A neighborhood progressive dinner party, also called a walking dinner, rotating dinner party, or progressive cocktail party, is a great holiday dinner party / new Christmas tradition or fun party with friends. Whether you’re looking for Christmas potluck dinner party ideas, or walking progressive dinner neighborhood party for summer or fall party dinner ideas, these are helpful party tips for all year!
Best Progressive Dinner Party Ideas
Throwing a neighborhood progressive dinner party (also called a safari supper, strolling supper, traveling dinner party, or a round robin party) can be a fun and social event where you and your neighbors move from one house to another for different courses of the meal.
How to do a progressive dinner with neighbors?
- Coordinate with Neighbors
- Decide On A Theme
- Plan the Courses
- Organize Entertainment
- Create a Timeline
- Decide the Order
- Send Out Invitations
- Make Sure Everyone Knows How It Works!
- Have Fun & Enjoy the Progressive Dinner!
SEE HOW TO THROW A PROGRESSIVE DINNER PARTY STEP-BY-STEP BELOW! Keep scrolling for the best progressive dinners ideas and hosting dinner ideas!
What do you serve at a progressive party?
The great thing about progressive dinners is that you can make your dinner party meals anything that the group agrees on — from a festive holiday theme to around the world foods or just family recipes.
Here are some general ideas for each course of a progressive dinner menu:
- Main Course:
- Grilled Items: Grilled chicken, steak, or kebabs.
- Casseroles: Lasagna, baked ziti, or a hearty vegetarian casserole.
- International Cuisine: Choose a theme such as Italian, Mexican, or Asian, or do a Food Around The World where each host presents food from a different country.
- Cakes and Pies: Assorted cakes, pies, or tarts.
- Cookies and Bars: A variety of homemade cookies, brownies, or dessert bars.
- Fruit-Based Desserts: Fruit tarts, cobblers, or a chocolate fondue with fruit for dipping.
- Hot Chocolate Bar: If you’re doing a Progressive Christmas Dinner or a winter walking dinner, add in a hot chocolate bar as part of your last stops!
PRO PARTY TIP: Foods can be a sit-down dinner style, finger foods that guests eat while mingling, or a mix of those. (For example, maybe the appetizers are plate foods guests eat while mingling and the main courses are sit down.)
19 Fun Party Names For Progressive Dinners
These are fun party names for invitations or just for your theme party!
- Culinary Carousel
- Cuisine Crawl
- Mingle & Munch
- Jingle and Mingle (for a holiday progressive dinner)
- Turkey Trot (for a Thanksgiving progressive dinner)
- Feast on the Move
- Sip, Stroll, and Savor (or Sip & Savor)
- Dish Dash
- Plate Passport Party (I love this one for tastes around the world parties!)
- Epicurean Expedition
- Tasty Trek
- Wander and Wine
- Gastronomic Gala
- Flavor Fiesta
- Mobile Munchies Marathon
- Culinary Cruise
- Taste Trail
- Strolling Supper
- Strolling Soiree
Tips On How To Host Progressive Dinner Parties
What is a progressive dinner?
A progressive dinner is a social event where each course of a meal is served at a different host’s home or location. Neighbors, family, and friends move from one house to another to enjoy different parts of the meal, which the meal progressively building on the last course, typically starting with appetizers at one location, followed by a salad at another, the main course at a third, and concluding with dessert at a final host’s home.
Progressive dinner parties were actually popular in the 1950s and 60s and are just now making a comeback for trending parties! This is a fun twist on regular potluck parties or pitch-in parties.
How many courses in a progressive dinner?
There are no set courses for a progressive dinner party. The number of courses in a progressive dinner can vary, but it typically includes four courses: appetizers, salad, main course, and dessert. However, it can depend on the number of host homes and you can add additional courses like drinks, different mini main courses, coffee after, etc. to make it a 5 course progressive dinner or more. Get creative with your party!
What is the order of a progressive dinner?
The order of a progressive dinner typically follows a logical sequence, moving from one course to the next.
Here’s a common order for a four-course progressive dinner:
- Guests gather at the first host’s home for appetizers.
- This is often a socializing and mingling time to start the evening.
- The group moves to a different host’s home for the salad course.
- Main Course:
- The third location hosts the main course.
- Because this is the main portion of the dinner, you can have multiple locations that serve “main course” dishes.
- The final destination is another home where guests enjoy desserts.
You can also add in additional courses or stops along the dinner route. Some people start with drinks at the first home before moving to the home providing appetizers.
