Things to Do

Summer Solstice Events for Savoring These Long Summer Days

Search for fairies, take a forest bath, or stargaze on the Mall.

Photograph from Pixabay user AdinaVoicu

Braid yourself a flower crown, dance barefoot, or crack open a cold one—we’re approaching the summer solstice on June 21, marking the official first day of summer and the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. 

In DC, we’re set to get nearly 15 hours of glorious daylight, during which the sun will preside at its highest position in the sky, rising at 5:43 AM and not setting until 8:36 PM.

From fairies and sun dancing, to bonfires and feasts, people have devised clever ways to celebrate the astronomical event for millennia. The festivities continue this year, on both the solstice and the weekends before and after. Here’s how and where you can get in on the celestial celebrations:

Photograph courtesy of Pixabay user ColdwellPro.

Eat, Drink, Be Merry

Celebrate the bounty of the summer season by pouring drinks and pulling up a seat at the table with friends at these solstice get togethers. 

Summer solstice beer garden: Join Colin McClimans, executive chef of the seasonally inspired restaurant Nina May, on the rooftop of the Farm at 55 M Street for a summer solstice beer garden. Sample brews paired with seasonal plates such as blueberries and ricotta toast, chilled pea soup and pickled shrimp with fennel fronds, and curry-spiced bananas. (June 18, 4-6 PM; The Farm at 55 M Street, Southeast; $50)

Two summer solstice picnics: Luxury picnic company Picnics & Peonies has curated two summer solstice picnics, one in Virginia and another in Maryland. At the Arlington picnic (June 21, 6-8 p.m.; the Village at Shirlington, Campbell Avenue, $75), you’ll find tastes from Cheesetique, Stellina Pizzeria, and Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken. Meanwhile, over at the Bethesda picnic (June 21, 6-8 PM; Bethesda Row, 7262 Woodmont Avenue; $75), you’ll receive tastes from Terrain Cafe, PLANTA, Spanish Diner, and Levain Bakery.

Aperol and Summer House Solstice Party: With Aperol spritz cocktails, California-style pizzas, summer games, and Insta-worthy pics, this has the makings for the perfect summer garden party. (June 21, 6-9 PM; Summer House Santa Monica, 11825 Grand Park Avenue, North Bethesda; free entry). [After this article was originally published, the event changed from ticketed to free.]

 

Photograph by NASA/SDO/AIA/HMI/Goddard Space Flight Center.

Solstice Saturday with the Smithsonian

As a cultural and a scientific touchstone, the summer solstice is a big day for the Smithsonian. The institution launched its annual “Solstice Saturday” tradition in 2018. After making it a virtual event in 2020 and canceling it in 2021 over Covid concerns, the Smithsonian will bring back Solstice Saturday with a host of in-person events.

Astronomy festival on the National Mall: Peer skyward through telescopes with amateur astronomers on the Mall for a chance to see remnants of dying stars, nebulas, and sparkling star clusters. You may even have the rare chance to look at the sun on its special day with the help of specially filtered telescopes. (June 25, 6-11 PM; 3rd to 4th streets, Southwest, across from the National Museum of the American Indian; free)

Extended museum hours: Museums will take advantage of the longer day with extended hours on Solstice Saturday. Open until midnight: The National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of Asian Art, the National Museum of African Art, the Smithsonian Institution Building (“The Castle”), the Arts and Industries Building, and the Enid A. Haupt Garden. The National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will stay open until 8 PM.

Living Longer Festival: Health + Wellness 2050: Discover what a healthcare visit might look like in 2050 at the Arts and Industries Building’s “FUTURES” exhibit, de-stress in a drawing-for-relaxation workshop, and finish the day in the Haupt Garden with a late-night glow yoga session. (June 25-27, 10 AM- 10 PM; Arts and Industries Building; free)

Earth and the Great Weather: A Sonic Geography of the Arctic: Enjoy a mythical concert under the stars in the Hirshorn Sculpture Garden. A combination of music, natural sounds and languages (English, Iñupiaq, Gwich’in and Latin), John Luther Adams’ Earth and the Great Weather promises to transport listeners to the “physical, cultural and spiritual landscapes of the Arctic.” (June 25, 9-10:30 PM; Hirshhorn Museum’s Sculpture Garden; free reserved tickets)

Solstice dance party: Stop by the National Museum of Asian Art and Haupt Garden for an outdoor dance party with local DJ Ayes Cold. Food and drink will be available for purchase. (June 25, 5:30 PM- 12 AM; National Museum of Asian Art and Enid A. Haupt Garden; free)

Other events associated with Solstice Saturday can be found here.

Photograph courtesy of Flickr user shell game.

Forest bathing and hikes

There’s something about recognizing the solar and lunar cycles that honors the larger natural world beyond us—and what better way to celebrate that than with a walk through the woods?

Summer solstice “forest bathing” at the National Arboretum: Soak in the health benefits of forest bathing as a “forest therapist” guides you through the arboretum, providing “invitations” or meditative prompts along the way. To close the walk, you’ll participate in a modified tea ceremony with Friends of the National Arboretum. (June 21, 9 AM to 11 AM; National Arboretum, 3501 New York Avenue, Northeast; pay what you can, though suggested price is $35)

Summer solstice hike and cookout: Take a contemplative walk along the George Washington Carver Nature Trail with the Ward 8 Woods Conservancy. After building up an appetite, stay for a hearty summer dinner, including half smokes, burgers, veggie burgers, and grilled vegetables. (June 21, 7-9:30 PM; Anacostia Community Museum, 1901 Fort Place, Southeast; $10)

Photograph courtesy of Flickr user Liga Eglite.

Encounters with fairies and flowers

Fairy Trail reopening: Summer solstice marks a special day for fairies: Legend has it that the veil between our world and the fairy realm is at its thinnest. See if you can spot some fairy folk with your kids at Piscataway Park, which will celebrate the reopening of its Fairy Trail. There’ll be wand-making, wish bottles, a fairy dance class, special “Fairyologist” activity guides, and more. (June 25, 6-8 PM; Piscataway Park; $15 for “fairies,” $5 for “fairy guardians.”)

Summer solstice bouquet-making workshop: Having burst into full bloom, the world is lush with color, giving flowers a special role in solstice celebrations. Join Up Top Acres at one of its newest rooftop gardens where you’ll learn about different flower types, harvesting techniques, bouquet design, and care tips before crafting your own arrangement in a mason-jar vase. (June 21, 6-8 PM; rooftop terrace at 1272 5th Street, Northeast; $65)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay user 3534679.

Breathe In, Breathe Out…

Summer solstice yoga class at Union Market: Practice your sun salutations during a one-hour class outside La Cosecha at Union Market with Haus Yoga. Stay after to reward yourself with a drink—included in your ticket—at Spritz by Serenata. And remember to bring your own mat! (June 21, 7 PM; 1280 4th Street, Northeast, next to La Cosecha; $30)

ALIVE Summer Solstice Immersion: Join the Line DC for a night of bohemian self care that includes breath work, a cacao ceremony, dancing, sound therapy, and more. (June 21, 7-10 PM; the Line DC, 2468 Champlain Street, Northwest; $65)

Jessica Ruf
Assistant Editor
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