Summer is here at last, and there is no single date Alaskans cherish and celebrate more than glorious Summer Solstice. There are so many ways to celebrate this pinnacle day of lightness and longevity.
Staying close to home, the Anchorage Downtown Partnership throws a giant party with the annual Summer Solstice Festival. This year, it’s noon-6 p.m., Saturday, June 17. There’s really something for everyone at this daylong event – from games, vendors and crafts, to musical performances, beer gardens and the Taste of Anchorage Food Zone, a roundup of favorite local chefs and food trucks. Best of all, the event is free. Look for the action along Fourth Avenue between C and L streets.
These downtown events can create parking headaches, so save the stress and bike in via trail from one of the nearby parks. It’s a great way to extend the day and enjoy the light. Or, for a unique and illuminating way to enjoy the solstice holiday and log some steps, watch the calendar for the annual solstice tour of the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery. You’ll stop by notable graves and learn about Anchorage pioneers from knowledgeable guides. This typically happens June 21.
Over Anchorage? Want to wander? Head north to Fairbanks. While the Anchorage Downtown Partnership boasts that solstice here marks 22 hours of functional daylight, Fairbanks has 24 sensational hours of sun. And for this, the Golden Heart City sure loves to celebrate.
The athletic folks can kick off their weekend June 17 with the midnight launch of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Midnight Sun Run. It’s a unique, late-night 10K with runners donning everything from practical sporty ensembles to odd homemade costumes.
The next day, Sunday, June 18, downtown Fairbanks hosts the 36th Midnight Sun Festival celebration. The annual event takes place the Sunday nearest solstice, attracts some 30,000 people, and stretches over a 12-hour period that sees some 30 live performances and more than 150 food and craft vendors.
If you go, don’t forget your bug spray. Fairbanks mosquitoes are no joke, but you can’t let them hold you at bay. In this Interior town in June, being outside is simply the best. Several restaurants have excellent riverside patios, like Pike’s Landing and the Pump House Restaurant. Both are great spots for enjoying a cold beer in the warm sun while watching the kayakers and boats float by along the Chena River.
Small towns are also a lot of fun during solstice, and can bring out one’s adventurous side. Quaint and quirky Seldovia – just a water taxi away from Homer – has staged its own solstice-timed music festival for years. This year’s event is June 22-25 and promises folksingers and musicians from Alaska and beyond.
Little Seldovia has only several hundred year-round residents, but they’re known for throwing a memorable party. Compared to the Anchorage and Fairbanks events that draw thousands of people, this festival would offer a quintessential, small-town stage for enjoying a more grassroots vibe. Granted, getting there by either a hired boat or floatplane takes some extra work.
For something similarly authentically Alaskan but requiring less effort, head south to Moose Pass. They’ve had a weekend-long celebration before Solstice for years now. Non-campers can enjoy that more rural setting before posting up in a Seward hotel room, but there are plenty of spots around this tiny highway town for tent camping.
Camping, road trips, or mass-crowd festivals not your thing? When all else fails, look no further than our own backyard and Mulcahy Stadium, where every solstice, baseball teams play games well into the night, no stadium lights needed. It’s a truly unique Alaskan experience that baseball fans in the Lower 48 can only dream of. Aren’t we lucky?
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