Come on over and have all this fun
October 22, 2009 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Tips for entertaining: I'd like to have more friends over to my apartment, but it's boring in here!

It seems like I don't have a lot to do when friends come over except watch a big dumb TV.

I'm looking for ideas such as activities to do (play Celebrity!), but I am really wondering what "hooks" you have to make your place a destination. Classic examples might include a pool table or a poker night, and a more modern example would be a Wii. Along the same lines, Rock Band is great, but another friend has that covered. The less expensive, the better!

For some context, I am a mid-twenties male, and my friends are all around my age.
posted by neca to Society & Culture (38 answers total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on how geeky your friends are, board game night could work.
posted by ignignokt at 11:05 AM on October 22, 2009

We usually crowd around a) the Apple TV (movies, TV, YouTube) b) the piano or c) the coffee table (drinking! and chatting)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:07 AM on October 22, 2009

Simple trick I've seen work -- separate the food from the drink by putting the food on one side of the room, and the drinks waaay on the other side of the apartment. It leads people to move around and interact.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:13 AM on October 22, 2009 [6 favorites]

My place is one of the default gathering places for my friends. Although I do have a Wii, it's rarely brought out. The "hooks" that I have are a central location and a tolerance for stuff being spilled on my carpet. My place is fairly open concept in design (if a little small), so people always feel they're at the same party even if they're in different areas.

If your friends are into wine, host a wine night. Everyone brings a bottle of wine that they like, it's shared and people can talk about it if they'd like. If you want to focus it a little bit, limit the wines to one region or grape or whatever. Get people to bring snacks that they think would go along well with their wine.

Smaller gatherings could be based around Scrabble or one of the other classic board games. I know people that really like social games like Taboo, although they leave me a bit cold.
posted by flipper at 11:17 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

We have a monthly game night that we attend. We play really interactive games like Taboo and Catchphrase. You may want to try something similar. Different people in the group host it on different nights, but you could arguably host it all in one place. There's really nothing special required, though it's best if you can make a large circle of seats so people can get up and move around easily.
posted by scrutiny at 11:18 AM on October 22, 2009

Do you like to cook? Have a dinner party where people come early and help prepare. Set up a chopping station where 2-3 people can sit and chop, a washing station, a stove station, etc. It's more fun if it's a dinner like sushi or pizza where there's a lot of hands-on assembly required.
posted by np312 at 11:23 AM on October 22, 2009

My friends and I drink and play dominos (or cards).
posted by bradbane at 11:24 AM on October 22, 2009

Make pasta from scratch and drink a little wine. It's inexpensive, fun, gets folks involved and talking.
posted by fixedgear at 11:34 AM on October 22, 2009

A few I'd like to do/see/attend:

- poker (or other card game) night
- board game night
- horror movie night (especially relevant around Halloween)
- Christmas movie night (watch Rudolph and holler at the screen)
- MST3k night - Everyone bring one of the worst movies they have ever seen
- potluck
- Weird Beer night - have you seen some of the names of some of the smaller breweries?
- (insert name of popular TV show here) night
- Oscar Night - everyone get dressed up, act all snooty. Bonus for coming as real/created celebrity

That's all off the top of my head.
posted by willmize at 11:34 AM on October 22, 2009
posted by mokuba at 11:46 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Huh. I just invite people over who would have interesting conversations with each other. We just eat, drink and talk.
posted by Hildegarde at 11:47 AM on October 22, 2009 [5 favorites]

Crepes, savory then sweet, are fun for a (medium-sized) crowd if you get a few people to bring additional pans.
posted by teragram at 11:49 AM on October 22, 2009

"Hooks" don't have to be technological, or even all that concrete. Comfy furniture is a big plus, and it's an even bigger plus if the furniture is situated in such a way as to facilitate conversation. If everything is facing in one direction (toward the TV, for example), it's difficult to sit down and engage someone across the room in conversation.

As far as fun stuff to do, things like Charades have always been popular with my friends and family. Acting improv games like Freeze can also be a huge hit.

