If you were excited to see the Annular Eclipse this weekend (the “Ring of Fire” in the sky that not even Johnny Cash could fall into) I hope you’re already making plans to see the Total Solar Eclipse coming on April 8th, 2024.
What’s it like inside the path of totality?
It was such a surreal experience for us on August 21, 2017, to experience the total eclipse. Below is a time-lapse video that I took with my phone that can give you some sense of things.
As totality came over us, it instantly got colder, birds and insects started chirping in the twilight, and a hush fell over the crowd (and there was even a marriage proposal where we were!). When the total eclipse ended the crowd clapped as we’d all enjoyed the show that nature provided.
Karen also captured a couple of photos with her phone, one of the sun while testing our eclipse glasses, and a great panorama of twilight in the middle of the day.
Where can you experience a total eclipse?
You’ll be able to see the April 8th, 2024 Eclipse throughout a large portion of North America. To quote from NASA:
The path of the eclipse continues from Mexico, entering the United States in Texas, and traveling through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The eclipse will enter Canada in Southern Ontario, and continue through Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton. The eclipse will exit continental North America on the Atlantic coast at Newfoundland, Canada, at 5:16 p.m. NDT.https://science.nasa.gov/eclipses/future-eclipses/eclipse-2024/where-when/
Below is a great graphic that shows the path of totality that will come near many major metropolitan areas such as San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Detroit, Toronto, and Montreal!
IMPORTANT! Only those in the path of totality can view the eclipse safely without glasses, though, that’s only when the eclipse is total. We recommend still having some to use to watch progress before and after. Don’t ever look directly at the sun without the proper eye protection (and regular sunglasses definitely do not count!)
Do I have to be in the path of totality to view the eclipse?
Even if you’re not in the path of totality with the proper precautions you can still view at least a partial eclipse in most of North America. This great simulator allows you to enter your city and the slider will show you what you might expect to see when the moon either partially or totally blocks the sun from your vantage point:
Here’s a simulator of what the eclipse might look like in New Orleans for example:
Is it worth it to get into the path of totality?
I’m an experience junkie, so if there’s a chance to do something new and novel I want to do it. For us, the dates worked well for us to drive back from a trip to Chicago and to stay in southern Illinois for part of that day and catch the eclipse before continuing to drive south.
For the April 8th, 2024 eclipse it’s at the very end of our kids’ Spring Break week so we’ll just travel around Texas and plan to take that extra day off before we drive home! I wouldn’t worry about staying directly in the path of totality as the lodging can get quite expensive with higher demand. I’d recommend you find somewhere that is within a few hours’ drive and then follow whichever direction provides you with the best weather. Yes, weather is something you’ll want to be very aware of as you need a semi to mostly clear sky to see the eclipse!
If you are anywhere near the path of totality, you’ll likely come across many eclipse-viewing events. It may be anything from a street fair, to an open field turned into a parking lot, and beware, there are plenty of people out there looking to make a buck, so most places will be charging you for parking. They also may be cramming cars in there. We assumed most people would leave right after the eclipse, but were worried about going into a lot like that and not being able to get out quickly as we had a long drive ahead of us for the rest of the day still. Luckily, we happened upon a winery and reception venue. Unfortunately, they weren’t open for selling food or wine, but they offered a beautiful open field to picnic in, bathrooms, and parking was the same or less than most other places we saw, about $15 or $20 if I remember correctly.
Even if you don’t find the ideal place, anywhere with a clear view of the sky will be great, which is basically everywhere if you are outside of a city. We’d suggest packing a picnic or finding somewhere with food and restrooms nearby, but a public park or a parking lot will still work out!
You may not WANT these, but you'll be glad to have them if/when you NEED them!
If you want to be really cautious (ie. you have kids,) we actually keep a few portable and disposable toilet (or vomit) bags in the glove compartment and in Karen’s purse or one of our backpacks.
Luckily, we haven’t had to use them… often.
There is a good bit of waiting so you’ll want to be sure to bring some snacks or other activities to keep little ones busy. One of our projects was painting these great eclipse fingernails!
If you plan to try this same look, Karen recommends the quick-dry type for the base since kids aren’t known for their patience usually, and there are multiple layers to the design!
Should I have eclipse glasses?
That’s a strong yes from us. Viewing the sun directly even for short periods of time can cause eye damage so they’re a small investment in an irreplaceable asset. They’re easily available from Amazon (of course) and possibly at some local stores near the path of totality. The ones we saw closer to the eclipse date were rather expensive so if you can order yours early and store them in a safe place we’d recommend it.
Great eclipse glasses that are foldable, ISO certified so you know you're safe, and a reasonably priced 5 pack so you can share!
How can I be sure these fit my little ones to fully protect their eyes?
When we viewed the 2017 total eclipse in southern Illinois, our kids were 6 (almost 7 I’m sure she would have said) and 18 months old. It’s hard to think of keeping kids that small safe while looking at the sun, even with the glasses. The eclipse glasses are made for adult faces so they don’t stay on small ones very securely.
We found a great online craft to use a cut-out paper plate to make it easier for small hands to hold, and to keep the glasses on their face or protect their eyes if they moved them slightly.
1 – Measure where the lenses are and cut openings
2 – cut slits for the arms to pass through
3 – cut out a triangle for the nose
Then, just enjoy viewing safely!
Are there eclipse glasses that are more like sunglasses?
Yes – there are sturdier glasses that are certified for eclipse viewing. I’d ordered one pair for the last eclipse.
I was still concerned about Popcorn wearing these but Bunny did great with them.
These are sturdy plastic and feel a lot more like regular sunglasses.
Happy eclipse viewing! Let us know if you have any questions or thoughts in the comments!
Where will you be watching on April 8th, 2024?