These must-haves make an ordinary backyard feel like a mini vacation.

By Emily Hsieh
Updated June 15, 2018
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Thayer Allyson Gowdy

No pool? No problem. Create a cooling oasis with some clever water-centric activities. Amp up the joy of running through sprinklers by tossing beach balls back and forth through the spray. A water table filled with plastic bowls, measuring cups, and floating toys will keep toddlers engaged for hours (or close to it). Offer extra shade with umbrellas: If half your yard is shaded, estimate one umbrella per 8 to 10 people; if you have zero coverage, go with one umbrella per five or six people. Party-rental companies offer umbrellas that can be borrowed for about $20 a day.

Enchanted Sprinkler

The only thing better than a sprinkler in the summertime? How about a sprinkler that's also a giant inflatable unicorn. Talk about magical! 

To buy: Ginormous Unicorn Yard Sprinkler, $50;

Oversize Umbrella

As you watch your kids splash in the sprinkler, lounge under this luxurious striped umbrella. It will protect you from the sun—and make you feel like you're on a tropical island. 

To buy: Peacoat Blue Stripe 10-foot cantilever outdoor umbrella, $170;

Beach Ball Sprinkler

What looks like large beach ball is actually just a disguise for a sprinkler. Considering the hours of entertainment this sprinkler provides, it's well-worth its $15 price tag. 

To buy: Little Tikes Ultimate Beach Ball sprinkler, $15;

Bubble Machine

Want to really wow your kids? Order this bubble machine, which magically whips up thousands (yes, thousands!) of bubbles per minute on the highest speed setting.

To buy: 1byone Portable Bubble Machine, $40;

Balloon Bunch

Water balloon fights are fun, but the prep required to fill dozens of balloons is not. A quick solution? Just hook up the hose to these self-sealing balloons and turn on the water—they do the rest of the work for you. 

To buy: Zuru self-sealing water balloons, $29 for 300;

Vibrant Hose

If you're building an at-home water park in your own backyard, you're going to want to upgrade your ugly outdoor hose. This vibrant yellow option does the trick. 

To buy: Dramm ColorStorm premium rubber hose, $58;

Gas Grill

This powerful gas grill heats up quickly (in just 5 minutes or less), while flame control taps let you select a precise heat setting. The fact that it comes in four stylish colors, including mint and orange, is just an added bonus. 

To buy: Everdure by Heston Blumenthal The Furnace grill, $900;

Graphic Chair

Lounge in style in a beautiful teak sling chair, available in your choice of eight fabric options to match your outdoor space. 

To buy: Teak sling chair, $358;

Colorful Cooler

Sturdy, lockable, UV-resistant, even certified grizzly bear-proof, there's nothing this high-tech, portable cooler can't handle. 

To buy: Yeti Roadie 20 Cooler, $200;

Play Station

The surefire way to have a fun summer (no vacation necessary): order this sand and water table for your kids. It will provide hours of fun, and it doesn't even require leaving the backyard. 

To buy: Sand and Water table, $399; for similar.