Have each person bring a six pack and do a beer tasting. Pretend to be all hoity-toity about it. Build an elaborate fort in your living room. Play dress-up. Play Strip Twister, or just regular Twister. Have an origami night.
posted by coppermoss at 11:50 AM on October 22, 2009

I have two friends, a married couple, whose apartment has become the designated hangout spot. Here's why:
  • Lots of seating. Big squishy comfortable couches and armchairs, and they have carpeting and lots of blankets and pillows laying out to make the floor-sitters comfortable.
  • Their DVD and board game collection is enormous.
  • They have DDR and all that, but they also own several older video game systems, and it's always really fun to play/reminisce about the games of our youth.
  • They're very into comedy and always have something new and hilarious to watch.
  • They're generous hosts in regard to food and beverage and always have a wide variety to offer.
  • They extremely laid-back and don't care about messes being made or things being spilled.
  • They're good at instigating things to do, rather than waiting for the group to come to a decision (which will never happen).
  • They have lots of weird but extremely fun parties, For example, every year they have a party on Bastille Day where everyone dresses up all French-cliché and we gorge ourselves on crepes.
And for inexpensive fun, you absolutely cannot beat Telephone Pictionary.
posted by anderjen at 11:52 AM on October 22, 2009 [12 favorites]

The games that get all my friends and I playing for hours at a time are Taboo and Scattergories. Anyone with a fondue pot (or I guess other unique cooking item) is a big hit. And I try to host theme events; lately we've been having "bad movie nights" (our personal collection of bad movies is big enough, but guests can also bring their own to share with the group).

Really I think the main "hook" is just the willingness to get your friends together and organize an event.
posted by LolaGeek at 11:53 AM on October 22, 2009

I've found my friends are more willing to come over when I offer them booze, dope, and the chance to rip CDs from my collection of Things You Missed in the 80s Because You Were Still In Diapers.

Also, my friends are all free-loading losers. YMMV.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:02 PM on October 22, 2009

Divide your friends into two teams and send them out in the neighborhood on a scavenger hunt. Your list should include all the things you need to make a great spaghetti dinner. Noodles, meat, sauce, salad, bread, olive oil, etc.

When everyone gets back prepare a dinner together. =)
posted by cainiarb at 12:11 PM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

What works for us are themed wine and cheese parties. The most successful one was a Halloween themed one with games (blindfold tasting with prizes), music, dancing, and well, getting drunk helped.

Theme==dress 60s-70s-80s. Easy, choices, everyone can identify and kick ass music to boot.

Our other wine and cheese parties have moderate success. The base is

"every person bring one bottle of wine. Every couple brings one of the following: meat, cheese, dessert, or fruit"
posted by stormpooper at 12:22 PM on October 22, 2009

An activity is nice; I invite people once a month or so to drink and brew beer. It's especially nice since the brewing gives us something to talk about and do, while I can use the extra hands when I bottle. Then, our attention is generally turned to a rock band session.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:23 PM on October 22, 2009

When I was around your age my roommate and I had trouble getting people to attend our parties. Then we started throwing cocktail parties (sometimes with a theme; we did a good tiki party) and they quickly became very popular. It's not too hard to do, although you will have to spend some money on alcohol and mixers. I also found bartending a lot of fun because it pretty much guaranteed that I'd talk to everyone at the party.

What I did was to get a good cocktail book and pick a dozen or two cocktails that I liked or went with the theme. Then I'd post a drink menu so that I didn't have to people able to make anything that people might think up.

Dinner parties are also good, but more work.
posted by pombe at 12:41 PM on October 22, 2009

I find it helpful to have musical instruments placed around the apartment, but that only works if you have friends who are so inclined. I know its the first thing I head for when I walk in to someone else's place.

Also, BitterOldPunk, I'm coming over..
posted by mannequito at 12:43 PM on October 22, 2009

Do you (and your friends) like to cook? Cooking with others is a hell of a lot of fun—you get to eat a proper home-cooked meal (with the satisfaction of having made it yourself), and because there are many hands, the chopping and cleaning up is much less of a chore. It doesn't have to be anything fancy—tacos, homemade pizza, pasta with salad and garlic bread, whatever. And it's a great excuse to drink wine. And those of the appropriate sex will dig it.

Bonus: there are endless variations here. If you (and probably an assistant or two) prepare a meal for the rest of the guests, it's a dinner party. If you do it outside, it's a cookout. If you ask the guests to bring pre-made dishes, it's a potluck. Ask guests to bring their favorite variety of cheese/chocolate/whatever, and provide appropriate accompaniments (bread and crackers with the cheese, for example).

Really, good food and drink are the best social lubricants money can buy.

Aside from that, I agree that some attention paid to the furniture and layout of your social areas can go a long way. "Cozy" is what you're going for. Arrange seating so people naturally end up facing each other instead of the TV. Softer, indirect lighting (floor lamps and table lamps) makes an amazing difference—so do plants. Having a lot of interesting stuff close by gives you something to look at and talk about together—books, a record collection (if you have a good one), art, toys, interesting stones, objects of sentimental value, etc. Pets! If you can't keep a dog or cat (or don't want to), get a fish/frog/lizard/snake/rat/hermit crab/whatever. Everyone loves animals.

