Kentucky: Our 5 Favorite Things to Do
No one ever accused Kentucky of being boring. From the lively role it played in the Civil War to its rich history of bourbon-making to the all-American horseraces that bring throngs of fancy hat-sporting fans to the area each year, there’s plenty that draws people to the Bluegrass State, the 15th to join the Union. Here are a few things not to be missed when you plan a visit.
1. Hit the trail—the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
When the Kentucky Bourbon Trail launched in 1999, it featured eight bourbon distilleries. Today it includes 17, six of which are in Louisville. In 2018, more than 1 million thirsty visitors explored the history of this iconic American industry. You can schedule a tour at each distillery, get a stamp on your “passport” when you leave, and if you hit them all, mail in you can exchange your passport for a t-shirt. Last year marked the unveiling of a visitors center at the Frazier History Museum in downtown Louisville.
2. Explore Horse Country
When you think about major American sporting events, you think about the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA Finals. But none of those are associated with a single place—a single venue, in fact—like another major event: the Kentucky Derby. A glimpse into the lives of thoroughbreds is reason alone to visit Bluegrass State. Head to the horse farms in the Lexington area (AKA: “Horse Country”) where activities range from tours of the gorgeous farms, a riding lesson, and visiting the stables of Kentucky Derby champions.
3. Step back in Time
America’s Civil War history runs wide and deep in Kentucky, and there are enough sites and monuments to events and people of the time to warrant a days-long road trip. The 36 attractions on Kentucky’s Civil War Heritage Trail include museums like the Underground Railroad Museum and the Women of the Civil War Museum; historic homes like Mary Todd Lincoln’s house and Henry Clay’s estate; as well as battlefields, state parks, cemeteries, and forts.
4. Soak Up Water Sports
Rafting, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and just plain floating are just a few of the things to do in the 119 miles of Kentucky Wild Rivers. The nine rivers that fall under the designation are protected from construction and other man-made intrusions. Among the many, many places to explore the state’s waterways are Russell Fork River, a rafter’s delight that includes a gorgeous gorge and is rated Class IV through Class VI rapids, and the man-made Fish Trap Lake, a haven for boating, fishing, and hiking. Just be on the lookout for deer!
5. A New Take on an Ancient Landmark
It seems that everywhere you travel these days, you can spot engaging public art and vibrant murals. But local artists lend unique character to their home turf in a variety of ways, and Chester Fryer in Munford, about 75 miles south of Louisville, that meant collecting nearly every large rock he could find within 1000 acres and recreating Stonehenge on his estate. What he didn’t use to build his masterpiece he employed in other projects around the property: the Garden of Gethsemane, Rock Park, and Rock Gardens. You can check out the structures from dusk to dawn daily, but note that it’s essentially in someone’s yard, so no touching or climbing allowed.
Lake Michigan: 8 Perfect Summer Getaways
It's one of the largest—and perhaps the most beautiful—freshwater lakes in the world. Remnants of the inland shipping industry that once dominated the Great Lakes can be found inside charming lighthouses and small-town historic museums, but today, visits to the shore of Lake Michigan are for swimming and sport fishing. City dwellers in Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Indianapolis know that Lake Michigan has a deep catalog of seasonal destinations, but for everyone else, it’s still under-the-radar. As such, now’s the time to plan a summer escape “up north,” as locals call it, where Victorian cottages, boating festivals, and fireworks make the area feel like a midwestern Cape Cod. There are countless ways to spend your time: explore the outdoors on a camping, swimming, or hiking trip in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula or Wisconsin’s most remote island state parks, sample locally caught wild whitefish, take a gay-resort holiday, find a favorite microbrewery, or traverse miles of uninterrupted coastline. So what are you waiting for? 1. Manistique, Michigan At With just over 3,000 residents, Manistique is a population center—albeit small—of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The town at the mouth of the Manistique River on Lake Michigan borders Hiawatha National Forest, nearly 900,000 acres of wilderness spanning the peninsula between Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Camping, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing on the Manistique River or the inland Indian Lake lets you stay close to town. Savor Michigan’s fast-growing microbrewing culture at Hops on the Harbor, a statewide craft beer festival that takes place each August. Or, to dive into the real wilderness-culture of the area, find the legendary Kitsch-iti-kipi spring to learn the Chippewa Indians’ culture. An hour’s drive north takes you to Pictured Rocks, a national park with dramatic cliffs and wild dunes on Lake Superior's shore. 