Black Hole Sun Won't You... Please Plan My Eclipse Viewing For Me
June 29, 2017 1:04 PM   Subscribe

I am very much interested in being in the path of totality of this summer's "American Eclipse" (I assume the sun will turn red white and blue). However, I have some difficulties in planning for the following reasons: 1. I am very busy with a full time job and part-time masters program. 2. I'm a natural procrastinator. 3. I am easily overwhelmed by having too many choices. 4. I have a dog. I'll either have to bring the dog or board it.

I don't need help when it comes to the viewing part of the eclipse. I have several telescopes and a neutral density filter for the largest one that will let me view the sun directly during the partial phases. Rather, I need someone to tell me where the best place to go is, how to get there, and where to stay. Googling the subject just gives a huge list of various places to go, which I find totally overwhelming.

I live in the DC metro area. I can see that my choices are to either drive someplace near to me on the east coast, like South Carolina, or book a flight to somewhere in the center of the country or the West coast. I know that booking a hotel anywhere in the path of totality is probably a no go, so I've been considering picking up a tent or just sleeping in my car if I drive. I've also thought about riding a bicycle on the day of to avoid traffic jams on the highways, but that would probably preclude me bringing any large telescopes. So, please give me your recommendations on where to go, when to go there, how to get there, where to stay the night before, and how to get around the next day (during or immediately prior to the eclipse for best viewing).

Before you suggest it, I've already seen google's eclipse day traffic density map, the map of the path of totality, the solar eclipse app (as seen on SmarterEveryDay), as well as the cloudiness prediction map. I'm not lacking in information, but just can't figure out how to turn that information into a specific plan. Bonus points if your plan for my viewing can be easily adjusted to accommodate not just myself, but several family members as well.
posted by runcibleshaw to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
At this point --- with a little over six weeks to go --- you're probably already out of luck. Most folks made their reservations months ago. But for what it's worth: I'd suggest either western North Carolina or the coast of South Carolina, those seem to be the most popular plans for people from the DC area.
posted by easily confused at 1:16 PM on June 29, 2017

I arranged a hotel in Columbia, South Carolina (because the local minor league team is doing a game with a scheduled eclipse pause) like four weeks ago, and there seemed to be plenty of rooms available.
posted by Etrigan at 1:17 PM on June 29, 2017

Nashville is a city with 2 major league teams, an SEC football team, and is a major tourist destination. Still plenty of hotel rooms available. Only risk is it might be cloudy.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 1:57 PM on June 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would also suggest South Carolina. From DC it's probably not more than a day's drive, and will be far cheaper/simpler for a group than flying somewhere. Looks like there's still some rooms available as well (based on a quick search of Columbia) although they might not be cheap.

I'm also in the DC area but I'm visiting family in Kansas City that weekend, hoping to head north of the city a bit to find a good viewing spot.
posted by photo guy at 5:33 PM on June 29, 2017

Yeah, as of a few weeks ago hotel rooms were readily available in Knoxville. But it has something like a 50% chance of being cloudy.

Hotels in the (eastern) Oregon - Nebraska swath, where it's much likelier to be clear, are long gone.
posted by Hatashran at 5:36 PM on June 29, 2017

I reserved a camping spot near Lake Marion in South Carolina for two nights, and will drive down and camp, hopefully taking my kayak out on the lake for the eclipse. It's only about 7 hours from DC. I think you can easily drive down with your dog and any family, stay the night in a campground somewhere near, and then go home again. High risk of clouds, but I figure it's the best chance I have without spending inordinate amounts of money. Even if you end up somewhere off totality (say in Myrtle Beach or Sumter), it would make an easy drive to get in the middle of the eclipse that afternoon.
posted by gemmy at 7:20 PM on June 29, 2017

I looked at places offered on airbnb which were in the path. I finally decided on Fort Collins, CO and would drive north in the morning, depending on traffic. There are people offering spaces in their fields, too (like this). A lot of places are gouging, of course, but you might get lucky like I did. Some places accept pets, too.
posted by JulesER at 6:10 AM on June 30, 2017

Aaaah, sorry, no advice on the travels and accommodation but here to say: don't think and go for sure, don't miss it!

I will always remember taking the train (called Eclipse Express) and going for a couple of hours until we reached the south tip of Belgium 11th of August 1999 with my then boyfriend. We reached a village just in time (had been delayed), and I remember the whole train and town laid down on our back on a little square in front of a church, heard all the birds go quiet, watched the clouds melt away (lucky! because of the temperature drop?) right when the eclipse progressed, felt it go cold and spooky quiet, all these people quiet lying down looking up, getting goose-bumps, and then watching the diamond reappear, daylight coming back and back was the summer! Fantastic!

Even with the chance of missing it because of clouds, don't miss the opportunity! Go and have total fun!

(didn't know it was happening in the US this summer, I'm visiting the US 2 weeks until 13th of August, just missing it!..)
posted by Mariemma at 4:53 PM on June 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you checked out Mammoth Cave campground? There are several others nearby and might be available. Mammoth Cave is in the direct path.
posted by mrfuga0 at 7:47 PM on June 30, 2017

I'd suggest avoiding Oregon. Flights into Portland are expensive for that weekend, and I'm guessing the same is true for other airports for the area; and car rentals are priced way high as well. And lots of folks are already making plans to get walk-in campsites days before. The only exception would be if you get tickets for a specific event and plan to drive in at least a few days before.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:23 AM on July 4, 2017

Aaahhh, I just watched (from Europe) via Periscope livestreams and it was so beautiful. Hope you had a great one wherever you went to watch!
posted by Mariemma at 10:58 AM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

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