Gotta run right now, but I'll try to think of more.
posted by ixohoxi at 12:44 PM on October 22, 2009

I think a welcoming home atmosphere is more than just stuff to do...I suggest the blog Apartment Therapy because of the great ideas on how to build up a great atmosphere in your home (it's way more than design ideas, but you might have to dig under the posts on throw pillows). There's a book, too, which gets to the point a little more directly.
posted by motsque at 12:48 PM on October 22, 2009

Apples to Apples has been consistently popular when I've entertained for friends.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 12:49 PM on October 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

a kegarator, comfy chairs, a BBQ, and access to multiple female friends, do these and the guys will never leave your house.
posted by kanemano at 12:51 PM on October 22, 2009

On a specific note within the cooking suggestions: we have a friend who for the last several years has hosted "Soup Sunday" at his house. He and his wife prepare two kinds of soup -- typically, one is vegetarian -- and everyone is welcome. Attendees bring brownies, rolls, ambrosia salad, beer, whatever. And they have a blog where he announces the types of soup (and any special additions, like "Wanda's peach cake") before the weekend. It's pretty fun, and it's also a great chance to check out some new and interesting recipes.

I've been struggling with this myself, particularly since I have a new and much more spacious apartment (to go with my successfully hidden case of social phobia :P). To me, one thing that makes it less intimidating is having a defined activity or time when people arrive/go home. The prospect of sitting there for hours and just plain old talking kind of terrifies me, particularly since most people assume that I'm exactly the opposite. This doesn't mean that people HAVE to go, just that they CAN.

Having people over to watch, say, Grey's Anatomy/Mad Men or a movie means that people can be friendly and find some common topic to discuss (if they want), but also find time to take breathers from the conversation. After the show is done, people can stick around or make convenient exits without feeling self-conscious about leaving early.

I've thought it would be fun to do a "dinner and a movie" night, like on TBS or whatever channel that is, where you make some sort of vaguely themed food to go with the movie.

Finally, the two games that I've most enjoyed as both conversation starters and games with few predefined parameters (time, interests, etc.) are Apples to Apples and 1000 Blank White Cards. As long as you have enough people (say, 5 or so), you can play them with any weird combination of folks who may not have even met before. Huge potential for crazy laughs.
posted by Madamina at 12:59 PM on October 22, 2009

I like a easily accessible, common use computer since so many get togethers devolve into showing off the most hilarious things seen on youtube this week. Preferably it has tons of music on there too. Desktops are nice because they are less of a spill hazard. Plus you don't have to worry about someone getting into your personal files.

There are always cool things popping up for sale on Craigslist. I like foosball.
posted by nowoutside at 1:15 PM on October 22, 2009

ReadyMade magazine had a pretty good feature called "Big Night In" where they gave suggestions on party-hosting ideas.

Their digital magazine lets you read about hosting a movie night.
posted by carpyful at 1:31 PM on October 22, 2009

Pets are good. My friends and I once spent a pretty entertaining night drinking, talking, and cat fishing (long piece of string with a cat toy on the end, the winner is whoever gets the cat all the way back to their lap.)

But then, we also once spent a night talking, lighting strike-on-anything matches with our thumbnails, and flicking them at one another. It's amazing that we were actually safer after we discovered booze.

Pen and paper RPGs were always a lot of fun too; we would start an adventure, and every night, someone else would take over and be the judge/DM for the same characters from where ever we left off.

Unexpectedly entertaining, particularly when someone tried to use it as an opportunity to undo something silly that was done to them earlier. If your friends are anything like mine, it will lead to... escalations and other forms of brinkmanship.
posted by quin at 3:37 PM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Our house has become a hang-out spot, and I think several have touched on why:

*We are pretty laid back, you can take your shoes off, you can leave them on, whatev.

*We have invested in a decent bar, and replenish it as needed (cheaper that way, or so it seems) and everyone knows I will offer them a tasty drink.

*Like Bitter Old Punk, we have smokables, and freely use children in our house usually, so we don't have to crowd in to the bathroom for this.

*We sort of go theme-y, if it's an invitation type thing. (people seem to love having a direction to go in.)

*Wine and Cheese party
*pot luck suppers
*wii night

***Most importantly: MUSIC

We don't even turn the TV on, since it seems to cause people to totally drone out and get sleepy, at which point they want to go home (naturally).

