Two months from today, on August 21, the sun will disappear across America.
For a swath of the country from Portland, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina, it will look like someone just turned off the sun in the middle of the day.
Fourteen states across the US will experience about two minutes of darkness as the eclipse crosses from coast to coast between 10:15 a.m. Pacific Time in Oregon until about 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time in South Carolina.
Even if you live elsewhere in North America, a portion of the sun will partially disappear near midday. Parts of South America, Africa, Europe and Asia will also experience a partial eclipse.
It is being called the “Great American Eclipse.” And you can mark it on your calendar, down to the millisecond.
It’s been 99 years since a total solar eclipse crossed the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The total solar eclipse on June 8, 1918, crossed from Washington to Florida.
Federal agencies like NASA, NOAA, the National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration all have plans to enable safe viewing of the eclipse, up-to-the-minute weather forecasts, crowd management and navigating traffic and parking.
“Never before will a celestial event be viewed by so many and explored from so many vantage points: from space, from the air and from the ground,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “With our fellow agencies and a host of scientific organizations, NASA will continue to amplify one key message: Take time to experience the August 21 eclipse, but experience it safely.”
Researchers will also take advantage of the rare eclipse to study the sun and the Earth using instruments on the ground and in space.
During the celestial event, the moon will pass between the sun and the Earth, appearing to block the sun for almost an hour and a half. You can replicate an eclipse by holding a flashlight and waving your hand slowly across it.
When the moon blocks the sun, it will cast two types of shadows. The umbral is the small shadow cast on Earth where people will be able to see a total eclipse. Others will experience the penumbral shadow, where they will experience a partial eclipse.
Salem, Oregon, will be one of the first towns to see the total eclipse, while Charleston will be one of the last.
Kansas City, Nashville and St. Louis are some of the cities that will have a good chance of seeing the sun totally covered.
Space enthusiasts have been getting excited about the eclipse, and some are counting down the days. Many are booking hotels for the big moment, while others have had their rooms booked for years.
The real question is, have you figured out where you will be on August 21?
If you’d still like to travel to find a better vantage point, here are some suggestions — but you’d better hurry; while all had vacancies at the time of publication, they could sell out fast:
Terra Vina Wines, Oregon
Oregon is the first state where the total eclipse will be visible and Mt. Hood Territory, in the heart of wine country, offers lodging and fun down on the farm at the Terra Vina winery, about 25 miles south of Portland.
Terra Vina has lodging, but it is also offering admission for day-trippers. It’s kicking off the celebrations with a “Wine and Swine” whole hog buffet and live music with a viewing party on the day of the eclipse, featuring the winery’s new sparkling wines.
Terra Vina Wines, 33750 SW Ladd Hill Rd, Wilsonville, OR 97070; +1 503-925-0712.
Amangani, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Amangani means “peaceful home,” a resort on a private mountain overlooking Jackson Hole in Wyoming, a natural setting to inspire awe without the bonus of an eclipse. But there is just one private home left at this exclusive resort, which has scheduled a special week of star and sky-gazing activities led by University of Maryland University College astronomer Matthew Bobrosky.
Rates are $13,000 per night for this particular home during the eclipse, and starting on August 18, a five-night minimum stay is required.
Amangani is offering celestial cocktails and a laser-guided and telescope tour of the sky, weather permitting. For the day of the eclipse, guests will be serenaded by classical musicians on a poolside terrace 2,000 feet above the valley.
Amangani, 1535 NE Butte Road, Jackson, Wyoming 83001; +1 307 734 4870.
Jefferson City, Missouri
The Missouri capital of Jefferson City is located near the center of the arc, and the city has big plans to mark August 21.
The celebrations include carnival and education events, but the most eye-catching are definitely the city’s “Total Eclipse of the Park” party with music, sci-fi movies and the Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” tribute concert on the lawn in front of the state capitol.
