Want to see the total eclipse in 2024? Better make your plans now.

by Сашка

Cities with high visibility, such as Dallas, Cleveland and Buffalo, are already vying for visitors

This may be the year of hard-to-snag Beyoncé and Taylor Swift tickets, but next year’s hottest attraction is lining up to be a literal force of nature.

A total solar eclipse will occur April 8, and an arc of North America, from Mexico’s Pacific Coast to Newfoundland, Canada, will be the prime viewing area.

In a total eclipse, the moon passes between the sun and Earth and blocks the face of the sun, darkening the daytime sky to look like dawn or dusk. There won’t be another total eclipse that can be viewed from most of the United States for 20 years.

“The daytime suddenly turns to a deep twilight, and … when totality begins, [it] looks like there’s a hole in the sky,” said Michael Zeiler, who runs GreatAmericanEclipse.com with his wife, Polly White. “The moon is incredibly black in contrast to the rest of the sky and the sun’s outer atmosphere, called the corona, becomes visible for the only time in your life.”

Zeiler, a cartographer who has been making eclipse maps since 2009, has traveled to view 11 total solar eclipses. He called them “the most beautiful sight you will ever see in the sky.”

Here’s every total solar eclipse happening in your lifetime.

Peak viewing in Dallas, Cleveland and Buffalo

Places in the path of totality, where the shadow of the moon covers the sun completely, are already gearing up, launching tourist-focused websites with countdown clocks, planning events, ordering supplies and selling hotel rooms far in advance. NASA has already identified Kerrville in Texas Hill Country, Indianapolis and Cleveland as partner locations where the agency will have live broadcasts and experts in place.

Other major cities along the path include Mazatlán, Mexico; San Antonio, Austin and Dallas; Little Rock; Dayton, Ohio; Erie, Pa.; Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y.; Burlington, Vt.; and Montreal.

The swath of total eclipse visibility is more than 100 miles wide, but places closer to the center — such as Waco, Tex.; Indianapolis; and Buffalo — will experience longer periods of darkness. Locations on the edge, such as San Antonio, Austin and Montreal, will have much shorter durations.

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Cleveland’s tourism body is promoting its nearly four minutes of darkness — as well as its science programming with the NASA Glenn Research Center and variety of viewing areas, including lakefronts and parks. Destination Cleveland realized the opportunity after the last U.S. total eclipse in 2017 and started planning in earnest about a year ago.

“I think that just showed the country how many people are interested in traveling, and did travel, and it just set such a precedent,” said Nick Urig, the organization’s senior manager of public relations.

Smaller destinations are getting in on the excitement, too. Terre Haute, Ind. — where most tourism is driven by cross-country running competitions and a concert venue — is pitching its “Total Eclipse of the Haute.”

David Patterson, executive director of the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he’s been told that the airport may not have enough space. And because the city is within 200 miles of Cincinnati, Chicago, St. Louis and Louisville, he’s expecting busy roadways as well.

“If we are going to have the mass exodus here, it’s going to be from those mass population centers,” he said.

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Paducah, Ky., is a rare 2024 eclipse city that also experienced the 2017 eclipse. Mary Hammond, executive director of the Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the city, which has a focus on the arts, was full of music, activities, art and foods such as Sun Drop soda and MoonPie snacks.

“People really used their creativity,” she said.

Next year, where the two eclipse paths intersect, the city will throw an “X Marks the Spot” event. Paducah is also emphasizing its artistic offerings, including the National Quilt Museum, whose permanent collection features a quilt depicting an eclipse, and large outdoor murals.

Despite years of planning, one big unknown remains for cities in the path of the eclipse: weather.

“Truthfully, you could have everything from 72 and perfect to 13 degrees and sleeting sideways,” Patterson said. “It is going to be an absolute crapshoot.”

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For that reason, Texas — where chances of clear skies are better — is shaping up to be a prime destination for eclipse chasers, organized sky-gazing tours and multiday festivals. Prices for vacation rentals in some strategic locations are reflecting the interest: A five-bedroom home in Waco is listed on Airbnb for more than $11,000 for a two-night stay around the eclipse, and some homes in Fredericksburg are going for more than $20,000 for two nights.

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Tips for eclipse chasers

Experts say potential eclipse travelers should consider factors such as weather, how far they’ll need to go from where they live, whether there are destinations they’ve always wanted to visit anyway, availability of lodging or campsites, and how close they’ll be to the center of the swath.

“There’s no one perfect place for everybody,” said Dave Clark, a Pennsylvania resident who runs NationalEclipse.com and will travel to Texas next year. He booked his hotel exactly a year out because, he said, many chain hotels don’t start accepting reservations until then.

Scenes from the total solar eclipse of 2017

He and other eclipse enthusiasts say travelers should lock their plans in as soon as possible before rooms sell out or become prohibitively expensive.

Zeiler, who lives in Santa Fe, N.M., will travel with family to Fredericksburg. They booked an Airbnb several months ago. He said people who want to travel can also book a place outside the path and drive early the morning of the eclipse.

“The mind-set of an eclipse chaser is not so much a specific location but a strategy,” he said. “And the strategy is you’re trying to stack your odds. So first of all, you select a place where the weather odds are reasonably good. You also select a place with good mobility options.”

He will start studying the weather several days in advance and will be prepared to drive several hundred miles to a better location if the forecast in his area is not favorable. Based on his own experience, he also said travelers should arrive early and stay late to avoid traffic jams.

Most of the country will see at least a partial eclipse from wherever they are. That experience is “neat — as in, your kids will say, yeah that was pretty cool,” Keivan Stassun, a professor of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt University, said in an email, but viewing a total solar eclipse is “a life event.”

“People who have seen a total eclipse of the Sun describe it for the rest of their lives as one of the most memorable and magnificent and transcendent experiences of their lives,” he wrote. “It is eerie and beautiful and electrifying all at once.”

If people miss this eclipse, the next chance in the contiguous United States will be in August 2044 — although that will only be visible to a small fraction of the northern part of the country. Clark, a webinar producer, says the follow-up in 2045 could be the biggest celestial draw of the century, stretching from California to Florida with a maximum duration of totality of more than six minutes.

“Which is astronomical, no pun intended, for a total solar eclipse,” Clark said. “Stay healthy; you’re not going to want to miss that one.”

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