As shots roll out, states open up, and the weather perks up, it’s becoming easier to safely gather—and boy, are we ready! 

While we’re not completely out of the Covid woods yet, we’re getting close. So, if you and your pandemic pod friends, family, or employees are in need of some social interaction, now’s the time to start planning.


Here are some ideas to safely celebrate a slow and steady return to normal.

1) Organize a themed outdoor BYO potluck

Instead of the traditional potluck where everyone brings a dish to share, ask each guest to bring their own food and beverages. (Better yet—book a food truck!) To make the event feel more collaborative, choose a meal theme. The theme can be a cuisine such as Italian, Peruvian, or Mexican. Or it could be something silly like only red foods. Ask guests to bring folding chairs and tables. To make the outdoor space more festive, hang twinkling lights from trees, play lively music over a speaker and decorate tables with LED candles or themed centerpieces. Ensure tables are spaced apart and that only members of the same household share tables.

To pull this one off, you first need to find a suitable outdoor space near your workplace or in your community (like a park), ideally one with ventilated public restrooms and picnic tables. Or if you (or someone you know) have a large yard with easy access to a bathroom, that works too. Open the windows, turn on the vent fan, place paper towels instead of hand towels next to the sink, and consider using a small UV/HEPA air purifier. Have extra disposable masks on hand, and don’t hesitate to ask everyone to wear one

2) Organize a Neighborhood or Workplace Food Truck Party

Organize an outdoor event similar to the potluck idea but let someone else do the heavy lifting. Find a suitable outdoor space where a truck or two can park (check to see if you need a permit or permission if it’s a public space). Since food trucks require fewer employees to prep, prepare and serve meals than traditional restaurants, hotels, and event venues, customers and employees naturally reduce their virus exposure risks. Food truck customers can easily remain 6 feet apart while waiting to order or pick up their food.

With new tools such as Off the Grid’s Experience app, customers can now order and pay online, further lowering their need to interact in person. Off the Grid partners with hundreds of talented food trucks, including beverage-only and dessert options, so contact us if you need help finding one. Here are some suggestions for time-of-day and cuisine themes that would also work well for any celebration.

3) Set up a Drive-In Movie or Outdoor Paintball Celebration

Turn your workplace or neighborhood parking lot into a drive-in movie theater. Rent a portable drive-in movie theater, and instead of boring microwave popcorn and candy concessions, schedule a food truck to serve savory meals and snacks. A scaled-down option is to make batches of flavored homemade popcorn which you can distribute to each vehicle. Event venues such as the Fort Mason Center are another option for drive-ins, and you can reserve it for groups. 

If your group prefers a livelier option, an outdoor paintball competition is a perfect activity during a pandemic since everyone wears protective gear (including a mask) and runs around outside (tip: don’t shoot your boss or mom because those little paint pellets can hurt!). Food trucks can also be part of the fun before or after the “war.”

4) Throw a themed virtual party

Yes, we know many of us are more than a little done with video calls, but if you’ve got a birthday or other celebration coming up, turn that boring Zoom call into something memorable. Schedule a time when everyone can attend. Choose a theme and send out a menu such as “Mexican Fiesta,” “Ragin’ Cajun,” “Asian Fusion,” etc. (be sure to include cocktails!). Create a playlist and share it over Spotify or another streaming app. You can even make it a costume party—go with a decade or period such as “Neon 80s,” “Roaring 20s,” “Viking Era” or “Wild West.” If your social group is into an iconic novel, series or movie, turn that into the theme, for example: “The Great Gatsby,” “The Crown,” “Molly Ringwald ‘80s Movies” or “Marvel Movies.” 

On celebration day, set up mood lighting and decorate the space from where you’ll be streaming. Consider connecting your laptop to your TV to enjoy a larger screen. Once the call starts, you can chat, toast and dance the night away—and no one needs to take an Uber home because they’ve overindulged! 

5) Schedule a Virtual Wine, Beer, Whiskey or Cocktail Tasting

Pick your libation of choice (wine, beer, etc.) and compile a list of beverages to taste. You can go with a theme such as “Washington State Pinot Noirs,” “5 Chardonnays Under $12,” “New England IPAs,” “Single Malt Scotch Mini Bottles” or “Jamaican Rum Cocktails.” Send your list to your attendees in advance so they can shop, or if you’ve got the funds, send them the booze. Send out links to tasting sheets so your attendees can download and print them to help guide your tasting experience. Then over a video call, everyone can sample the drinks in the same order and discuss.

Another option is the turn it over to the experts and use a service such as They offer one-hour wine, cocktails, mocktails, spirits, and craft beer tastings. You select your beverage type, how many attendees, date, time, and other details, and they send the beverages and custom tasting sheets to all attendees. A sommelier or other expert will guide the tasting during your virtual event. Many wineries are also offering virtual wine-tasting parties, including our friends at Anarchist Wine Co. You can book a private tasting party or join one of their public ones, they are even doing a virtual Saint Patrick’s Day Wine Tasting and Trivia night. You can also check out, which offers a concierge program that organizes virtual events using multiple wineries.

A final word: Have fun, stay safe.

Keep in mind that the current COVID guidelines still advise people to always wear a mask, even outdoors if they can’t maintain a six-foot distance from others. 

Consider using a touchless thermometer to check everyone’s temperature when they arrive. Keep your gathering small and if it’s in person, keep it short, especially if the booze is flowing since people may get careless after they’ve had a few.  


Byline: Lee Ridley