2. Rock Island, Wisconsin Nestled off the northwestern shore of Wisconsin, Rock Island is accessible only by ferry or personal kayak from neighboring Washington Island. Once owned by an Icelandic immigrant who made his fortune in electronics in Chicago, the mostly undeveloped island is now a state park. Its limited beach camping allows intrepid travelers to spend the night under the stars in stillness and isolation. Day visitors can hike the trail left by its former owner, who built small cottages and a stone boathouse modeled after Iceland’s parliament building. Elsewhere on the island, Wisconsin’s oldest lighthouse, named after the Potawatomi tribe who first settled the island, is maintained by volunteer docents who give tours with excellent lake views. But the real treat on Rock Island is the splendid isolation. 3. Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana Indiana has the smallest slice of Lake Michigan coastline, but you wouldn’t know it when visiting Indiana Dunes National Park, where the shore appears to stretch endlessly across 15,000 acres between Michigan City and Gary. Seasonal camping and fishing make the park a popular summer getaway, but hikers are rewarded any time of year as they traverse the sandy dunes all the way to the beach or hike the waterfront trail near Portage Beach. As the southernmost point on Lake Michigan, temperatures in the water are usually balmy here earlier in the season, making it a solid choice for a June escape. Away from the beach, the park encompasses historic homes built for the 1933 World’s Fair. The Bailly Homestead, a fur-trading post and meeting place for Native and Anglo-Americans in the early 1800s, is a landmark site that you can explore with a guided tour. 4. Harbor Springs, Michigan The twin towns on either side of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay, Petoskey and Harbor Springs, sit near the top of Michigan’s lower peninsula. Harbor Springs, a town of about 2,000, swells during the summer months as vacationers pour in ahead of the annual regatta in July. Ugotta Regatta, paints the bay with hundreds of yachts and sailboats, while spectators take advantage of the charming, historic downtown fudge and ice cream shops in Petoskey, on the south side of the bay, generations of Victorian summer cottages founded as a Methodist church camp in the nineteenth century make up the community of Bay View. Stay at the Bay View Inn or historic Perry Hotel in downtown Petoskey to experience the charm of another era. For a touch of the contemporary, try the local microbrewery, Beards. 5. Saugatuck, Michigan The lakeside village of fewer less than 1,000 inhabitants has been a cultural draw for more than a century. Saugatuck made its name over a century ago with the Ox-Bow art colony during the Arts and Crafts Movement, and continues to attract artists and curious visitors. Today, this lakeside village of fewer than 1,000 residents is easily the buzziest LGBTQ destination in Michigan. The Dunes and CampIt, a duo of welcoming gay resorts, sit across Kalamazoo Lake in Douglas, Saugatuck’s twin village. The club at The Dunes, covered in disco balls and hot pants, hosts parties every night, but in the summer months, every day on the beach feels like a party, too. Hike through beautiful wooded dunes to the peaceful beach at Saugatuck Dunes State Park, or take a swim at Douglas Beach. For something more chill, check out the retro-style paddlewheel boat cruise down the Kalamazoo River. 6. Two Rivers, Wisconsin Although it was known through most of the 20th century as a fishing and inland shipping hub, Two Rivers isn’t your typical port town. Said to be the birth place of the ice cream sundae (a claim the town’s historical society takes very seriously) no visit here is complete without dessert at the old-fashioned ice cream saloon in Washington House. The only museum dedicated to wood-type printing, Hamilton Wood Type, hosts letterpress workshops and other hands-on events. Design lovers should make a reservation at the Schwartz House, Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. Don’t miss locally caught fish, whether you catch your own on the shore of Point Beach State Forest or order them at Water’s Edge Restaurant, a popular spot known for its panoramic view of Lake Michigan. 