We’ll go ahead and say it, the Fourth of July might be the best holiday of the year. It’s free of the burdens that accompany Thanksgivings or Christmases, comes with fireworks and is set during the single best time of year to be outdoors. All those things combine to make a long day of eating and drinking in the sun. If you’re like us and many other red-blooded Americans out there, you have probably responded affirmatively to somewhere between four and fourteen Independence Day BBQ invitations. That’s a lot of grilled meat and West Coast IPA (sorry Pilsner and Hefeweizen, this is America’s birthday) to navigate this weekend. Here’s how to do it.
Arrival time: Noon
What’s going on: Not much yet. Everyone is just getting warmed up for the long day ahead. Since no one has had anything to drink yet, make sure someone you know is throwing this party. Jumping headfirst into a group full of strangers is not a good idea.
What you’re eating: Because you had Friday off as you got up pretty late today and you haven’t had a meal yet. Fill up with a burger or a couple hot dogs. Take some potato salad while you’re at it.
What you’re drinking: A couple of beers. You’re going to be here for a little while, so you need something you can enjoy slowly.
Duration of stay: 90 minutes
Arrival time: 2pm
What you’re eating: Now that your stomach is properly lined from party number one it’s time to back off. Have a couple handfuls of chips and maybe a couple red, white and blue cookies.
What you’re drinking: You’re ready for something a little more potent, yet still refreshing. Move on to some solid day drinking cocktails.
Duration of stay: 60 minutes
Arrival time: 3:30pm
What’s going on: Everyone you know is finally awake and all in one place. This is the party you were actually looking forward to attending. Time to settle in.
What you’re eating: One of the reasons you put this cookout in the middle of your whirlwind tour is because the host actually knows how to cook. Enjoy some of the ribs or brisket they have been slaving over since last night.
What you’re drinking: If the host is willing to spend hours on food they probably put together some excellent drinks too. There’s a refreshing bowl of punch around somewhere. Find it and stay close by.
Duration of stay: 2 hours or until the ribs are gone.
Arrival time: 6 pm
What’s going on: Who knows? This is some party being thrown by a Facebook friend of a friend and you promised you’d go. No one looks familiar and you feel surprisingly uncomfortable considering you are surrounded by grilled meat and free drinks.
What you’re eating: Eat nothing; it will only slow you down.
What you’re drinking: Shots—probably tequila, because it will make you seem fun in front of this group of total strangers.
Duration of stay: How long does it take you to do a tequila shot?
Arrival time: 6:22 pm
What’s going on: People have been at this a long time and it’s starting to show. The Bluetooth speaker ran out of juice and the host is valiantly trying to play Taylor Swift out of the puny speakers in his laptop. Also a couple is breaking up in the corner.
What you’re eating: All that’s left at this point are the extra hot dog buns the gluten-free crowd refused to eat. But hey, you just did a tequila shot, so it’s better than nothing.
What you’re drinking: The last can of Bell’s Oberon that somehow nobody found at the bottom of a cooler full of melted ice.
Duration of stay: Until it starts to get dark.
Arrival time: Dusk
What’s going on: Everybody is trying desperately to sober up in time for the fireworks.
What you’re eating: Pizza you just ordered from Seamless
What you’re drinking: Leftover mixers.
Duration of stay: Probably until the next morning, because let’s face it, there is no way you have the energy to go home at this point.