Where will you be for the April 8 total solar eclipse? There's still time to grab a spot

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Tuesday, March 19, 2024
What you can expect to experience during April's total solar eclipse
On April 8, a total solar eclipse will be visible in parts of Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. Peak totality will last up to 4 minutes and 28 seconds - twice as long as the total solar eclipse in 2017.

Where will you be watching the April 8 total solar eclipse? There are just a few weeks left to pick your spot and see the skies darken along a strip of North America, whether by land, sea, or air.

For those who live inside the 115-mile-wide path of total darkness, it may be a matter of just stepping outside and donning special eclipse glasses to watch the spectacle unfold. For the millions outside the path or those who just want to improve their chances of clear skies, it could mean hitting the road with a game plan.

The eclipse reaches Mexico's Pacific coast in the morning, cuts diagonally across the U.S. from Texas to Maine, and exits in eastern Canada by late afternoon. Most of the rest of the continent will see a partial eclipse.

Where to watch the total solar eclipse

The weather will be key, and spring weather along the path can be dicey. According to retired Canadian meteorologist Jay Anderson, Mexico and Texas offer the best odds of sunny skies.

"There's no guarantee of sunshine anywhere - just better chances," he said.

Anderson studies satellite data for the previous 20 years to calculate how often a location has cloudy weather on any eclipse day. Besides Mexico and Texas, he said there are other promising spots on the path of totality, particularly along the Great Lakes.

The advice: If you're flexible, start paying attention to local weather about 10 days out, and make your plans on the three-day forecast. Die-hard eclipse chasers often line up more than one location and make last-minute decisions based on the best forecast, he said.

How to prepare like an eclipse chaser

One veteran eclipse chaser recommends picking a location and making it a vacation so that the eclipse is "the cherry on top" and not the only highlight - just in case things don't work out.

Tom Schultz will be traveling from his retirement home in Costa Rica to watch the eclipse from his mother-in-law's house in Rochester, New York, along with other relatives.

"If we get rained out, we'll get this great family reunion," Schultz said.

Veteran Anne Marie Adkins could drive across town in San Antonio to see the total eclipse but opted to join an astronomer-led tour to Mazatlán, Mexico, betting on clear skies there. She's been thwarted by clouds on other trips. For the 2017 U.S. eclipse, she went to Nebraska and had to scramble that day to find better skies.

"It's a gamble. You never know what you are going to get," said Adkins.

Post-eclipse traffic is a particular worry, especially in more rural areas like the Texas Hill Country. Patricia Moore, of the Bandera Visitors Center, said last year's "ring of fire" eclipse provided a dress rehearsal for police and other first responders. Tiny Bandera - the "Cowboy Capital of the World" - expects crowds from nearby weekend music festivals.

"After the eclipse will be a challenge," she said.

How long will the total solar eclipse last?

Despite online speculations, it will not be dark for three days.

According to NASA, the longest duration of totality is 4 minutes, 28 seconds, near Torreón, Mexico - twice as long as the total solar eclipse in 2017. Most places along the centerline (path of totality) will see a totality duration between 3.5 and 4 minutes.

The agency said earthlings can also expect the temperature to drop about 10 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your location's humidity and cloud cover.

Where are the eclipse watch parties?

With the eclipse falling on a Monday, cities and towns along the path have lined up a weekend full of activities and watch parties to attract visitors. There are a multitude of music festivals and gatherings planned at museums, parks, wineries, and other businesses hoping to capitalize on the buzz.

Niagara Falls has a slate of events for days and is expecting July 4th-sized crowds for the eclipse, Sara Harvey, spokeswoman for Destination Niagara USA, said.

There are multiple vantage points to watch the show from Niagara Falls State Park, and the famous Maid of the Mist tourist boats may be running, weather permitting, she said. Even if it's cloudy, visitors will get "a beautiful view of the falls," Harvey said.

In Waco, Texas, festivities will culminate on eclipse day with science-themed activities outside Baylor's McLane stadium, along what's called Touchdown Alley.

It may be too late to snag a cabin on a cruise ship positioned off the Mexico coast for the eclipse, but there are other watery options, including a ride on the paddle-wheeler Victorian Princess on Lake Erie from Erie, Pennsylvania.

If the sky beckons, Southwest and Delta have identified flights that will fly along or near the eclipse path. A special Delta flight from Austin to Detroit quickly sold out, prompting the airline to add another from Dallas.

Looking for a different kind of place to watch the sun, moon, and Earth align? The Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host NASA astronauts and other guests. Cedar Point amusement park on Lake Erie in Sandusky, Ohio, is opening for the day. The Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas is throwing a tailgate fundraising party and inviting visitors to watch the zoo's residents react to the midday darkness.

You can also spend the day visiting the planets. In northern Maine, a scale model of the solar system is displayed along nearly 100 miles of U.S. Route 1. Retired geology professor Kevin McCartney expects to unveil a new 23-foot-tall roadside sun at the University of Maine at Presque Isle on eclipse day. "You won't be able to miss it," he said.

Anderson, the weather expert, said it's well worth the travel to see the "special magical moment" of a total eclipse: "It's the Taylor Swift of natural events."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.