Guest Post: US travel tips from our partner, Grand American Adventures.
The USA is definitely no stranger to natural wonders, but in 2017 it will host one of the most awe-inspiring spectacles in recent memory: a total solar eclipse. The first to hit the USA in almost 40 years, this total solar eclipse rightly has people across the country and far beyond in a state of eager anticipation.
For travellers, it presents the perfect opportunity for an utterly unique adventure in the USA.
This exciting event will take place on August 21st, 2017, and will be the first total solar eclipse visible in continental USA for 38 years (the last being in February 1979). This particular eclipse is especially exciting because it will be visible everywhere in the USA to some degree – though not all places will experience totality – compared to the last eclipse, which could only be viewed in five states.
While it will be possible to view it across the USA, not everywhere will experience it in the same way.
For the best possible experience, you need to be in the umbra, which is the darkest part of the shadow created by the moon crossing the sun. This is more commonly known as totality, and it’s when the effects of the eclipse, such as darkness, temperature drops and wildlife behaviour changes, are most noticeable.
You will be able to see at least 48% coverage from anywhere in continental USA, but totality is something only people in certain areas will be lucky enough to see. The best place to be is on what’s called the centre line, which is directly in the middle of the moon’s shadow and therefore experiences the longest period of totality. It runs through ten states, so there are lots of options on where to base yourself. The centre line will be the most coveted spot, so you will need to arrive early to secure your place among the excited crowd.
If you are lucky enough to secure yourself a spot in an area that experiences totality, you will have some unique experiences. Be alert to the changes in the environment around you – the shadows could get sharper as less light reaches the ground, while leaves can do something quite remarkable and act as tiny pinhole cameras, creating crescent suns in their shadows. These tiny marvels usually start to become noticeable when the sun is approximately three-quarters covered.
Of course, there’s more to choosing the perfect spot than simply finding out which areas experience totality; after all, there are some places that are spectacular in their own right, such as Grand Teton National Park. In fact, the southern section of this park is one of the very best places to experience totality in the USA, and with its spectacular mix of dramatic mountain peaks, lakes and rivers, there are few places more breathtaking from which to experience this celestial wonder.
Head here as part of a tour and you can be driven to the centre line if possible; remember, weather is an unpredictable factor on the day itself, so where is best to see the eclipse might change. This means the best spot to view it from will be picked on the day.
Alternatively, it’s possible to view it while discovering one of the USA’s cultural wonders. Travel along Route 66, for example, and you can be in St Louis for the eclipse – another spot set to enjoy the amazing experience of totality. Again, if you go here as part of a tour, you will be driven to the much-coveted centre line if possible.
Wherever you decide to view it from, remember to do so safely – looking directly at the sun must be avoided to protect yourself from eye damage, we’ll provide you with safe solar-viewing glasses.
The next total solar eclipse over the USA won’t happen until 2024, so if you miss this one, it’s a long wait until the next. Start planning your adventure today!
About the author
With over 60 exciting and unique itineraries, Grand American Adventures offer the widest range of small group tours in the USA, Alaska and Canada, along with adventures in Central and South America. Visit us to discover Grand American Adventures’ full range of eclipse tours.