As a big fan of Alaska travel and someone who’s written about the state a fair amount, I realize I’ve been amiss in not previously mentioning one of the 49th state’s premier events: Summer Solstice in Fairbanks.
Just 140 miles south of the Arctic Circle, the city of Fairbanks is the top spot in Alaska to celebrate the Solstice on June 21. The Solstice is the apex of the Midnight Sun season, which runs there from April 22 through August 20.
During the Solstice, the sun never dips below the horizon and the sky never gets dark. So on June 21 or thereabouts, Fairbanks residents and visitors can either pull down the blackout shades when it’s time to go to bed or give into reality and just decide to stay up half the night.
Three Sun-Illuminated Events
Thanks to the folks at Explore Fairbanks, I’m reminded of three long-standing events that capitalize on the everlasting sunshine: the epic Midnight Sun Festival, the Midnight Sun Baseball Game, and the Midnight Sun Run.
Held annually from noon to midnight on the Sunday closest to Solstice, the Midnight Sun Festival is Alaska’s largest single-day event, drawing up to 30,000 sun-worshippers from around the world. (This year’s fest falls on June 24, so you may still have time to head up.)
Downtown Fairbanks’ 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th avenues become pedestrian only and host a huge street fair offering food, drink, merchandise, and activities. The cornerstones of the festival are four large stages that present 45 live performances including folk, rap, ballet, rock and more. Admission is free.
While the festival is marking its 37th year, downtown Fairbanks has been celebrating the Summer Solstice since well before Alaska became a state.
The Midnight Sun Baseball Game has been held on Solstice for the past 113 years. The game begins at 10 p.m. and continues until 1 a.m. without using artificial lights. Over the course of the game, spectators can watch the sun set and begin to rise without the sky ever getting dark.
The 36th annual Midnight Sun Run is a quirky only-in-Alaska-style event that attracts more than 3,500 participants, some wearing wacky costumes. Super heroes, bumblebees, swashbucklers and others don running shoes and hit the 10K route at 10 p.m., cruising into and beyond the midnight hour.
The run winds through neighborhoods where locals host outdoor house parties to cheer on participants.
Not much keeps me up past midnight these days, but on the longest day of the year, there’s plenty of time to nap earlier.
Photo credits: Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks