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Essential Travel Guide to the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017

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Total Eclipse of the Sun

For the first time in a century, a Total Solar Eclipse will travel across the Continental United States on 21 August 2017, passing over 12 states from Oregon to South Carolina. Keep reading for essential travel planning tips.

This will be the first time since 1979 that a total solar eclipse will be visible in the United States. It will also be the first solar eclipse to span the entire North American continent since 1918.

And just to clear up any confusion, a solar eclipse is when the moon's shadow blocks the sun. A lunar eclipse is when the sun's shadow blocks the moon.

The eclipse will be visible throughout North America, Central America, and the Northern half of South America, but for most people, this will be a partial eclipse of the sun not a total eclipse of the sun.

A total solar eclipse will only be visible across a 70-mile (100-kilometre) wide band stretching across the United States. But even a partial eclipse will be pretty spectacular.

Best Places to Witness the Solar Eclipse

Hotel and motel rooms are going fast so start your search now! Click on links to check room availability and rates. 

In addition to hotels and motels, also consider beds-and-breakfasts, vacation homes, camp grounds, guest houses, staying with friends, and Airbnb.

Salem, Oregon – 1.54 minutes

The eclipse will make landfall on a beach just north of Newport, Oregon, at 10.15 local time, lasting 1.50 minutes.

While watching the solar eclipse make landfall in North America would be a moving experience, keep in mind that the Pacific Coast is frequently subject to morning fog and overcast skies in the spring and summer. 

So a safer bet would be to move inland a bit - more on this below under weather.

The largest city in path of the solar eclipse in Oregon will be Salem, the state capital. Eugene, Medford, and Portland will experience a partial eclipse of the sun.

Closest airport: Portland International Airport is the closest airport with scheduled passenger service. More on this under Portland Airport.

Idaho Falls, Idaho – 1.49 minutes

The eclipse will pass through the southern part of the state, with only one large city in its path: Idaho Falls.

Boise, the state capital, and Pocatello will experience a partial eclipse of the sun.

Closest airport: Idaho Falls Regional Airport has scheduled passenger service on Allegiant Air, Delta Connection, and United Express to regional travel destinations.

Casper, Wyoming – 2.26 minutes

After passing across an unpopulated patch of Montana, the eclipse will enter Wyoming, which is known as Big Sky Country.

The eclipse will linger over the skies of southern Grand Teton National Park for an impressive 2.20 minutes.

The state’s largest city, Casper, will experience an even more impressive 2.26 minutes of total darkness as the eclipse passes directly over the centre of town.

Closest airport: Casper Natrona County International Airport has scheduled passenger service on Allegient Air, Delta Connection, and United Express to regional travel destinations.

Lincoln, Nebraska – 1.25 minutes

The eclipse will pass over hundreds of miles of prairie and several decent sized cities and towns as it makes its way southeastward across the Cornhusker State.

The eclipse will linger longest over Alliance (2.30 minutes), Grand Island (2.34 minutes), and Stapleton (2.33 minutes).

Omaha, the state’s largest city, will experience a partial eclipse of the sun.

The state capital of Lincoln, however, will enjoy 1.25 minutes of darkness.

Closet airport: Lincoln Airport has scheduled passenger service on Delta Connection and United Express to regional travel destinations.

Troy, Kansas – 2.38 minutes

The eclipse will quickly cut across the northeastern-most corner of the Sunflower State.

The town of Troy will be thrown into darkness for 2.38 minutes. The hamlet doesn't have any lodging of its own, so you would have to book a room in a nearby community.

Topeka, the state capital and its second largest city, will experience a partial eclipse of the sun.

The eclipse will continue across a sparsely populated section of Iowa that measures a measly 450 acres before entering the state of Missouri.

Closest airport: Kansas City International Airport has scheduled airline service by several American, Canadian, and Mexican airlines to travel destinations throughout North America.

St. Joseph, Missouri – 2.38 minutes

The Great American Eclipse will show residents of the Show Me State a thing or two!

Of the 12 states along the route of the 2017 solar eclipse, more locals in Missouri will be able to witness the event without having to wander far from home than any other state on its path.

The solar phenomenon will enter the state over the skies of St. Joseph, which will be thrown into 2.38 minutes of darkness.

Columbia will not be far behind, with 2.36 minutes of darkness. Jefferson City, the state capital, will get 2.29 minutes of darkness.

The state’s two largest cities, Kansas City (in the West) and St. Louis (in the East), will be on the southern and northern edges of the path of the eclipse, respectively.

