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On August 21, the US will see its first total solar eclipse in nearly 40 years — it’ll be the first in 99 years to sweep across the US and towns from Salem, Oregon, to Columbia, South Carolina, will go pitch black as the moon comes between the earth and the sun. For roughly two and half minutes, temperatures will drop, stars will come out and amateur astronomers everywhere will nerd out. For millions of Americans, it will likely be a once-in-a-lifetime shot at seeing a total solar eclipse, which is why many hotels along the “Path of Totality” — where the moon will cover 100 percent of the sun — started booking up months ago. But if you haven’t made plans yet, don’t worry. A partial eclipse will still be visible to everyone in the continental US (weather permitting) and several major cities will have front-row seats to the big show. For last-minute travel plans, start with these five.
1. Portland, Oregon
It makes sense that Portland would be near the path of totality. After all, it does have something of a dark side. If you’re in the city, you won’t get to see a complete blackout, but you’ll be close enough to see a decent partial eclipse. For the full monty, you’ll need to head an hour south to Salem or Silver Falls State Park. To make the most of your trip, try watching the eclipse in Willamette Valley Wine Country, where many of the area’s wineries are going all-out to mark the occasion with special events and festivals — because, honestly, the only thing better than watching a solar eclipse is watching one while sipping a nice glass of Oregon-style Chardonnay.
2. Lincoln, Nebraska
If you’ve never had a chance to visit the Cornhusker State, this is a great excuse to go. Lincoln is right in the path of the total eclipse so there’s no need to drive to the outskirts to see it and viewers there can expect to see nearly a full minute and a half of totality. While you only need to step outside to see the eclipse, many locals will be heading to Haymarket Park. Home of local baseball team the Lincoln Saltdogs, the stadium will have viewing stations, educational activities and other events, including a baseball game, of course. Come early to Lincoln to partake in the Capital City Ribfest from Thursday to Saturday, August 17-19, a barbecue and music festival that’s as delicious as it sounds.
3. Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City is on the edge of the path of totality, so depending on where you are, you might only see a partial eclipse. For better views and a longer show, head north to the suburbs. The town of St. Joseph, about an hour outside of downtown, has a full list of events leading up to the eclipse, including a family-friendly arts festival, golf tournament and lectures. If you plan on staying inside the city, check out the Power & Light District for a fun night out or take in a date night along the romantic cobblestoned streets of Country Club Plaza. Regardless of where you stay, however, getting some Gates or Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue is pretty much non-negotiable. The full eclipse will also be visible at the Kansas City International Airport (MCI) — just be sure to put your DIY pinhole projector in a separate bin when going through security.
4. Nashville, Tennessee
Like Lincoln, Nashville and most of its suburbs fall within the band of totality for the solar eclipse, so regardless of where you are inside the city, you should get a good view so long as the weather is nice. If you really want to go all-out, however, the Adventure Science Center will be hosting a two-day festival with games, food trucks and — because it’s Nashville — lots of live music. While the indoor events are ticketed and likely to sell out, the outdoor events are free. While in the city, grab some hot chicken at Hattie B’s, take in a show on Lower Broadway or cross the Grand Ole Opry off your bucket list.
5. Columbia, South Carolina
Of all the major cities along the path of the eclipse, Columbia just might be the most excited. The city is hosting a Total Eclipse Weekend with events leading up to and following the eclipse. In addition to educational events, concerts and fun runs, you can also enjoy special double stouts “as black as the darkest night,” water balloon battles and scavenger hunts. For procrastinators on the East Coast, Columbia might be your best bet. After all, it’s only a 12-hour drive from New York City. Road trip, anyone?
Will you be traveling to see the Great American Solar Eclipse this year? Tell us about your plans, below.
Featured image courtesy of Arctic-Images via Getty Images.
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