15 Lakeside Family Reunion Ideas for All Ages
September 14, 2017
It’s hard enough to throw a party for a handful of local buddies but when you’re organizing a family reunion the stakes – and the to-do list – are suddenly exponentially bigger. How are you going to honor your collective family heritage? What’s everyone going to do the whole time they’re there? Where is there, anyway? Where do you even start.
From location suggestions to recommendations for where to go and what to do once you’re there, we’ve got family reunion ideas suitable for all ages so everyone from your brand new baby nephew to your 90-year-old great aunt Betty Lou is sure to have an unforgettable time.
- Send Out Invites Early
Chances are your family is scattered around the country of even the world. It may take people days in the car or multiple plane rides to reach your reunion destination and having the ability to plan things out way ahead of time could mean the difference between a slew of acceptances and a disappointing number of negative RSVPs. How early is early? Some 42% of people surveyed say they started planning their reunion 13 to 18 months beforehand. A “Save the Date” card can be mailed out months before you even have an exact venue and other essential details ironed out. The important thing is that everyone has a head’s up
- Plan Outside the Box
Summer is the go-to season for family reunions (more than 65% of reunions take place in summer months) but there are plenty of get-togethers held throughout the rest of the year, too. In fact, holding your reunion in fall, winter, or spring might allow you to come up with creative alternatives to tried-and-true activities and you could save money on off-peak accommodations and transportation options as well. Instead of swimming all the kids can make snow forts or jump in leaf piles. Instead of sunburns, you have an opportunity to ward off the fall chill with a bonfire and s’mores.
- Create a Reunion Website
With a little bit of know-how and a modicum of effort, you can set up your very own family reunion website for less than the cost of a couple cups of coffee per month.
- Snag a custom URL like “SmithFamilyReunion.com” that will be easy for everyone to remember
- Use a free template from WordPress or a similar site to set up a basic layout
- Create a message board so everyone can keep in touch
- Build spaces (there are plenty of free plug-ins and widgets available) where everyone can add photos and videos from the reunion itself
- For bonus points, tie the site into dedicated social media accounts so people can stay connected that way as well
- For double bonus points, designate a personalized hashtag to accompany all reunion-related posts (#smithfamily2017, for example)
- Book a Block of Rooms – or a Whole Resort
Far too often, people plan out reunions with only a central city in mind instead of narrowing the location down to specific lodging. As a result, family members are spread out miles and miles apart and transportation becomes a serious problem. What’s the point in trekking halfway around the world to see each other if you’re barely going to see each other? Having everyone stay under the same roof (or a collection of adjacent roofs) lets spontaneity come into play. Even better, the kiddos won’t need rides back and forth to their cousins’ hotel and you’ll have all the important amenities close at hand. The Lake House offers convenience and privacy in one lovely package. Individual families can settle into their own cottages upon arrival but rest easy knowing that they’re a short walk to the rest of the group whenever they feel like visiting.
- Leave Home for the Holidays
It may be one of the most controversial of our lakeside family reunion ideas but maybe it’s time to leave home for the holidays. What if you had Thanksgiving at one of the Berkshire’s waterfront restaurants? How about a white Christmas in the shadow of the snow-capped mountains? Rather than trying to cram eight branches of the family into one small home, give yourself space to enjoy your relatives – and toast the season – by combining a reunion and a holiday getaway into one terrific vacation.
- Use Inspiration from Your Old Yearbooks
Remember those awards you voted on in high school for things like Biggest Class Clown and Most Likely to Marry Their High School Sweetheart? Get creative with the titles and you have an excellent idea for custom certificates you can hand out to the whole clan. Award those who’ve traveled the farthest, celebrate the couple with the most grandchildren, or take note of perfect attendance.
- Invest in a Photo Booth
There’s a reason portable photo booths are popping up at events ranging from prom nights to high-end weddings. There is no party that doesn’t lend itself to the fun and frivolity of impromptu pictures accented by a wacky collection of silly props. Try to rent a booth that prints out duplicate photos so each subject can keep picture and hand the duplicate up on a bulletin board for the remainder of the reunion. Booths that save digital copies are also great because those images can be uploaded to the website (see above) for everyone to giggle, ooh, and aah over later.
- Compile a Book of Family Recipes
Encourage everyone to bring their favorite recipe and collect them all for a family cookbook. Having access to everything from Grandma’s signature strawberry jam to your cousin’s crazy Indian-Mexican burrito concoction ensures years of deliciousness combined with a hefty side dish of sentimentality. You can also ask everyone for a small monetary contribution that will cover costs of printing up your culinary masterpiece and sending copies to everyone who’s interested.
