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The 10 Best Places to Catch the Great American Solar Eclipse

On August 21 a total eclipse will travel coast to coast across the U.S. — the first to do so in 99 years. Here are the best seats in the house.

    
By Terry Ward, Men's Journal
  
On August 21 a total eclipse will travel coast to coast across the U.S. — the first to do so in 99 years. It's an event you won't want to miss, but you can't see it just anywhere. 

"The trick is you have to be along the path, which is about 68 miles wide," says Mark Littmann, co-author of the Totality: The Great American Eclipses of 2017 and 2024. “If you're outside that region along the 2,500 mile strip, then you only see a partial eclipse." Seeing a partial eclipse instead of the full one, he says, is like being at a music hall for your favorite concert and listening from the lobby.

The longest amount of total darkness any area of the country will get during this eclipse is two minutes and 40 seconds, says Littman, but the light show will last for hours. And while he plans to be in Douglas, Wyoming, to watch, there are countless other locales for taking in totality.
    
       
Columbia, Missouri
The sun will be near the highest point of the day when it passes over much of the Show Me state, which hasn't experienced a total eclipse since 1869. But you'll need to get away from Kansas City and St. Louis to land in the path of totality. Columbia, very close to the center line of the path, will experience total darkness for a solid two minutes and 36 seconds, with totality starting at 1:12 p.m.

Watch: The city is putting on a massive viewing party at Cosmo Park with live music and food trucks. And a ton of other events are planned in this college town that never wants for a party anyway.

Stay: There are still rooms available at the Comfort Suites and Holiday Inn Executive Center in Columbia. Or you can stay and watch in Jefferson City, to the south, and camp (on a first come first served basis) at the North Jefferson Recreation Area.
    
       
Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina
The vast wilderness of this forest covering the mountains and valleys of southwestern North Carolina falls within the path of totality. And if you want to be somewhere in the middle of nature to experience how the birds and animals react to the sudden eclipse, nearly anyplace in Nantahala is a good bet.

Watch: Anywhere out of the tree cover with a clear view to the sky.

Stay: While all of the official campgrounds are reserved already, there's plenty of primitive camping (aka "dispersed camping") in the park available on a first come first served basis along Snowbird and Santeetlah Lake and along the Tellico River.
    
       
Stanley, Idaho
Much of Idaho falls within the eclipse's path of totality, which passes north of Boise. And Idaho Falls is the biggest town that falls within the zone. But camping near Stanley in central Idaho puts you much closer to the center line, which runs just south of here between Idaho 75 and the long-since sold out Redfish Lake Lodge. Since August is also the driest month of the year in Stanley, there's little chance of getting rained out here. Totality starts at 11:28 a.m. and lasts two minutes and 13 seconds.

Watch: Any place around Stanley will be good for viewing, but heading just south of town toward Obsidian or Grandjean gets you closest to the center line.

Stay: Primitive camping is available on a first come first served basis in the Stovepipe Springs area of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, just off Idaho 75 and just east of Stanley.
    
      
Salem, Oregon
The moon's shadow will race its way across the entire state of Oregon in just 12 minutes, with Government Point, a cape jutting out into the Pacific, the first place in the U.S. to experience totality. Salem is Oregon’s largest city to fall within the path of totality starting at 10:17 a.m. and lasting all of a minute and 54 seconds.

Watch: Any spot in town will be good for the show, from the steps of the State Capitol to area vineyards, many of which are putting on events.

Stay: You can reserve a campsite at the Brooks Winery or Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm or snag a still-available room at the Hampton Inn & Suites Salem or Residence Inn by Marriott.
   
  
Greenville, South Carolina
If it takes a solar eclipse to get you to this cool and outdoorsy South Carolina town (voted one of our Best Places to Live in 2016), then so be it. Greenville goes totally dark at 2:38 p.m. for a total of two minutes and 10 seconds. And with so many great new restaurants and bars in town, there's sure to be a party going from early till late.