Residents of these two cities should travel a bit north or south to experience a total eclipse of the sun.

Closest airports: Kansas City International Airport and St. Louis International Airports have scheduled airline service by several American, Canadian, and Mexican airlines to travel destinations throughout North America.

Shawne National Forest, Illinois – 2.44 minutes

The eclipse will pass over the southern tip of Illinois, but anyone that can make it to Shawne National Forest, which is south of Carbondale, will experience the longest solar eclipse of all – 2.44 minutes - weather permitting!

Hopkinsville, Kentucky – 2.40 minutes

From the Land of Lincoln, the eclipse with cut across the Southwestern edge of Kentucky.

It will enter the state at Paducah, lingering for 2.20 minutes, and exit at Hopkinsville, lingering for 2.40 minutes.

The state’s largest cities of Louisville and Lexington will experience a partial eclipse of the sun.

Nashville, Tennessee – 1.54 minutes

No excuse is needed to visit Nashville, home of the Grand Ol’ Opry, and the state capital will be thrown into 1.54 minutes of darkness.

But other cities and towns in the Volunteer State will experience a longer eclipse, such as Portland, where it will last a whopping 2.37 minutes.

Closest airport: Nashville International Airport is served by several domestic and Canadian airlines with service to travel destinations throughout Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

Clayton, Georgia – 2.34 minutes

From Kentucky, the eclipse will cut across northeastern Georgia on its way to North Carolina.

Clayton will be thrown into 2.34 minutes of darkness. Augusta and Atlanta, the Peach State’s two largest cities, will experience a partial eclipse of the sun.

Andrews, North Carolina – 2.38 minutes

The westernmost reaches of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be thrown into darkness for well over two minutes.

What more dramatic locale to experience a total eclipse of the sun?

Otherwise, you should head to one of the following towns in the state’s southwestern tip: Andrews (2.38 minutes), Franklin (2.30 minutes), or Murphy (2.26 minutes).

Closest airport: Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is a major airport with scheduled passenger service to travel destinations throughout North America and overseas. More on this under Charlotte Airport.

Columbia, South Carolina – 2.30 minutes

The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017 will end its journey across the United States in South Carolina.

With 2.30 minutes of darkness, Colombia will be the last state capital on its trip. With 1.33 minutes, Charleston will be its last major city.

The eclipse will linger longest over the skies of Greenwood – 2.28 minutes!

Closest airport: Charleston International Airport is served by five domestic airlines with scheduled passenger service to 22 travel destinations in the United States. 

The last port of call of the 2017 solar eclipse will an isolated beach on a barrier island at the tip of the Cape Romain Wildlife Preserve in South America.

After its one hour, 33-minute journey across the North American continent, the eclipse will continue its journey eastward across the Atlantic Ocean.

Will the spectacle be witnessed by and captains or sailors or passengers on ships at sea?

By the time the moon’s shadow reaches the shores of Africa 75 minutes later, the eclipse will be all but a memory.

Travel Tips

Big city or small? If you are visiting the United States from afar, you might want to consider whether you would rather witness the solar phenomenon in a big city or a small town.

Nashville, Tennessee, and Charleston, South Carolina, are among the most interesting cities in America: Nashville as the home of Country and Western music and Charleston for its Southern Charm

But spending a day or two in one of the many small towns that dot the path of the 2017 solar eclipse would offer a rare glimpse of life on Main Street USA, something most foreign tourists don't usually get to experience.

Cost is another consideration. Accommodation in small towns will most likely be much cheaper than in larger cities.

Weather

Weather will play an important role for eclipse-chasers - and what better time for a solar phenomenon to occur than during daylight hours when the chances of clear skies are at their peak?

According to Eclipsophile, the eclipse couldn’t be happening at a better time! But optimal weather is not a given.

August tends to be sunny across the United States, and people at locations across the 70-mile wide track will have a 60% chance on average of being able to see the solar eclipse.

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But some locations are better than others, and in some locations, the chances will be lower than 50%.

Unfortunately, some of the areas that will experience the longest eclipse are the among the areas most likely to suffer cloud cover.

While the eclipse will last longest in the Midwest and Southeast, the chance of clear, sunny weather is greatest in the West.

In central Oregon, southwest and southeast Idaho, and central Wyoming, the chances rise to 85%.

Before you head to the beach in Oregon, however, keep in mind that morning fog or cloud cover is highly possible. Better to head inland, east of the Cascades.

Generally speaking, it will be best to be to the east of high mountains in the Western United States.

