People looking at a solar eclipse

Where Can You See the 2024 Solar Eclipse in the US?

Have you heard the buzz? Darkness is coming. Unlike a cinematic storyline where darkness instills fear, we eagerly welcome this unique event. On your calendar, mark April 8, 2024, and prepare to celebrate the total solar eclipse. 

There is still time to plan a road trip to a region where you can observe the celestial event. We will cover what you need to know, including the top solar eclipse viewing areas in the United States.

What Is a Total Solar Eclipse?

The celestial event occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, entirely blocking the Sun’s face. When this happens, the sky will darken, much like dawn or dusk. 

Where Can You See the Eclipse?

To observe the total solar eclipse, you must be on the path of totality. More on that in a moment.

Outside the 115-mile-wide trajectory, people in the remaining Lower 48 may witness a partial eclipse. However, it can be easy to miss. For many viewers, a partial eclipse looks like a cloudy day.

Speaking of clouds, we need Mother Nature to cooperate by keeping the skies clear to see the big event.

Why Is the Total Solar Eclipse a Big Deal?

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the next total solar eclipse visible from the Lower 48 will be August 23, 2044. Even those without a passion for stargazing can appreciate the rarity of such an occurrence.

This year’s experience will likely be the most accessible total solar eclipse in the lifetime of many people in North America. Over 31 million people live directly in the path of totality. Popular destinations along the course expect millions more to travel to witness the rare event. 

When Will the Eclipse Start and End?

The total eclipse begins in southern Texas around 1:30 CDT and treks north. It ends in Maine at approximately 3:35 EDT. Viewers in each area will experience a partial eclipse before and after totality. 

How Long Will It Last?

The total eclipse is longest in Texas and shortest in Maine. Durations are longer for viewers nearest the midline and shortest for those along the path’s outer edges.

Texas observers near the centerline get treated to nearly 4 minutes of totality. Those along the path’s edge may get less than half of that. Maine observers near the midline will experience totality for less than three minutes. Those on either rim get considerably less time.

What to Expect

Corona during a total solar eclipse
Total solar eclipse with visible corona. Photo credit: PiLens via Deposit Photos

Strange things happen during a total solar eclipse. The air temperature suddenly decreases as darkness falls, confusing plants and animals. Birds and insects go silent. Plants scale down their food production. Nocturnal creatures, such as owls and bats, typically begin to stir.

Streamers or wisps will appear to radiate from the Sun. These are part of the Sun’s outermost atmosphere or corona. Although the Sun’s bright face typically obscures this charged gas, it is visible during a total solar eclipse.

Safety First

While there are various eclipses, the total solar eclipse is the only type where you can temporarily gaze at the Sun without special glasses. Please only do so when the Moon is entirely blocking the Sun. You risk permanently compromised vision or even blindness by looking directly at the Sun during any other type of eclipse, including a partial eclipse.

The best practice is always to use eclipse glasses or viewers during any eclipse. Refer to the NASA eclipse safety guidelines to learn more about your options and ensure proper eye protection.

Path of Totality

United States map of the 2024 total solar eclipse viewing areas
The Path of Totality. Photo credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

To experience the darkness, viewers must be in the path of totality. It is the area where the Moon’s shadow completely covers the Sun. In the United States, the narrow track starts in Texas and stretches northeast to Maine. Let’s take a closer look at the primary viewing area in each state.

Texas

The path of totality crosses an extensive portion of the state, including America’s three largest cities along the route: San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin. Viewers in Texas get the honor of experiencing the country’s most prolonged total eclipse durations.

San Antonio and Austin sit along the path’s eastern edge, while Dallas is about halfway between its western edge and middle. In between these three cities, Waco rests directly on the centerline.

Oklahoma

The centerline’s stint in Oklahoma is brief, crossing about 31 miles of the state’s southeast corner. It is so short the path’s eastern edge extends outside Oklahoma. The route goes through only small towns, skipping Oklahoma’s more prominent cities.

Arkansas

Viewers have ample opportunities to observe the solar eclipse in a natural setting. The path goes through the Ozark National Forest and the Ouachita National Forest. It also passes through Hot Springs National Park, one of only two United States national parks on the path.

Conway and Little Rock are good viewing areas for those who prefer an urban setting. Further northeast, Jonesboro rests inside the path’s eastern edge.

Missouri

Although the path runs south of St. Louis, the city is well-positioned as a basecamp, once again living up to its reputation as a gateway. Cape Girardeau is the biggest city actually within the path of totality. Mark Twain National Forest sections near Poplar Bluff are along the midline for those who want a natural setting.

