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ThinkStock

5 Alternative Yard Games You Can Master This Summer

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ThinkStock

Summertime is the season for outdoor activities—cookouts, picnics, camping and games. But instead of hauling out the badminton net or the croquet set, why not try something new this year? There are dozens of “backyard” games played around the world that are fun, easy to learn, and can be played by people of almost any athletic ability. Here are five alternatives to having the kids whack each other with croquet mallets after a match gets out of hand.

1. Bocce

Despite its reputation in many parts as a game played by old people and snobs, bocce is actually quite a fun game, and is great for the more competitive types. Though it’s traditionally played on a large, flat court (27.5 m/90 ft long and 4 m/13 ft wide), the game can easily be scaled down to fit within a smaller backyard, and the natural imperfections of the grass make it a fun (if a bit unpredictable) game to play at a cookout.

The goal of bocce is to land your team’s balls closest to a small target, whose location changes each round. While the official bocce rules are complex and long, and have provisions for nearly every situation, the basis of the game is simple. Two teams of 2 to 4 people assemble on opposite ends of a designated court, a small target ball (the “petanque” or “pallino”) is thrown over the halfway-point of the court by one team. Then, the bocce balls are tossed underhand, from the ends of the court, in attempt to get the closest to the petanque. Knocking other competitors’ balls out of the way is allowed—but in my own experience, when I’ve tried to do that, I’ve ended up giving the other team the win by knocking them closer to the target! 

2. Kubb

Wikimedia Commons

Pronounced like “tube,” kubb has been gaining immense popularity in the Midwestern U.S. lately, and has long been played in the countries of Scandinavia. Its success has even led to a Kubb Kickstarter project blowing its funding goal out of the water! Known as “Viking Chess” and developed in Gotland, Sweden, kubb is best described as “a cross between bowling and horseshoes,” according to the Des Moines Kubb Club.

Kubb is played by two teams, on a rectangular field, with five pawns (“kubbs”) at the baselines on both ends, and a king in the center. The object of the game is to toss batons in an underhanded style (no “helicopter” throws) to knock over the opponents’ kubbs, and then, only after all the kubbs are knocked over, to topple the king in the center. If you knock over the king before the kubbs are toppled, you automatically lose! Considering that there are only six batons thrown each turn, and each team has five kubbs, it often takes strategy, luck, and a good aim in order to win.

3. Royal Quoits 

Amazon

If you’re a fan of horseshoes, or want to set up a safer and easier horseshoe-like game for the younger crowd, royal quoits is the way to go. Played with rope hoops and a set of five stakes with different point values, there are many variations on the game. The easiest version is often to simply set up the quoits set with a baseline to toss from, and have the players toss one ring per turn, and try to get above a pre-determined score. Since the stakes have different values, older players can have a bit of strategy involved, and since there’s more than one stake, the younger players have a much better chance of scoring – not to mention the chance to practice a bit of addition when it comes to their point values!

4. KanJam

KanJam is a relative newcomer to the land of backyard sports, but is a worthy contender for your time. Developed by two guys throwing Frisbees into old metal garbage cans in the mid-1990s, the game has since been refined, mass-produced, and played at parties, campgrounds, and cookouts throughout the world.

Played in teams of two, with two “goal” cans situated 50 feet apart,the object of the game is to get the Frisbees inside the portable can, either on your own, or by having your partner (situated behind the can) deflect towards the goal. No catching of the Frisbee by the partner is allowed, but they can deflect it in whatever manner they see fit. Most games are played to either 10 or 21 points. One point is awarded for discs deflected by the partner that hit the goal can, two points are awarded for getting the disc into the can on your own, and three points are awarded for having your partner deflect the disc into the can. If you trust your throw more than your partner, there’s an “instant win” slot on the front of the bin – the Golden Snitch of KanJam.

5. Ladder Golf

LadderGolf.com

This game is also called “hillbilly golf,” “Flingy-Pongy,” and at least a half dozen other names. Apocryphal origin stories tend to involve cowboys, dead snakes, and boredom while fixing fences, but the game seems to have been played in the Mississippi Basin longer than anywhere else. Origin aside, this backyard game has been gaining popularity at tailgating parties and picnics across the US, and is a simple enough setup that you can even make your own set at home.

Using one or two goal ladders, teams toss short bolas (string with weighted ends), and points are scored if your bola wraps around a ladder rung. Three points are awarded for the top rung, two points for the center, and one point for the bottom—scoring is done at the end of a round, so knocking an opponent’s bola off the ladder is fair game. An average tailgate game is played to an exact score of 21—if you score over 21, the number of points you would have scored is deducted from what you had at the beginning of the round!

This post originally appeared last year.

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The Annual Festivals That Draw the Most People in Every State
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iStock

Every state has that one big event each year that draws residents from across the region or even across the nation. Louisiana has Mardi Gras. Kentucky has the Kentucky Derby. South Dakota has Sturgis. Genfare, a company that provides fare collection technology for transit companies, recently tracked down the biggest event in each state, creating a rundown of the can't-miss events across the country.

As the graphic below explores, some states' biggest public events are national music and entertainment festivals, like Bonnaroo in Tennessee, SXSW in Texas, and Summerfest in Wisconsin—which holds the world record for largest music festival.

Others are standard public festival fare. Minnesota hosts 2 million people a year at the Minnesota State Fair (pictured above), the largest of its kind in the U.S. by attendance. Mardi Gras celebrations dominate the events calendar in Missouri, Alabama, and, of course, Louisiana. Oktoberfest and other beer festivals serve as the biggest gatherings in Ohio (home to the nation's largest Oktoberfest event), Oregon, Colorado, and Utah.

In some states, though, the largest annual gatherings are a bit more unique. Some 50,000 people each year head to Brattleboro, Vermont for the Strolling of the Heifers, a more docile spin on the Spanish Running of the Bulls. Montana's biggest event is Evel Knievel Days, an extreme sports festival in honor of the famous daredevil. And Washington's biggest event is Hoopfest, Spokane's annual three-on-three basketball tournament.

Mark your calendar. Next year could be the year you attend them all.

A graphic list with the 50 states pictured next to information about their biggest events
Genfare
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Ben Leuner, AMC
You Can Cook (Food) With Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in the Original Breaking Bad RV
Ben Leuner, AMC
Ben Leuner, AMC

A new contest is giving Breaking Bad fans the chance to cook a meal with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. A new charity fundraising campaign is sending one lucky fan and a friend out to Los Angeles to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Breaking Bad’s premiere with the stars themselves—Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, and that beat-up RV.

“That’s right, the real Walter White and Jesse Pinkman will join you in The Krystal Ship to whip up some delicious food, take tons of pictures, and bond over the most addicting show ever made,” the contest’s page on the charity fundraising site Omaze trumpets.

All you have to do to throw your (porkpie) hat in the ring is break out your wallet and donate to a good cause. Every dollar you donate to the contest through Omaze is basically a raffle ticket. And the more you donate, the better your odds are of winning. Each dollar donated equals 10 entries, so if you donate $10, you have 100 chances, if you donate $25, 250 chances, etc. At higher donation levels, you’ll also get guaranteed swag, including T-shirts, signed set photos by Cranston and Paul, props and scripts from the show, and more.

Technically, you can enter without donating, but don’t be a jerk—it’s for the kids. The proceeds from the contest will go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Kind Campaign, an anti-bullying charity.

The contest winner will be announced around September 12, and the big event will take place on September 15.

Donate to win here. The contest ends at 11:59 p.m. PT on August 30.

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