On August 21, millions of people will be gazing skyward in one of the great unifying events our planet knows: a total solar eclipse. It’s not strictly a once-in-a-lifetime event, but the last total solar eclipse visible from the continental United States was in 1979, making this year’s eclipse a long-awaited gift from the heavens.
The arc of the eclipse covers a broad swath of the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina—NASA’s interactive map gives a complete overview, with details of the exact time and duration at any points along the eclipse’s path. The eclipse will last the longest (2 minutes, 40 seconds) at the southern tip of Illinois, near Carbondale. Nashville, Tennessee, is the largest city within the eclipse’s path of totality. But you don’t need to be in those precise spots to have an excellent sun-gazing experience. Here are some places nationwide that will dazzle you in more ways than one.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole’s attractions are plentiful, particularly for lovers of the outdoors: whitewater rafting, mountain climbing, discovering trails on horseback. Its climate also means that there’s a good chance the skies will be crystal-clear, allowing you to take in the eclipse in full. While you’re there, you can take in a tour of the Grand Tetons with ClubPartner OARS. (For more possible eclipse destinations, see OARS’ recommendations here.)
Rolling farmland, the West Kentucky Quilt Trail and the summer joys of the nearby Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area make this quiet patch of Kentucky a restful vacation. Add to that the eclipse’s respectable duration in—2 minutes, 33 seconds—and this town becomes a ready-made vacation.Though availability in the area is very limited during this time, Club Members can still search for accommodations at RCI properties, or at Hilton portfolio hotels in the area.
Coastal South Carolina
Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head are classic summertime destinations for good reason, with their family-friendly beaches and attractions. All three Hilton Grand Vacations Club properties in South Carolina—Anderson Ocean Club and Ocean 22 in Myrtle Beach and Ocean Oak Resort in Hilton Head—are within a short drive to the path of the eclipse.
No matter where you soak in the spectacle, be sure to follow safety precautions. Even when the sun is partially covered, it’s not safe to look directly at it. The only time it’s safe to view the eclipse without the proper viewing equipment is the moments when the sun is fully covered by the moon, and then only if you are within the path of totality. Protective viewers with solar filters are a must, and your regular sunglasses won’t cut it, no matter how dark they are. Only a few manufacturers have certified that their solar viewers meet the safety protocol. You can also use an indirect viewing method like pinhole projection. If you want to view the eclipse through a telescope, it’s crucial that you use one equipped with a certified solar filter and that you’re experienced in using it. Celestron’s Eclipsmart Solar Scope 50 ($99.95) meets the criteria. You just might use it again. The next total solar eclipse viewable in North America will be in 2024. NASA has more safety tips here.