Unless it is specific to the night- Do NOT turn on the television, turn on the music.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 4:38 PM on October 22, 2009

I agree with the point that it's more about the atmosphere than the offerings. My friend's house used to be the place to be. It was comfortable, he was chill, and you could essentially drop by whenever - and he didn't care. The demise? He got married. And that's not a problem in itself but now he insists that you use coasters, put your shoes on the rack immediately upon entry, and put away your glasses as soon as you're finished with your drink. It's weird because his wife doesn't care about any of those things. Needless to say, I don't visit his place as often anymore.

If it's a hook you're looking for, my friends and I used to do something called Music Night. Every Tuesday night, we'd go over to someone's house and bring a track to share. It could be anything - there were no rules. We'd usually go around in a circle and people would play their song (most of the time through iPods but occasionally through CDs or records). It was great and the spectrum of music was awesome (gangsta rap to folk and everything in between). We all looked forward to it every week.
posted by 913 at 5:27 PM on October 22, 2009

My house is known for three things: Karaoke (used PS2 and about ten (used) discs, total investment about $150), bubble tea (giant bag of bubbles, plus flavor syrup--less than $50, and you've got monthly gatherings for six to eight people covered for about a year), and sushi (rice, veg, rolling mats and nori, $10, tops).

For certain friends, we are also known for late-night cigars and whiskey.

These things are enough to convince people to come over on a fairly regular basis, despite the fact that we have eight cats, a dog, a six-year-old daughter (who karaokes with us), and a large hole in the dining room ceiling that leaks when you run the upstairs shower.

Figure out what your friends like, and then provide that. Do it without making a big deal out of it, and make your house as comfortable as possible. Let people show up and hang out without having to worry about the mechanics of what's happening.
posted by MeghanC at 9:33 PM on October 22, 2009

settlers of catan
posted by jannw at 11:01 PM on October 22, 2009

Make a fort. Make a house-wide-fort. Make an out-door fort. Baking parties! Corny dance parties! Arts and crafts parties! Turn a hall closet into a make-shift photobooth. Drinking games. Drunken charades. Design a neighborhood scavanger hunt. Have one night a week where one friend instructs everyone how to cook a specialty dish. Throw a Speakeasy party where you dress up in 30s/40s styles and play good jazz and drink moonshine. Make moonshine! Start a project like home brewing beer or the easier route, home wine fermenting. Learn to make your own cheese while you're at it!

Houses that have been the one stop party shop in my life were always lively, charming and dynamic not just when it was get-together-time, but all the time. The inhabitants were infectiously curious and constantly doing at least one interesting thing a month to keep the dust unsettled. That being said, everyone loves a good board game night.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 2:16 AM on October 23, 2009

Oh, and in my experience the central, essential, over-arching social unifier is the outdoor grill. Get one and master the hell out of it.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 2:24 AM on October 23, 2009

Friends of mine who always throw successful parties have a simple recipe: great food and lots of it, great alcohol and lots of it, way more people than the house can reasonably hold, and great music. Better when they mix groups of friends who don't usually interact.

Successful past parties I've hosted have included:

- sangria (multiple variations)
- 3 kinds of cheese fondue
- chocolate fountain
- Apples to Apples
- card games (my family generally plays a modified version of rummy)

Key elements always include:
- lots and lots of chairs lining the room, including one in front of the TV (facing away from it)
- pull all the extra furniture out of the big room (i.e. if you can't sit on it or it doesn't have food/drinks on it, it goes)
- alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks
- put the glasses out where people can get them themselves
- food you can eat with just hands and a napkin
- background music

My last party also included a dancing toddler. She was a hit. YMMV.
posted by heatherann at 8:09 AM on October 23, 2009

Eat Poop You Cat!
posted by jpdoane at 11:35 AM on October 24, 2009

Yeah, movie night does kinda cause the zone-out-sleepy factor sometimes, but it can also be a nice way to see a recent flick without dropping dime on the theaters.

I invested about $600 in a decent HD home theater projector, and ever since, I have been the go-to apartment when folks feel like a movie night. Just do a nice dinner before hand and a couple bottles of wine, and have plenty of comfy leather seating.

Its a nice back-up when you're feeling lazy or non-creative, which happens sometimes. I've also done lots of theme parties (Napoleon Dynamite, etc.), holiday parties (X-mas, 4th of July BBQ, etc.), poker nights, board games, etc..

I think the most important thing is focusing on having a comfortable place to lounge, and being a laid-back and generous host. Everything else kind of figures itself out.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:39 AM on October 28, 2009

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