7. Charlevoix, Michigan The charming drawbridge that divides downtown Charlevoix makes the town a small but busy shipping port for tall ships seeking access from Lake Michigan to the interior lakes on the other side of the channel. The drawbridge action, on the half-hour, always packs this tiny community of 2,000 within tight quarters. You can witness it perfectly from Weathervane Restaurant, while eating locally-caught whitefish and other seasonal items. Locals don’t seem to mind though. You can find them in the Victorian homes around the scenic natural harbor or the charming “mushroom house” built by self-taught architect Earl Young. The round stone structures, which look curiously like hobbit homes, are made of materials found in the area and blend perfectly into the woods. At the end of July, the eight-day Venetian Festival includes a boat parade, live music, beach festival, and fireworks. 8. Port Washington, Wisconsin It might be the classical brick downtown dating from the early 1800s, the vintage Art Deco pier light, or the neighborly village feel of this harbor community, but Port Washington’s motto, “New England charm and Midwestern friendliness,” fulfills its promise. Visitors to this resort town, 30 miles north of Milwaukee, can swim or yacht on the Lake Michigan shoreline, or head deeper with Port Deco Divers weekend scuba diving trips, which explore one of more than a dozen local shipwreck sites at the bottom of the lake. Since 1964, the town’s largest annual festival, Port Fish Day, celebrates the Lake Michigan fishing tradition with a parade, rock bands, fish and chips stands, and fireworks. Turn up for the atmosphere, stay for the people.
7 Unique Bookstores in the U.S.
Independent bookstores play the role of literary sanctuary for readers both young and old, and the fact that bookstores are celebrated in the age of Kindles and digital downloads is a testament to the written word. From stores that specialize in a certain genre, like children’s books in French, to others that offer creative features such as a public typewriter, they also often function as community centers, hosting readings with both local and well-known authors. We scoured the country from the Pacific Coast to New England to the Deep South to bring you seven unique bookstores that deserve a visit, whether you're passing through or looking for a way to spend a day. The French Library: New Orleans, LA Boasting the largest selection of children’s French books in the country, The French Library (thefrenchlibrary.com) is an enchanting bookshop that lures in young readers with its artful arrangement of books and toys. It opened in 2016 to fulfill a need within New Orleans’s French immersion community, and owner Katrina Greer is devoted to nurturing children’s imaginations. In addition to stocking books in English and French for children up to age 11, they also sell toys and games. Wander to the back of the store and you will encounter un petit café that serves local coffees, teas, and pastries. They also offer French classes for children and other kid-centric activities including private tea parties. Literati: Ann Arbor, MI Literati (literatibookstore.com) is located in downtown Ann Arbor, only a few blocks from University of Michigan, and it certainly lives up to its name by attracting high-profile authors and hosting a variety of book clubs. But perhaps its largest claim to fame is the public typewriter which stands proudly amid the store’s sprawling shelves. Visitors are invited to type their musings, whether that’s a love poem or a corny joke. A collection of these musings, Notes From a Public Typewriter, was recently published by the store. Let the aroma of brewing coffee from the full-service espresso bar entice you upstairs, where you can sip a cup of joe and savor your latest purchase. Harvard Book Store: Cambridge, MA Locally owned and independently run since 1932, Harvard Bookstore (harvard.com) has become known as a Harvard Square landmark. Stocked with an extraordinarily diverse selection of new, used, and remaindered books, you’re guaranteed to find something of interest here. Don’t miss the beloved used book basement, where the walls are plastered with old newspaper clippings, book covers, and bookmarks, most of which were found by the staff in the previously read books. The store hosts an award-winning author series