Looking for the best places to watch the solar eclipse on August 21? Avid skygazers have been planning for months, even years. But even if you’re not the type to plan ahead, you’ve still got lots of great options.
The Great American Eclipse website says 12.2 million Americans already live in the path of totality, while millions more live within driving distance. As Inquisitr reported earlier, the path of totality is a 70-mile wide stretch of land along that the 2017 total solar eclipse will travel.
Here is NASA’s map showing the path of totality. While anywhere along that stretch will provide an excellent view, the 12 places featured here offer a fun-filled weekend to top off an unforgettable experience.
The 12 Best Places To Watch The Solar Eclipse
When it comes to the best places to watch the solar eclipse, it’s all about location. These 12 locales are on the path of totality and also have the resources to plan an incredible experience for locals and throngs of visitors. The solar eclipse times and durations come from the Great American Eclipse website.
12. Madras, Oregon
The eclipse begins here at 9:05 a.m. PDT, according to NASA, and the town of Madras is ready to welcome visitors. The Oregon SolarFest website bills itself as “the #1 family friendly party along the path of totality” that combines “music, science, and art,” and they’ve pulled out all the stops. In addition to campsites, they offer day parking, shuttle buses from Eugene, Portland, and Bend, and other amenities. Those who stay longer can also visit farms, wineries, and other local attractions. Totality begins at 10:19 PDT with a duration of two minutes and four seconds.
Other cities and towns in Oregon within the path of totality include Newport, Corvallis, Albany, Salem, John Day, and Ontario, according to the EclipseWise website.
11. Snake River Valley, Idaho
The Great American Eclipse notes the Snake River Valley is one of the best places to see the eclipse because experts predict good weather and clear skies. The small towns in the Upper Snake River Valley have set up a website and calendar so you can plan your visit. Rigby’s is hosting a street fair on the day of the eclipse, while the weekend’s events include a music festival, a story telling festival, and a farmer’s market. The town of Driggs alone — which only has 1,600 people — expects 100,000 visitors, according to Quartz. Rexburg and Idaho Falls are also in the Snake River Valley. Totality begins at 11:33 a.m. MDT with a duration of two minutes, 18 seconds.
Other viewing spots in Idaho within the path of totality include Ontario and Sun Valley, according to the EclipseWise website.
10. Casper, Wyoming
Casper has a fun-packed week planned, including the Wyoming Eclipse Festival and other events with food, music, poetry, pony express rides, and covered wagon train treks. The town even has its own planetarium. If you want to learn more about outer space, you’re in luck. Casper is among the best places to see the solar eclipse because — in addition to its great location on the path of totality — they’re also hosting the 2017 AstroCon, a gathering of astronomers from all over the world. The conference is the week before, floor exhibits are open to the general public, and many of these astronomers will likely stay through August 21. Totality begins at 11:45 a.m. with a duration of two minutes and 26 seconds.
Other viewing spots in Wyoming within the path of totality include Jackson, Dubois, Thermopolis, Riverton, Lander, Douglas, and Glendo, according to the EclipseWise website.
9. Sandhills, Nebraska
The town of Stapleton’s Eclipse on the Range offers lots of fun activities for the week of the solar eclipse, including stargazing, eclipse presentations, a rodeo, a craft fair and flea market, miniature pony races, and a street dance and beer garden. North Platte and other nearby towns are also ready to welcome skygazers. The NEclipse17 website offers a complete guide to Sandhills towns, lodging, attractions, and happenings. Totality begins at 11:49 a.m. MDT with a duration of two minutes, 30 seconds.
Other viewing spots in Nebraska within the path of totality include Alliance, Scottsbluff, North Platte, Broken Bow, Kearney, Grand Island, Lincoln, and Homestead National Park, according to the EclipseWise website.
8. St. Joseph, Missouri
St. Joseph offers a longer duration that most of the U.S. because it’s located near the centerline of the solar eclipse’s path. The town’s Total Solar Eclipse 2017 website provides a guide to the area with attractions, things to do, eclipse-related events, campsites, and places to stay. The main viewing event is being held at the Rosecrans Memorial Airport and features telescopes set up with safety filters, along with astronomers as guides. Totality begins at 1:06 p.m. CDT with a duration of two minutes and 39 seconds.
Other viewing spots in Missouri within the path of totality include Kansas City, Independence, Columbia, Jefferson City, and St. Louis, according to the EclipseWise website.
7. Carbondale, Illinois
Carbondale is one of the best places to see the eclipse because it is smack in the middle of the path of totality. Locals and visitors will be treated to one of our nation’s longest durations, their Carbondale Eclipse 2017 website proudly proclaims. The city has a rich history and was home to famed architect Buckminster Fuller, who innovated the geodesic dome. In addition to art galleries, theaters, parks, family activities, and eateries, Carbondale is hosting three days-worth of festivals. Totality begins at 1:30 p.m. CDT with a duration of two minutes and 37 seconds, according to Eclipse2017.