You can also add in multiple mini main courses and do a coffee and aperitif to end the dinner.
PRO PARTY TIP: Be sure to add vegetarian and/or vegan options to each party stop.
It’s important to plan the order of the progressive dinner to minimize travel time between locations and to create a flow that makes sense for both hosts and guests.
How long should a progressive dinner last?
A well-organized progressive dinner (with someone keeping it on track) typically lasts around 3 to 4 hours. The duration of a progressive dinner can vary based on the number of courses, the travel time between homes, and the pace of the group.
Here’s a rough breakdown of progressive dinner timing, but your party times may look a little different:
- Appetizers (First Stop): 45 minutes to 1 hour
- Guests arrive, socialize, and enjoy the first course at the initial host’s home.
- Salad (Second Stop): 30 minutes to 45 minutes
- Move to the second location for the salad course. Keep this course lighter and short to maintain a good flow.
- Main Course (Third Stop): 1 to 1.5 hours
- Transition to the third host’s home for the main course (dinner party entrees). This course is typically the heartiest, so allow more time.
- Dessert (Final Stop): 45 minutes to 1 hour
- Conclude the evening at the last home with desserts and final socializing. You don’t necessarily have to put a time limit on this course and allow guests to mingle and leave when they are ready since its the end of the night.
Planning A Progressive Dinner
Throwing a neighborhood progressive dinner party can be a fun and social event where you and your neighbors move from one house to another for different courses of the meal.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to organize this fun party:
Step 1: Plan and Set a Date
- Decide on a date that works for most of your neighbors. It’s best to plan well in advance, so people can mark their calendars.
- Consider the size of your neighborhood and the number of participants, as this will affect the number of courses and hosts needed.
Step 2: Select Host Homes
- Ask for volunteers to host different parts of the meal. Each host will be responsible for one course (e.g., appetizers, salad, main course, dessert).
- Make sure the hosts are comfortable with the number of guests they can accommodate.
PRO PARTY TIP: Assign a “Head Host.” This will be the person that keeps the party on track and lets guests know when it’s time to move to the next location.
Step 3: Assign Courses
- Discuss with participants the progressive dinner theme ideas.
- Once you have your host homes and theme, decide which course each host will provide. Communicate with them and confirm their chosen courses.
- Plan the order of the courses. Typically, you’d start with appetizers at one home, move to another for salad, the next for the main course, and finish at another home for dessert.
- Remember that progressive dinner party food can be as casual or formal as you want. You can pick one type of cuisine or theme or mix it up!
Step 4: Create a Timeline
- Develop a timeline for the evening, including when guests should arrive at each host’s home, how long to spend at each location, and the order of travel.
- Make sure to allow enough time for each course and socializing, but not so much time that guests get bored. Shoot for around 30 minutes to 45 minutes at each location.
- If you’re doing a party where you need to drive to the next house, consider renting a small party bus that takes people between homes.
Step 5: Plan the Menu
- Coordinate with each host to plan the menu for their course. Ensure there are options for different dietary preferences and restrictions.
- You can choose a theme for the dinner, or each host can pick a theme for their course.
Step 6: Coordinate Decorations
- Encourage hosts to decorate their homes in line with the chosen theme or for the festivities. This adds to the festive atmosphere.
Step 7: Create Invitations
- Design and send out invitations to your neighbors, specifying the date, time, and the addresses of each host home.
- Mention any theme, dress code, or other relevant information in the invitations.
- Be sure to clearly explain how the progressive dinner works for those who’ve never participated in one.
- Ask guests to notify you of any dietary restrictions so you can plan around those.
Step 8: Organize Transportation
- Determine how guests will move between the host homes. You can organize carpools, provide transportation, or ask guests to walk to the next location if they are close.
Step 9: Entertainment and Activities
- Plan some entertainment or short activities for each location, such as games, music, or conversation starters to keep the party lively, but be sure that you stay on track for the next location!
Step 10: Confirm Details
- A few days before the event, contact the host homes to confirm the arrangements. Make sure everyone has what they need and knows their responsibilities.
Step 11: Enjoy the Progressive Dinner
- On the day of the dinner, start at the first host’s home for appetizers, then move on to the subsequent homes for each course.
- Encourage mingling and socializing, and make sure everyone has a great time.
Step 12: Show Appreciation And Ask For Feedback
- After the dinner, be sure to thank the hosts for opening their homes and putting effort into their courses.
- Ask both guests and hosts what did or didn’t work so you can make adjustments for next year!
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