Celebrate the Solstice, New York-Style

Lindsay Armstrong |

After a dreary winter and a rainy spring, New Yorkers are ready to soak up the sun and officially welcome the summer.  Honoring the summer solstice —  the longest day of the year in terms of daylight —  is a tradition that pre-dates Christianity. This year, the season starts one day early with the solstice falling on June 20th rather than the 21st.  Check out the following events, listed in chronological order, to launch your summer of 2012.

New Yorkers strike a side angle pose during a yoga class in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Times Square Alliance.

New Yorkers reach skyward during an outdoor yoga class in Times Square. Photo courtesy of Times Square Alliance.


Solstice in Times Square: Athleta Mind Over Madness Yoga
Broadway between 42nd and 47th streets, Manhattan
Wed., June 20th, four classes between 7:30 a.m.– 8:30 p.m.

Yogis from all over the city will gather in Times Square on June 20th to celebrate the longest day of the year. Last year’s event attracted 6,000 yoga enthusiasts who performed their sun salutations among the neon lights. This year the organizers are anticipating almost twice that number.  The first 1,500 participants to arrive at each of the four classes get a free yoga mat. Look for other give-aways and musical performances between sessions.  Classes begin at 7:30 a.m. and include a Bikram “hot” yoga class that starts at 12:30 p.m. All levels are welcome. Note that a Make Music New York solstice celebration takes place at Father Duffy Square, between 46th and 47th streets,  at 6:30 pm: the world premiere of “The New Rule,” a choral arrangement by Philip Glass.


Summer Solstice Celebration at Socrates Sculpture Park
Socrates Sculpture Park, 3205 Vernon Boulevard, Queens
Wed., June 20th, 5 p.m. — dusk

If the summer sun inspires your creative streak, head out to the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City. This family-friendly event features art workshops, face painters and a solstice ritual. If you just want to relax on a picnic blanket and enjoy the sunset as it sets behind the Manhattan skyline, that’s fine too.


North Brooklyn Boat Club Summer Solstice Party
Broadway Stages Boatyard, 49 Ash Street, Brooklyn
Wed., June 20th, 6 p.m. –- midnight
No cover

For a decidedly more grown-up kind of solstice party, head to the Broadway Stages Boatyard near the Pulaski Bridge in Greenpoint. The North Brooklyn Boat Club is hosting its first annual Summer Solstice Party and promises games, food and dancing and along with brews and spirits by the Brooklyn Brewery and the New York Distilling Company. All funds raised  go towards a volunteer-run community organization that connects Brooklyn to its waterways.


Musicians perform on the Central Park Lake during Make Music New York's 2011 Celebration. Photo by Darial Sneed.

Make Music New York
Various locations in the five boroughs
Thurs., June 21st, 10 a.m. — 10 p.m.

Nothing says summer in New York City quite like an outdoor concert. For the sixth year, Make Music New York will celebrate the start of the summer season with 12 hours of free concerts in public spaces throughout the five boroughs. This year, more than 1,000 different performances take place in a single day. Whether you want to take part in a group hum in DUMBO or listen to an 80-piece band while you paddle around the Central Park Lake, the Make Music festival has the bandwith for any musical interest. Check the website to find specific performances.



Listen to a selection of 2011 Make Music New York performers. Video by Slinvideos.


Revelers create flower wreaths at the Swedish Midsummer Festival in Battery Park. Photo by Karin Ander.

Swedish Midsummer Celebration
Robert F. Wagner, Jr. Park, 20 Battery Place, Manhattan
Fri., June 22nd, 5 p.m. — 8 p.m.

The summer solstice, or “Midsummer” as it is commonly known, is one of Sweden’s biggest holidays. Family and friends gather in the countryside for an all-day-and-night celebration that includes picnicking, singing traditional folk songs and dancing around a maypole. You can experience Midsummer like a Swede at the annual festival in the harborside green of Robert F. Wagner, Jr. Park, just to the west of Battery Park. There will be a parade, music and dancing. Bring flowers to make a traditional head wreath and pack a picnic — no pickled herring required.


Andean Celebration of Summer
National Museum of the American Indian, One Bowling Green, Manhattan
Sat.,  June 23rd, 2 p.m. — 4 p.m.
Free Admission

Mark the start of summer the way the ancestors did with an Andean musical competition. Watch as musicians compete to “capture the plaza” using guitars, pan pipes and flutes. Then join in the fun and dance when the competition ends with a harmonious concert.


East-West Streets, Manhattan
Wed. and Thurs., July 11 and 12, 8:24 p.m.

Sunset during the Manhattan Solstice. Flickr/4rilla

Three weeks after the summer solstice, New Yorkers can pause to admire another celestial marvel: Manhattanhenge. The name refers to the two days each year when the setting sun aligns perfectly with the east-west streets of Manhattan’s grid. The sun lights up both the north and south sides of the streets simultaneously and creates an effect similar to the sun hitting Stonehenge. Manhattanhenge – sometimes known as the Manhattan Solstice – offers a great opportunity for photographs. Leave it to New York to create its own solstice.


Let us know where you plan to celebrate summer solstice in the comments section, below.

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