While most area hotels are sold out, Jefferson City’s North Jefferson Recreation Area still has space available for RV (no hookups), car and tent camping.
Call +1 (573) 634-6482 for reservations.
Brasstown Valley Resort, Young Harris, Georgia
A two-hour drive from Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tennessee, this mountain resort offers log cottages and spa suites to put the romance in the eclipse experience.
When you’re not gazing to the heavens, Brasstown Valley Resort has terrestrial distractions such as golf, tennis, riding, fishing and hiking — and the Appalachian Trail is on your doorstep.
Brasstown Valley Resort, 6321 U.S. 76, Young Harris, GA 30582; +1 800-201-3205.
Eclipseville, aka Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Hopkinsville, Kentucky, normally has a population of 30,000. But as the “Point of Greatest Eclipse,” the community is preparing to welcome tens of thousands of visitors.
Residents are going all the way, even renaming the town “Eclipseville” as they plan more than 20 special events in the runup to August 21. (And they have the best website name: eclipseville.com.)
The town is also hosting NASA scientists and Brother Guy Consolmagno, chief observer of the Vatican Conservatory.
All local hotels with a solar eclipse logo on the site still have availability.
A Walk in the Woods, Tennessee
The Great Smoky Mountains are an ideal location from which to appreciate the beauty of this astronomical event.
A Walk in the Woods is hosting an all-day boat trip on Fontana Lake with naturalists and an astronomer as your guides.
Just ask for the Bonnie Tyler’s ’80s classic-inspired “Total Eclipse of the Heart of the Southern Appalachians” package.
Sitting directly in the path of eclipse totality, the pontoon boat tour allows access to some of the park’s remote spots. The guides are experts in wild plants, animals and local history, to ensure that visitors get a full flavor of one of the South’s most picturesque spots.
A Walk in the Woods, 4413 Scenic Drive East, Gatlinburg, TN 37738; +1 865 436 8283.
Gorges State Park, North Carolina
The only North Carolina state park in the path of totality, Gorges State Park will open at 5 a.m. — two hours early — to accommodate day-trippers who want to stake out prime viewing spots. Park rangers recommend arriving by 11 a.m. at the latest.
Home to beautiful and rugged river gorges (hence the name), waterfalls and rock walls, the 7,500-acre park will host food trucks and music performances on August 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (There’s also a family fun eclipse day scheduled for August 20, the day before the eclipse.)
Greenwood, South Carolina
The tiny town of Greenwood in South Carolina is toward the end of the eclipse’s arc across the United States and will experience more than two minutes of darkness in the afternoon.
Lake Greenwood State Park is expecting visitors to congregate on the lawn terraces sloping down towards the lake to witness the rare event. The town’s visitors bureau will even provide complimentary souvenir sunglasses. And it’s a deal: Park admission is just $2 per person.
Lake Greenwood State Park, 302 State Park Road, Ninety Six, SC 2966; +1 864 543 3535.
Cascades and Coast tour, Intrepid Travel
To maximize your time around the summer eclipse, pick one of Intrepid Travel’s six itineraries to catch it.
One nine-day road trip around Washington and Oregon takes in Mount Rainier, rugged coastlines and scenery, and vibrant Seattle and Portland. August 21 will be spent on Airlie Farms in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where the 226 acres of pastures and hills provide a perfectly peaceful backdrop for eclipse gazing and contemplating one’s place in the universe.
Berry Islands, Bahamas
True, the Berry Islands are not in the United States, and no, they”re not in the path of totality. But if you’re after a secluded viewing spot with sand under your toes, then the Berry Islands in the Bahamas is an ideal spot.
With a population of just 400 — and no light pollution — Great Harbour Cay offers the promise of clear skies. The four-bedroom Carriearl property offers an on-site restaurant, freshwater pool and plenty of rum punch.
CarriEarl Boutique Hotel, Great Harbour Cay Drive, Great Harbour Cay, Bahamas; +1 242-367-8785.