with more than 300 author events a year, and a Signed First Editions Club. For writers interested in self-publishing, they also have a print-on-demand machine on site that can print books in the store at an affordable price. Alabama Booksmith: Birmingham, AL Intended for the true bibliophile, Alabama Booksmith (alabamabooksmith.com) is the only bookstore in the world whose entire inventory is composed of books signed by the author. As every book in the spacious store is signed, they are each displayed face-out on the shelves, ensuring that shoppers are able to view the carefully-curated stock. Most of these books are first editions, and the store also offers a Signed First Editions Club, which is now in its fourteenth year. Each month, the shop selects a new book and a signed copy is sent to hundreds of members around the world. There is no cost to join, and selections are charged monthly at the regular retail price. As owner Jake Reiss explains, "Like fine wine, signed first editions increase in value," so it's a great investment. Over the years they've had books signed by many award-winning and well-respected authors, including John Updike and Isabel Allende. Laguna Beach Books: Laguna, CA Situated just across Pacific Coast Highway from the beach, Laguna Beach Books (lagunabeachbooks.com) is a gem that reminds many of the the bookstore in You’ve Got Mail. I should know — I’ve been lucky enough to work here for the past ten years. Inhale the salty ocean breeze and admire the replica of the Main Beach Lifeguard Tower which stands just inside the front door. Adorning the shelves are handwritten notes by staffers to express their enthusiastic recommendation for a particular book. LBB, as it is affectionately referred to by locals, is known for its clever gift items, such as their “Make America Read Again” hats. BookBar: Denver, CO Is it a bookstore? A wine bar? The answer would be yes and yes, as owner Nicole Sullivan combines the best of both worlds when she created BookBar (bookbardenver.com) in Denver. Stroll through the open space, past the bookshelves brimming with treasures, and make your way to the wine bar, which also serves as a community gathering place. For writers (and readers) in need of a room of one’s own, consider renting BookBed (bookbeddenver.com) a spacious and fully-furnished one-bedroom apartment located above the shop. Sullivan has also created BookGive, the non-profit arm of BookBar, which donates thousands of books every year to those in need. Birchbark Books: Minneapolis, MN Birchbark Books (birchbarkbooks.com) describes itself as “a locus for Indigerati — literate indigenous people.” Owned by esteemed Native American author Louise Erdrich, the staff is dedicated to nourishing and building a community that revolves around books. With a special emphasis on Native American literature and arts, you will encounter traditional basketry, dreamcatchers, and Native paintings. As you meander through the small store, take note of the handmade wooden canoe hanging from the ceiling. For those feeling especially gluttonous, sidle up to the store’s confessional booth (or forgiveness booth, as it’s now referred to.) Young children will delight in the tiny loft and the hobbit hole that inspires them to indulge their creativity.
8 Historic American Homes You Can Tour
Coast to coast, the United States boasts a blend of architectural styles and influences, and historical homes contribute an extra layer of flavor and context to the mix. Our favorites—think: a rock star’s lux Midwestern estate, a horror writer’s tiny cottage in the Bronx, a legendary performer's Tennessee retreat—combine the voyeuristic thrill of peeking inside a private abode with elements of culture and history, and in our humble opinion, they’re all well worth a visit. 1. Paisley Park: Chanhassen, Minnesota Paisley Park (Courtesy The Prince Estate-Paisley Park) The site of rollicking dance parties and a recording complex where the Purple One turned out cultural touchstones like Diamonds & Pearls, Sign o’ the Times, and Emancipation, Prince’s estate at Paisley Park has been the stuff of legend since its first bricks were laid back in the ‘80s. Somewhat incongruously, the notoriously private superstar hoped to turn his home into a museum one day, going so far as to install some of the exhibits currently on display himself, and six months after his untimely death in 2016, the $10 million, 65,000-square-foot property opened to the public. General-admission tours include Prince’s recording studios, private music club, and the soundstage and concert hall where he threw his fabled soirees. For a more in-depth look at the property, VIP tours are longer and more extensive, offering peeks at additional artifacts, video-editing suites, and rehearsal rooms as well as an opportunity to have your picture taken in one of the studios (cameras and cellphones are prohibited and locked down upon entry). But if you want to feel like you’re really on the guest list, book a Saturday night tour and stay for Paisley Park After Dark, an after-hours DJ-driven dance party held twice a month. General admission, $45 (no children under age 5); Paisley Park After Dark, $60 (Saturdays only); VIP tour, $85 (no children under age 10); Ultimate Experience tour, $160 (no children under age 10). All tours are wheelchair accessible. Closed Wednesday. 2. Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum: Atchison, Kansas Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum (Courtesy Atchison Chamber of Commerce) The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, the first to make a solo round-trip flight across the United States, and the first to receive the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross, Amelia Earhart was a pioneering badass. But before the aviator earned her wings, she spent her formative years in Atchison, Kansas, where her childhood home still stands. The circa-1860s Gothic Revival cottage is open daily for self-guided tours, and devotees can wander to their hearts’ content, from the original kitchen on the first floor to Amelia’s own bedroom on the second. You'll see personal belongings like her desk, hope chest, and linens, as well as family heirlooms, period pieces, and a set of official Amelia Earhart luggage, the result of a Nike-style endorsement deal that gave her the funds she needed to take to the skies. Adults, $8 (Ages 13 and up); seniors $6; military personnel $4; children (ages 5 to 12) $4. Open Tuesday - Saturday; reservations for tours are required 3. Abiquiú Home & Studio: Abiquiú, New Mexico The Georgia O’Keeffe museum in Santa Fe is a small, well-curated space, with collections comprising some of the painter’s most recognizable works. But to get a real feel for her life and process, venture 60 miles northwest to her clifftop home and studio in the village of Abiquí, where she lived and worked, on and off, for 35 years. (She moved to New Mexico permanently in 1949 and split her time between Abiquí and Ghost Ranch, also north of Santa Fe; the Ghost Ranch home isn’t open for tours, but in its current incarnation as a retreat center, it does host tours and special events.) Highlights of the 5,000-square-foot adobe compound include the artist’s studio, with unparalleled views of the Chama River Valley and the cottonwood trees that featured in many of her paintings; her beloved patio with its striking wooden door, also the subject of multiple works; and a substantial vegetable garden, planted and harvested by O’Keeffe herself and currently under restoration by a team of student interns. Adults, from $20; members and students ages 6-18, free. Tours available from 10 -4 pm Thursday to Monday; Entry times are available every half hour, until sold out, reservations and masks for tours are required (as of July 2021) 4. Harriet Tubman Home: Auburn, New York Harriet Tubman House (Debra Millet/Dreamstime) Whether or not Harriet Tubman will take her rightful place on the $20 bill remains to be seen, but while we wait for a decision from the Treasury Department, the abolitionist hero’s home in central New York is open for visitors. Born in slavery in 1820s Maryland, she escaped to Pennsylvania—and emancipation—in 1849 and helped hundreds of slaves follow suit, guiding them along the Underground Railroad to Canada and the North. The Moses of her people bought her house in Auburn from soon-to-be Secretary of State William Seward in 1859; nearly 40 years later, she purchased the adjacent 25 acres and, with the help of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, opened her doors to shelter the needy and elderly. Though the property was designated a National Historical Park in 2017, her personal residence is viewable from the outside only, but guests can still learn about her life and legacy via guided tours of the visitors’ center and the Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Negroes. Adults, $5; seniors ages 65 and up, $3; children ages 6-17, $2. Closed Sunday and Monday; harriettubmanhome.com. 5. Edgar Allan Poe Cottage: Bronx, New York Edgar Allan Poe Cottage (Courtesy Edgar Allan Poe Cottage) Born in Baltimore and raised in Richmond, Edgar Allan Poe spent his adulthood shuttling between Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, and there are house museums dedicated to the peripatetic author in Virginia and