear spots over time. Sealing is also required for maintenance, but this ‘worn’ look the concrete develops can be a desired look for that old-world, farmhouse feel.”

15. Hammock. Few things create a relaxing backyard more easily than a hammock. If you don’t don’t have two trees or posts available, look for stand-alone alternatives like the one shown here.

Shop for hammocks

16. Swing bed. If you find hammocks tough to navigate, consider a swing bed for a porch or garden.
17. Sun bed. Or lounge poolside on a sun bed, like the custom ones shown here. “These low, lounge-y sun beds are hip yet sophisticated,” says designer Ginger Curtis of Urbanology Designs. “They are extra deep, thick with a cushion and super wide.”

Fire Features

18. Fire table. Fire pits and other fire features have been around for years, but Felipe Reyes of landscape design-build firm Reyes Landscape Construction says he’s seeing a lot of requests for gas fire tables. “It’s got a flame in the middle but there’s a landing place for wine or a cheese plate,” he says.

19. Fire lounge. Everyone likes lounging in front of a fireplace. So consider bringing that concept outside with a focal-point outdoor fireplace and comfy cushions.
20. Aromatic fire pit. Here’s a unique idea. These homeowners have steel storage boxes filled with various aromatic firewoods that create different scents and moods when burned in their fire pit. Pinon wood is a favorite, but there’s also mesquite, hickory and others.

Entertaining Features

21. Grass deck. A common complaint about hardscaping is that it radiates heat in the summer and makes unshaded lounge areas unbearable to use. An area with grass or artificial turf, like the Oklahoma City lounge space shown here, is a good solution. “Artificial turf has gotten so good recently,” says Reid Schindler of SchindlerDesignCo. “The look and durability has improved. The temperature used to be so hot you couldn’t hang out on it, but the technology has gotten 10 times better in the last 10 years. We’re now using it in half the projects we do.”

22. Pass-through. If you want to keep guests or kids in the backyard, a pass-through is a great way to serve up drinks and food without heavy foot traffic to your kitchen.

23. Pizza oven. An outdoor pizza oven is a fun social activity for kids and guests. Let everyone roll their own dough and add their favorite toppings, then gather around to watch the wood-burning oven bake perfectly crisp crusts.

How to Get a Pizza Oven for the Patio

Lighting Features

24. String lights. Outdoor lighting is just as important outdoors as it is indoors, and there are just as many options. Solar-powered stake lights are good for lighting garden paths and flower beds, but for lounge areas nothing creates a lively, inviting atmosphere quite like string lights.

How to Hang String Lights Outdoors

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25. Streetlight. Another fun lighting idea is a streetlight. The vintage design in this Chicago backyard gives the walking path a transformative feel, like strolling down a romantic city street.