Professional and novice astronomers — as well as the curious masses — will turn their eyes to the sky on August 21, 2017, to witness the awe-inspiring phenomenon coined the “Great American Eclipse.”
As the sun is masked by the moon, skies will darken from South Carolina to Oregon as the eclipse sweeps across the United States from coast to coast. At that moment, temperatures will drop, critters will fall silent and sparks of light will streak across the sky. This astral event? It’s one for the ages.
Sky watchers can do double-duty — watching the eclipse and exploring local sights — from these six hot spots.
Greenville, South Carolina
Greenville holds the coveted position of being one of very few cities in direct line of the eclipse’s path of totality, where the sun is completely blocked by the moon. Eclipse-centric events may fill Greenville’s August calendar, but any time of year is ideal for wannabe astronomers to visit the much-lauded Roper Mountain Science Center, home to the eighth-largest refractor telescope in North America and a newly renovated planetarium.
Greenville by day is rich with activities, especially for lovers of the outdoors. Take a walk or jog along the 20-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail, which runs parallel to Reedy River, or climb aboard two wheels with a bike rental from Reedy Rides. Bird watchers should look to the trees in Lake Conestee Nature Park, noted for its sightings by the National Audubon Society.
Nashville might be better known as the country music capital of the U.S. than as an astral epicenter, but this Southern city will be on the periphery of the eclipse and is proud of it. Aim to catch the spectacle from the Gaylord Opryland or Sheraton Grand Nashville Downtown.
After the eclipse passes, dive into the best of Nashville, from music and shopping to eating and drinking on a three-day tour of the city. Explore funky neighborhoods like Marathon Village, keep an ear out for the next great country music act at a famed honky-tonk, or wet your whistle on a Nashville distillery tour.
Kansas City, Missouri
As the solar eclipses slices its way across Missouri, folks around Kansas City, one of the largest cities in the eclipse’s path, will be treated to this once-in-a-lifetime astral event. Even if you miss the eclipse, you can reach out to the Astronomical Society of Kansas City to learn what public stargazing events might be on the docket.
If you’ve got future astronomers in tow, bring the little ones to Kansas City’s Science City at Union Station, where you can dive into all aspects of science and attend a “star tour” at the Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium.
Later, get an arts fix gazing at works from Europe, Asia and America at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Then, as night falls (when you’re not stargazing), hit up the shops, restaurants and bars of the Power & Light District. When you’ve had your fill, spend the night at AC Hotels by Marriott Kansas City Westport.
The tiny town of Casper boasts a rather large eclipse-spotting benefit: It’s perched some 5,000 feet above sea level, making sky watching a regularly epic attraction, astral event or not. In a region as untouched by urban lights as Casper, much attention is paid to the night sky above. But a year-round world of exceptional sights await down on Earth, as well.
Whether fishing and boating at Alcova Lake or exploring the thick forests and winding trails of Casper Mountain in the summer (which also lays claim to enviable skiing in winter), outdoors lovers will have no shortage of activities at their fingertips. Head to the North Platte River for fly fishing, and work your calf muscles biking the 10-plus mile, paved Platte River Trails.
With all that activity you’ve more than earned a hearty meal, and a steak meal is a must for carnivores. Tuck into a slow-roasted prime rib or smoked beef brisket and then sleep it off in your room at the Residence Inn Casper.
Sky watchers won’t see the eclipse in its totality from Portland, but the city will still experience a partial solar eclipse — a pretty awesome sight. When you’re not waiting in anticipation of the astral event, satisfy your inner astronomer at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) Planetarium.
Attend one of their live Starry Nights talks and discover the planets, constellations, shooting stars and satellites in our skies visible every night — if you know when and where to look.
Next, get up close and personal with the sky on the Portland Aerial Tram, which rises 500 feet as it travels some 3,300 linear feet from South Waterfront to Marquam Hill and offers sky-high views of Portland and beyond.