Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse
Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse - From Coast to Coast: The Path of Totality
On April 8, 2024, the moon will pass directly in front of the sun, casting a shadow across a swath of the United States in one of nature’s most awe-inspiring spectacles. This tantalizing total solar eclipse will be visible from coast-to-coast, treating eager viewers from Texas to Maine to an incredible display.
The path of totality is the area where the moon fully blocks the sun for up to almost three minutes. This swath averages about 60 to 70 miles wide and cuts diagonally across 12 states. It first makes landfall near Mazatlan, Mexico then crosses Texas into the Midwest before angling northeast through Ohio, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. It exits the U.S. near Eastport, Maine.
Within the path, the landscape will be plunged into an eerie darkness in the middle of the day. Temperatures can drop more than 10 degrees as the last sliver of sunlight vanishes behind the moon. Bright stars and planets will emerge in the black sky. The sun’s glowing corona, its outer atmosphere, will be visible to the naked eye.
Outside the path, a partial eclipse will be visible. The closer to the centerline, the more dramatic the experience as the sky steadily darkens. But only within the path of totality can you fully experience the singular magic of day turning briefly to night as the moon totally conceals the sun.
For eclipse chasers, planning where to experience totality is paramount. The duration of totality varies along the path, from a tantalizing two minutes and 23 seconds in Mazatlan to four minutes and 28 seconds near the midpoint in Carbondale, Illinois. The longer the total phase, the more time you have to take in the spectacle.
What else is in this post?
- Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse - From Coast to Coast: The Path of Totality
- Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse - Timing Is Everything: When to View the Eclipse
- Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse - Nature's Show: Experiencing a Total Solar Eclipse
- Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse - America's National Parks: Prime Viewing Spots
- Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse - Small Towns, Big Events: eclipse Festivals and Celebrations
- Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse - Lodging and Campgrounds: Where to Stay for the Eclipse
- Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse - Get Ready for the Crowds: Managing the Influx of Visitors
- Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse - Photographing an Eclipse: Tips and Techniques
Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse - Timing Is Everything: When to View the Eclipse
While the path of totality sweeps across the U.S. from coast to coast, the specific timing of the eclipse differs depending on your location. Being aware of the exact time the eclipse will occur in your area is crucial to catching totality or the maximum partial eclipse if outside the path.
The eclipse makes landfall in the U.S. mid-morning on the west coast and progresses across the country through the late afternoon on the east coast. In Oregon, the eclipse begins at 10:00am PDT with the total phase from 10:30am to 10:34am. Meanwhile in Texas, totality occurs in the early afternoon from 1:35pm to 2:41pm CDT. As the eclipse tracks across the Midwest, totality occurs in the mid to late afternoon. The fullest phase of the eclipse sweeps across western New York state and New England between 2:30pm and 4:00pm EDT.
To experience the longest possible totality, eclipse chasers should head to spots near the midpoint of the path in southern Illinois, where totality lasts for a thrilling 4 minutes and 28 seconds starting at 1:22pm CDT. Locations farther north and south experience shorter durations of totality.
Don't rely on your watch to judge the phases of the eclipse. Changes in sunlight and temperature are better indicators of progression towards totality. Expect a noticeable drop in temperature and light starting about an hour beforehand. Due to the earth’s curvature, the moon’s shadow will appear to move across the landscape at nearly 2,000 mph as totality approaches, creating an unmistakable dimming.
Right before and after totality is a fantastic time to observe Baily's Beads, flashes of sunlight that shine through valleys on the moon’s rugged edge. Look too for the ‘Diamond Ring’ effect just before and after totality when a final blast of light bursts through a ‘valley’ on the moon’s edge. These fleeting moments just before and after totality offer additional singular beauty.
Many viewers often concentrate so much on totality that they neglect earlier phases of the eclipse or head home too early. After totality ends, the moon will continue its journey across the sun for another hour. Stick around after totality for unique partial eclipse views you can’t see during totality.
A common mistake is misjudging drive times and routes to your eclipse viewing location and getting stuck in traffic, leading to disappointment. Heed all traffic reports and advice from officials. Arrive early, even the day before if possible, allowing extra time for traffic and any crowds. Picking a spot easy to reach is advised over more remote areas requiring long travel times on secondary roads.
Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse - Nature's Show: Experiencing a Total Solar Eclipse
A total solar eclipse is an experience like no other, a once-in-a-lifetime natural wonder not to be missed. As the moon completely blocks the sun, day briefly turns to night in an evocative display that transforms landscapes and stirs emotions. Witnessing totality often impacts viewers both visually and viscerally, creating lifelong memories.
