Plan your family trip so you can be in the 2024 solar eclipse path

Experiencing a total solar eclipse is a rare event for many people. Even though this phenomenon occurs about twice a year worldwide, they are less frequent in the United States. Before the 2017 eclipse that U.S. residents viewed, it had been 38 years since a total solar eclipse was visible in the contiguous United States. Residents are lucky to have another total solar eclipse happening through parts of the south, midwest, and northeast on April 8, 2024. This one will be a definite not-to-be-missed experience since this is the last one in the continental U.S. until 2044.

Observing a total solar eclipse is an experience that is unique and also a great learning experience for children. So here are some locations within the path of totality (where you can see the sun totally covered by the moon) where families can witness the 2024 Great North American Eclipse.

Image of full total solar eclipse from movie at planetarium at Cleveland Museum of History
photo by Marcea Cazel

Carbondale, Illinois

Home to Southern Illinois University, Carbondale is 105 miles southeast of St. Louis, Missouri, and 200 miles northwest of Nashville, Tennessee. With a four-day festival planned at the university, which is also home to a planetarium, families will have plenty to experience and learn about.

One unique event is the Crossroads Astronomy, Science and Technology Expo (CASTE). Taking place at the university’s arena, vendors specializing in science and astronomy will showcase their products to visitors. There will also be an Eclipse/Comic Con, a music event, and on the day of the eclipse, the opportunity to view the over four minutes of totality in Saluki Stadium with thousands of others.

Rochester/Finger Lakes, New York

Upstate western New York will have plenty of activities the weekend of the solar eclipse to keep families busy. In Rochester, the Rochester Museum & Science Center is hosting a 4-day festival that includes activities, music, and speakers. Also in Rochester, the Strong National Museum of Play will host a three-day event centered around light and showcase a display of space-themed games and toys.

The city of Brockport is at the center of the path of totality, and visitors attending the Total Eclipse of the Port event at SUNY Brockport will experience an extra five seconds of totality over other towns in the area.

In Mumford, the Genesee Country Village & Museum, a three-day festival, will look at how those in the 19th Century observed eclipses, showcase celestial photography, and discuss women in science in the 1800s. The museum also has an expansive green area, where the viewing party on the day of the eclipse will be held.

Perryville, Missouri

Located 85 miles south of St. Louis, Perryville was in the line of totality for the eclipse in 2017. For the 2024 event, the city is hosting three days of events for everyone in the family. From a hot air balloon festival to special museum exhibits to a special winery release in honor of the eclipse, the weekend has plenty of activities to keep families occupied. On the eclipse day, the area will have five viewing areas for families to enjoy the event.

Cleveland, Ohio

Home to the second largest number of astronauts, including John Glenn, Ohio has a long history and association with astronomy and space. Cleveland is hosting plenty of events throughout the weekend leading up to the three minutes and fifty seconds of totality to showcase that connection.

At the Great Lakes Science Center’s NASA Glenn Visitor Center, families can view the actual module from the Skylab 3 mission, along with artifacts from Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission. The weekend leading up to the eclipse, the center will host science activities, provide free viewing glasses, and host the Cleveland Orchestra for a free community concert. The Science Center is also one of the three locations in the line of totality in the U.S. where NASA will broadcast the eclipse live.

Skylab module on display in Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland, OH
photo by Marcea Cazel

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is home to the Shafran Planetarium, where the films Eclipse Fever and the Sesame Street show One World, One Sky are showing. As it gets closer to the eclipse, another eclipse show, Meeting Totality, will be introduced to help build suspense. The weekend before the eclipse, the museum will host Eclipse Family Fun Days, and the day of, there will be a viewing party in Wade Oval, a green space across the street.

Cleveland is also home to the International Women’s Air & Space Museum. Located downtown at Burke Lakefront Airport, it’s the only museum of its kind in the world. It houses artifacts from Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra, World War II test pilots, and information on the first females accepted in NASA’s astronaut program. The museum is also planning on hosting events for the eclipse.

Indianapolis, Indiana

Experiencing the almost three-and-a-half minutes of totality in Indianapolis allows families to view the eclipse in various ways. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of three locations in the United States that NASA will be broadcasting from, and NASA experts will be there to talk to on-site visitors. There will also be multiple viewing parties across the city, including at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Zoo, White River State Park, Indiana State Museum, and Conner Prairie, an outdoor museum 20 minutes north in Fishers, Indiana.

Aroostook County, Maine

This total eclipse will hit rural parts of Maine, including Aroostook County. About 125 miles north of Bangor, the county will experience three and a half minutes of totality during the eclipse. Several towns will have events scheduled, although Littleton is the city located in the line of totality. The area is also home to the world’s second-largest 3D solar system model, which allows visitors to take a 100-mile road trip to view each model and learn about astronomy.

Dallas, Texas

Visitors to Dallas will not only get to experience three minutes and 51 seconds of totality, but they’ll also be able to enjoy various activities throughout the city. Home to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and the Frontiers of Flight Museum, the city has ties to many milestones of NASA and offers opportunities for families to view exhibits and shows on space. On eclipse day, visitors can enjoy viewing events at several locations, including the science museum, flight museum, and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

Tips for Safely Viewing the 2024 Total Eclipse

While you might think it’s okay to look into the sun while it is partially blocked during an eclipse, the only truly safe time, according to NASA, is when the moon’s surface completely covers the sun. This includes looking through a telescope, camera, or other device before the eclipse is in totality. Many locations in the line of totality, especially planetariums and science museums, will have solar viewing glasses for sale or as part of the price of a ticket for events. Homemade pinhole projectors are also an acceptable way to see an eclipse and a fun project for children.

Finding a Place to Stay During the Total Eclipse

As time gets closer to the date of the eclipse, hotels in many of the larger cities are filling up. Families can also stay farther out and drive into a metropolitan area to view the eclipse. Another option is to visit a smaller town in the line of totality and find lodgings through Airbnb or Vrbo there. Those visiting Indianapolis also have the unique opportunity of camping at the Motor Speedway.

View looking into Grand River KOA campgrounds, Thompson, OH
photo courtesy of KOA

And speaking of camping, there’s also the option to stay at a KOA campsite. Their campgrounds offer RV and tent sites and, depending on the location, private cabins with bathrooms. KOA sites are located near many major cities and also have locations a little farther out that are still in the line of totality. So families can enjoy spending time outdoors together, without having to sacrifice seeing the full eclipse.

Weather During the Eclipse

Once totality begins, the temperature can drop up to ten degrees, and the wind can pick up due to the air getting more dense as it gets cooler. Also, since the 2024 eclipse is taking place during the spring, some locations, including those farther north, may experience cloudy or rainy weather. While this would impact the viewing of the eclipse, there is no guarantee what the weather will be like that far in advance, so plan on bringing a poncho and umbrella and a positive attitude.

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