Illinois

After crossing the Mississippi River, the eclipse briefly stays in Illinois. While not considered a big city, Carbondale is the most extensive metropolitan area along the route. Those seeking a rural refuge will be happy to hear that the Shawnee National Forest is on the path of totality.

Kentucky

Only the path’s eastern edge enters Kentucky, as the centerline and western edge extend beyond its borders. Paducah and Henderson warmly welcome travelers to watch the eclipse. Louisville is a bit south of the path but makes an excellent place to stay with many things to do.

Indiana

The state offers many opportunities to view the celestial event. Nature lovers can enjoy the spectacle in much of the Hoosier National Forest. 

Indiana has several cities along the path. Bloomington sits on the centerline. Indianapolis, the path’s largest city outside of Texas, Muncie and Terre Haute sit between the midline and western edge. 

Fort Wayne rests along the outer edge of the path’s western line. Evansville is between the midline and eastern border.

Ohio 

Beaver Marsh at Cuyahoga Valley NP
Enjoying the view at Beaver Marsh in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Like Indiana, the Buckeye State has several cities along the eclipse’s course. In southern Ohio, Cincinnati is just south of the line, a perfect home base for the event. As you head north, Dayton is on the path, and Columbus sits along its eastern rim. 

Toledo is on the western edge of the state’s northern region, while Cleveland is along the centerline. Akron rests comfortably in the path, and Canton is on the eastern edge. 

For those who prefer a natural setting, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the second of two national parks on the path, offers an excellent mix of history and recreation.

Pennsylvania

You can see the total solar eclipse in the state’s northwestern region. However, the centerline is over Lake Erie the whole time, and the western line misses the state entirely. The lake’s coast should yield excellent views.

Erie is the largest city on the course, about 20 miles from the centerline. Pittsburgh is an hour’s drive from the eastern edge and could make a basecamp. Although it will be a brief duration, the northern sections of the Allegheny National Forest are on the path’s eastern edge.

New York

View of the Finger Lakes
Savoring the view in the Finger Lakes. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

The path of totality traverses western and northern New York, covering a mix of urban and rural areas. Continuing across Lake Erie, the centerline goes directly over Buffalo. Niagara Falls lies a shade north of the midline. The centerline then heads to Rochester before it passes Lake Ontario’s southern shores, the Adirondack Mountains, and Lake Champlain.

While the western fringe covers Canada, the eastern line intersects the Finger Lakes region and then goes to Syracuse. It cuts across Lake Champlain’s southern shores before exiting the state. 

For those who want a memorable day beyond the eclipse, seeing Niagara Falls, the natural wonder, or sipping wine along the beautiful Finger Lakes will likely hit the mark. While the Adirondacks offer stunning views, the higher elevations are more likely to attract unwelcome clouds to the party.

Vermont

The eclipse’s journey through Vermont is brief, lasting about 40 miles. However, you still have some excellent viewing options. 

Lake Champlain welcomes guests to watch the main event on the water or along its shores. Vermont’s most populous city, Burlington, and its state capital, Montpelier, sit along the route. The shadow falls upon the Green Mountains before racing into New Hampshire.

New Hampshire

Only the path’s eastern edge passes through New Hampshire, with the centerline and western border going through Canada. Due to a sparse population and just the state’s most northern section intersecting the path, viewing options will be limited. 

The White Mountains, although beautiful, may draw clouds. Lancaster, a small town, gets less than a full minute of totality but is likely your best option.

Maine

While Maine intercepts the entire path, it passes through dense forests in the western part of the state and Mount Katahdin, the state’s highest peak. So, quality observation areas could be limited. With nearly 3 minutes of totality, Presque Isle, a small town near the Canadian border, is likely your best opportunity for clear skies.

Other Viewing Areas in the United States

The path’s eastern border passes through Tennessee for a handful of miles. Michigan brushes the western line for a short stretch, but much of that time is over Lake Erie. With such a short path, you will find more viewing options in the other states.

Prepare for Darkness

The next total solar eclipse visible from the contiguous United States is in two decades. These unique celestial events are rare. Put a plan in place for April 8, 2024, and enjoy the show as science and history collide.

Featured image credit: realinemedia via Deposit Photos

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Scott and Julie at Miles with McConkey

Scott And Julie McConkey

After 30 years, Scott and Julie McConkey left the corporate world for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year became a second act, and they are now full-time travel bloggers!
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