With vacations booked and chairs out by the pool, it may feel like summer has already begun, but officially, it isn’t summer until the solstice. The first day of summer in 2019 arrives on Friday, June 21st at 11:54 a.m. EDT, when the sun reaches its highest peak in the sky. It’s called the summer solstice, also known as the longest day of the year, and it marks the official return of the late sunsets, fun festivals, and laid back barbecues that make summer great.

What is the Summer Solstice?

The summer solstice occurs when the sun takes its longest path to reach its highest point in the sky. In the Northern hemisphere, this creates the longest day of sunshine for the year, and the shortest night. For those who live in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the shortest day of the year, marking the arrival of winter. The solstice happens at the same time for everyone, everywhere on Earth.

How Different People Celebrate

Historically, the summer solstice has served as a means to organize the year, making it important for determining crop schedules and setting calendars before modern timekeeping. It may even help explain the existence of Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument that might have been erected to mark the June solstice and the beginning of the year for European Druids.

Today, thousands still flock to Stonehenge to celebrate the day of the sun. In Northern Europe, some people dance around maypoles, while others light bonfires and hang festive flower garlands. Modern pagans and new age enthusiasts may celebrate with dances or festivals to honor the sun. No matter how you spend it, the summer solstice is a great day to get outside and enjoy the extra sunshine.

How to End The Longest Day of the Year

This year, the solstice falls on a Friday, so you can celebrate the official start of summer and the official start of the weekend in one fell swoop. As always, Midtown Atlanta is the perfect place to be for all things summer. You can wander the urban neighborhoods or enjoy the sun in Piedmont Park before heading to McCray’s Tavern for a bright cocktail or refreshing craft beer. With a full menu offering upscale burgers and deli sandwiches, as well as classic dinner plates, you can savor the season’s freshest flavors while soaking in those last lingering rays on the longest day of the year.

No matter how you choose to celebrate, end the day at McCray’s in Midtown! Our bar and dining hours are 11AM – 2AM all summer long.