Where to Celebrate the First Day of Summer in All 50 States


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The summer solstice, which occurs the third week in June, marks the official start of summer in the northern hemisphere. It's also the longest day of the year. Take advantage of the extra daylight by heading outdoors to enjoy one of the many events happening around this date, such as music festivals, family-friendly street parties, and activities at scenic parks. Here are free and cheap fun ways to enjoy the solstice in each state.

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Head to the southern Appalachians for a long summer day’s worth of outdoor adventure at Little River Canyon. Taking in waterfalls, canyons, cliffs, and bluffs makes a scenic way to spend extra daylight hours.

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Anchorage enjoys a whopping 22 hours of daylight on its summer solstice. The city takes advantage of the extra sun with a number of celebrations. In particular, downtown Anchorage becomes the scene for a family-friendly festival in the streets, the Solstice Festival & Hero Games on June 18.

Related: Great Summer Festivals in All 50 States (and D.C.)
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Visit the outdoor sculpture courtyard at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art to observe the solstice sky through artist James Turrell’s sculpture "Knight Rise." Visitors can look through an elliptical opening in the ceiling that creates an illusion of the sky descending upon them. The installation is free to view during museum hours and most dramatic at sunrise and sunset.

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Visit the Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park, the site of Arkansas's tallest American Indian mounds, which are the remains of a government and ceremonial site that was inhabited from 650 to 1050 A.D. Entrance to the park is free, but on June 18, visitors can join an evening solstice celebration that includes a presentation on how the mounds align with the solstice sunset. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for kids.

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Head to Santa Barbara to experience the city’s yearly summer solstice parade and festival, held June 24-26. Enjoy musical performances and a kid-friendly play area to ring in the longest days of the year.

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Travel to Bear Creek Lake Park in Lakewood for a group night sky observation, where visitors can view the Full Strawberry Moon through telescopes. This is also a chance to meet and learn about various birds of prey. Admission to the June 20 event is $2, and the park entrance fee is waived.

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Observe the solstice by taking in the night sky at Stamford Museum & Nature Center. Every Friday throughout the summer, visitors can view the stars through a research telescope at the observatory; the fee is $5 for adults and $3 for children.

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Walk through a labyrinth at the Delaware Art Museum to celebrate the summer solstice sunset. The June 20 event is free, but donations are welcome to help maintain the labyrinth.

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Long summer days are the perfect time to visit the Miami Beach Botanical Garden. Stroll through the lush grounds, or participate in a yoga class (held Wednesdays and Saturdays). Admission to the garden is free.

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The weekend after the solstice brings an intense all-day mountain bike race that active types are sure to enjoy. The Summer Solstice Races on June 25 follow the trails of Allatoona Creek in Acworth (northwest of Atlanta) "where open fields give way to forest as the trail converges on Lake Allatoona, providing a picturesque backdrop."

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There’s really no bad place in Hawaii to enjoy a long summer’s day and a solstice sunset, but Hawaii Magazine names Waikiki one of the best spots for sunset viewing, with numerous free beach areas and inviting gentle waves for watersports. Play and take in the views.

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A long summer day becomes a little bit more magical when experienced at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Arco. Described as an ocean of lava flows, the area is popular with hikers and explorers who enjoy investigating this "weird and scenic" landscape.

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Make Music Chicago is an annual musical festival that takes place on June 21 and marks summer’s longest day with music from morning to night. Musicians of any skill level and age are encouraged to celebrate everyone’s ability to make music.

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The Indianapolis Museum of Art holds its second annual Indy Arts Swap on June 18, which includes activities for budding musicians. Bring a blanket and enjoy a food truck picnic, or join in a traveling bike festival along a canal. Admission is free with suggested donation to a local charity.

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Head to Ledges State Park in the city of Madrid for a day’s worth of outdoor adventure. History buffs will appreciate archaeological sites that date back 4,000 years, but there are also plenty of other activities, such as hiking, biking, fishing, and canoeing.

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Celebrate the summer solstice a few days early on June 18 at the Midsummer’s Festival in Lindsborg, known regionally as Little Sweden. The festival features music, food, dance, and games, including a kubb, a traditional Nordic game best described as a combination of bowling, bocce, and horseshoes.

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Head outdoors to enjoy the lengthy daylight at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Sterns. Hiking, rafting, fishing, and scenic views make for an enjoyable start to summer.