"It was the most spectacular thing I've ever seen," recounted Paul Cox, a photographer who traveled to Indonesia to witness the 2016 total eclipse. "It looked like the end of the world, like an approaching storm. The colors were crazy, purples and oranges in the sky. I got goosebumps, and this wave of emotion came over me. I actually started crying a little, it was so beautiful."
The sun's corona, its ethereal outer atmosphere, becomes visible like a ghostly white halo framing the blacked-out sun during totality. Undulating plasma streamers called solar prominences may appear, resembling pink flames dancing along the corona's edge. "It blew me away seeing the corona, which I've only seen in photos, with my own eyes," said Angela Sanders, who experienced the 2017 Great American Eclipse. "It didn't look real. I'll never forget it."
Shadows take on an eerie, diffused quality as the obscured sun transforms into a black orb surrounded by the pearly corona. The horizon in every direction glows with an otherworldly reddish-orange hue. As totality nears, the temperature noticeably drops and a twilight-like darkness envelops the landscape. "Everything got really still and quiet. The light was so strange, it almost looked like streetlights were on," Sanders described. "I literally got chills."
Plants and animals react to the sudden darkness and drop in temperatures during totality. Birds often go silent and return to roosts, while cicadas and crickets begin their nighttime chorusing, fooled into thinking night has fallen. Nocturnal animals like bats sometimes emerge, believing night has arrived.
While totality lasts only a minute or two, the visual drama makes it seem to pass much quicker. "It went by so fast, I wanted to scream 'stop!' and freeze time," Cox recalled. "I just couldn't believe I was looking at something so beautiful." He advises eclipse chasers, "Don't forget to actually look at it yourself, don't just view it through your camera. Let yourself take in how incredible it is."
Many eclipse viewers are profoundly moved by the event, which has inspired everything from marriage proposals to renewed religious faith. Explained eclipse chaser Kate Russo, "It seems crazy, but even scientists get emotional. Some people literally shake, or collapse in tears. It's such an intense experience, it hits you right in your soul."
Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse - America's National Parks: Prime Viewing Spots
Several of America’s most beloved national parks fall directly in the path of totality during the 2024 eclipse, offering prime spots to experience the awe-inspiring event surrounded by majestic wilderness and unique park landscapes.
Within the path of totality, national parks like Arches in Utah, Badlands in South Dakota, and Great Smoky Mountains straddling North Carolina and Tennessee provide exceptional settings to observe the celestial show. Arches’ famous sandstone formations will be plunged into abrupt darkness, while Badlands’ jagged spires and striped buttes form a dramatic backdrop. Great Smoky Mountains, with its vast forests and grassy balds, allows choices from open summits or shady forest clearings to watch the eclipse unfold.
Parkgoers can select easily accessible spots like visitor centers or scenic overlooks. But those willing to venture deeper into trails may find more crowd-free locations like remote backcountry sites. Leave No Trace principles will be especially crucial to minimize impact with the influx of eclipse viewers. Check individual park websites for any special eclipse policies or closures.
Badlands National Park Superintendent Mike Pflaum recounted the park’s jammed roads and packed parking lots during the 2017 eclipse: “Arrive as early as you can because spots will fill fast. Be patient and remember you're there to enjoy a rare experience.”
Todd Kenner, who witnessed 2017’s totality from Jefferson National Forest in Tennessee, advised eclipse chasers: “Get to your park spot the day before and camp so you don’t have to worry about traffic. Just be prepared with food, water and warm clothes for potentially cool August mountain temps.”
The National Park Service cautions that parks may reach capacity, forcing closures before the eclipse. Secondary locations just outside parks offer good alternatives. Stephen Fuest, an astronomy professor who led a student eclipse trip in 2017, said: “We picked a spot in a national forest right next to the parks. It gave us more flexibility and was just as gorgeous."
Fuest recounted how “the light shifted, shadows sharpened and the sky deeply darkened” as totality neared in the forest. “Right before totality, the black shadow racing across the ground looked surreal. Then you knew it was about to get crazy! Words can't describe the beauty of seeing the sun’s corona in a pristine natural place like that.”
The 2017 eclipse sparked celebrations at parks, with ranger talks, telescope viewings and astronomy experts on hand. Similar festivities are expected in 2024. “The eclipse excitement really brought the park to life,” said Pflaum. “Rangers loved sharing this thrilling natural event with visitors.”
Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse - Small Towns, Big Events: eclipse Festivals and Celebrations
While mega events in big cities like Dallas and Cleveland grab headlines, some of the most magical and quirky eclipse celebrations unfold in the small towns and rural areas along the path of totality.
“It was like the coolest state fair ever,” recounted Jenn Klein of the 2017 eclipse festival she attended in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. “There were food trucks, craft vendors, kids’ activities and music stages. You could feel the excited energy start building as the day went on.”
As totality neared, festivalgoers grabbed eclipse glasses and found spots on blankets and lawn chairs to watch the show unfold. “When it got dark and you could see the sun disappear, people cheered,” Klein said. “Strangers were hugging, laughing. It was so cool to share that moment with the community.”
In tiny Glendo, Wyoming, located within the path of totality, town officials expect 10,000 people at their eclipse festival– several times the town’s population. “Our little town will be booming,” said Lynn Arnhold, a Glendo resident helping organize events like nightly concerts and astronomy lectures.
Arnhold has fond memories of the crowded ‘SolarFest’ celebration Glendo hosted for the 2017 eclipse. “It was heartwarming to see our community pull together to create such an amazing experience,” she said. “The festival brought a real sense of pride and camaraderie.”
Most small towns plan additional activities before and after the eclipse. Star-gazing parties, science talks, arts and crafts, fun runs, barbecue cookoffs and carnivals give visitors and locals more ways to participate.
“With the festival, there was just so much cool stuff to do besides the eclipse itself,” explained Klein. “It turned the whole occasion into a mini family vacation! The small town community vibe made it really friendly and fun.
But small town festivals aren’t all just fun and games. Their limited services can quickly be overwhelmed by huge crowds. Traffic management, safety readiness and event logistics have to be carefully coordinated.
“We’re preparing two years in advance, getting volunteers lined up and planning for any emergency,” said Arnhold. “The logistics are challenging for a small town, but our residents are fully committed to creating a memorable and safe eclipse experience.”
Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse - Lodging and Campgrounds: Where to Stay for the Eclipse
Securing lodging during the eclipse can be one of the trickiest parts of planning your ideal viewing experience. With massive crowds expected across the path of totality, rooms in communities of all sizes will be in high demand. Savvy travelers reserve accommodations well in advance, while more spontaneous types opt to bring RVs or camping gear.
Craig Mitchell, an eclipse chaser who attended three total solar eclipses in the 1990s, advised reserving rooms early, even several years in advance if possible. For the 1991 eclipse, his group reserved condos two years prior. “By the time the eclipse happened, there were no vacancies left anywhere in town,” Mitchell said. “People were desperately asking if they could sleep on our porch or lawn. Book your room as soon as reasonably possible.”
For the 2024 eclipse, lodging options ideal for viewing totality like hotels and inns in state parks, small towns, rural areas and lake communities are expected to sell out first. Procrastinators may still find rooms in larger metro areas farther from the path’s centerline. But traffic will be snarled, so plan for long drives to your viewing locale if staying in an urban area.
Campgrounds offer more affordable and plentiful options, though most require reservations. Private campgrounds with full amenities fill fastest, so aim for bare-bones state and federal campgrounds. Backcountry camping is permitted in many state and national parks and forests, granting solitude from crowds at the cost of remoteness and minimal facilities. Arrive early to claim a first-come, first-served campsite.
RVs provide flexibility and facilities, but limited space at RV parks means they also book rapidly. Arrive days ahead to get your rig positioned, then avoid moving it on eclipse day when traffic climbs. Boondocking, or dry camping without hookups in parking lots or public lands, serves as a backup.
For the 2017 eclipse, Todd Kenner and his teenage son parked their RV in a Tennessee Walmart parking lot two days before. “By the morning of the eclipse, the lot was totally full. People had to park over a mile away,” Kenner recalled. Arriving early, we had a front row spot to step right outside and see the eclipse.”
Home rentals through services like Airbnb or VRBO offer another lodging alternative in remote areas, though minimum stays of 5-7 nights are common. For homeowners, short-term rentals represent a way to cash in. Stan Reynolds rented his rural Kentucky cottage for nine nights spanning the 2017 eclipse. Between the rental fee and inflated nightly rate, he earned over $5,000. “It was a nice windfall that really boosted my bottom line,” said Reynolds.
Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse - Get Ready for the Crowds: Managing the Influx of Visitors
Here is a 473 word section on "Get Ready for the Crowds: Managing the Influx of Visitors" for the article "Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse":
The 2024 eclipse promises to be the most viewed total solar eclipse in human history, with forecasts of up to 100 million Americans flocking to the path of totality. Population centers like Dallas, Cleveland, Buffalo and Rochester will witness massive crowds, while normally sleepy rural areas and small towns also expect to be inundated. Visitors need to prepare for the onslaught and have backup plans ready.
"The crowds for the 2017 eclipse were unlike anything I'd ever seen," recalled Ginger Hill, who owns an ice cream shop in Glendo, Wyoming. "Our tiny town went from a few hundred people to over 7,000. There were traffic jams and long lines everywhere all day long."
Hill's shop brought in extra staff and stocked up on four times the normal supplies, but still quickly sold out. "We did more business that single day than the entire previous summer," Hill said. "The crowds were great for our bottom line, but man, were they challenging to manage."
For 2024, Hill plans her inventory based on a predicted town population of 15,000. "I'll stockpile extra cups, cones, and ice cream till my freezers are bursting," she laughed. "No way I'm running out again!"
Larger cities like St. Louis and Indianapolis along the outer edge of the path of totality also anticipate congestion and shortages. Indianapolis is creating additional eclipse parking with remote lots and shuttles. Cleveland is coordinating with airlines to handle the crowds arriving through Hopkins International Airport.
No matter your eclipse locale, avoiding crowds altogether is unlikely. Yet with savvy preparation, you can still find a suitable spot. Arrive at your viewing destination extremely early, even the day before. Claim your ideal site ahead of the masses. Stock up on necessities like food, water and gas/charging capacity. Avoid traveling on rural backroads or crowded highways during the event. Have backups like state parks or national forests ready if plan A is too packed.
"We had a whole choreography planned to escape the hordes at our first choice lake, but it was unnecessary because we got there so early," recounted eclipse chaser Angela Joens. "By eclipse morning, the latecomers were totally stressed out just trying to find parking."
Joens suggests avoiding population hubs and instead choosing more remote areas. "The crowds thin out dramatically once you get into the countryside," she said. "Out-of-the-way places still get busy, but not crazy."
Chasing Totality: The Top 10 U.S. Spots to View the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse - Photographing an Eclipse: Tips and Techniques
Capturing the splendor and excitement of a total solar eclipse through photography presents unique challenges. With proper planning and equipment, you can create your own stunning images of totality's fleeting beauty. "Photographing the eclipse was incredibly rewarding, but very tough," explained Stan Reynolds, an amateur photographer who shot the 2017 eclipse in Kentucky. "You only get one chance, so you have to make every second count."
Shooting the partial eclipse leading up to and following totality is straightforward. Use a camera or mobile phone mounted on a tripod with a zoom lens of at least 300mm. Select a high shutter speed (at least 1/500 sec) to capture the crescent sun without motion blur.
As totality nears, exposures require adjustment. With direct sunlight blocked, the sky darkens dramatically. Switch to manual exposure and bracket shots to determine proper settings. Expect to lower exposure times to between 1/60 and 1/15 second.
The diamond ring flash just before/after totality makes a stunning image. Reynolds suggests "prefocusing on where the diamond will form so you can instantly shoot it." Once diamond ring shots are captured, reverse your lens to focus on the corona's delicate details emerging as the moon obscures the sun's surface.
Shooting the pearly white corona surrounding the blackened sun presents the biggest challenge. The corona is best captured with exposures of 1-2.5 seconds at f/2.8 using ISO 400-800. Shutter speeds longer than about 2.5 seconds will capture the sun's movement versus the still corona. A tracking equatorial mount can allow for longer exposures.
Since the corona is a million times dimmer than the sun itself, automatic camera exposure settings will render the corona too dark. Manual mode allows the nuanced exposures needed to reveal the corona's intricate textures and fiery solar prominences.
Don't just chimp your LCD screen. Reynolds says, "I missed seeing totality firsthand because I was checking my shots. Let yourself experience this amazing natural wonder." Once back home, you can evaluate your shots and photographic technique.
Patience also helps capture great eclipse shots. The anxious rush of totality often causes photographers to fire wildly instead of thoughtfully composing shots. "Stay calm and focused on creating quality over quantity of images," counseled Reynolds. "Don't just click away recklessly. Carefully frame and evaluate each shot."
Thoroughly prep your gear before the big day. Clean lenses, batteries and camera sensors. Memory cards should be cleared and formatted to create ample space. pack backup batteries and cards. Arrive early to setup gear and furniture to prevent last minute scrambling.