Last Minute Guide to the Great American Eclipse

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Solar Eclipse Phases

There’s no doubt that the most anticipated event of the summer is the Great American Eclipse. On August 21st, millions of people across the United States will see nature’s most wondrous spectacle — a total eclipse of the sun. A solar eclipse occurs when the sunlight reaching the earth is completely blocked by the moon. As day turns into a deep twilight, the sun’s corona, bright stars, and planets will become visible. While everyone will be able to see at least a partial solar eclipse, the real show will take place in what’s known as the “path of totality”. This region is about 70 miles wide and extends from Oregon to South Carolina.

This is your last minute guide on the best viewing locations and how to watch this beautiful celestial event.

Where To View the Eclipse

While the solar eclipse will be visible in the entire continental United States, you will only see a partial eclipse unless you’re somewhere along the path of totality on August 21st. Because of this reason, eclipse watchers will be flocking to the 12 states that fall within the prime viewing path. While it’s most likely too late to book accommodations along the route, here are the best locations and events within the path of totality.


Lincoln City – This coastal city, among the first to catch theAmerican Eclipse First Landfall eclipse, goes dark at 10:16am Pacific Time for 1 minute, 56 seconds. You can find all the First Landfall information you need at Lincoln City Eclipse.

Check Lincoln City hotel availability on TripAdvisor.

Madras – Further inland, this Oregon city will go dark at 10:19am with totality lasting for 2 minutes, 4 seconds. Madras will also be hosting Oregon Solar Fest for eclipse viewers to enjoy.

Check Madras hotel availability on TripAdvisor.


Weiser – A prime viewing location in Idaho, this small city will go dark at 11:25am Mountain Time and experience totality for 2 minutes, 5 seconds. The main event for visitors will be the Weiser Eclipse Festival.

Check Weiser hotel availability on TripAdvisor.


Jackson – Starting at 11:35am Mountain Time, Grand Teton National Park will go dark for 2 minutes, 8 seconds. Should the sky be overcast, at least you’ll be treated to views of the majestic Tetons.

Check Jackson hotel availability on TripAdvisor.

Casper – With great weather prospects, Casper is a great location for eclipse viewing and also plays host to the Wyoming Eclipse Festival. Casper will go dark at 11:42am Mountain Time for 2 minutes, 26 seconds.

Check Casper hotel availability on TripAdvisor.

American Eclipse Viewing at Grand Teton National Park


Alliance – Home to the roadside attraction Carhenge, Alliance is a natural choice for  eclipse viewing in Western Nebraska. Totality will begin at 11:49am Mountain Time and last for 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

Check Alliance hotel availability on TripAdvisor.


St. Joseph – St. Joseph is right on the centerline of the eclipse path and enjoys one of the longest durations of any sizable city in the nation. A large viewing party will be held at the Rosecrans Memorial Airport, where darkness will begin at 1:06pm Central Time and continue for 2 minutes, 39 seconds.

Check St. Joseph hotel availability on TripAdvisor.

Jefferson City – As the state capital of Missouri, Jefferson City boasts the Capital Eclipse Celebration, a weekend-long festival. As for the eclipse itself, totality will start at 1:13pm Central Time and last for 2 minutes, 29 seconds.

Check Jefferson City hotel availability on TripAdvisor.


CarbondaleSouthern Illinois University will be the primary viewing spot in Illinois, as the eclipse path barely makes its way into the state. The longest duration of totality will be near Carbondale, with darkness beginning at 1:20pm Central Time and lasting for 2 minutes, 42 seconds.

Check Carbondale hotel availability on TripAdvisor.

Total Solar Eclipse 2017


Hopkinsville – Claiming to be the best viewing location in the US and dubbing themselves “Eclipseville“, Hopkinsville will enjoy one of the longest duration of totality (2 minutes, 41 seconds) when darkness begins at 1:24pm Central Time.

Check Hopkinsville hotel availability on TripAdvisor.


Nashville – The largest city to fall within the eclipse’s path of totality, darkness will begin at 1:27pm Central Time and last 1 minute, 57 seconds.