Eclipse Day Events

The eclipse will only last a few moments, so there are other considerations to take into account when deciding on where to watch it.

Many communities along path of the total eclipse of the sun will hold Eclipse Day Events such as celebrations and educational activities, which would make witnessing the event much more memorable.

There will be special events on the steps of the many state capitals in the path of the eclipse as well as at sports stadiums and municipal airports.

Hopkinsville, Kentucky - which will experience about the longest full eclipse of the sun - has a series of special events planned including an important talk by a leading figure in solar phenomena.

One of the biggest celebrations will undoubtedly be held in Nashville, Tennessee, the largest city in the solar eclipse's path. 

Protection

Looking directly at the sun is never a good idea, and that includes during a solar eclipse.

Protective eye wear is therefore absolutely necessary.

At the high end, Green Shade 14 Solar Eclipse Glasses will set you back US$39. 

But there are also numerous inexpensive options starting at less than US$5 for a six pack: Mirrored Eclipse Glasses Safe Solar Shades - Pack of 6.

If you want a souvenir of the event, there are many options, including Eclipse Glasses with a Commemorative Poster.

The next total eclipse of the sun will be on 2 July 2019 in the Southern Hemisphere.

Because it will take place mostly over the ocean, the eclipse will only be visible from cruise ships in the South Pacific and a few spots in Chile and Argentina.

The next total solar eclipse in the United States will occur on 8 April 2014.

Transportation

The following airports are key international gateways for solar eclipse-chasers from overseas.

Portland International Airport 

Hub for Alaska Airlines

Served most major domestic airlines as well as Air Canada, Condor, Icelandair, and Volaris.

International service to Frankfurt, Germany (seasonal); Guadalajara, Mexico; London-Heathrow, England (seasonal); Reykjavik, Iceland (seasonal); Tokyo-Narita, Japan; and Vancouver, British C0lumbia. Some of the airport's international routes are operated by Delta Air Lines.

Denver International Airport

Hub for United Airlines

World's 18th busiest airport and the sixth busiest in the United States. Served by most domestic airlines as well as Aeromexico, Air Canada, British Airways, Icelandair, Lufthansa, and Volaris.

International service to Chihuahua, Guadalajara, Mexico City, and Monterey, Mexico; Toronto-Pearson, Ontario; and Montreal Quebec (seasonal); as well as Frankfurt, Germany; London-Heathrow, England; and Munich, Germany. 

Chicago O'Hare International Airport

Hub for American Airlines and United Airlines

As the world's second busiest airport, O'hare Field is served by all major domestic airlines and more international airlines than any U.S. airport other than New York City's JFK.

Included are Aer Lingus, Aeromexico, Air Berlin, Air Canada, Air France, Air India, Alitalia, All-Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Avianca El Salvador, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Cayman Airways, China Eatern Airlines, Copa Airlines, Emirates Airline, EVA air, Finnair, Hainan Airlines, Iberia, Interjet, Japan Airlines, KLM, Korean Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, Scandinavian Airlines, Swiss International Air Lines, Turkish Airlines, Volais, WestJet, and WOW air.

Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Hub for Delta Air Lines

As the world's busiest airport, Hartfield-Jackson is served by most major domestic airlines, but its list of foreign airlines is far shorter than Chicago's O'Hare Field: Air Canada Express, Air France, British Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic.

International service to cities throughout the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Most of the airport's international routes are operated by Delta Air Lines.

Charlotte-Douglas International Airport

Hub for American Airlines

Served by most major domestic airlines, Air Canada Express, British Airways, and Lufthansa.

International service to several cities in the Caribbean and Mexico as well as Frankfurt, Germany; Liberia; London-Heathrow, England; Munich, Germany; Paris-Charles de Gaulle, France; and Toronto-Pearson (Ontario). Many of the airport's international routes are operated by American Airlines.

Other international gateways include John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Texas, Los Angeles International Airport in California, San Francisco International Airport in California, and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington.

Sources

The following sites were consulted in the preparation of this post:

More Solar Eclipse Travel Information!

For more in-depth travel planning information on the 2017 solar eclipse, check out these top five travel planners on Amazon:

  1. 100 Best Places in the USA to Watch the Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017
  2. Total Addiction: The Life of an Eclipse Chaser
  3. Earth's Moon [Tubed] (National Geographic Reference Map)
  4. Total Solar Eclipse 2017: Your Guide to the Next US Eclipse
  5. USA Eclipse 2017 Travel Guide: 50+ observation locations & road trip itineraries for the August 21, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

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