- Take Advantage of Your Surroundings
When in Rome, right? Part of the charm of vacationing in a special locale is absorbing and participating in everything that area has to offer. In the Berkshires, that often means hitting the great outdoors. While you’re in western Massachusetts, put any or all of the following on your family’s to-do list:
- Visit Ramblewild for adventurous family bonding like you’ve never experienced before
- Hike Mt. Greystone
- Bike the 110-mile Ashuwillticook Rail Trail
- Go on a scavenger hunt through the flower-filled expanse of Bartholomew’s Cobble
- Admire the view from the William Stanley Overlook at Great Barrington Housatonic River Walk
- Picnic, ski, hike, or snowshoe (depending on the season) around scenic Notchview
- Canoe down the Housatonic River
- Stick close to your home away from home and paddleboard, swim, fish, or kayak on the shimmering waters of Pontoosuc Lake (The Lake House even has some equipment on hand for guests to use)
- Have a Field Day
Any list of great family reunion ideas has to include some fun and games. You can waste money on a giant bounce house or you can bring back a welcome dose of nostalgia and introduce the kids to the concept of a field day. Organizing and amassing supplies for games like hula-hooping, a water balloon ring toss, gold ball bowling, tug o’ war, three-legged races, freeze tag, horseshoes, a limbo competition, obstacle courses, and scavenger hunts is surprisingly easy and having multiple “events” means there’s something for everyone regardless of age, ability, and strength.
- Play Family Jeopardy
You may not have Alex Trebek on hand to do his famous “answer in the form of a question” spiel, but there’s sure to be at least one person around who’d love a chance to host a more casual version of America’s favorite quiz show. Write your questions (or answers, as the case may be) to questions like “Where was Grandma Ruth born?” and “How many cousins are there in total?” on notecards and add point numbers to the front. Tape the cards to a blank wall or portable dry erase board and let the fun begin! The winner gets bragging rights and maybe a small prize like first dibs on the paddle board the next day or an extra cupcake or candy bar after dinner.
- Entertain Everyone with Interactive Activities
Some museums may be a little passive for the more active members of your bunch but there are other options that will keep the interest of even the finickiest fidgeters.
- Head to Hilltop Orchards. The adults can check out the tasty wares at Furnace Brook Winery while the little ones clamor for tractor-drawn trail rides or listen to live music from visiting artists.
- Ride the Berkshire Carousel and check out the nearby art and educational classes while you’re at it
- Soak up the culture at Tamarack Hollow Nature & Cultural Center. There, you and your family can get a expert introduction to wildcrafting and wild edibles, visit a recreation of an old-school trading post, and sit in on Caribbean and African drum classes.
- Discover the movie magic behind The Matrix, Predator, X-Men, and other huge modern films at the Animagic Museum of Animation and Special Effects.
- Take a trip back in history at the Hancock Shaker Village Museum, where you can explore a wealth of Shaker history and dabble in related crafts and activities.
- Eat Al Fresco as Often as Possible
Dining outdoors is a sensory playground. The smell of fresh cut grass and sun-warmed flowers, the light filtering through the trees, the sound of the wind rustling leaves and kids playing in the distance – it all adds up to a lot of fantastic memories, especially when you add in some scrumptious food. Many of the lakeside cottages at The Lake House come with a personal outdoor grill as well as a picnic table. If you rent out the entire place, as many reunion groups do, you have access to a collection of grills so each branch of the family can bring their own dish, potluck-style, to a central eating area. Spread some blankets in the grass, line up the bowls of pasta salad and platters of ribs and brisket, and break bread with your nearest and dearest.
- Have a Theme Night
Want to crank up the fun? Host a theme night where everyone has to dress up to match the predetermined motif and watch the hilarity ensue. Make sure you let people in on the secret well before they need to pack (put it on the invitation or post it on the reunion website) so guests have tons of time to prep and get creative. A few of our favorite themes: Hawaiian/Luau, Silver Screen/Hollywood, Elvis, The ‘80s, Woodstock, Disco, Disney, Western, Mardi Gras, and Around the World. Design a simple menu and games to match and you have one heck of a party.
- Trick Picky Eaters with DIY Dining Options
With so many people participating in a family reunion you’re guaranteed to encounter some picky appetites. It’s almost impossible to create a single dish that appeals to everyone (between allergies and aversions to things like garlic, cheese, and onions, there’s practically no safe recipe left anywhere in the world) but a DIY setup could be the perfect antidote. Whether it’s a custom hot dog bar or a make-your-own pizza spread, the ability to pile on as little or as many ingredients as your heart desires is enough to make any hungry belly growl in satisfaction.
The Lake House is a boutique-style cottage resort located on the shores of Pontoosuc Lake in the Berkshires. Our all-season spot here in the Berkshires is an idyllic setting in which families from around the world can come to carry out their most creative and enjoyable family reunion ideas. Feeling inspired? Book your group into this western Massachusetts paradise today and experience the Berkshires as only a family can.