Summer Solstice in Alaska: Bring on the ‘Midnight Sun’

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Alaskans love summer so much they are prone to exhaustion. The reason? Perpetual twilight, known as ‘Midnight Sun,’ a phenomenon that causes lawn mowing at 10 p.m., restless children who refuse to go to bed, and endless sessions of fishing along a riverbank. A springtime rush of light with a daily gain of more than five minutes means an influx of activity to winter-weary Alaskans, so by the time Solstice appears on June 21, residents are all fired up for a big party. If you’re new to Alaska’s summer session, you’re in luck. Practically every community does something to celebrate, and below we’ve got a few options for families looking to spend their Solstice eve on the go.

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FAIRBANKS: The Golden Heart City loves a good Summer Solstice party, and with good reason. Fairbanks is nearly six hours to the north of Anchorage, and thus, daylight lingers well past midnight up there. Famous for their Midnight Sun Festival, Fairbanks is once again shutting down First, Second, and Third Avenues downtown on Sunday, June 22, from noon to midnight. Live music, food, crafts, and a chance to mingle with Alaskans who are just as happy as you to be out and about in the middle of the night.

For those who really wish to test the Summer Solstice mettle, try the Midnight Sun Run on Saturday, June 21, at 10 p.m. That’s right, 10 PM. Walk, run, or roll your way around town way, way past bedtime. Kids? They’ll dig it. Be sure to have a snack and some water before the event, however, as children will need the extra energy.

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Like baseball? The Alaska Gold Panners of Fairbanks play a traditional Midnight Sun baseball game on the eve of Summer Solstice (beginning at 10 p.m.). This is the ONLY baseball game in the U.S. to be played without the benefit of artificial lighting, and it’s one big party for those in attendance. Such a fun festival atmosphere, and perfect for kids. Tickets go fast, though, so hurry to the Goldpanner website for yours.

A percussion-water-snack station at Mayors Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage.

Image courtesy Anchorage Downtown Partnership.

ANCHORAGE: Southcentral Alaska knows how to put on a Summer Solstice party, too, so make plans to spend time in downtown Anchorage for the annual Downtown Summer Solstice Festival. Fourth Avenue will be blocked off for music, food, vendor booths, skateboarding demonstrations, and the very popular Hero Games, a friendly competition among Anchorage’s first responders (and we do love those guys). Take a bit of time to walk around downtown and check out the amazing flower baskets and beds lovingly planted by our city workers. Stunning, and a great way to explain to kids just how things grow bigger and better with more sunlight.

Anchorage has a big running event on Solstice as well, but not at night anymore. The Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon actually consists of the namesake marathon, a half-marathon, relays, 5-miler, and Kids’ Mile. More than 4,000 people have registered for 2014, more than ever before, so this race is gaining popularity year by year for its unique road and track format and stunning scenery. Best places to watch include Earthquake Park along the west end of Northern Lights Boulevard, Campbell Airstrip Road, and at the finish line on the Anchorage Downtown Park Strip, where, by the way, they’ll be music, food, and a beer garden. Don’t miss it.

Nome. Beautiful Nome.

NOME: There’s no place like Nome, especially on Summer Solstice eve. No sunset here, folks, that golden ball will skip around to the horizon and pop back up, just in time for a new day. Hang out along the beach of Norton Sound with the locals as they celebrate with Summer Solstice Festival activities. While travel to Nome is expensive, with Alaska Airlines miles it’s a mere 15,000 RT to use those banked miles, and for a good reason. Nome rocks. Check out the full scoop at the Nome Visitor Center website. 

Image courtesy Juneau Empire.

JUNEAU: Gold Rush Days typically fall on Summer Solstice weekend, and I was lucky enough one year to be present for the lumberjack show, food booths, and fun times over in Douglas, Juneau’s ‘suburb’ across Gastineau Channel. Taking a cruise? Ask about transportation across the channel to the festivities; it’s true Southeast Alaska, folks.

Turnagain Arm on a Solstice eve.

OTHER: Hey, you don’t need a specific festival to get out and enjoy Summer Solstice eve. Take a walk with the kids, play at a park at the stroke of midnight, have s’mores over a campfire. But above all, remember the mantra repeated by so many Alaska parents….

“They can always sleep, later.”

Happy Solstice.



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