This is the first time a total solar eclipse has crossed the United States since 1978 (and the last really big one was in 1918), and the summer’s brief event—totality lasts about two minutes, depending on your location—is being touted as the largest astronomical event in U.S. history.
Whether or not that's true, it will definitely be the most photographed, most Instragrammed, most tweeted and most talked about eclipse ever. It’s critical to get yourself somewhere exactly under the shadow—and as nearest to the Line of Totality—as possible, since a near-miss is a total miss.
You should use Xavier Jubier's 2017 Total Eclipse Interactive Google Map to pinpoint your exact location, but in case you're looking for ideas, here are 25 unique places to watch this once-in-a-lifetime event.
Jamie Carter is the author of 100 Best Places In The USA To Watch the Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017 & USA Eclipse 2017 Travel Guide
Be the first under the shadow – Boiler Bay, Oregon
If you want to be among the first people in the U.S. to see the eclipse, this is the place. With plenty of parking at Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint it should be easy enough to stand on Government Point and watch the moon shadow rush towards the country.
Partial eclipse begins at 09:04 a.m. PDT, with Totality at 10:15 a.m. PDT for 1 minute, 58 seconds.
Get a capitol view — Salem, Oregon
Salem has much better prospects for clear weather than the Oregon coast, and is expecting thousands of people for its Solar Eclipse Viewing Party at the Salem Fairgrounds & Expo Center. However, the hot tickets are those for a tour of the Capitol's tower from 9:30-11:00 a.m. to experience Totality from on high.
Partial eclipse begins at 09:05 a.m. PDT with Totality at 10:17 a.m. PDT for 1 minute, 54 seconds.
Take a helicopter to a remote mountain eclipse camp – Madras, Oregon
Toast the celestial fluke that is this Total Solar Eclipse by taking a helicopter from Oregon SolarFest in Madras to a Champagne Eclipse Base Camp in the Cascade Mountains before downing Dom Perignon Champagne. Costs $5,999 for a group of six.
Partial eclipse begins at 09:06 a.m. PDT with Totality at 10:19 a.m. PDT for 1 minute, 58 seconds.
Watch the moon from the moon – Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho
The strange volcanic features and cinder fields of the Craters of the Moon National Monument in Butte County, Idaho would make for the ideal place for an eclipse-watch. Get yourself to Arco, a town on the northern reaches of this area and just within the Moon shadow, for a little over than a minute of Totality.
Partial eclipse begins at 10:13 a.m. MDT with Totality at 11:31 a.m. for 1 minute, 38 seconds.
Be the only Montanan to witness totality – Italian Peak, Montana
Since the Moon shadow just shaves the southwestern border with Idaho, there is only one way to see the eclipse from within Montana; climb up to the Italian Peak in the Beaverhead Mountains. A wild and remote place, this is one for experienced backpackers only.
Partial eclipse begins at 09:14 a.m. MT with Totality at 10:32 a.m. MT for 49 seconds.
Watch an Arapaho ceremony to bring back the sun – Riverton, Wyoming
To celebrate the eclipse track dissecting the Wind River Indian Reservation, the Wind River Hotel and Casino will host a four-day Arapaho Eclipse Celebration. As well as a special Eclipse Slot Tournament on the casino floor there’s a special event in the car park where archers will fire arrows at the Moon to convince it to get out of the way of the Sun. The Moon will obey.
Partial eclipse begins at 10:19 a.m. MDT with Totality at 11:39 a.m. for lasts 2 minutes, 7 seconds.
Watch the eclipse in solitude — Agate Fossil Beds, Nebraska
Grass-covered plains punctuated by Carnegie Hill and University Hill, the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument will provide an isolated location for a eclipse-viewing. This is where the famous ‘devil's corkscrew' fossils were found that revealed the Miocene Monsters.
Partial eclipse begins at 10:25 a.m. MDT, with Totality at 11:47 a.m. for lasts 2 minutes, 23 seconds.
Fake a prehistoric eclipse – Carhenge, Nebraska
What could be better than witnessing an eclipse at Stonehenge in England? Sadly, that won’t happen until May 5 in the year 2600, but the next best thing is Carhenge Solar Eclipse 2017 near Alliance, Nebraska. Vintage American-made automobiles have been faking the prehistoric stone monument here since 1987.