Maryland. But just off the D train in the Bronx, there’s a lesser-known monument that deserves some attention: the tiny farmhouse that served as final home to Poe and his wife (also, famously, his cousin) before their deaths in 1849 and 1847, respectively. It’s here that he wrote two of his most famous poems, “The Bells” and “Annabel Lee.” Designated a New York City landmark in 1966, the home earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and today the spartan museum offers visitors a look at both the pre-urban Bronx and an enigmatic public figure, including a bust and a daguerreotype of the author as well as some of his original furnishings. (Pro tip: True to its time, the museum doesn't have running water, so don't forget to stop for a bathroom break before you hit the front steps.) Adults, $5; students, children, and seniors, $3. Open Thursday to Sunday; As of July 2021 this location is temporarily closed - please check their website for updates 6. Edward Gorey House: Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts The beloved author and illustrator of goth-tinged books for macabre-loving children and adults alike, Edward Gorey lived on Cape Cod in a former sea captain’s home from 1986 until his death in 2000, when the 200-year-old property became a museum dedicated to his life’s work, his teeming collections of flea-market finds and yard-sale ephemera, and his overriding passion for animal welfare. Open seasonally from April through December, the museum’s exhibits change each year, but items from his closet and artifacts from his time as a Broadway costume designer are always on display. The house also hosts children's events and literary programs for all ages, with proceeds going to causes promoting animal rights and literacy. Adults, $8; students and seniors 65 and up, $5; children ages 6-12, $2; children under 6, free. Opening hours vary by season. 7. Storytellers Museum: Bon Aqua, Tennessee Johnny Cash's one-piece-at-a-time Cadillac (Courtesy of Storytellers Hide Away Farm and Museum)Johnny Cash may have acquired his 107-acre Tennessee retreat thanks to employee malfeasance, but that didn’t impact his enjoyment of it in the slightest. Purchased by his accountant with funds stolen from Cash himself, the Man in Black took possession of the farm in the ‘70s, and from that point on, it served as a much-beloved refuge from the touring grind. Fans of the singer-songwriter bought the property in 2016, restoring and opening it to the public that same year. The visitor experience includes a concert by in-house musicians and self-guided tours of both the Storytellers Museum (formerly a 19th-century general store that his song-catalog manager transformed into a performance venue) and the Cash family farmhouse, where details of the American legend’s life are on display. Adults, $25; military and seniors 60 and up, $22; students 11 and up, $18; children under 12, free. Only open Saturdays 10am - 2pm for general admission, Exclusive VIP tours are available Mon - Sun for $180 for up to six guests; call 931.996.4336. 8. Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center: East Hampton, New York Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center (Courtesy Helen A. Harrison) We love a good writer’s study or presidential library, but there’s nothing like the creativity and originality of a visual artist’s home—and when it’s home to two artists, all bets are off. Painters Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner moved into their modest 19th-century house in November 1945 and bought the property the following spring, over the years making changes both cosmetic (a coat of white paint for the clapboard exterior, a coat of blue for the shutters) and intensive (removing walls, adding indoor plumbing and central heating). After Krasner passed away in 1984 (Jackson predeceased her by nearly 30 years), it was deeded to Stony Brook University’s private, non-profit affiliate, opening as a museum in 1988. Inside, it’s like traveling back in time, with items like Jackson’s record player and jazz albums on display. But the main attraction lies under foot. As the museum was being prepped for visitors, the top layer of pressed wood was removed from the floors of Jackson’s barn studio, and the original surface was discovered. Splattered with the paint he used to make some of his most notable works, it offers a first-hand testament to the methods of a creative genius. Adults, $15; children ages 12 and under, $10. Open to the public from May through October with tours Thurs - Sun by advanced reservation only; during the off-season, call a week or two in advance to inquire about arranging a visit.
