Few Americans will get the chance to witness a total solar eclipse in their lifetimes.
But if you time it right, you may be one of them this year. The last total solar eclipse—which occurs when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, blocking the sun from view and creating an eerie glow around the moon—to pass through the continental United States was back in 1979. This celestial spectacle is coming once again to a sky near you on August 21, 2017.
Only a few states fall under the 67-mile band that makes up the eclipse’s path of totality, so you’ll have to make sure you’re at the right place at the right time if you want to take in this one of a kind experience. Though weather conditions will play a key role in the level of awesomeness, the odds are stacked in your favor if you head to one of these nine epic eclipse-viewing locations.
The West Coast will be the first point in the USA to experience the total solar eclipse, and there’s no better place to celebrate than Solarfest, a huge, eclipse-centered bash. Weather prospects look promising and the location could not be any more picturesque. Your greatest challenge is likely to be finding accommodations to take in the show—people have been planning their visits here for more than two years!
Located at an altitude of over 5,000 feet and with promising weather conditions, Casper, Wyoming, definitely earned its place on this list. Leading up to the 21st, Casper will play host to AstroCon, which features a variety of speakers, field trips and workshops. On the big day, venues around town will host public and private viewing events—it’s bound to be a most unforgettable two minutes and 26 second show.
St. Joseph, Missouri
What’s better than witnessing the total solar eclipse in the fifth largest city along the path of totality? How about doing it alongside astronomers and with access to telescopes to view the nitty gritty details. Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph, Missouri, will enjoy one of the longest exposures to the eclipse, and unlike many of the other festivals and events, this one is free to attend.
You’ve heard of Woodstock—but are you familiar with Moonstock? Moonstock is a four-day festival taking place in a vineyard in southern Illinois, celebrating all things total solar eclipse. Musical acts will be hitting the stage throughout the weekend, but Monday—during the eclipse itself—Ozzy Ozbourne will be providing the soundtrack for the grand event. His song of choice? “Bark at the Moon," naturally.
Carbondale is kind of a big deal in the world of total solar eclipses. Not only will it boast the longest viewing experience—it’s also known as the Eclipse Crossroads of America, because it will experience the total solar eclipse once again in 2024. Though you’ll be able to view the eclipse from anywhere in town, the SIU Saluki Stadium is where all the action will be on the 21st.
The people of Hopkinsville, Kentucky do not take the total solar eclipse lightly. Celebrations span the entire weekend, including the Eclipse Con comic con event, the Summer Salute Festival, the family friendly Monumental Solar Eclipse Festival, the Bluegrass Bash, and more…all leading up to the great show, which is best viewed at Tie Breaker Park.
If you’re after an educational experience that will have you seeing the eclipse in a whole new light, head to Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. Faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy and additional speakers will be on hand to get the crowd pumped about the science behind the eclipse. Don’t miss the talk by NASA astronaut Dr. Rhea Seddon on the eve of the eclipse.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
The western half of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an incredibly scenic place to take in the eclipse. The big viewing event at Clingmans Dome is already sold out, but some smaller—though equally spectacular—events are planned elsewhere in the park, and if you act quick, you may be able to nab yourself a spot. Aspiring junior astrologists will likely be keen to check out the Science Camp in the days leading up to the big show.
Columbia, South Carolina
It’ll be a Total Eclipse Weekend in Columbia, with more than 50 events to celebrate the most epic event of the decade (and beyond!) From wilderness camping to a series of short plays, specialized exhibits at the South Carolina State Museum (featuring an appearance from Apollo 16 astronaut General Charles Duke) and a special eclipse-themed beer, Columbia is the place to go to make the fun of the eclipse celebrations last as long as possible.