How to Rock a Block Party

Keep your neighborhood strong with a timeless tradition.

There are a few things as lovely and reminiscent as a summer block party. I am a huge fan of them, and have helped run mine for years. Not only do they give my kids something to look forward to in the summer, but they also serve as a great way to bring together your neighbors. Investing time into building a good relationship with your neighbors pays off. It gives everyone a sense of unity, one that can help make your neighborhood safer. It’s also great when you have a neighbor who won’t leave packages on your doorstep when you’re away! 

There are lots of types of block parties but here are some of the themes  and ideas that I have personally used that have been very successful.


Most blocks will require a permit, especially if you will be closing off the street for some period of an evening. You also need the permission of the majority of your neighbors to close the street. Always check with your local government if a permit is required.

Get a group of people to help with the planning. It’s a good way to spend time with the neighbors as well as ensure you have agreement among the majority of the block. You can’t please everyone every year, but try to hear out suggestions as they come up. If you can get everyone’s email address it will make communications about the party and planning easier. If not, you can just use the old flyer in the mailbox. Try not to pick a date when people are generally out of town. Have a rain date established in advance.

Talk to your neighbors and decide if this is a neighbors only event or one that friends and family can attend. I have planned both types and it really comes down to the preference of the group. If you’re doing a DJ or rentals, people with more guests will tend to pitch in extra. These guests can also help fund the party via the raffle I’ll discuss later. You could keep it simpler, more of a meet and greet with just your neighbors and do a potluck dinner on the street.

Funding & Budget

Block parties can be as big budget or low budget as you are can afford. If you are looking to do rentals of items like a DJ or inflatables, then try to establish a per house fee for those living on the block. If you have a goal budget in mind, divide it by the number of households participating. Alternately, you could just choose a fee, but the first year you do it you should take everyone consideration. This will go a long way in paving the relationship for future parties and participation. Keep a thorough record of who did what, who paid for what, who gave him money, who didn’t give money, and what vendor you used and what they were paid. It will help you keep track this year as well as with planning the next year.

A good way to raise money to fund the block party is a 50-50 raffle. This type of “game” allows the sport of winning money as well as creating a fund for your party. There are lots of ways to run it, but essentially you sell raffle tickets and the winner gets half the pot and the other half goes to the party fund. This will gain popularity each year, and that means the pot gets bigger too.


Carnival Theme

A carnival theme is classic and doesn’t have to break the bank. There are many simple games that can be made in a carnival style. You can build simple games like:

  • Can Knockdown/ Tin Can Alley (stack cans in a pyramid and knock down with a ball)
  • Watergun Shoot Out (place 3 golf tees in a piece of foam, top with three ping pong balls, first to shoot them off with a water gun wins)
  • Bucket Ball (Line up five buckets, write a point value on each, player gets three balls to reach a score of 10)

I have even gone as far as building a Plinko board, and it has gotten a good amount of use between my parties and friends I’ve loaned it to.

Carnival games do need prizes, but this can be as simple as a bag of candy or as complex as a ticket to be exchanged for prizes.

If someone has artistic skills, face paint is always a fun activity for kids.

Luau Theme

This could mean everyone wears Hawaiian shirts and sets up citronella torches in their front yard. If you have an avid griller on the block, you could consider doing a roast pig.

Winter In Summer

Bring out your Santa hats and holiday decorations. Serve shaved ice. Make paper snowflake streamers.

Red, White & Blue

American themes are always a hit. Most people have decorations that fit the bill, and you can find just about anything with flags on it for decoration.


As for entertainment, there are a lot of service sites, like gigsalad, where you can post a job description and providers will bid to come and get your job. You can get magicians, balloon twisters, face painters, even fire dancers for a very reasonable price. I would advise taking a look at the entertainer’s Facebook page for some of the videos so you can actually get a peek at their skill level because not everyone is quite as “magic” is they say.

If you can’t afford a DJ, you could certainly make a playlist on a phone or laptop and hook it up to someone’s speakers. When you’re planning timing on your event, try to be considerate about when the DJ plays in relation to not only city ordinances but also elderly neighbors and those with babies that might be put out by the loud music being played today.

Inflatables and dunk tanks are great fun if you can afford them. But, I highly recommend hiring an attendant or finding a responsible parent to watch the kids in these because they get crazy!

Other activities that cost very little for the kids to do: a neighborhood scavenger hunt, a bike parade, and a make your own musical instrument parade. Generally parents will have a collection of leftover party supplies or craft supplies that can be used to help decorate bikes or use recycled materials to make musical instruments. We also have done a chalk drawing contest on the street itself. There are no shortage of ideas for games and activities on Pinterest that a block party is the perfect venue for.

Have fun with your neighbors.

Block parties are a great way to get some face time with your neighbors while also having fun. It can be a tradition that everyone gets to look forward to (and remembers fondly). Keeping your neighbors feeling like a community makes your feel safer and more protected in the event you should ever need assistance. Plus, it’s a great excuse for a party.


About the Author: