5 of the best places to see the ‘Great American Eclipse’ on Aug. 21
The last solar eclipse to cross the entire United States, from Washington to Florida, occurred in 1918, but it’ll happen again in less than a month.
On Aug. 21, the “Great American Eclipse” — when the moon passes between the sun and Earth and either fully or partially blocks the sun — will have Americans standing in the shadow of the moon for about three minutes, depending where they are. This solar eclipse got its name because the United States is the only country that will experience it. States getting the best views include Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Tennessee and South Carolina. Some cities are planning full-out celebrations for the event, and solar-eclipse experts suggest planning ahead for this rare opportunity.
The entire country, including people in Alaska and Hawaii, will be able to see the eclipse. For most Americans, all they’ll have to do is walk outside and look up, said Lika Guhathakurta, an astrophysicist with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s helophysics science division. “That is a phenomenon that most Americans have never lived,” she said. But it will be more dramatic for some than others. For the 12 million in the path of the eclipse — and the millions more who live within striking distance — the view will be more like night and day when the moon blocks the sun. It will look more like a crescent, and the sun will not be totally covered in other places.
Viewers should start their trip planning now if they haven’t already, picking a place they can visit for a few days — preferably arriving a day or two before Aug. 21 to avoid traffic — but also trying to stay mobile in case of inclement weather or overcrowding, according to Michael Zeiler and Polly White, a husband-and-wife duo that chases solar eclipses and runs and “The Great American Eclipse” website.
‘People are going to feel a real visceral connection with the universe they’ve never felt before.’
Viewers should also purchase solar-eclipse glasses, which protect eyes from the sun. NASA says glasses should be certified, have the manufacturer’s name and address printed on them, not be more than three years old or have scratched lenses, and not be reliant on homemade filters or substitute lenses on regular sunglasses. White and Zeiler sell these glasses, and they’re also available from independent retailers and on Amazon AMZN, +1.16% .
See: Check out the best images of the total solar eclipse that dazzled Asia
If this is your first time viewing a solar eclipse, it’s best to put down the smartphone, avoid trying to take pictures if it’ll mean fiddling with filters and missing the sight ahead, and relish this naturally beautiful event, White said. “People are going to feel a real visceral connection with the universe they’ve never felt before,” Zeiler said. NASA also has a list of activities individuals and families can partake in during the eclipse, such as science experiments and art projects.
Zeiler and White recommend the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina (particularly Clingmans Dome on the Tennessee–North Carolina border, according to the National Park Service website), where you can also see log cabins built by pioneers settling the area in the 1820s. They also say the Snake River Valley in Idaho; the Sandhills of western Nebraska; St. Joseph, Mo.; and Hopkinsville, Ky., are prime spots to see the solar eclipse.
Here are five of the best cities to see the eclipse, according to Zeiler and White:
Visitors to this high-desert Oregon town can see the solar eclipse and celebrate for days after. For the weekend leading up to Aug. 21, the city is having a Solarfest festival, with aircraft collections and a concert series, in partnership with NASA. Nearby, visitors can go to Indian Head Casino, have a whiskey-tasting session, take a helicopter tour of the area or ride in a hot-air balloon. Tickets for the festival range from $ 10 to $ 60 per person, and those who visit Madras can also find camping, parking and shuttle information on the site. The eclipse begins around 9:06 a.m. but has two full minutes of darkness at 10:19 a.m.
This city is hosting “Astrocon 2017,” complete with a viewing party on the day of, but also a “Pluto Run 10K Race” on Saturday, Aug. 19, visits to the Casper Planetarium and other museums and craft shows and beer gardens to see (as well as petting zoos and carnival games). Visitors will be able to see the eclipse for 2 minutes and 26 seconds, beginning at 10:22 a.m. and reaching totality around 11:43 a.m.
For 2 minutes and 38 seconds, visitors to Carbondale, Ill., will be able to see the solar eclipse fully at 1:20 p.m (but beginning at 1:17 p.m.). The city’s “Shadow Fest” features live music from tribute bands for Green Day, Fleetwood Mac and U2. Local restaurants and vendors will be selling their goods at the festival. Nearby at Southern Illinois University, the student center will be putting on a comics convention during the weekend, with gaming areas and a costume competition.
The Music City is ready for the solar eclipse, and even has a play list for the event on its website. The eclipse begins at 11:58 a.m. and will be in totality at 1:27 p.m. for 1 minute and 55 seconds. Public viewing sites for the eclipse include the Mayor’s Viewing Party at First Tennessee Park, Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, the Grand Ole Opry and the Lane Motor Museum. Visitors can check out vacation packages, which include a minimum one-night stay at one of 99 participating hotels and a Nashville Solar Eclipse Gift Bag, which includes eclipse viewing glasses, as well as a Music City Note picnic blanket and a T-shirt voucher.
Visitors to Columbia, S.C., will be able to see the total eclipse for 2 minutes and 36 seconds at 2:41 p.m. on Aug. 21. Events include plays written by six local playwrights and tent camping available near Lake Murray, where a limited number of viewers can watch the eclipse over the water. Speakers will discuss the history of solar eclipses, and there will be food and walking tours. Columbia will have the longest viewing of the eclipse on the East Coast.