If you're after a unique way to experience the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, then consider a road trip.
On that day, a path of totality 115 miles wide (185 kilometers) will stretch across parts of three Mexican states, 15 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces. Only within this path will people experience darkness in the middle of the day and will be able to see the sun's corona.
It will be an exciting space event not to be missed but it's also an excellent opportunity to explore. Whether you're a stargazer, history buff, or space enthusiast, here are six road trip options to make the total solar eclipse a memorable experience.
1. Stargazing in Arkansas and Missouri
Duration: 7 days
Start and finish: Little Rock, Arkansas
Recommended eclipse viewing location: somewhere rural
Not all eclipse-chasers are stargazers, but if you fall into both camps, consider visiting some of the dark spots within the path of totality. Five regions with excellent dark skies within the path are Texas Hill Country, the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, southeast Missouri, northeast New York and northern Maine.
Campgrounds in two Dark Sky Parks of Texas — Enchanted Rock State Natural Area and South Llano River State Park — are booked up while clouds are likely in the northeast, so destinations that make the most sense are Missouri and Arkansas. Try the Mark Twain National Forest on the northern limit or Rocky Creek Conservation Area in Missouri. In Arkansas, the Ozark Francis National Forest, Buffalo National River and Ouachita National Forest are dark — and likely away from crowds. As a bonus, you'll also get a dark sky during totality.
2. The Dark Side of the Wabash
Duration: 4 days
Start and finish: Indianapolis, Indiana
Recommended eclipse viewing location: Vincennes, Indiana
The Wabash River is the state line between southern Indiana and southern Illinois. It also cuts through the path of totality on April 8.
A focal point for exploring the area and for watching the eclipse has to be historic Vincennes on the centerline of the path of totality, where a documentary on the eclipse is being filmed. The Dark Side of the Wabash is a four-day festival of science, arts and music events on the Rendezvous Grounds (site of an annual Revolutionary War reenactment), the George Rogers Clark National Historic Park, Historic Riverfront Pavilion and Main Street. Expect floating parades on the Wabash River, Think Floyd (a Pink Floyd Tribute Band) and musicians all playing "The Final Countdown" on eclipse day. You'll also get over 4 minutes of totality.
On either side of the eclipse, you could brush up on the story of the 1806 total solar eclipse, visit the historic former utopian colony New Harmony, see the Sugar Loaf Mound and Pyramid Mound and explore the large Amish communities nearby, particularly in Loogootee.
3. Skiing and stargazing in Quebec
Duration: 7 days
Start and finish: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Recommended eclipse viewing location: ASTROLab, Mont-Mégantic International Dark Sky Reserve
Though its vast Parc Jean-Drapeau will get over a minute of totality and is planning a huge event, Montreal is on the northern edge of the path of totality, so not ideally placed for observing the eclipse.
However, it's perfect as a hub for an itinerary, including skiing and stargazing in Quebec, which is getting organized for the eclipse. About 90 miles northwest of Montreal — outside the path of totality — in the Laurentian Mountains is Parc National du Mont-Tremblant, which was recently certified as Canada's third International Dark Sky Park. Come back into the path to go skiing at Quebec's Mont-Orford Ski Resort or Mont Sutton before heading to the Mont-Mégantic International Dark Sky Reserve to stargaze and observe the eclipse at ASTROLab, the astronomy capital of Quebec.
4. Space exploration
Duration: 5 days
Start and finish: Cincinnati to Cleveland, Ohio
Recommended eclipse viewing location: Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland
According to eclipse cartographer Michael Zeiler at GreatAmericanEclispe.com, there are five NASA spacecraft in museums within the path of totality. It's not practical to visit all of them in one road trip, but four reside in Indiana and Ohio.
Where you begin and end is up to you — everything here is in the path — but be sure to see Gemini 3 at the Grissom Memorial of Spring Mill State Park near Mitchell, Indiana, the Apollo 15 Command Module at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, Gemini 8 at the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum, Wapakoneta, Ohio, and the Great Lakes Science Center, home to both the Skylab 3 space capsule and, on April 8, Total Eclipse Fest 2024.
5. Houston, We Have A Problem
Duration: 7 days
Start and finish: Houston, Texas
Recommended eclipse viewing location: Corsicana, Mexia or Ennis
Another space-themed road trip around the eclipse could hang on a visit to Space Center Houston to see Mission Control, Rocket Park (home to a Saturn V rocket) and the Apollo 17 command module. Then, take a trip to the path of totality. Don't make the mistake of taking Interstate 10 west to join the crowds headed into the Texas Hill Country from San Antonio. Instead, consider going north on Interstate 45 towards Dallas and experiencing totality at Corsicana, Mexia or Ennis.
Waco's massive Eclipse Over Texas 2024 observing event could also be an option. After the eclipse, head east from the path, avoiding traffic to/from Houston and Dallas to visit Lufkin in Texas Forest Country and explore the huge Lake Sam Rayburn.
6. Mexico by bus
Duration: 7 days
Start and finish: Mexico City, Mexico
Recommended eclipse viewing location: Mazatlán Malecon
Eclispe-chasers who plan their trips years in advance have long known that the highest chance of clear sky on April 8 is in north-central Mexico, especially the cities of Mazatlán, Durango and Torreón.
Organized tours have long sold out, and getting a flight into any of those cities is very expensive. So take the bus! Buses in Mexico are nothing like those in the U.S. or Europe. They have comfortable, business-class-style seats and free food. Consider flying to Mexico City — something that can be done cheaply — and taking an overnight bus to your destination for about $70 to $110. Find your bus on busbud.
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Jamie is an experienced science, technology and travel journalist and stargazer who writes about exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, moon-gazing, astro-travel, astronomy and space exploration. He is the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com and author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners, and is a senior contributor at Forbes. His special skill is turning tech-babble into plain English.