Reading a good paperback, tanning (after applying sunscreen, of course), and having a picnic are among the ways we like to spend summer days at the beach. But sometimes all that lying around can get a little … boring. So if you’re looking for something to do after catching up on all your back issues of magazines, or just because you want to spend a more active day on the sand, we suggest picking up a beach game — many of which offer more involved play than your standard football or frisbee, but often won’t take up much more space in your beach bag than either of those things. (For minimalist beach-goers, though, a couple experts we spoke to say it’s hard to find a simpler game that’s more fun than frisbee.)
To find the best beach games for adults, we asked six toy-store owners to recommend their favorites. Read on for their picks — all of which, we should note, are as fun (and appropriate) for kids as they are for kids at heart.
Best overall beach game
Kate Salop, co-owner of Tisbury Toy Box in Martha’s Vineyard says Spikeball has “quickly turned into a summertime staple,” growing in popularity over the past several years. Spikeball (which also received top marks in our round-up of the best outdoors games) is like volleyball — but instead of hitting the ball over the net, you bounce the ball off of a net that stands about a foot off the ground. To play, you need four players divided into two teams of two, and each team’s objective is to bounce the ball off the net in a way that prevents the other team from being able to bounce it back. “The object is to hit the ball into the net so the opposing team cannot return it,” explains Susan Hay, owner of Long Beach Island-based toy store The Haymarket, who also recommends the game. She adds that, like in volleyball, “a team is allowed up to three touches to return the ball,” and a round, or rally, continues until a team can’t return it. Salop says that she tried Spikeball for the first time this summer and “experienced for myself how fun — and challenging — it is.” The hyperenthusiastic reviewers of Amazon agree, with one calling Spikeball “the greatest lawn game ever invented,” and another writing about playing it with 5-year-olds and 65-year-olds.
Best old-school beach game
If you want a time-tested beach game, Stacey Fauci, owner of Runnin’ Wild Toys in Carroll Gardens, says ProKadima is a “classic paddle game” that’s perfect for sandy shores. It’s “super easy to put in your beach bag and just go,” she says. “We sell out every summer.” ProKadima is a classic for a reason: it’s lightweight, as Fauci notes, and it doesn’t require a net. You need as few as two people to play (but can include as many as you have racquets for), and playing is as simple as hitting the ball back and forth. (Just try not to send it sailing at neighboring beachgoers.) Salop also recommends ProKadima: “It’s a game that we always have tucked into our beach bag,” she says. “Our family enjoys spirited — and mostly friendly! — competitions. We began playing when the kids were young and they continue to enjoy it as teenagers.”
Best beach game for large groups
“Who doesn’t like LCR?” Sherry and Mark Bergeron, the owners of Cape Cod’s The Village Toy Store, say of the dice game whose acronym stands for Left Center Right. LCR Big is the oversized version of what the Bergerons describe as a “fast-paced dice game” with no limit to the number of people that can get in on the fun. “Players roll the dice to determine where they pass their chips. The last player with chips is the winner and wins the center pot,” they explain. LCR Big includes dice made of “high-quality EVA foam, which makes it safe for any indoor or outdoor surface,” according to the Bergerons, who also note the chips are made of “durable plastic” that they say is fine for outdoor use, too. (If you’re playing with a really big group and run out of plastic chips, the Bergerons suggest using quarters or candy instead).
Best board game for the beach
“My favorite beach game of all time is backgammon, which is easy to travel with and fun for kids and adults,” says Louise Simon, the owner of Brooklyn-based store Toy Space and founder of Toy Space Therapy, a toy-box delivery-service tailored to kids with special needs. “Playing backgammon means I don’t have to run around in the heat or worry about hitting other people on a crowded beach day.” Simon suggests looking for a 3-in-1 game set that also includes chess and checkers, so that anyone not familiar with backgammon can still join in on the fun. And, for the beach, she particularly recommends a magnetic set like this. “Magnets keep everything from getting lost or shifted” during travel or game play, she explains.
Best lawn game to play at the beach
For a beachy spin on a classic lawn game, Hay suggests trying soft bocce. “Soft bocce has hollow plastic balls for playing on the sand,” she explains of the primary difference between it and regular bocce (which, to the uninitiated, requires players to toss a small ball called a pallina, or jack, and then take turns tossing larger balls as close to the pallina as possible). This is a four-player set that comes with eight weather-proof balls and a carrying case. If you’re a purist who prefers a hard-bocce set, this one from Hey! Play! made our list of the best outdoor games (just know it’ll be a lot heavier to lug around).
Best one-piece beach game
As we noted above, two of our experts agree that a frisbee is among the simplest ways to have fun at the beach. Salop loves bringing a frisbee “either for tossing in the water or on the sand; it’s another game that’s easy to have on hand, which is a selling point for me because there are enough other things to lug to the beach,” she explains. Fauci also recommends a frisbee, specifically the Fireball Flyer, which she says is “compact and easy to bring with you.” Made with something called a “foam matrix covering,” it’s softer than your usual frisbee, which might work to your advantage should you miss your target when you toss.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.