By Chloe Mulliner, on May 3, 2016

How to unlock the best 2016 solstice events

The summer solstice is almost here! As if the first day of summer wasn’t exciting enough, with it comes the longest day of the year. The sun shines for just a few more seconds than usual, but those extra rays can make you feel like you’ve cheated the system.

In ancient times, different cultures had their unique way of celebrating the onset of summertime with everything from bonfires to religious offerings. Some built structures and temples based on the shadows cast by the solstice sun, while others looked to the agricultural gods for a good crop season.

Nowadays, summer solstice is just an excuse to get outside and take advantage of the extended daylight. This year, the occasion falls on Monday, June 20, 2016—the perfect time for a vacation or for a little game of hooky (we won’t tell!). So shake off those spring shower blues, slap on some sunscreen, and check out our upcoming itineraries for celebrating the first day of summer in Denver, Santa Barbara, and Chicago. To get you started, here are some highlights of what’s going on in these three cities during summer solstice 2016:


Denver summer solstice

Feel the warmth of the summer sun on your skin during a game of horseshoe at City Park, followed by some artisan grub at The Source, the local urban market. Later in the evening, you’ve got your choice of attending the summer solstice event at Bear Creek Lake Park or the Midsummer Nights Tours at the Denver Botanic Gardens. The Bear Creek Lake Park will host a birds of prey demonstration at the Learning Circle Amphitheater and offer telescope views of the strawberry full moon, while the Denver Botanic Gardens is offering a Shakespearean-inspired plant presentation.

Viewfinder tip: Book your tickets for these events ahead of time as some have limited space available.

Santa Barbara summer solstice

Because the first day of summer falls on a Monday, Santa Barbara is pushing its annual Summer Solstice Celebration to the weekend of June 24-26. In the meanwhile, can you think of a better way to ring in summertime than catching some rays on the shores of East Beach? Later in the evening, at 7:30 p.m., Paddle Sports Center is hosting a full moon paddle event in the Santa Barbara Harbor. Bring a white headlamp and paddle your way out of the longest day of the year under the luminescence of the moon.

Chicago summer solstice

Take time to reflect on the change of seasons at the Garden of Phoenix and then head north to the Loyola University Chicago Farmers Market to stock up on some fresh flowers and ripe produce. At 6:30 p.m., settle into the season with the Millennium Park Summer Music Series. DJ Spooky’s Rebirth of a Nation and Kelan Phil Cohran’s Summer Solstice Ensemble will make some noise with interpretations of various genres. But if peanuts and home runs are more your summer style, the Cubs are teeing up against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.


This solstice, get active, learn something new, or catch a concert while the sun lingers in the sky for longer than any other day of the year. Keep an eye out for our upcoming posts with more ways to spend the solstice in these three cities.

Also, take a peek at some of our recommendations for last year’s summer solstice 2015.

What are your plans for the beginning of summer?