6. Goreville, Illinois
Carbondale combines a long duration with city attractions. But if your heart’s set on viewing the eclipse for the longest time possible, you can head 24 miles south to the tiny town of Goreville, Illinois. In terms of duration, Goreville is the best place to watch the solar eclipse in the entire U.S. As Time reports, the moon will cover the sun for a full two minutes and 40 seconds in Goreville. Although the town only has 1,067 residents, they’ve got astronomers coming from the University of Illinois to make Goreville’s event memorable. For more information, see the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s 2017 Eclipse page. Totality begins at 1:20 p.m. CDT with a duration of two minutes and 47 seconds, according to the website Eclipse2017.
Other viewing spots in Illinois within the path of totality include Chester, Marion, and Cape Girardeau, according to the EclipseWise website.
5. Hopkinsville, Kentucky
As with the three locations above, Hopkinsville boasts what their website calls the “point of greatest eclipse.” Hopkinsville has gone all-out for the solar eclipse, even going so far as to temporarily rename their town “Eclipseville.” They’re hosting not one, but two family-friendly, three-day festivals. The Summer Salute Festival features music, rides, games, food, and various vendors. The more low-key Solar Eclipse Festival offers food, arts and crafts booths, kids’ games, workshop, music, contests, and more. There’s also the “Little Green Men Days” festival in honor of an alleged alien encounter in Hopkinsville back in 1955, as reported by WHAS 11. Totality begins at 1:24 p.m. CDT with a duration of two minutes and 41.2 seconds.
Other viewing spots in Kentucky within the path of totality include Paducah, Madisonville, and Bowling Green, according to the EclipseWise website.
4. Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville is 20 miles away from the centerline, but what they lack in seconds of duration, they more than make up for with music and fun. And sure enough, the Eclipse section of their Visit Music City website shows they’ve got all kinds of things going on. They have nine city parks set up for viewing if you’d like to bring chairs and a picnic. Or you can attend viewing parties in less conventional locations, including music venues, a rooftop lounge, the grounds of historic estates, an art or science museum, the Italian Lights Festival, the Howl at the Moon Music Festival, or on a paddle board. Totality begins at 1:27 p.m. CDT with a duration of one minute and 57 seconds.
Other viewing spots in Tennessee within the path of totality include Clarksville, Gallatin, Murfreesboro, and Lebanon, according to the EclipseWise website.
3. Great Smokey Mountains National Park (Tennessee and North Carolina)
The Great American Eclipse site mentions Clingman’s Dome at the Great Smokey Mountains National Park is one of the best places to see the solar eclipse because of the incredible views. In addition, this site — weather permitting — affords the eerie experience of “watching the moon’s shadow racing across the landscape.” Festivities will be held in nearby Bryson City, North Carolina with musical events, a planetarium experience in an inflatable dome, and viewing parties, according to the town’s website. You can also go white water rafting, zip lining, trout fishing, tubing, hiking, and paddle boarding. Lucky folks who planned ahead get to ride to an eclipse viewing spot on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Alas, tickets are now sold out. Totality begins at 2:35 p.m. EDT with a duration of one minute and 17 seconds.
The path of the total eclipse also skims over the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina and the Chattahoochee National Forest in the northeast of Georgia, according to the EclipseWise website. North Carolina’s USDA Forest Service page says towns in the Nantahala National Forest area include Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon, and Swain, plus Jackson County, and the Pisgah Ranger District in Transylvania, and southern Haywood County. Georgia’s USDA Forest Services Page adds towns in the Chattahoochee National Forest area include Towns, Fannin, Union, and Stephens, plus Habersham and White Counties.
2. Columbia, South Carolina
South Carolina’s state capital marks the solar eclipse’s last stop in the U.S. before it heads into the Atlantic Ocean. As the only large city on the East Coast along the path of totality, Columbia is among the best places to see the solar eclipse. According to their Total Eclipse Weekend website, they’ve planned over 120 events and expect up to a million visitors if the weather holds up. In addition, the city is rich in local outdoor and cultural attractions. On top of all that, they’re close to the middle of the path so visitors and locals can enjoy the total eclipse longer. Totality begins at 2:43 p.m. EDT with a duration of two minutes, 30 seconds.
1. Charleston, South Carolina
Although this well-loved historic tourist destination has a much shorter duration, it marks the last place along the total solar eclipse’s path in the U.S. before it sweeps off the coast. The Go Dark Charleston website shows a calendar of events that include an Eclipse Kayak Tour, eclipse painting classes, a “Sip the Eclipse” rooftop party with food and drink specials, fun educational programs at the children’s museum, an astronomy meetup, a special Eclipse Baseball Game with the Charleston RiverDogs, and free viewing events throughout the city. Totality begins at 2:46 p.m. EDT with a duration of one minute, 33 seconds.
Other viewing spots in South Carolina within the path of totality include Greenville, Anderson, Orangeburg, and Sumter, according to the EclipseWise website.
If you don’t live along the path of totality or don’t plan to travel, that’s fine. Partial eclipses are also amazing, and chances are, there is a 2017 total solar eclipse event near you. To find one, check out NASA’s interactive map.
[Featured Image by Muratart/Shutterstock]