The Best Outdoor String Lights for Every Space

Give your backyard or balcony a glow-up with some of our favorite string lighting ideas and product picks.

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July 01, 2021

Our Top Picks for the Best Outdoor String Lights

Adding string lights to an outdoor space instantly amplifies the style factor, coziness level and, obviously, visibility. While string lights are commonly used for events and holidays, we like using them year-round to really make a patio sparkle.

What to Consider Before Buying

Keep in mind your own space and available power outlet options. Will you need an extension cord? Does your desired location get enough sun to use a solar-powered option? If there is no power outlet available or you don't want to use an extension cord, consider a battery-powered set. Also, remember that you'll likely need more than one strand to achieve your desired glowy effect. Additional accessories like poles, clips or zip-ties may be necessary to hold lights in place and provide multiple hanging options.

While LED bulbs cost more upfront, they last much longer than incandescent and are more energy-efficient. If you'll be hanging lights at a low height, opt for shatterproof bulbs to prevent accidents. Edison-style bulbs offer a dim, warm glow, while globe and holiday-style lights provide brighter diffused light. Fairy lights work best as accents, not to provide utility lighting.

Below, we share ideas for decorating with string lights and include our top picks to get the look.


Modern Seattle Courtyard

Modern Seattle Courtyard

A cozy outdoor seating area is illuminated by LED string lights in a modern courtyard. A high privacy fence creates a sense of seclusion under the shade of trees original to the space. The garden was installed in December 2014.

Photo by: Coreen Schmidt Photography

Coreen Schmidt Photography

This is one of the most common ways to use string lights, but that's because it truly makes a big statement. Use anchor points such as a fence, rooftop or even some strategically placed wooden posts to attach the lights in a zigzag pattern across your outdoor space. If you have a very large space to work with, consider using the lights to break up the space and create different areas. We recommend choosing LED Edison-style or globe lights that are shatterproof and waterproof since these will look the best, last the longest and be the safest option for an open outdoor area.


Brown Wood Deck with White Rain Curtain

Brown Contemporary Deck with White Rain Curtain

After the renovations by licensed contractor Josh Temple, what was once just a boring and underutilized upstairs deck is now a retreat with new seating, lighting and a rain curtain as seen on DIY Network’s House Crashers.

From: House Crashers

Photo by: Martin Klimek/Getty Images

Martin Klimek/Getty Images

If you have a gazebo or any sort of outdoor shaded structure, you can use string lights with an Edison bulb to further define it. Edison-style bulbs give off a warm glow and a charming look that's perfect for the cozy feel of a pergola. Try lining the perimeter of your structure with lights, or do a combination of perimeter and zigzag strings of light. Depending on your structure, you can use string lights both across the ceiling and on the sides.


Patio Umbrella With Party Lights

Inexpensive Party Lights Give Patio a Festive Feel

Decorative string lighting fastened inside an umbrella provides inexpensive illumination for outdoor entertaining.

Though you don't need an umbrella for shade in the evening or at night, they do provide a great spot to add some twinkly string lights. You can simply string the mini or globe lights around the perimeter of the umbrella, or for an extra pretty effect, line the inside of the umbrella by following the lines of the umbrella seams. Choose battery-powered lights for easy assembly.


Container Garden on Modern Balcony

Modern Balcony and Garden With Metal Planters

Metal planters overflow with a variety of flowers and plants on a modern balcony. A bright red watering can pops in the gray space, while a string of lantern lights adds a touch of whimsy.

From: Sean Kelley

Photo by: Chris Bradley

Chris Bradley

For city dwellers who want to create an intimate, welcoming warm-weather hang-out spot in a tiny space, a strand or two of fun lantern lights add personality and charm. Hang the lights along the balcony wall, or string them up around the ceiling of your balcony. You could also use them to outline a patio door by stringing them all the way around. We recommend mini lantern lights for a glowy, intimate effect.


Outdoor Lights Look Like Snow

Outdoor Lights Look Like Snow

To make it snow with lights, route an extension cord up the tree and hang strands of lights from the canopy of the tree. Each snowfall is created from a single strand of lights that come from the center of the tree like spokes on a wheel.

Photo by: Melissa Caughey

Melissa Caughey

Create a dreamy, dramatic effect by hanging curtain string lights vertically from a tree or deck ceiling. This creates a romantic backdrop for alfresco meals and entertaining and even provides a bit of privacy. Make sure to measure the height of your structure to ensure the string lights will reach the ground.


Add Holiday Lights to Outdoor Lanterns.

Add Holiday Lights to Outdoor Lanterns.

For the holidays fill your outdoor lanterns with greenery,pine cones and battery powered lights. These are perfect for outdoor entertaining.

Photo by: Melissa Caughey

Melissa Caughey

Fairy lights add the perfect amount of sparkle to a tiny balcony or covered patio. Incorporate them into your decor by winding them around table settings or arranging them in lanterns with seasonally appropriate trinkets. Look for copper wire string lights since these will be lightweight and flexible enough to manipulate and create your desired effect.


Deck With Tree

Deck With Tree and String Lights

Inspired by the beautiful trees on the property, the designers dubbed this home, "The Treehouse" and used the tree-theme throughout the house. This particular tree was extra-special as its shape makes it ideal for sitting (one branch in particular is at perfect sitting-height) and its size provides tons of shade for the outdoor living area.

Photo by: Tre Dunham

Tre Dunham

We love the magical effect that a lit-up tree brings to an outdoor space. Keep things simple and wrap just one tree, or go all out and wrap several trees on your property. Try to stick with white lights to keep the look elegant. We recommend using wide-angle string lights for optimal light distribution. Solar-powered lights are also a good energy-efficient option if the tree receives a lot of sunlight.

DIY Cafe Lights in Planters 01:26

Outdoor lighting gets an elegant upgrade with these beautiful planters!

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