How to Throw an Epic Lake Party

We're talking rose gold flamingo floats and big-batch cocktails.

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While you may be gearing up for the start of the school year, that doesn’t mean it’s time to say goodbye to summer fun. We still have plenty of warm weather to embrace, friends. I don’t know about you, but I’m a big proponent of celebrating every last second of the season. So, how do I suggest celebrating these glorious (read: hot) last weeks of summer? By throwing the most epic lake party ever. Sure, a pool party is trendy and fun — chic, even. BUT, a lake party is the pool party’s cooler older sibling — laid-back, no-stress. The best part? Well, you don’t need access to a pool to throw one.

I’m laying out everything you’ll need for an unforgettable day. Grab a notepad; it’s time to plan a party.

Big-Batch Cocktails

Make a Watermelon Party Keg 00:36

For the best keg party ever, make this easy watermelon keg and cocktail.

First things first, greet your guests with a generous batch of premade cocktails. This ensures you’re not stuck mixing drinks all day, which is a major win in my book.

Our Favorite Big-Batch Summer Cocktails

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Grapefruit Gin and Tonic

Our twist on the classic gin and tonic combines muddled mint, fresh pink grapefruit and sweet elderflower liqueur for a refreshing summer brew that will prove to be a major party pleaser. 

Make This: Grapefruit Gin and Tonic

Photo By: Jason Kisner ©Copyright Scripps Networks, 2016

The Lime in the Coconut

Made from coconut vodka, coconut water, pineapple puree, fresh-squeezed lime juice and a splash of cherry-lime sparkling water, this refreshing big batch cocktail is a summery twist on the classic vodka soda.

Make This: Lime in the Coconut Cocktail 

Photo By: Jason Kisner ©Copyright Scripps Networks, 2016

Coconut Mango Margarita

Not too sweet — but not too spicy — a blend of jalapeño, mango and coconut milk is a winning combination. You can make it in 10 minutes from start to finish, and no need for a high-powered blender because the recipe uses frozen mango cubes in lieu of ice cubes. 

Make This: Coconut Mango Margarita

Photo By: Jason Kisner ©Copyright Scripps Networks, 2016

Boozy Berry Patch Lemonade

Fresh, ripe berries + whiskey + tart lemonade = a not-too-sweet cocktail that's sure to please a crowd.

Make This: Boozy Berry Lemonade

Photo By: Jason Kisner

Coastal Citrus Punch

This refreshing punch can be made in a large glass jug and placed in a pail of ice for your summertime gathering. Place additional fruit and ice in glasses for a fun, decorative touch.

Make This: Coastal Citrus Punch

Pineapple Hibiscus Punch

Hibiscus tea, pineapple juice, rum and ginger simple syrup are the perfect mix of sweet, spicy and refreshing.

Make This: Pineapple Hibiscus Punch

Photo By: Jason Kisner ©Copyright Scripps Networks, 2016

Honeydew Green Tea

Blend fresh honeydew melon with ice and add it to green tea for a new fruity-flavored drink. 

Make This: Honeydew Green Tea

Photo By: Photographs by James T. Farmer III and Maggie Yelton from Sip & Savor by James T. Farmer III, reprinted with permission of Gibbs Smith

Oranges-and-Cream Punch

The flavors of this festive punch will bring you back to your childhood. Perfect for an outdoor gathering, bridal shower or Sunday brunch, this sunny concoction is easily doubled and great for a crowd. 

Make This: Oranges-and-Cream Punch

(Watermelon) Keg Party

Make a big batch of your favorite watermelon sip then turn the shell into a party serving vessel. Sweet!

Make This: Watermelon Keg

Sparkling Sunshine Punch

Adorn this tart and bubbly punch with pretty, yet simple to make, floating ice flowers.

Make This: Sparkling Sunshine Punch

Lemony Summer Shandy

This beer punch couldn't be easier to whip up, and its light, lemony flavor helps cool down hot summer days. Careful, though: The Canadian whiskey packs a punch. 

Make This: Lemonade-Beer Punch


Rose and Lemon Sparkling Punch

Sparkling rosè and cranberry juice give this lemony punch its blush-pink hue, making it perfect for a summer picnic or bridal or baby shower. 

Make This: Sparkling Rosè Punch

Sparkling Summer Sangria

Dress up white wine and Prosecco with summer's freshest fruit and herbs. To keep the mixture cool, freeze the fruit unitl your party begins. 

