Escapes

Q:

Where Are the Best Places to Celebrate the Summer Solstice?

What better place to spend the longest day of the year than at the mythical Stonehenge?     Photo: MAIN Wessex Archaeology/Flickr

A:Besides vampires, maybe, who doesn’t like celebrating on the longest day of sunlight of the year? Anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere that beer is sold and friends can be found pretty much suffices as a party venue. However, if you want a once-in-a-lifetime summer solstice experience on June 21, these five destinations shine the brightest. 

Stonehenge, England

  Photo: Stonehenge Stone Circle/Flickr

There’s no place better to commemorate the summer solstice than to pull an all-nighter and watch the daybreak over the “sun stone” at the mysterious 4,100-year-old boulder structure known as Stonehenge in southern England. You’ll be joined by roughly 20,000 other revelers there in a party atmosphere at 4:52 a.m.—a surprising number of them in white robes claiming to be druids.

Travel tip: Salisbury Reds bus company runs buses from the local Salisbury train station and drops off passengers 1.5 miles from Stonehenge for the summer solstice, starting at 6:30 p.m. on the 20th.

Mars Hill, Maine

  Photo: Andrea R/Flickr

In order to be the first person to catch daybreak on the continental U.S. during the summer solstice, you need to stand on Mars Hill, a 1,700-foot mountain in northern Maine. Then, look east for the sun climbing above the jagged horizon of New Brunswick, Canada. The peak is the last landmark before the Canadian border on the International Appalachian Trail.

Travel tip: Camp out the night before the summer solstice in the lean-to on top of Mars Hill. Here’s an online hiker’s guide.

Anchorage, Alaska

  Photo: Frank Kovalchek/Flickr

On the summer solstice, daylight lasts for 22 hours in Anchorage, and the locals savor every minute of it with parties and celebrations. Downtown businesses organize the Solstice Festival, an all-day event that includes an art fair, chainsaw artists, live jazz concerts, roller derby, a Taste of Anchorage food court, and a “Hero Games” skills competition between firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and military members. 

Travel tip: To truly partake in Anchorage tradition at this time of year, run in the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon and Half-Marathon, which begins at 8 a.m.

Longyearbyen, Norway

  Photo: Michele Solmi/Flickr

Do you passionately miss the sun on those short winter days? Then be glad you’re not a resident of Longyearbyen, Sweden, the northernmost city in the world—where the sun sets in October and doesn’t rise again until March. On the flipside, daylight lasts from April till August. People aren't the only pedestrians crossing the street in this old old coal mining settlement (population 2000) by the Longyearelva River. Polar bears and reindeer occasionally make appearances as well.

Travel tip: Stay in the Spitsbergen Hotel, overlooking the town, on the site of the old coal mining company’s headquarters. Rates start at $139 a night.

Reykjavik, Iceland

  Photo: Ævar Guðmundsson/Flickr

The 200,000 rowdy folks of Reykjavik look for just about any reason to throw a party, and their celebration of midnight sun on the summer solstice is a tradition that dates back to the Vikings. To maximize merriment, most downtown bars in the world’s northernmost capital city traditionally stay open past 5 a.m. on the 22nd. 

Travel tip: The inaugural Secret Solstice Music Festival will be the focal point of festivities in Reykjavik during the 72 hours of sunlight from the 20th through the 22nd, featuring 150 bands on seven stages in the Laugardalur recreational area.

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