These longer days of fun in the sun turned impromptu barbecues and late night dancing on the patio are about to be filed away (once again) as the best summer ever. Even though summer isn’t technically over until the end of September, Labor Day weekend is often treated as a grand finale celebration of the dog days, which naturally makes it one of the strongest love-hate relationships in my book. Since it’s the last chance to go all out with sweet summer produce, outdoor entertaining, and berrylicious desserts, we advise you to take full advantage of it all before that ‘last day of summer’ feeling officially sets in.

To make your holiday planning a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of our summer favorites to help you live it up in your straw hat before it’s time to pass the torch over to Fall. From festive party tips, fruity cocktails, and easy recipes that are best eaten poolside, we’ve got plenty of labor-minimal ideas to help take you through the long weekend. Whether you’re laying low with friends and family at home or gearing up to throw an epic summer blowout, we’ve got you covered with everything you need for a Labor Day weekend that’s sure to be remembered through the darkest days of winter.

feature image by kristen kilpatrick

Let’s start with drinks. 

Of course, one of the best ways to soak up the last rays of summer are by splashing the day away, fruity cocktail in hand. For me, nothing feels more summery than floating in the pool laughing with my girlfriends, or lounging under an oversized umbrella with a glass of rosé and a juicy page-turner from Camille’s summer reading list.

Here’s some of our favorite summer cocktails to blend up while the fruit is sweet, and the sun is hot:

Frosé

This homemade frosé has been our drink of choice all summer – and it’s easier to make than you probably think. Plus, Camille’s secret ingredient makes it taste better than most of the others out there you may have tried.

Sangria

These two sangria recipes are perfect for a party since you can mix up a huge batch the night before, then chill it and forget it while the fruit infuses it and makes it even more delicious while it sits.

Ruby Bolt

Our friend Maria Ronchi is the head bartender at Tulum’s famed Gitano restaurant, as well as a self proclaimed bruja mezcalera moderna (aka “modern mezcal magician”). She created this mezcal-based cocktail recipe during the 2016 Day Zero music festival. “For sure this cocktail was the big drinkable hit of the festival,” she says. “Created to relax and empower at the same time… BOOM!”

photo by kristen kiplatrick

Ginger Citrus Aperol Spritz

I love how light and not-too-sweet this Aperol Spritz is. The simple recipe is a perfect base for adding any combination of garnishes, too. I like to keep mine fresh with clementines, blueberries, cucumber, or basil.

Cucumber Basil & Citrus Mocktail 

This citrus mocktail is equal parts delicious and refreshing. Plus, unlike its boozy cousin, it can be enjoyed in copious amounts, any time of day.

Lemonade With an Herbal Twist 

Our three favorite lemonade recipes are a step up from the classic variety, and inspired by the season’s amazing herbs. My advice? Make a big batch of whichever recipe sounds best to you, then keep it chilled in a pitcher in your refrigerator all week long. Or, make all 3 and have on hand for anyone who may be looking for a special non-alcoholic refresher.

Tip: a lemonade bar with different kinds of herbs and colors of natural food coloring make for a fun and exciting kids activity at a party. Remember, a little coloring goes a long way and could potentially stain clothes and furniture, so don’t let young kiddos go at this one alone.

photo by kate lesuer 

Next, Fire Up the Grill

Want to keep post-party cleanup to a minimum? Cook as much on a big grill as possible to cut down on the number of pans you’ll be washing at the end of the night. Plus, you’ll be able to hang out with friends and family while the food cooks instead of being tied down in the kitchen away from the fun. Here’s some of our favorite recipes to help you get the most out of your last golden days of summer grilling:

Chipotle-Lime Shrimp Skewers

When hosting a large party, we love to focus on foods that don’t need formal dinner plates, and skewer-based recipes are the perfect way to incorporate a variety of veggies, meats, fruits, and sweets. These chipotle-lime shrimp skewers are sure to be a huge hit for any type of Labor Day festivity. Party tip: B.Y.O.S. (build your own skewer) — Provide bowls or platters of bite-sized items along with plenty of skewers, and let guests work their creative magic.

Grilled New York Strip

When it comes to inviting friends for long evenings on the patio that stretch late into the night, Camille and Adam’s summer steak nights have become almost famous. Seriously, I would choose their at-home grilled New York Strip over any restaurant steak. Luckily, their secret ingredient isn’t so secret anymore, and we all now know how to grill the perfect steak, every time.

photo by Kate Zimmerman

Garden Herb Veggie Kebabs

There’s something inherently more fun about veggies when they’re in kebab form, and as summertime grilling reaches its expiration date, there’s no better time to go full mad scientist and experiment skewering just about everything. These garden herb veggie kebabs are so fresh and delicious any time of day – we love trying them out with different types of seasoning, too.

Sweet Potato Wedges

These are the best compliment to any main dish served up on the grill. Our favorite recipe is still TBD, as it’s a straight tie between these sweet potato wedges with our ‘shortcut’ chimichurri sauce, and Interior Designer Joel Mozersky’s personal recipe with spices and chives.

photo by teresa earnest

Balance It Out With Fresh Salads and Bright Colors 

Cherry Watermelon Wedge Salad

With a few simple cuts, the humble watermelon wedge will instantly become “fancy” in the eyes of any guests at your table. And topped with a simple fruit salsa, salty feta, and crunchy pistachios… it’s extra fancy. Here’s the recipe.

Tip: when it comes to watermelon, more is more. We can’t get enough of it during these warmer months and basically consider it to be summer’s sister. Here’s 20 great watermelon recipes to try now – before it’s too late!

Okra

We love to savor this simple, fresh, and flavorful summer staple as long as we possibly can. Here’s 10 of our favorite recipes.

Crudités Platter

In our eyes, this is a must-have while entertaining in the summer. The more artful your arrangement, the better. Big or small; round or rectangular; cooked or raw; there’s one thing all our favorite crudités platters have in common: tons of vibrant color and loads of seasonal flavor.

photo by Molly Winters

Cheese and Meat Board

Everyone loves a big beautiful cheese board brimming with charcuterie, figs, and marcona almonds, but if you’ve ever made one yourself, you know it can all quickly add up. Here’s our pro tips for creating a cheeseboard that will make it look like you splurged on the high-end stuff, without breaking the bank. Seriously, we did it for under $25!

Guacamole 

The green magical fruit with an added twist and a side of corny crunch is always a crowd-favorite. Guacamole is delicious, easy to make, and can allow you to get as creative or traditional as you’d like. Tip: make both and  have a guacamole face-off with a friend, like Camille and Chanel did!

photos by jenna elliott

Don’t Neglect Your Sweet Summertime Sweet Tooth 

Frosé Popsicles 

The only thing that makes a chilled glass of rosé even better in the summer is when it’s frozen—and our pretty red, white, and blue frosé popsicles are the ultimate summer treat.

Cobbler, Crisps, and Crumbles

These are our favorite cobbler and crisp recipes that serve up warm, fruity, crumbly deliciousness with every bite. All three are best with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Strawberry Shortcake with Greek Yogurt & Mint

Because any dessert served in a mini mason jar is a guaranteed winner. This tasty strawberry shortcake is no different.

photo by Laura Dominguez

Greek Yogurt Cheesecake Cups (No-Bake!)

New York-style cheesecake is one of my all-time favorite desserts. The combination of toasty, buttery graham cracker crust and thick, tangy cream cheese-loaded cake is at the top of my “favorite indulgences” list, and I have a feeling I’m not alone. But, who wants to be slaving over the hot oven in the pits of summer? These no-bake greek yogurt cups are a healthier, easier-to-make alternative.

Key Lime Pie (No-Bake and Vegan!)

In order to avoid the turning on the oven thing, Camille turned the traditional key lime pie into a mousse with a press-in no-bake layer of graham cracker crumbs and almonds, and the flavor is amaze and tastes just like the real thing, while being way less work. Her summer key lime pie recipe is super healthy, tropical, summery, no-bake, vegan goodness.

Honey-Roasted Apricots with Vanilla Bean Mascarpone

Fresh, warm apricots, glistening with honey, and topped with a dollop of irresistible, vanilla bean mascarpone… need I say more? Here’s the recipe. Just do it—bikini season is nearly over, anyways so, #NoRegrets.

photo by ashleigh amoroso

Party in Style

When it comes to decor and setup for a Labor Day party (or any summer party, really), I like to always remember that less is more. Since a Labor Day celebration isn’t particularly themed in terms of decor, you can really get creative with anything that you feel makes your space come together. For me, that usually includes some colorful or tropical decor that’s fun, inexpensive, and low-stress. While thinking about your own decor, try to focus less on impressing guests, and more on just enjoying the final days of summer together. Here’s our favorite ways to style a party that brings everyone together for an unforgettable night:

Opt for non-breakable dishes 

When entertaining al fresco, we love to use chic, yet indestructible dinnerware as it takes the pressure off you as the host, and your guests. We love the pattern and finish of these melamine plates for a casual outdoor gathering.

Mix greenery and tropical elements to create a laid-back atmosphere

The ladies of The Jungalow gave us some inside tips for creating our tropical themed summer party that was low on guest count, but elevated in style.

“For decor that will last beyond the party, use potted plants rather than just cut greens and flowers to add a lush botanical vibe. You can send the plants home with guests as favors, or add them to your own plant collection to enjoy year round! Try wrapping the pots in fabrics that coordinate with your decor to tie it all together even more.”

photo by wynn myers

Sit Long, Talk Much

When thinking about seating arrangements and areas friends will flock to throughout the party, create something that fosters lively conversation and closer connection. The quickest way to do this is to gather your guests into cozy seating areas where they almost can’t help but enter into more intimate conversation. Trust us when we say that this one overlooked detail can truly change the vibe of your whole party.

Think outside the box

It’s always fun to incorporate games and activities into your decor and style for a party. We love things like giant jenga, cornhole, and washers to get the competitive juices and team spirit flowing during the day. But, who says that the party has to move inside after swimming and barbecue hours are over and the sun has set? Set up your very own outdoor movie theater this Labor Day, and entertain guests with a fun summer flick under the stars.

Keep It Simple (and clean!)

Longer summer days mean longer parties, and unfortunately, longer clean up duties. We’ve thrown enough parties to figure this out the hard way, and have luckily picked up some tricks that help keep the cleaning to a bare minimum. The next time you’re on hosting duty, consider making these smart tweaks to your party plan—you’ll thank yourself when the pineapple punch starts punching back the next morning. 

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