The continental United States will experience its very first total solar eclipse in thirty-eight years come August 21, 2017. The last time nature's most wondrous spectacle graced the earth was all the way back in 1979, and let’s just say that the scene was truly spectacular. It was an unimaginable beauty that allowed daytime to turn into deep twilight, where the Sun, the Moon, and Earth lined neatly up to cast a perfect shadow onto the entire planet.
If you’re itching for a chance to see rays of sunlight shimmer soundly once again, tune in for a truly rare celestial event next summer by heading on out to various hotspots around the nation just as totality approaches during the next big American eclipse. From the Pacific to the Atlantic and all in between, nearly everyone in the country will have an opportunity to witness this phenomenon within one day's drive if situated in a specific location. There are various superb spots to catch this amazing celestial coincidence, but here are our best picks that-- weather permitting-- will for sure provide the most fantastic and astonishing views. Here are the eight best places to see the solar eclipse in 2017.
Where To See The Solar Eclipse In The U.S.
1. Nashville, Tennessee
Though there are some drawbacks to eclipse viewing in Music City U.S.A.--such as potential for clouds and an absolute certainty of uber big crowds-- it’s safe to say that staking out a position just north of city center in places such as Hendersonville, Gallatin, and Coopertown will definitely allow you to catch totality at its finest.
You’ll be able to witness the spectacle for nearly two whole minutes, depending on your location, starting at 1:27 p.m. CDT, so be sure to put the nation’s music capitol on your list of spots to head towards for the next Great Big American Eclipse. The location is offset from the centerline by merely twenty miles and is the largest city wholly within the path of the solar phenomenon.
2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Straddling North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains not only offer fantastic potential for striking foreground scenery-- especially at high points such as Clingmans Dome—but the possibility of witnessing the Moon’s shadow mosey on across the surrounding landscape at nearly one thousand miles an hour as well.
Totality is set to begin at begins at 2:35 p.m. EDT for just under a minute and twenty seconds, so head on out to a sprawling Midwestern landscape that’ll add another dimension to your experience of solar eclipse viewing. Be careful though, as it may sometimes be difficult to maneuver out of the park at the last minute if the weather turns too cloudy.
3. Columbia, South Carolina
For now, the eclipse is set to reach South Carolina at 3:36 p.m. EDT and exit the east coast of the state and the country at about 3:49 p.m. EDT. The majority of the Palmetto State will enjoy a totality of just about two and a half minutes, with Columbia being the last relatively large city in the eclipse’s path.
The state’s capital city lies within a day’s drive for millions on the east coast of the U.S. and is chock full of accommodating hotels that all sit at the intersection of five interstates along the eclipse’s path. It tends to get pretty steamy in the southeast in August though, and the eclipse will be happening during what’s typically hurricane season-- still, Columbia has got a fine network of highways available for easy mobility on eclipse day. For millions of Americans along the Atlantic Seaboard, it’ll be the most accessible city with accommodations in the path of the total solar eclipse.
4. Madras, Oregon
If clear skies are what you seek, Central Oregon has got the best to offer next August. The tiny town of Madras sits at the intersection of four highways, making it super easy to move around to find yourself the best amount of sky. Just a few hours away with extensive lodging options are also the popular cities of Salem and Portland, both of which sit conveniently in the path of totality.
What’s more is that Madras is just east of the lovely stratovolcano Mt. Jefferson, allowing observers to witness the peak of the mountain darken seventeen seconds before the Moon’s shadow actually descends on the town. It’s predicted to go at a speed of more than 2,000 mph and will begin in the U.S. on the west coast of Oregon at about 10:19 a.m. PDT, before moving into Idaho at 10:27 a.m. PDT. Get ready to see over two whole minutes of eclipse wonder.
5. Western Nebraska
Head on over to the Sandhills country of Nebraska, which are a prime location for viewing the eclipse. Previous research and reports have shown that 70% of late August days within the area are favorable for eclipse viewing—plus, it’s definitely a natural choice because of the array of accommodations, highways, and farm roads that’ll allow you to dodge local clouds. An added bonus is that because of the better weather, you’ll get a chance to enjoy dark summer night skies along with glorious views of the Milky Way.
The path of the eclipse is set to run from the northwestern to southeastern tips of the state from 1:46 p.m. MDT to 2:09 p.m. MDT. Be sure to check out Highway I-80 from North Platte to Lincoln, which will likely act as a main artery for eclipse chasers. There’s also the I-80 just south of Grand Island to consider.
6. St. Joseph, Missouri
It may be a super small city, but it lies right on the centerline of the eclipse. Enjoy 2 minutes and 39 seconds of totality in this Buchanan County town, where you’ll likely enjoy one of the longest durations of any sizable city in the nation.
Nearby St. Louis is also a good bet, as it will be on the northern edge of the path of totality, while Kansas City will be on the southern edge. Plus, weather prospects should be fair for all these areas, so stare in awe of the eclipse in the company of famous astronomers during the large eclipse viewing party that’ll be organized at Rosecrans Memorial Airport. There will be educational speakers, solar telescopes, and so much more fun!
7. Casper, Wyoming
Smack dab on the centerline of the eclipse, Casper is a more than popular place for eclipse watchers of all sorts. Those wanting bombastic photographs of the solar beauty should try heading down to Grand Teton National Park at the western end of the state as well. Yet no matter where in Wyoming you happen to be, you’ll likely find good chances for clear skies, as well as tons of interstate highways that’ll provide easy mobility to move around.
The eclipse will enter western Wyoming at 1:34 p.m. MDT and exits eastern Wyoming at 1:49 p.m. MDT, lasting for about two and a half minutes. What’s more exciting is that the Astronomical League will hold its annual Astrocon Conference in town just before eclipse day, so you’ll be prepped and in the mood for lots of earthy pleasure way in advance.
8. Hopkinsville, Kentucky
This town bills itself as the best place to see the eclipse because it’s super close to the point of maximum totality, where the eclipse will last for a whopping 2 minutes and 41 seconds. Plus, due to the town’s stupendous marketing efforts, Hopkinsville will for sure be filled with eclipse seekers all packing into various hotels hoping to catch a glimpse of this next solar system wonder.
If things tend to get too crowded, try opting for some of the smaller towns nearby such as Clarksville. No matter where in Kentucky you’re at, however, the lush, green landscape of the Bluegrass State will provide you with basically the best viewing spot in all the nation. Totality will begin at 1:24 p.m. CDT, so get ready to party.
This article was written by Pamela Chan.