Aug. 21 marks the date of the highly anticipated Great American Eclipse, the first total solar eclipse to cross the continental United States from coast to coast in nearly 100 years.
Viewers who live in the eclipse’s path of totality — a 70-mile-wide ribbon that stretches from Oregon to South Carolina — will be able to see the moon completely cover the sun for about 2 minutes on this day.
Unfortunately, Texas is not in the path of totality. But if you’re up for planning a last-minute trip (this is a pretty darn special occasion, after all) there are numerous places within the path of totality where you can view the eclipse and find plenty else to do once you get there. Here are five of our favorites.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: There’s a reason Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States. Sitting along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, it spans more than 800 square miles in the Southern Appalachian Mountains and features lush forests, rivers and waterfalls. More than 19,000 species have been documented in the park, although scientists have said another 80,000 to 100,000 may also live there, and wildflowers bloom year-round. Totality at the park will begin at 2:35 p.m. EST and last 1 minute, 17 seconds. nps.gov/grsm.
Columbia, South Carolina: The capital of South Carolina, Columbia is an excellent option for those seeking a family friendly long-weekend getaway that will include viewing the eclipse. Popular attractions in Columbia include the South Carolina State House, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, the Columbia Museum of Art, the Robert Mills House, the EdVenture Children’s Museum and the Hootie and the Blowfish Monument. (Yes, this exists. Yes, go see it.) Totality begins at 2:43 p.m. EST and lasts 2 minutes, 30 seconds. experiencecolumbiasc.com.
Nashville, Tennessee: The Grand Ole Opry. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The Johnny Cash Museum. The Belle Meade Plantation. The list of things to do in Music City goes on and on. And now you can see the eclipse, too. If you’re looking for a big-city base to plan your eclipse trip around, Nashville is it. Totality begins at 1:27 p.m. CDT and lasts 1 minute, 57 seconds. visitmusiccity.com.
Casper, Wyoming: Dubbed a “mountain town for the wild at heart,” Casper is an ideal place for outdoor adventure. The city is located in the North Platte River Valley at the base of Casper Mountain, so scenic views abound. Popular activities include mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing, rock climbing and boating. Totality begins at 11:42 a.m. MDT and lasts 2 minutes, 4 seconds. visitcasper.com.
St. Joseph, Missouri: This Missouri town may be small — there are fewer than 100,000 residents — but there are more than enough attractions to fill your eclipse-themed weekend. Among them is the Pony Express Museum, which documents the first fast mail line across the North American continent, from the Missouri River to the Pacific coast. Other notable attractions include the Patee House Museum, Remington Nature Center and the Glore Psychiatric Museum. St. Joseph is also a quick hour’s drive from Kansas City, Missouri. Totality begins at 1:06 p.m. CDT and lasts 2 minutes, 39 seconds. stjomo.com.
Learn more about the eclipse at greatamericaneclipse.com.