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How to make the most out of the summer solstice – the longest day of the year

How to make the most out of the summer solstice – the longest day of the year

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City-Hall-sunrise-GEE2- (copy)

Start the summer solstice – the longest day of the year – by watching the sun rise. Then spend the day outside soaking up the extra hours of sunshine.

Summer is all about having fun and making memories with the people you love. But how often do you accomplish everything you want to do during the season?

Summer officially starts June 20, which is also the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. A solstice is essentially when one of the earth’s poles reaches its maximum tilt toward the sun. This happens twice a year, giving residents in each hemisphere a summer solstice and a winter solstice (the shortest day of the year).

During the summer solstice, Buffalo will experience more than 15 hours of daylight, making it the perfect day to get a head start on your summer plans and squeeze in all the activities that make it fun. Even better, the solstice lands on a Sunday this year, so many people will be off to enjoy the occasion.

If you’re hoping to make this summer solstice special, we’ve planned your entire day from dawn until dusk.

Dawn

It’s common for people to wake up early to catch a sunrise while on vacation but we rarely do so at home. Take the June solstice as an opportunity to wake up early and admire the resplendent beauty of Buffalo’s sunrise as the sky is painted with rich colors of orange and magenta. Sunrise in Buffalo is scheduled for 5:36 a.m. on June 20. You can admire it from your own home but if you’re feeling adventurous, the Outer Harbor, and Hoyt Lake and the toboggan hill at Chestnut Ridge Park all offer beautiful backdrops.

Tipico Coffee (copy)

On the summer solstice (June 20) spend time outside basking in the extra hours of sunlight. One idea is to relax over coffee on a patio as Nicole Williams did recently at Tipico on Elmwood Avenue with her sister, Amanda Williams.

Morning

Reward yourself for waking up so early by starting your morning with a meal from your favorite diner or breakfast joint. Some of my favorite spots are JJ’s Café, Swan Street Diner, Lake Effect Diner, Sophia’s and Betty’s. If you’re not a big breakfast person, consider grabbing a coffee or tea from a local café and enjoying the morning on its patio. Some great options are Tipico Coffee, JAM Parkside, Remedy House and Wonder Coffeehouse. Then, venture over to one of Western New York’s many parks or even just around your block for a walk before the summer heat kicks in.

Hoyt Lake Floatmingo paddle boats (copy)

Take a ride on a FLOATmingo at Hoyt Lake to celebrate the summer solstice. Pictured are Scott Case and his wife, Ann Marie, in front seats and their daughter Layla, 11, of Highland, N.J., and Ann Marie's mother, Debora Wright of Orchard Park (obscured), in the rear of the paddle boat.

Afternoon

Pack some snacks and head to Hoyt Lake to get a little sunbathing in before renting a rowboat or one of the park’s signature flamingo paddleboats (FLOATmingos). Afterward, consider throwing around a frisbee, playing catch or flying a kite in one of the park’s many open green spaces. If you're not by Hoyt Lake, there are many other parks where you can enjoy the greenery or enjoy activities.

Alternatively, you can head to Canalside to rent kayaks and enjoy Buffalo’s skyline from the water. Afterward visit one of the nearby bar/restaurants like Buffalo RiverWorks for lunch and a drink on the patio. If you already have kayaks, there are countless places to paddle around the area including Ellicott Creek and the Buffalo Urban Canoe Trail.

If you want to enjoy the water but don’t feel like getting in, head to Devil’s Hole State Park and hike its namesake trail down to the Niagara River. At only 2.7 miles round trip, it’s the perfect hike for a warm summer day. Plus, upon reaching the Niagara River you can comfortably sunbathe on the rocks lining the shore thanks to mist from the water.

If you want the best of both worlds, Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours are a unique and fun way to experience the Niagara River that’s perfect for any adrenaline junkie.

Evening

Cool off after a day of fun in the sun with dinner and a drink at one of the area’s numerous bars or restaurants that offer patios. Pearl Street Grill and Brewery, Big Ditch Brewing Co. and Allen Burger Venture all offer ample outdoor seating and will be open during the solstice.

Nothing screams summer more than a cookout, so if you’re looking to enjoy a few brews and burgers without dining out, the solstice is the perfect excuse to get your friends together to enjoy a nice meal. Throw a bonfire into the mix and you’ll have yourselves the perfect summer evening.

If you’re looking to unwind after a busy day of activities, head to Graycliff for an hour of solstice yoga timed with the sunset followed by a tasting toast of wine from Leonard Oakes Estate Winery. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are required ahead of time.

If you want to watch the sunset but skip the yoga, Niagara Falls, the Outer Harbor and any of the beaches along Lake Erie are perfect places to watch the sun set on the first official day of summer.

Nighttime

The solstice isn’t over just because the sun went down. Finish off the longest day of the year with some star gazing. The moon will be in a Waxing Gibbous phase, which means it will be about 75% illuminated. The light pollution from the moon may block out some stars, but the conditions will still be good enough to see some constellations.

The closest place for star gazing free of the city’s light pollution is Chestnut Ridge Park. If you feel like driving a bit further, Beaver Meadow Audubon Center and Griffis Sculpture Park both offer breathtaking star gazing.

LOCAL Shark Girl CANTILLON (copy)

Another fun activity on the summer solstice is to spend time at Canalside with Shark Girl and take a selfie, too. Amanda Camidge of Niagara Falls takes photos of her family with Shark Girl. Mark Greig is with their children from left, Aubrianna Reed, 6, Amarianna Greig, 8 months, Arianna Greig, 5, and Amilianna Greig, 3.

Anytime

OK, so you don't have the time to spend the entire day enjoying the summer solstice but we bet you have an hour or two. Here are a few easy ideas.

Take a selfie with Shark Girl. Then spend time walking around Canalside and ride the new Buffalo Heritage Carousel.

Stop and smell the roses – or any other flower. In your own neighborhood or visit spots like the Delaware Park Rose Garden and the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.

Go on a picnic. Grab a friend and some sandwiches and you've got the start of a picnic any where you want to go – even if it's just your yard.

Visit a local museum or attraction. Old Fort Niagara, the Buffalo Zoo and the Genesee Country Village and Museum are three perennial favorites where you can enjoy outdoors.

Go to Niagara Falls. So obvious, yes, but when was the last time you were there?

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Max Kalnitz is an award-winning multimedia journalist from Buffalo, New York whose work has appeared in Billboard, The Nation and The Buffalo News, among other outlets.

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