by Marie Solis
For anyone who has ever wished there were more than 24 hours in a day, your time has come: the Summer Solstice. Today marks the day when the sun's rays are perpendicular to the Tropic of Cancer. In everyday terms, that means this morning in New York the sun rose around 5:20am and it won't set until 8:30pm. With 15 hours of sunshine, there's no excuse not to soak in every minute of it. Here are our top five picks for making the most of the year's longest day.
1. Newburgh Illuminated Festival
Throughout its history, Newburgh was quite literally a light in the dark—it was among the first cities to receive electricity when Edison established its power plant in 1884. Now, the people of Newburgh will shine a spotlight on their thriving arts and culture scene with a three-day festival that kicks off today. The first of these events is Art in Bloom, a display of floral arrangements inspired by famous works of art, which is housed in the Karpeles Manuscript Museum. Ann Street Gallery is exhibiting the works of artists who utilize photographic and holographic techniques to manipulate light. Enjoy other events such as the Light Bulb Project, where local artists paint and decorate light-bulb shaped plywood for public display; a flower show hosted by the Community Garden Club of Marlborough-on-the-Hudson; and a choir and symphonic performance at Mount Saint Mary College to finish the evening.
The longest day of the year means there's plenty of time to wake up, drive to a local trailhead, hike throughout the day, and set up camp before the sun goes down, and the Hudson Valley offers a lot of options for doing this. Fahnestock State Park has no shortage of activities to fill all of your daylight hours. With opportunities for fishing, boating, swimming, picnicking, hiking, and camping, you will get a full experience of everything the park has to offer. Start off the day lounging on the sandy beach of Canopus Lake, or hop into a row boat that you can rent on site. After a long day of fun, head to the campgrounds, formed along the park's natural ridges. On the other side of the Hudson Valley, Mount Tremper offers a unique campground feature: lean-tos. These small shelters were built on the mountain in the 1930s for backpackers to sleep in. Another must-see on this excursion is the fire tower, about six miles up the mountain—the breathtaking views of the Catskills are worth the hike.
3. Al Fresco Dining
Somehow great food tastes even better when you're eating it outside. To venture a guess, it might be those fresh summer breezes and bask-worthy rays of sun that make it worthwhile. Luckily, the Hudson Valley offers quality al fresco dining with views of the region's natural beauty. If you're coming from the Newburgh Illuminated Festival, cross the bridge to Beacon's Roundhouse in Beacon Falls, where you can appreciate the view of Fishkill Creek's waterfall while you choose items from their exclusive outdoor menu. For a list of more al fresco dining opportunities, take a look at our top five picks from last month.
4. Twilight in the Garden Party
As the sky starts to change to shades of purple and pink, head to the Pink House—home of Kinderhook Farm owners Renee Lacone and Steve Clearman—for a garden party. Surrounded by plants, flowers, ponds, and barns, guests can enjoy a signature cocktail from New York City mixologist Rosen Shrestha while eating food provided by the Spencertown Academy Art Center's catering staff. Alternatively, click here to find tips for throwing your own garden party.
5. Firefly Gazing
As night falls, these flashing little guys come out to play. The open fields of the Hudson Valley offer great views of the magical light show. Pack a late-night picnic dinner, and sit out on a blanket in the field at the opening of Springtown Road off Main Street in New Paltz, backdropped by the Shawangunk Ridge. They'll catch your eye, but can you catch them? If you can't manage to get a hold of one, just sit back and enjoy. The flickers of light you see, however, aren't just for aesthetics. Lightning bugs actually use their luminescent abilities to communicate with each other. Male fireflies will flash a specific pattern to attract females who, if interested, will reply with their own sequence of flashes. Even insects have summer flings.