If you’re lucky enough to be cruising in Alaska during the spring or summer, there’s no need to rush through sightseeing excursions to beat the setting sun. The Land of the Midnight Sun enjoys long summer days, thanks to its extreme latitude.
The state’s proximity to the Arctic Circle causes the sun to travel horizontally across the sky instead of rising and setting vertically, as it does closer to the equator. While the Alaska sun does dip below the horizon in some places, the extremely bright twilight persists until the sun rises again.
Between March 19 and September 23, you’ll find more daily sunlight in Anchorage than anywhere else in the United States.
On June 21, the summer solstice, Anchorage enjoys 22 hours of daylight. Some of the more northern cities, such as Fairbanks and Barrow, receive 24 hours of light for extended periods in the summer. But even down south in Ketchikan, you’ll have more than 17 hours of daylight on June days to plan your cruise excursions around.
Fun under the midnight sun
More daylight equals more time for fishing, hiking, and biking.
Flightseeing and dog sledding continue well past 8 p.m., and golfers love the 10 p.m. tee times at Anchorage courses. You’ll find plentiful al fresco dining options as restaurants make the most of outdoor seating options. Gift shops and other popular attractions are happy to hold extended hours to accommodate Alaska’s thriving tourism industry, which peaks between mid-June and mid-August.
If you’re traveling through Fairbanks on summer solstice, gather with the locals to celebrate.
Many communities hold late-night festivities like fun runs, baseball games, or the Midnight Sun Scramble at the Fairbanks Golf and Country Club. Street fairs and music festivals abound, and local residents love to come together and watch the sun paint the sky with spectacular colors from popular elevated viewpoints.Anchorage welcomes summer solstice with the popular Downtown Summer Solstice Festival. Town Square and surrounding streets fill with live musical entertainment, a petting zoo, skateboard demonstrations, and culinary delights provided by local food trucks and chefs whipping up traditional Alaskan dishes.
A highlight of this family-oriented event is The Kendall Toyota Hero Games, a friendly competition that pits Alaska’s first-responders against each other as they take on obstacle courses, relay races, and bucket brigades.
More time to appreciate the glaciers
The bright, warm days of spring and summer in Alaska ensure that your cruise will bring you up close and personal with the state’s lush flora and fauna. It’s also a beautiful time to witness the glaciers because the calving is nearly constant during the warm months. Calving refers to the awe-inspiring breaking off of a glacier as it falls into the water accompanied by a creaking sound and a thundering roar as the pieces crash into the sea.
As global temperatures warm, Alaska’s sensitive glaciers are melting at an alarming rate. Although scientists are reluctant to make predictions about when the glaciers might disappear, there’s no time like the present to witness these magnificent natural wonders.
Special items to pack
You may find that all this exposure to light during the late evening interferes with your internal clock, throwing your circadian rhythms out of whack. If you tend to be a light sleeper anyway, you’ll want to bring along a few items to ensure you get your zzzs:
- Sunglasses to wear at night
- A melatonin supplement to be taken two hours before bed
- An eye mask
- A portable white noise machine to block sound
Other tips for a restful night include exercising early in the morning and being mindful of your alcohol consumption later in the day. Many people find that wine with dinner followed by a nightcap is a surefire way to guarantee a 2 a.m. wake-up call.
If you can tear yourself away from the ship’s casinos and discos an hour before you plan to retire, winding down in a dark room may help you sleep better. Remember to avoid your electronic devices before sleep. The light they cast contains a higher concentration of sleep-disrupting blue light than natural light. Research shows that “blue light affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin more than any other wavelength.”
Ready to cruise the Land of the Midnight sun?
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