Summer Solstice 2019: Top 8 Celebrations Around the World
For some countries, Summer Solstice means the beginning of summer. For many, the longest day (or shortest night) of the year is a time for revelry steeped in local culture and history. Take a spin around a maypole, dance in a glacier or catch a midnight baseball game, summer solstice celebrations around the world can be a truly magical experience. Here's our top eight. 1. Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England The purpose of the impressive boulder formations of Stonehenge may still be cloaked in mystery, but they serve as the perfect backdrop of a phenomenal – and arguably the most famous – solstice celebration. Believed to be the site of ancient Druid solstice celebration, visitors flock to the site where they are granted one-day access to the inner prehistoric stone circle and face what’s known as the Heel Stone, to catch the sunrise over the sculpture. Admission is free for the celebration; however, it has become so popular that thousands of people attend annually, camping out days in advance and donning traditional Celtic attire. 2. Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska, USA About one-third of the state of Alaska lies north of the Arctic circle, therefore a solstice celebration can be found pretty much wherever you land. Up north, Fairbanks goes for good old Americana with the Midnight Sun Baseball Game, a tradition since the town’s beginnings. The game kicks off at 10:30pm and pauses close to midnight for the singing of the Alaska Flag Song. A little further south, Anchorage gets 22 hours of daylight and they use all of them with the Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon and the Solstice Festival & Hero Games, where first responders test their mettle in light competition and artists, musicians and more transform downtown into a party. 3. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada A diversity of cultures is represented in Ottawa’s three-day Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival, which fuses the longest day of the year with Canada’s Indigenous People’s Day. The area was the traditional territory of the Algonquin people before Queen Victoria declared Ottawa Canada’s capital. During the festival, you’ll find food by celebrated indigenous chefs, traditional costumes and cultural events. A visually captivating Pow Wow brings out the best talent in the surrounding areas, competing for $75,000 in prizes. Admission is free. 4. Reykjavik, Iceland During the solstice, the land of fire and ice turns into the land of rock and roll, taking advantage of the midnight sun with a blowout Secret Solstice Festival: three days of eclectic music acts which this year include local favorites along with Patti Smith, Morcheeba and the Black Eyed Peas. Iceland’s solstice revelry reaches back to the Norse nations, who believed in natural symbolism and saw the solstice as a time of celebration. The Secret Solstice festival also features side events utilizing Iceland’s bounty, like an intimate music lineup in a lava cave and a party in Langjökull, Europe’s second-largest glacier, where the sounds bounce off the crystals and where, of course, you’ll want to dress warmly. 5. Stockholm, Sweden Midsummer in Sweden is sweet with romance, with traditional maypole dancing and gathering wildflowers for floral crowns. Tradition also says that if you place seven types of flowers under your pillow at midsummer, you will dream of your spouse. But who has time to sleep? For the weekend surrounding the solstice, people fill the streets for a never-ending party, washing down pickled herring and dill-laced new potatoes with spiced schnapps and plenty of drinking songs, the dirtier, the better. Celebrations are family-oriented and usually happen out in the countryside but if you’re not lucky enough to snag an invite to someone's home, the open-air Skansen Museum in Stockholm is a good alternative. 6. Tyrol, Austria When summer solstice comes around, Austrians play with fire. Their tradition of lighting bonfires on mountaintops not only looks spectacular, but they’re also rooted in the Middle Ages, where flames were used to ward off bad spirits. In the 1700s, the fires were re-cast to fight against the imminent threat of invasion by Napoleon, and after the victory, Austrians pledged themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Since then, the mountains have been set ablaze annually in dramatic form, save for a brief time when they were outlawed by the Nazis. Today, Austrians still honor the shortest night of the year but have incorporated religious symbols like crosses into the festivities. 7. St. Petersburg, Russia After a long and dark winter, Russians especially look forward to its solstice celebrations, so much so that they kick up their heels for two months straight. During these White Nights, culture lovers come out to the imperial capital of St. Petersburg for free events like opera and classical music performances and concerts held at the Mariinsky Theatre, the Conservatoire and the Hermitage Theatre. A few days after the solstice is the annual Scarlet Sails celebration, with ships and fireworks and musical performances that, in the past, have included big names such as The Rolling Stones. 8. Istria, Croatia Croatia combines the skies, the scientific and the spiritual with their all-night Astrofest, held near the famous observatory in Višnjan. Kicked off by saying goodbye to the sun, celebrations include an evening of nerding out with observatory tours, stargazing, bonfires and digeridoo-woven live music. Mystical creatures are brought to life through storytelling and it’s all backed by the thrum of drum circles that don’t cease until the sun re-emerges the next day.
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