Partial eclipse begins at 10:27 a.m. MDT with Totality at 11:49 a.m. for lasts 2 minutes, 30 seconds.
Watch NASA science in action – Grand Island, Nebraska
About an hour before the eclipse, two high-altitude weather balloons will be launched from the grounds of Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. Part of the NASA Nebraska Space Grant Program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the balloons will reach 20 miles, and scientific equipment will stream video and transmit data while the balloons are in the air.
Partial eclipse begins at 10:34 a.m. MDT, with Totality at 11:58 a.m. for 2 minutes, 34 seconds.
Watch from the water – Mormon Island, Nebraska
When nature’s greatest event hits, the emotional power can be magnified if you’re in natural surroundings. Mormon Island State Recreation Area will rent kayaks for anyone who wants to view the event from its picturesque lake, where you can also camp swim and hike.
Partial eclipse begins at 10:34 a.m. MDT with Totality at 11:59 a.m. for lasts 2 minutes, 35 seconds.
Get a close-up of the eclipse – Atchison, Kansas
During the brief minutes of Totality it’s safe to look at the eclipse with the naked eye, and if you’ve got binoculars or a telescope, you can often see explosions on the Sun’s surface as well as the billowing silver ribbons of the Sun’s corona. The eclipse event at Benedictine College in Atchison will have telescopes, positioned for viewing the partially eclipsed Sun, available for the general public to use.
Partial eclipse begins at 11:40 a.m. CDT with Totality at 13:06 p.m. CDT for lasts 2 minutes, 17 seconds.
Be the only Iowan to see the eclipse – Lower Hamburg Bend, Iowa
As with Montana, the Moon shadow will brush Iowa. That’s an understatement; there’s actually only one field where Totality can be viewed, and even then for a paltry 26 seconds. Should you travel further south? Almost certainly yes, but for committed Iowans after a lifelong boast, it’s all about being in the Lower Hamburg Bend Wildlife Management Area near Hamburg.
Partial eclipse begins at 11:38 a.m. CT with Totality at 13:05 p.m. CT for 26 seconds.
Alight for a railroad eclipse – Jefferson City, Missouri
As the twice-daily Amtrak Missouri River Runner runs the 238 miles from St. Louis to Kansas City it travels completely within the confines of the 70-mile wide Total Solar Eclipse track. It stops at eight stations intersecting the Line of Totality at Jefferson City. Ride the rails to 'America’s Most Beautiful Small Town' the day before and you can spend the big day in the 60-acre Ellis-Porter Riverside Park adjacent to the Missouri River.
Partial eclipse begins at 11:46 a.m. CDT with Totality at 13:13 p.m. CDT for 2 minutes, 29 seconds.
Rehearse for another eclipse In 2024 – Cedar Lake, Illinois
Once in a lifetime? Not quite; another Total Solar Eclipse will pass through the USA in 2024. The place where the 2017 and 2024 Lines of Totality cross is Cedar Lake, just south of Carbondale. Get yourself beside the lake for Totality in 2017 and you can return there in seven years to to do it all over again.
Appeal to a higher power – Bald Knob Cross Of Peace, Illinois
It’s just a fluke that the Sun and Moon appear to be of the same size from Earth’s point of view, and whose apparent paths through our sky occasionally perfectly intersect, but there’s no denying the event's emotional power. Close to the Point of Greatest Duration is the Bald Knob Cross of Peace, where you can expect religious activities from one of the highest points in the area.
Partial eclipse begins at 10:25 a.m. MDT and Totality is at 11:47 a.m. for 2 minutes, 23 seconds.
Be at the center of it all – Cerulean, Kentucky
According to NASA, the Point of Greatest Eclipse is defined as the instant when the axis of the Moon's shadow cone passes closest to Earth's center. That happens in Cerulean, Kentucky, though a good place go will be SolQuest in Princeton very close by, which is holding a three-day festival including food, live music and a 5K run.
Partial eclipse begins at 11:56 a.m. CDT and Totality is at 13:24 p.m. CDT for 2 minutes, 41.2 seconds.
Await the return of aliens – Kelly, Kentucky
Kelly is known for the 'Little Green Men' or 'Hopkinsville Goblins’ sighting in 1955 that attracted people from all over the USA on … you guessed it … August 21. Is it a coincidence that an eclipse will happen exactly 62 years later? Yes, absolutely, but the town’s Little Green Men Days Festival should nevertheless be memorable.