Watch: Any place in Greenville’s completely walkable downtown will offer good viewing, with Falls Park on the Reedy — a 32-acre park right next to downtown with nature trails and scenic overlooks — promising to be packed with revelers. Consider getting a bit out of town, too, perhaps to Paris Mountain State Park for some good biking and hiking trails.

Stay: Courtyard Greenville Downtown and Hampton Inn Greenville/Travelers Rest still have availability and are offering eclipse packages.
   
    
Blairsville, Georgia
This beautiful, off-the-radar northern Georgia mountain town will be discovered by eclipse-goers, at least when it falls within the path of totality. About 2.5 hours north of Atlanta, Blairsville will get about two minutes of total darkness from 2:34 p.m. Stick around after the excitement subsides to enjoy the area's great hiking trails and bass fishing.

Watch: With 106 miles of shoreline, Lake Nottely is a pretty place to watch things unfold, as is Vogel State Park.

Stay: Laurel Mountain Cabins has some sweet cabin options as does Sunrise Cabins, along the banks of the Nottely River.
   
  
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is always a good idea, although perhaps not in the drippy heat of summertime. But make an exception this August since the coastal belle is one of the last places on the U.S. mainland where you’ll be able to catch the eclipse’s totality (at 2:46 p.m. for one minute and 33 seconds, to be precise).

Watch: Opt for a town vibe, viewing from a park along King Street or the Battery, or sprawl out in the sand (and perhaps even go for a simultaneous swim) out at Folly Beach or Isle of Palms.

Stay: Occupying several row houses, the super-stylish Restoration hotel still has rooms available and offers guests the use of free bikes to cruise around town. Or check out tripping.com for beach pads out at Folly and schedule a surf trip at the same time.
   
    
Wind River, Wyoming
North of the town of Lander, this rugged Wyoming region along the upper stretch of the Bighorn River mixes the great outdoors with the Native American culture of the Wind River Reservation (the path of totality runs right through the reservation lands, with an Arapaho ceremony planned during the eclipse). There will be two minutes and 13 seconds of darkness at 11:39 a.m.

Watch: Watch the eclipse at a street party in downtown Lander or get out into the wilderness along the Torrey Lake Petroglyphs Trek near Dubois.

Stay: Stay at 8,000 feet in rustic cabins at Absaroka Ranch in Dubois, just west of the Wind River Reservation.
   
     
Lincoln City, Oregon
Join the crowds on the beach in this coastal Oregon town, and you’ll be among the first people in the U.S. to catch the eclipse. Lincoln City goes dark at 10:16 a.m. for a minute and 55 seconds. And since August is usually the warmest month on the Oregon coast, you might even be up for braving the ocean for a surf or kite run during the event.

Watch: Siletz Bay or any spot along Lincoln City's seven miles of beach will be perfect for spreading out a blanket to take in the show. Or head a few miles north of town to the Cascade Head hiking trail for a forested backdrop.

Stay: The Coho Oceanfront Lodge and Surftides still have rooms available on the nights leading up to the eclipse.
   
     
Cascade, Idaho
In the Idaho mountains on the edge of Lake Cascade, the town of Cascade will experience totality for a minute and 55 seconds from a few seconds before 11:27 a.m. Plan to linger longer in the area after the eclipse, as killer mountain biking, hiking, and back country camping and fishing abounds in these wild woods.

Watch: Any place along Lake Cascade will be beautiful for viewing. Or stretch your legs with a hike along the Blue Lake Trail.

Stay: The small town of Cascade is looking pretty full. So if you're not up for camping, base at The Shore Lodge on Lake Payette in the cool hamlet of McCall, about 30 minutes north, and make the drive south early on eclipse day.

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Travel Magazine: The 10 Best Places to Catch the Great American Solar Eclipse
The 10 Best Places to Catch the Great American Solar Eclipse
On August 21 a total eclipse will travel coast to coast across the U.S. — the first to do so in 99 years. Here are the best seats in the house.
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