Check Nashville hotel availability on TripAdvisor.

North Carolina

HighlandsHighlands Eclipse Fest will be an epic four-day festival with live music, yoga in the park, and an eclipse viewing party with food. Totality will begin at 2:35pm Eastern Time and last for 2 minutes, 33 seconds.

South Carolina

Columbia – Calling itself the “Total Solar Eclipse Capital of the East Coast”, Columbia is planning a “Total Eclipse Weekend.” For many Americans along the East Coast, this will be the most accessible city with accommodations in the path of total solar eclipse. Darkness will start 2:43pm Eastern Time and have a duration of 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

Check Columbia hotel availability on TripAdvisor.

Charleston – As the last opportunity to catch a view of total eclipse, many will flock to Charleston for totality to begin at 2:46pm Eastern Time until the party is over 1 minute, 33 seconds later.

Check Charleston hotel availability on TripAdvisor.

Charleston, South CarolinaPineapple Fountain in Charleston, South Carolina

Practical Viewing Tips

A total solar eclipse doesn’t often make it’s away across all of America, so make sure to be fully prepared for the big day. To avoid any mishaps on August 21st, here are a few helpful tips and reminders that will guarantee you have a smooth experience on eclipse day.

  • Choose a viewing location. Before the big day, decide on where you’d like to settle in for the show. Also be sure to have a few backup locations you can drive to, just in case bad weather or large crowds force you from your first choice.
  • Take the day off. The total eclipse falls on a Monday. You don’t want to be the only one to miss the big event, so make sure to put your request in as early as possible.
  • Monitor the weather. Keep an eye on both long & short term forecasts so you aren’t surprised by bad weather on eclipse day.
  • Scan the horizon. During totality, take a moment to scan the horizon and enjoy the sight of a 360-degree twilight.
  • Wear proper glasses. Viewing a solar eclipse is no joke and requires certified eclipse glasses. Your normal sunglasses will not provide sufficient protection, so in order to avoid eye damage, make sure you buy solar eclipse viewing glasses that meet ISO 12312-2 standards. A few manufactueres that meet this standard are Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, and Thousand Oaks Optical.

  • Gear up. The actual experience of watching an eclipse from start to finish takes about three hours, so you may find a few supplies to be helpful. A blanket or chair will not only make waiting for the eclipse more comfortable, but can also be useful for staking out your territory in a crowded location. Food and water will be welcomed for everyone in your party during the wait. The temperature can drop anywhere from five to 10 degrees during a total solar eclipse, so a sweater or light jacket may come in handy. Considering you’ll be sitting under the sun for a few hours, don’t forget to bring a hat, sunscreen, and lip balm.

Practical Photography Tips

I don’t know about you, but I have NO experience shooting a solar eclipse (and I’m guessing you don’t either). Which is why I wouldn’t have initially realized some of the equipment that is necessary for properly capturing the event. Here are a few obvious tips — and a few less obvious — that will help make sure you come home with spectacular images of the solar eclipse.

  • Choose your camera. Know which camera you plan to use beforehand. Familiarize yourself with the settings so you don’t come across any complications when the eclipse occurs.
  • Eclipse filter. Similar to needing special eye wear, a solar filter will be necessary to reduce the amount of light falling on your camera lens. Look for a neutral density filter with a 92,000x filter factor and 16.5 stop reduction. You will only need the solar filter before and after totality. You’ll want to remove it quickly when totality arrives and quickly replace it when it’s over.
  • Test your equipment. Be sure to familiarize yourself with any new equipment required to photograph an eclipse. Put your solar filter on your lens and try it out.
  • Tripod. Because you’ll get the best results with a lens that has a focal length of at least 300mm, your camera will be very sensitive to movement and your arms may tire. For best results, you’ll want to use a tripod to stabilize the camera.
  • Backup batteries. Make sure to have multiple batteries charged and ready to go when eclipse day arrives. You won’t want an unexpected low battery to ruin your chances of capturing the display.

Camera Focal LengthCredit: Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre


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A last minute guide to the American Solar Eclipse on August 21st, 2017. Click to learn about the solar eclipse or pin for later!

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