Partial eclipse begins at 11:56 a.m. CDT with Totality at 13:24 p.m. CDT for lasts 2 minutes, 41 seconds.
Build your own sun-scope – Franklin, Kentucky
A Telescope-making Workshop is taking place on August 20, 2017—the day before the eclipse—at the Exploratorium on the Franklin-Simpson High School Campus. It costs $100 and pre-registration is required at least three weeks in advance. Franklin Drive In will then host an eclipse viewing event on the Monday.
Partial eclipse begins at 11:58 a.m. CDT with Totality at 13:26 p.m. CDT for 2 minutes, 26 seconds.
Get eclipse-aware before the event – Nashville, Tennessee
The biggest city under the shadow, there’s bound to be a rush for hotels by those after a taste of a Music City Solar Eclipse, but before you head to the biggest astronomical event ever it pays to know your First Contact from your Totality. The Adventure Science Center is showing ECLIPSE: The Sun Revealed in August, which should give you some insight, with a viewing event planned for the big day.
Partial eclipse begins at 11:58 a.m. CDT with Totality at 13:28 p.m. CDT for 1 minute, 54 seconds.
See the moon's shadow engulf Black Mountain – Cumberland County, Tennessee
As the shadow of the Moon rolls in across the Blue Ridge of East Tennessee, Tennessee State Parks will host Total Eclipse at Black Mountain, an eclipse viewing event on a spectacular rock overlook on the Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail. It's about a quarter mile walk from the parking area to the rock overlook, and tickets are $10 for adults.
Partial eclipse begins at 13:02 p.m. EDT with Totality at 14:31 p.m. for lasts 2 minutes, 35 seconds.
Get a hole in (the sky) in one – Sky Valley, Georgia
Sometimes called a 'Hole In The Sky', the eclipse will be visible in the northeastern tip of Georgia, and Sky Valley—the highest city in Georgia—has plenty of events planned. Happening the day before the eclipse is the Eclipse Golf Tournament and 19th Hole festival at Sky Valley Country Club, with live music until dusk.
Partial eclipse begins 13:07 p.m. EDT with Totality at 14:35 p.m. EDT for 2 minutes, 38 seconds.
Gorge on the solar corona – Tallulah Gorge, Georgia
Set among this complex of 1,000-foot rock formations and spectacular waterfalls, the Tallulah Gorge Total Solar Eclipse Festival at Tallulah Gorge State Park will be special indeed. Rangers will have stations for making your own viewing instrument, as well as telescopes set-up for people to view the eclipse.
Partial eclipse begins at 13:07 p.m. EDT with Totality at 14:36 p.m. EDT for 2 minutes, 33 seconds.
Welcome the eclipse to the Carolinas – Long Creek, South Carolina
Breathtaking vista views for the eclipse are not all that’s on offer at the Solar Eclipse Fest 2017, at Chattooga Belle Farm & Distillery. Here in the north-west of South Carolina food trucks, distillery tours, music, astronomy talks and stargazing are planned.
Partial eclipse begins: 13:07 p.m. EDT with Totality at 14:36 p.m. EDT for 2 minutes, 31 seconds.
Hike the Palmetto Trail with an Eclipse – Lake Moultrie, South Carolina
The Lake Moultrie Passage, a 33-mile section of South Carolina's Palmetto Trail, goes right past lake Moultrie, 60,000-acre manmade lake known for large fish, abundant wildlife and—temporarily—for a Total Solar Eclipse. It’s about 30 miles north of Charleston.
Partial eclipse begins at 13:16 p.m. EDT with Totality at 14:44 p.m. EDT for lasts 2 minutes, 34 seconds.
Be the last to see the shadow – Cape Romain, South Carolina
All good things must end, and that will happen at 14:48 p.m. EST at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina when the sun peeks out from behind the moon and daylight returns...until the next eclipse in 2024. Expect eclipse-themed boat trips to this watery area to leave from Awendaw or McClellanville, and while you watch the moon take a bite out of the sun, take care that an alligator doesn't do the same to you.
Partial eclipse begins at 13:17 p.m. EST with Totality at 14:46 p.m. EST for 2 minutes, 33 seconds.