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City Park in New Orleans is the scene of many activities for all ages, as well as a place to observe beautiful greenery -- it’s the location of the world's largest grove of mature live oaks. Visitors to the park on the day of the summer solstice are likely to come across any number of gatherings -- in previous years; the park has been the site of celebrations honoring the day.

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Rockland hosts a citywide summer solstice party on June 18. The event, now in its 18th year, offers an evening of music, sidewalk sales, activities, and a variety of food -- including the "official" Maine treat featured at a whoopie pie eating contest.

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Enjoy a long summer day at Assateague State Park, Maryland's only oceanfront park. The island park offers swimming, sunning, fishing, and -- most uniquely -- wild horses, making it one of a few places in the U.S. where visitors can view feral horses, which have roamed Assateague Island for centuries.

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Harvard University opens its doors to the public June 20 for its annual Night at the Harvard Museums of Science Culture Summer Solstice Celebration. Admission and parking are free and the wide variety of activities includes circus performers, dances, crafts, music -- and even beekeeping -- aimed at the kid in everyone.

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Enjoy the solstice with jazz music at the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival in East Lansing. This major music event, now in its 20th year, features a host of accomplished jazz musicians, including the Chicago Jazz Orchestra performing a Sinatra at 100 tribute.

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In Minnesota, dog lovers can get in on the summer solstice celebrations, when two local kennel clubs host the Summer Solstice Cluster of Dog Shows, June 23-26. Come watch the dogs compete or to put your own pooch in the limelight. On June 24, join an evening fundraiser to help "sniff out the cure." A $10 donation includes a barbecue-style meal and music from the Workin' Dogs band. All proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society.

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Experience the solstice sunrise or sunset at Cypress Swamp, where an enchanting wooden walking path winds through a swamp populated with water tupelo and bald cypress trees. The short 0.4-mile walk can easily be completed in 20 minutes, but more leisurely strollers are more likely to spot native wildlife, including turtles and alligators.

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Visit Missouri’s own Stonehenge for the solstice. This partial reconstruction of the ancient structure outside of London was built at Missouri ST University in 1984 and is a place for students and visitors alike to observe and mark the seasons. These modern recreations are the largest monuments ever cut using a water jet.

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Take advantage of summer’s longest day by driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road at Glacial National Park in Montana. The scenic 50-mile drive is a historic landmark that takes drivers through the main parts of the park. It features gorgeous mountain views (including snow-capped peaks), wildlife sightings, and hiking trails.

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The Omaha River City Music Festival is held just before the summer solstice (June 18) and features funky tunes from musicians including George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. Open space is available for families to play games, as are areas for playing sand volleyball, horseshoes, and badminton. Food and merchandise vendors will also be onsite.

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Escape from the casinos to take in beautiful natural scenery at the Valley of Fire State Park, about 50 miles north of Las Vegas. The area features breathtaking views of red sandstone rock formations that appear to glow. Dedicated in 1935, Valley of Fire is Nevada's oldest state park and includes almost 36,000 acres -- nearly 43 times the size of New York's Central Park.

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The Granite State's version of Stonehenge is possibly the oldest man-made "construction" in the United States, built an estimated 4,000 years ago, and is believed to be an accurate astronomical calendar. Today, America's Stonehenge, as it's called, is the site for an annual solstice celebration that encourages participation in ancient rituals that honor the sun. The program begins at 2 p.m. on June 19. The fee is $12 for access to the site, with an additional suggested donation of $8 to support the solstice event.

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Take in the solstice sunlight at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of Island Beach, Barnegat Bay, and Long Beach Island from the top of the 150-year-old lighthouse for a $3 entrance fee. Other activities at the park include hiking, picnicking, fishing, and bird watching.

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Chaco Culture National Historical Park in Nageezi has the distinction of being named one of four "Dark Sky Parks," meaning one of the best places in the country to stargaze. Honor the solstice by joining one of the park’s sunrise programs on June 21 or 22, featuring native art demonstrations and concerts that combine music with astronomy.

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New York yogis will likely be found celebrating the summer solstice in Times Square on June 20 at an annual gathering that offers free yoga classes throughout the day to honor the sun. Seven classes are held starting at 7 a.m.

