For all of LIFE Magazine’s coverage of serious matters--from war to politics to movements--the editors also had their fingers on the pulse of American leisure. Simply put, they cared about how their readers had fun, and the magazine's covers reflected that. Never were LIFE’s editors more interested in recreation than during the summer, when covers zeroed in on beach excursions and sailing jaunts, poolside fashions and children at play. Here, to celebrate the impending arrival of the season, a collection of LIFE’s most memorable summer covers.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.