Recreating Like It’s 1985

By Roxanne Sutton | Posted on March 6, 2015

The 1980s. Big hair. Neon colors. Great music. Awesome dance moves.

Throwing it back to the 80s is fun on its own, but it also ties in perfectly with this year’s Park and Recreation Month as we celebrate 30 years of honoring parks and recreation in July. 

While many of the same activities that were popular in 1985 are still popular today, we wanted to give you some added inspiration for 80s throwback programming that may help inspire your Park and Recreation Month activities. If nothing else, feel free to turn on some 80s music, throw on some leg warmers, tease your hair and call whatever you’re doing an 80s party!

80s Movie Night

blog-80s-back-to-the-futureGoing to the movies was a big deal in the 80s, so share some of those great 80s movies with your community like “Back to the Future,” “The Goonies,” “Labyrinth,” “The Karate Kid,” and more!

Aerobics/Dance Party 

blog-80s-running-manWho doesn’t love a good dance move? And the 80s had so many to choose from! Check out this video for inspiration and consider infusing a Zumba class, aerobics class, or full-blown dance competition with these moves:

  • Moon Walk
  • Thriller
  • The Worm
  • Electric Slide
  • Cabbage Patch
  • MC Hammer
  • Robot
  • Sprinkler


blog-80s-teen-wolf-85-youtubeJust like today, pick-up games of basketball were popular in the 80s. So how can you make your basketball games a little more retro for our throwback celebration? Try encouraging shorter shorts (sorry boys), knee-high white socks and make sure to have a boom box nearby pumping out some great 80s jams (Michael J. Fox in "Teen Wolf" might give you some inspiration). Need a boom box? You could make your own out of cardboard and sneak an iPod behind it or order an inflatable boom box from Oriental Trading Company/ Fun Express (NRPA members get a 20 percent discount and they have lots of other 80s themed goods!). 

Break Dancing

blog-80s-break-dancingThink parachute pants and cardboard boxes. It’d be fun to host a break dancing contest at one of your summer camps or summer events. Novices could turn to YouTube for some instruction and inspiration. 


blog-80s-karaoekeWe know the 80s had some classic hits—“Take On Me,” “Billie Jean,” “Every Breath You Take,” “Beat It,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart”—so host a karaoke night where everyone gets to dress up and belt out their favorite. 

Roller Skating/ Roller Blading

blog-80s-roller-skatingRoller skating rinks were popular in the 80s as a place for kids to hang out with their friends and burn off some energy. In the late 80s, inline skates (rollerblades) became more popular. Consider hosting a place for your community to break out their roller skates and rollerblades while listening to some sweet 80s tunes. 

As an added bonus, we found an article in the October 1985 issue of Parks & Recreation magazine detailing “up-to-date” programming for people of all ages! We’ll include just a couple highlights below, but you can check out the entire article to complete your 80s inspiration. 

Pre-School Age Child 

  • Tricycle Rodeo: “A full morning special event. Parent and child or pre-kindergarteners alone bring their “big wheel” or tricycle. The morning is spent with songs and stories about bikes, wheels and safety. After snack of juice and grahams, tricycles are decorated and paraded in playground courtyard.”
  • Junior Roller Derby: “Parents and child’s first roller-skating experience. Toddlers only make the session slower and less intimidating.”

6 to 12-Year-Olds  

  • Special Events: “Big toe decorating contest.”
  • Sports, Games, Aquatics: “Slow motion sports (no ball); wind surfing on skates; stunts; roller derby; aerobics; water ballet; boomerangs; unicycle; juggling.”


  • Foxy Ladies: “Color analysis combined with make-up and hair style advice.”
  • Animal House: “Disgusting, but fun: belch contest, ladder hops, speed eating with jello, pin the tail on the preppie, and, finally, a food fight.”


  • Friday Freak-out: “An evening sport activity for adults where everyone brings a snack or hors d’oeuvre, wine provided (and controlled) by host, for a happy hour with the activity concluding with a series of team games.”

Senior Adults  

  • Learn Something New: “Word processing.”
  • Aquasize: “Exercise in water.”

Add to the list! Let us know what fun 80s activities you’re planning for Park and Recreation Month by adding to the list in the comments below or sharing with us @NRPA_News on Twitter. 


Roxanne Sutton is NRPA’s Senior Marketing and Communications Specialist and a proud 80s baby!


Sources: Parks & Recreation magazine, Crazy Fads, eHow and Prezi