Summer is Alaska’s most popular season for travelers — and for good reason. From May through September cruise ships large and small ply the open ocean and various lodge and tour operations come out of hibernation in anticipation for the high season. During these months, most notably June and July, Alaska enjoys extended daylight hours throughout the state. The further north you travel, the more daylight hours to be enjoyed. For example, Barrow (located at the very top of the Far North region) has continuous sunlight for 85 days in the summer! South of the Arctic Circle, all communities in Alaska experience night at some level, though it may be quite brief and not terribly dark.
The summer solstice (or longest day of the year) occurs on June 21 and many communities throughout the state feature festivals and events to celebrate. One of the most well known destinations for solstice celebrations is Fairbanks, located in Alaska’s Interior. The Interior region usually garners higher temperatures than the rest of the coastal areas of the state, and Fairbanks offers a full week of solstice celebrations. Events include the Midnight Sun Festival, the Midnight Sun Fun Run, the Eagle Summit Gathering where crowds assemble on a mountaintop north of Fairbanks, and the annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game. Hosted by the Alaska Goldpanners, the first pitch of the game is thrown after 10 p.m. and play continues well into the night without any aid of artificial light. Other solstice festivals can be found in Anchorage, Seldovia, Moose Pass, Juneau and Denali National Park and Preserve.
The extensive amounts of sunlight in summer months are especially good for vegetation and crops in Alaska. The Alaska State Fair takes place each August in the agricultural hot spot of Palmer, located an hour’s drive north of Anchorage. The fair features around 8,000 exhibits over 11 days, including the record-breaking produce display, a fan favorite. Prize-winning produce is of epic-sized proportions in this exhibit — cabbages and other giant veggies have weighed in at more than 100 pounds! The Alaska State Fair celebrates 75 years (“and growin’!”) this year, and is slated for August 25 - September 5, 2011. If you can’t be there, the National Public Radio program “A Prairie Home Companion” will be broadcasting from the Alaska State Fair on Sunday, Aug. 28.
Additional summer recreation activities in Alaska are seemingly endless. Kayaking, flightseeing, world-class fishing, glacier trekking, rafting and gold panning are just a few of the adventures to be had in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Check with local visitor bureaus and chambers of commerce for more on what kinds of summer opportunities are available in each community.