The celestial event of this young century — the great American total solar eclipse of 2017 — is now just weeks away. But, since you’re a nerd, you probably already knew that. The biggest remaining question is, where will you be when the Moon’s shadow arrives?
To maximize your bask in astronomical wonder, finding a good location is key. That means factoring in the weather. To do that, you’ll want to make good use of this handy interactive map showing the historical chance of cloudiness on eclipse day. (As a meteorologist, I made up my own eclipse weather analysis map here.)
Once you’ve considered the weather, it’s time to commit. The good news is, if you haven’t made plans yet, you’re not too late. Sure, some pretty unique eclipse-related events — like a guided bike-ride through the Katy Trail in mid-Missouri, or a watch party atop Clingman’s Dome, the highest spot in the Great Smoky Mountains — sold out months ago. But there are still several ways to watch the eclipse that will leave you especially breathless.
Below are 10 of the best places in America to be on eclipse day:
Depoe Bay, Oregon
If you’re angling to be one of the first humans to see this year’s eclipse, the Oregon Coast is the place to be — the only place on the West Coast that will witness totality. Depoe Bay is right in the centerline, maximizing the length of the eclipse, and public beaches there will likely be crowded. The only downside (besides the crowds) will be a relatively high chance of clouds. Thick marine clouds are relatively common on August mornings there.
Another great place to be in Oregon on eclipse day is the high desert town of Madras, where the Oregon Solarfest will be taking place, in partnership with NASA. Weekend festival passes are still being sold, and there’ll be lots of music and other related events. Clear skies aren’t guaranteed, of course, but there’s a much better chance of seeing the eclipse on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains, where Madras is located.
In Idaho, the Snake River Valley is probably the best place to see the eclipse. In fact, thanks to its historically clear skies in late August, it’s one of the best places in the whole country to watch the Moon’s shadow sweep across our planet. The city of Rexburg has a website devoted to eclipse day events. Vast tracts of public lands, and the nearby Tetons and Yellowstone National Park means that there’ll be a lot to explore even after the eclipse is over. Grand Teton National Park is expecting the busiest day in park history.
On the plains of Wyoming, the Astronomical League — a federation of more than 280 astronomical societies across the country — has perfectly timed its annual national convention to coincide with the eclipse in Casper. Though the event itself is full, the public Wyoming Eclipse Festival lists at least a dozen viewing locations that are sure to be packed with real-life astronomers. It’ll be a nerd’s dream come true.
Perhaps the weirdest (and potentially most wonderful) place to watch the eclipse will be at Carhenge near Alliance, Nebraska. I’m not sure whether the creators of the public art project knew they’d be smack in the centerline of a total eclipse one day, but the result is a serendipitous mix of science and mysticism sure to draw a big crowd. The official website recommends being in place nearly a day early to avoid traffic.
In mid-Missouri wine country, the small town of Hermann is hosting a jazz festival on eclipse weekend, which might be a good choice to de-stress if you don’t like the idea of braving the crowds at Carhenge or the Kansas City and St. Louis metro areas (both in eclipse path). The city of St. Joseph, Missouri is closing its airport for an estimated crowd of 100,000 people, for example.
Southern Illinois is possibly the marquee place to be to watch the eclipse — it’ll have the longest duration of anywhere on Earth. And, there are still places to stay — the college campus at Southern Illinois University is opening weekend access to dorm room suites for $800, a relative bargain compared to some other options. The Moonstock Music Festival will also be held nearby.
The biggest city in the path of the eclipse, Nashville has been going eclipse-crazy for months now and for good reason — its next eclipse isn’t until the year 2566. You’ll see the show from anywhere in town, clouds willing, but the local science center has a huge lineup of activities planned.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The western half of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be on the edge of the total eclipse, and traffic in America’s most popular national park is likely to be especially busy. Still, if you can find a spot to camp, it should make for a breathtaking view.
Charleston, South Carolina
As America’s eclipse winds down, it will last touch land in South Carolina, and Charleston is closest to the show. The chances of clouds are actually a bit less on the coast than just a few miles inland, thanks to the afternoon late summer sea breeze, and you can maximize your experience with everything from yoga to boat rides in Charleston Harbor.