Lights Out

Head north—to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim—for primo, crowd-free night skies     Photo: Robert Glusic/Photodisc/Getty

How Not to Spend Summer

Collecting prize money for killing gophers at the Gopher Count festival, in Viola, Minnesota, June 19

Spitting seeds for four days at the Watermelon Thump, in Luling, Texas, June 26–29.

Literally watching paint dry at the National Fence Painting Championship, in Hannibal, Missouri, July 3–5.

Calling mosquitoes at the Great Texas Mosquito Festival, in Clute, Texas, July 24–26; contestants try to lure the biggest bug with their voices.
—CLAIRE NAPIER GALOFARO

GRAND CANYON, ARIZONA - The summer solstice at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is a throng of shuttle buses, clicking cameras, and vendors hawking I ♥ GC booty shorts. But on the less frequented North Rim, there's a nighttime solstice party where you can watch the skies erupt in peace. Under the orchestration of Arizona's Saguaro Astronomy Club, a score of astronomers from across the country converge to set up powerful telescopes on the terrace of the Grand Canyon Lodge, a castle-like stone building perched on the edge of the canyon (doubles, $100; grandcanyonlodgenorth.com). For eight nights, more than 100 people—hikers, amateur stargazers, passersby—stop for a quick peek through a scope and end up staying, starstruck, as late as 5 a.m. Since the Grand Canyon has one of America's darkest night skies, you can see Saturn's rings, storms on Jupiter, and millions of stars glittering like galactic bling. Exploit the extra daylight with a quad-busting, nine-mile round-trip hike on the North Kaibab Trail to the Roaring Springs waterfall, 3,050 feet down the canyon. Afterwards, refuel with the lodge's brand-new Grand Cookout dinners. The chuck-wagon-style beef brisket, roasted chicken, and fresh-baked biscuits will sate the most astronomical of appetites ($35 per person). Nearest airport: Flagstaff, Arizona, a somewhat daunting 200 miles away.

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