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8 Stellar Places to Catch the Great American Solar Eclipse

August 21st marks the Great American Solar Eclipse—a coast-to-coast occurrence that’s a BFD because it hasn’t happened since June 1918. Although all of the U.S. will witness a partial eclipse as the moon passes in front of the sun, only skywatchers on the “path of totality”—a diagonal route running from Oregon to South Carolina—will see the unique phenomena in full. Here, 8 (previously) little-known destinations that offer peak eclipse viewing.

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

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Nashville, Tennessee

Duration of Totality: 1 minute, 55 seconds

Music City is the largest U.S. metro area to land a spot on the eclipse’s path of totality. Show up at 11:58 a.m. to see the celestial event get its start, but plan to stick around till 1:27 p.m. for Nashville to reach total blackout status. Public viewing locations are plentiful and watch parties are abound, but some of our favorites venues include Tennessee Brew Works, UP rooftop Lounge, The Grand Ole Opry, and First Tennessee Park where Mayor Megan Barry is hosting a viewing accompanied by music from the Nashville Symphony, science demonstrations from the Adventure Science Center, and a post-eclipse baseball game from the Nashville Sounds.

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Columbia, South Carolina

Duration of Totality: 2 minutes, 36 seconds

When it comes to ideal East Coast bases, Columbia takes the cake with the longest total solar eclipse time along the Atlantic. Though the main event goes down at 2:41 p.m. on the 21st, you'll want to show up early as the city is all about pre-show celebrations. From August 18th to the 21st, Columbia is hosting more than 120 eclipse-related events from wine tastings and poetry readings to water balloon battles and galaxy print making. While you’re in town, don’t miss out on a meal at Motor Supply Company Bistro in the heart of Congaree Vista neighborhood. Farm-to-table slow food—be it American-, French-, Italian-, or Asian-inspired—is the spot’s specialty and revolving daily menus feature courses like bone-in pork chops with cauliflower puree, cider braised greens, and hock jus.

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Casper, Wyoming

Duration of Totality: 2 minutes, 26 seconds

Little old Casper isn’t letting this once-in-a-lifetime eclipse go unsung; and with an altitude of 5,000 feet, high probability of crystal clear skies, and a total darkness time of 2 minutes and twenty-six seconds, the city is poised as one of the best towns to catch the enchanting sight. Join scientists, amateur and professional photogs, WY residents, and eclipse chasers as they crowd the town in anticipation of the full eclipse at 11:42 a.m. In town a little ahead of time? You can also get in on Eclipse Fest 2017 events like BTS distillery tours, historic covered wagon rides, mead tastings, and special museum exhibits.

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Salem, Oregon

Duration of Totality: 1 minute, 54 seconds

Come August 21st, sleeping in isn't an option in Salem. That's because the Willamette Valley city will witness the total eclipse nice and early at 10:17 a.m. The first of five state capitals to be swept by the Great American Solar Eclipse this go-around, the city is an A+ choice for skywatching as it offers some of the best weather—sunny, clear skies—along the path of totality, as well as one of Oregon's largest eclipse viewing parties hosted by OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (though tickets are now sold out). Post-eclipse, get a jump on the brunch-hungry crowds (the state is expecting more than 1 million visitors) and go for a hearty, just-like-home meal at Patty's Off-Center Cafe.

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Carbondale, Illinois

Duration of Totality: 2 minutes, 38 seconds

About 2-hours south of St. Louis, Carbondale lands itself a coveted spot on the eclipse’s 2,500-mile transcontinental trajectory. With 2 minutes and 38 seconds of totality, the city is just two seconds shy of the experiencing the longest period of darkness. But, unlike others on the list, Carbondale is unique in that it will also be on the path of totality for the eclipse of April 8, 2024; so if you can’t make it this round, mark your calendars for 7 years from now.

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Arco, Idaho

Duration of Totality: 1 minute, 39 seconds

After making its way across Oregon, the lunar shadow descends upon Southern Idaho; we're talking the Sawtooth Range, Arco, and the lowlands of Snake River Plain—a 100-mile-wide, 375-mile-long sunken section of the Rocky Mountains. Although Arco has a population of less than 1,000, state officials are expecting 20- to 30,000 day-trippers to cram into the town for 1.5 solid minutes of eclipse viewing—starting at 11:31 a.m. MDT—so you'll want to stake out a spot ASAP.

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Alliance, Nebraska

Duration of Totality: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

Although downtown Alliance will see 2 minutes and 30 seconds of total solar eclipse, we’re willing to miss two seconds of the show in order to view the event from Carhenge—Jim Reinder’s 39-car Stonehenge-inspired sculpture park—just down the road. Starting at 11:49 a.m. MDT, skywatchers across the Cornhusker State will have some of the best eclipse-viewing seats in the country as the landscape is exceptionally flat with treeless prairies and endless crop fields as far as the eye can see.

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Hopkinsville, Kentucky

Duration of Totality: 2 minutes, 40 seconds

Ask anyone in Hopkinsville and they’ll be quick to tell you that their city is the “point of greatest eclipse”—meaning they’ll witness the passing of the moon’s shadow for an unrivaled 2 minutes and 40 seconds (starting at 1:24 p.m. CT). Because of the Bluegrass State’s prime spot on the eclipse track, Hopkinsville—temporarily rebranded as EclipseVILLE—will also be contending with Carbondale for most visitors. If you’re looking to get into a hotel in the area—think again. Though accommodations have been booked for months, there are plenty of viewing parties and eclipse-related events going on around town including bluegrass bashes, bourbon tastings, and food truck festivals.

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