Summer Solstice Festivals in Alaska

Summer Solstice Festivals in Alaska

Travelers can take advantage of 24 hours of light in Alaska by attending summer solstice festivals By: Chris Batin
The Midnight Sun Run in Fairbanks is an annual 10K run under the late-night summer solstice sun. // © 2015 Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks
The Midnight Sun Run in Fairbanks is an annual 10K run under the late-night summer solstice sun. // © 2015 Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks

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Summer solstice festivals throughout Alaska celebrate the longest day of the year, and there are many reasons why the events offer visitors the most fun under the midnight sun.

In June, the sun is visible above the horizon throughout much of Alaska, and the sky only fades into various degrees of “midnight twilight” from Fairbanks to Anchorage. (In Barrow, the sun doesn’t set for 2½ months.) Whatever the in-state destination, agents would be wise to plan clients’ itineraries to take advantage of the 24 hours of light.

Solstice events begin as early as June 20, with some lasting until the early morning of June 22. Advise clients to take a siesta before they spend the “evening” and early morning hours indulging in the festivities. Here are some top recommendations.

The highlight of the season for local residents is the Midnight Sun Festival. According to Amy Geiger, director of communications at Explore Fairbanks, the gathering is the largest single-day event in Alaska and attracts visitors from around the country. The mostly outdoor event hosts 180 booths and more than 30 musicians and performers.

The popular 10K Midnight Sun Run on June 20 typically draws more than 2,600 people, many of which run the course in a variety of costumes, according to Geiger.

Another fun option is the Midnight Sun Baseball Game, which is now in its 110th year. It starts at 10:30 p.m., lasts until 1:30 a.m. and is played without the aid of outdoor lights.

For faster action, the Yukon 800 Mile Marathon boat race features sleek powerboats that speed down remote rivers in a two-day competition.

During solstice celebrations, Anchorage’s Fourth Avenue closes to traffic so that revelers can delight in food booths, musicians and entertainment. Running enthusiasts from across the country enter a variety of events that include the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon, a marathon relay, a half-marathon or a 5-mile race. Many trails wind through wooded sections of city parks.

Anglers can try their luck at the Slam’n Salm’n Derby on Ship Creek, a short walk from downtown. Local outfitters will set up fishermen with tackle and hip boots in the hopes they’ll catch a 20- to 30-pound king salmon.

“Solstice celebrations are how Nome residents kick off the summer in a big way — being outside in the sun,” said Amber Miller of the Nome Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Solstice events run from June 19 to 21 and include a parade, a staged bank robbery, a street dance, a polar bear swim and the popular Nome River Raft Race, where participants in makeshift rafts battle their way down the river to win a fur-lined honey-bucket trophy.

Alaska’s summer solstice celebrations will allow your clients to see the Alaska summer in its best light, 24 hours a day.