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Join local artisans, performers, and business owners for the annual summer solstice celebration in Greensboro on June 18. The festival, which started in 2005, features three stages with six hours of planned music, a parasol parade, and a bazaar. Stick around after sundown for a "fire finale" at 9 p.m., showcasing fire-spinners and other performers. A recommended donation of $2 is requested.

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Head to Theodore Roosevelt National Park to view painted canyons or journey through the Badlands. Several guided tours and campfire events are also offered during summer, including a special Picnic in the Park event on June 18 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring horse-themed activities for kids, including paint the horse and stick horse races. Entrance fees are $20 per vehicle.

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Early risers will want to join the summer solstice sunrise viewing at Fort Ancient in Oregonia. The free event on June 19 starts at 5:45 a.m. and gives attendees a chance to learn more about this historic landmark, once home to Native Americans of the Hopewell tradition.

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Take a summer solstice guided walk at Oklahoma’s only prehistoric Native American archaeological site, Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center, on June 19 and 20. The two-hour tour includes discussion of 12 mounds built by Native Americans hundreds of years ago that "line up to solstice and equinox sunsets." The $3 event begins at 7 p.m., allowing guests to observe sunset.

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Guided evening walks are a popular summer solstice activity, and Tryon Creek State Natural Area in Portland offers a free stroll on June 21. A guide will discuss topics such as summer solstice celebrations from different cultures around the world.

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The Codorus Blast Festival in the Park, running June 17-19, promises tons of fun leading up to the solstice. Find a variety of food, kid-friendly arts and crafts, and even a dock-diving competition for dogs for a $5 donation to benefit Codorus State Park.

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The town of Cumberland is the setting for the sixth annual Blackstone River Theatre Summer Solstice Festival on June 18. Mark the long summer day by taking in an array of musical performances for $15.

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Stroll the incredible Ravenel Bridge in Charleston to commemorate summer’s longest day. The 2.5-mile suspension bridge has eight lanes as well as bike and pedestrian paths.

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The small city of Marion holds its summer celebration June 17-19, offering family-friendly fun such as a parade, car show, fireworks, bingo, and a chislic feed (mutton on a stick). Run or walk off those extra calories during the 5K race.

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The annual RC-Moon Pie Festival & 10 Mile Run arrives in the tiny town of Bell Buckle every third weekend in June. Now in its 22nd year, the event takes place June 18 and offers plenty of all-day fun with music, games, clog dancing, and, of course, food. Featured fare includes Tennessee smoked barbecue, hand-squeezed lemonade, RC Cola, and deep fried moon pies -- and don't miss the cutting of the world’s largest moon pie.

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The Austin Solstice Festival is an annual celebration of the longest day of summer that features free music, art, and family activities. At nighttime the event, which takes place June 17-18 this year, turns into a huge dance party.

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The Parowan Gap Petroglyphs is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is a popular place to watch the sunset between the gap during the summer solstice. The site has been host to summer solstice events for 20 years.

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Called "Vermont's Little Grand Canyon," Quechee Gorge is a unique place to view a solstice sunrise or sunset. Pack a picnic, hike to the waterfalls, and take in the view for free.

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The whole family can enjoy the Virginia Summer Solstice Wine Festival on June 25, with plenty of food, arts and crafts, live music, and more to complement wine tasting for the grown-ups. The event takes place at Lazy Days Winery in Amherst, the ideal spot for a long and lazy solstice day.

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The Fremont Solstice festival deems itself a free-spirited weekend of food, music, arts, and shopping in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. The event, running June 17-19, is free to attend, and event-goers can expect to see plenty of costumed revelers.

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Spend part of the day hiking the 4-mile stretch of the historic Appalachian Trail that runs through the eastern edge of West Virginia. Much of the trail traverses Harpers Ferry, site of John Brown's Raid and several Civil War battles. And the views, especially across the Shenandoah River, are a memorable way to spend the first day of summer.

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Madison hosts a yearly free outdoor music celebration around the time of the summer solstice. This year the event takes place on June 21, and features more than 300 artists at more than 100 venues. The event is now in its third year and is open to musicians of all ages and skill levels.

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Crimson Dawn Park & Museum in Mills, Wyoming, is the scene for a summer solstice celebration that’s been running since 1929. Every year on June 21, the park hosts a Midsummer’s Eve event. Visitors gather to enjoy an evening of storytelling and strolling through a network of shrines, and then snack on cookies and hot chocolate at a bonfire. Admission is free, although donations are appreciated.

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