Make This: Sparkling Summer Sangria

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Photo By: ALX Creatives

Red, White and Blue Sangria

For a patriotic take on sangria, decorate your pitcher with cookie-cutter fruit shapes in red, white and blue. 

Make This: Red, White and Blue Sangria 

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Refreshing Muscadine Sangria

This Southern spin on sangria features thick-skinned muscadine grapes, lime and white wine. 

Make This: Muscadine Sangria 

Photo By: Reprinted from the book "The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen" by Matt Lee and Ted Lee. Copyright © 2013 by Matt Lee and Ted Lee. Photographs copyright © 2013 by Squire Fox. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.

DIY Beverage Boat

Make this super-simple beverage boat to keep all the other drinks (beer, sparkling water, soda, etc.) chilled as you float.

Trendy Floats

Rose Gold Flamingo Float

Rose Gold Flamingo Float

Make a trendy statement at the pool with this rose gold flamingo float from Gilk's.

Photo by: Glik's


Speaking of floating, you’re going to need some inflatables for the water. We’re all about trendy varieties, like this adorable rose gold flamingo from Glik’s.

Must-Have Party Accessories

Beach House-Perfect Towels

Beach House-Perfect Towels

Every beach house needs lots of towels. Stack these in baskets near the door so beachgoers can grab and go.

Photo by: 082415


While you’re at it, stock up on other must-have accessories for the day, like stylish towels, a fun beach ball and party straws.

Outdoor Speaker + Party Tunes

Big Turtle Shell Bluetooth Speaker

Big Turtle Shell Bluetooth Speaker

This waterproof and shockproof Bluetooth speaker can communicate with your devices from more than 30 feet away, filling your yard with music wirelessly. Take it anywhere you want to start a party: It plays for up to 16 hours on a single charge, so the music won’t stop before your guests do.

Photo by: OutdoorTech


Music is a must. Don’t own an outdoor speaker? Consider investing in the wireless, water-resistant Big Turtle Shell. Looking for a playlist? We’ve got you covered.

Self-Serve Eats

How to Set Up a Self-Serve Hot Dog Bar

How to Set Up a Self-Serve Hot Dog Bar

A mix of condiment containers, vessels filled with toppings and an assembly line arrangement of hot dogs, this station is certain to keep guests fed and interactive for hours on end.

Photo by: Flynnside Out Productions

Flynnside Out Productions

As dinnertime rolls around, set up a simple, self-serve hot dog bar. Prep your toppings ahead of time, and keep sides simple — like chips and premade dips.

How to Set Up a Hot Dog Bar

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Always a Crowd Pleaser

A mix of condiments, spicy and not-so-spicy toppings, vintage touches and a grab-and-go presentation will make it easy for your guests to help themselves to a summertime favorite.

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Simplify Clean Up

Shop party or restaurant supply stores for diner-style stackable baskets you can line with decorative catering paper or gift wrap to make post-party clean-up a snap.

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Stock Summery Napkins

Keep your spread colorful and fun with paper napkins featuring summer patterns like checkerboard or gingham.

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Make It Easy for Guests to Grab and Go

The key to making a hot dog bar efficient is in the proper layout of the grilled hot dogs. Once grilled, lay them out side by side, placed inside of their buns. This will allow guests to simply grab their hot dogs, then top with their favorite condiments.

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Get Creative With Containers

Upgrade your basic condiments by placing them in decorative vintage-look squeeze bottles rather than their standard issue containers.

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Some Like It Hot

Keep spicy toppings grouped together since some guests will prefer spicy touches while others will simply pass the spices up altogether.

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

A Heapin' Helpin' of Chili

Keep your chili easily accessible toward the front of the table. Hot chili tastes best so consider replacing or reheating the chili every 15 to 20 minutes to avoid guests placing cold chili on their hot dogs.

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Onions and Pickles: Bite-Size Is Best

Finely chop onions and pickles into small pieces so guests can easily add a little or a lot.

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

More Cheese, Please

Overall, cheese tends to be the first item depleted at buffets so be sure to really fill the bowl at the start of the party and check the supply frequently to see if you're running low.

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

All-Natural Bug Repellent

As dusk approaches, make sure you have bug repellent. Try one of our all-natural solutions.

Backyard Games

Set up games in the yard for partygoers who don’t like to swim and for post-dinner entertainment. Check out two of our DIY options:

1: DIY Tic-Tac-Toe

DIY Super-Sized Tic Tac Toe

DIY Super-Sized Tic Tac Toe

Add BIG time fun to your next outdoor get together with this over-sized Tic Tac Toe game you can build with your kids!

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza

Tomas Espinoza

2: DIY Cornhole

Designer Cornhole Boards

Designer Cornhole Boards

These boards aren't quite up to official regulations but will still provide lots of good play while complementing your style. Bonus — they are a snap to make!

Photo by: Emilee Stanley Photography

Emilee Stanley Photography

Outdoor Movie

End your lake party with an outdoor movie (epic, right?). Grab a couple sheets and a projector, and you’ll be pleased with the simplicity of the setup.

More Low-Key Summer Party Ideas

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Beat the heat with these easy entertaining ideas that will keep the party going.

Swing, Batter, Swing

Raining candy never goes out of style. Hang a colorful piñata at your next family-friendly fiesta, break out the blindfold, and gather 'round as kids and adults take turns swinging for a sweet prize. Photo by Hayden Spears Photography

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Summer Chill

Make fruity ice cubes for a summer treat that's tasty and refreshing. Simply fill an ice cube tray with water, then drop in raspberries and slices of lemon, lime and orange. Once frozen, the infused cubes are perfect for adding flavor and cooling down a glass of water or fresh-squeezed lemonade. Photo by Camille Styles

Movie Buff

When the summer sun gets too intense, invite friends to join you for an after-dark movie night. Hook up a projector to your laptop computer, then display a favorite summer flick on a screen or empty wall. Movie buffs of all ages will love a laid-back evening under the stars. Photo by She-n-He Photography

Keep Your Cool

When it comes to summertime parties, running low on cold beverages is simply not an option. But this doesn't mean the host should play bartender all day! Keep the fun flowing and guests hydrated by filling colorful enamel bins with ice and assorted bottled drinks, and let everyone help themselves. Check periodically to replenish as needed. Photo by Hayden Spears Photography

Blowing in the Breeze

Is there anything more festive than a colorful banner floating over the table? Turn up the fun at your next summer soirée by hanging this paper flag garland across the porch ceiling or tying it to two stakes in the ground. Simply download and print the flag templates onto colorful card stock, cut out, then connect each one with brads. Who knows, you just might want to keep it hanging all summer long! Photo by Mike Bullock

Take Cover

One of the big challenges of outdoor entertaining during the summer months is battling the bugs. But don't let that discourage you from hosting a backyard dinner party! Cover appetizers with pretty glass domes and cake stand covers to keep creepy crawlers away and preserve the food's freshness. Photo by Mike Bullock

Inside Out

During those first warm days of summer, invite a group of friends over for a special outdoor meal to celebrate the season. Instead of using patio furniture, why not move the dining table right outside onto the porch for an alfresco brunch, complete with pretty linens, blushing blooms, tasty bites and mimosas? Photo by Mike Bullock

All Aglow

Try using tons of white candles as a quick and inexpensive way to instantly transform the backyard into a cocktail party-ready space. Light up the night with rows of flickering votives that line the edge of a swimming pool or sidewalk, adding a sophisticated and festive feel. Photo by She-n-He Photography

Sweet Seat

Life is just a bowl of cherries, especially during the summer. Download and print this place card template, handwrite guests' names on each flag and use double-sided tape to wrap the cards around wooden skewers. Stick upright into a bowl of fresh cherries, and place at each table setting. Guests will love locating their seat to discover a fresh bowl of fruit, all theirs for the snacking. Photo by Mike Bullock

Fuss-Free Flowers

Since summer is the time to embrace a carefree, casual vibe, opt for simple do-it-yourself floral arrangements. Collect retro soda bottles from thrift stores (or find cute glass ones at the grocery store) and tuck a few seasonal wildflowers and fresh herbs in each one. Photo by She-n-He Photography

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Once You Pop

Put an exciting spin on the dessert buffet by setting up a popcorn bar before everyone arrives. Fill a variety of apothecary jars with different flavors of homemade or store-bought popcorn, and let guests have fun scooping up the salty and sweet flavors. Place paper bags next to the bar so everyone can take their favorite flavor home with them; it's the perfect way to thank them for "popping" by! Photo by She-n-He Photography

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