Stargazers, it's not too late to book a trip to observe the epic event.
So you want to witness the rare cosmic spectacle on Aug. 21. You've purchased your protective glasses. You've researched viewing locations for the two-minute event, when the moon's shadow will block out the sun and a fiery circle will surround it, leaving stars and planets to speckle the sky. But with accommodations filling up across the line of totality -- the path where the total eclipse will be clearly visible -- you might be wondering if you can still catch the natural phenomenon. And it's bound to be popular: The last time a total solar eclipse passed over the U.S. was in 1979. Well, fret not: There's still time to organize a trip. U.S. News has rounded up top viewing locations for experiencing the astronomical spectacle this summer, vacation ideas included.
Charleston, South Carolina
While the total eclipse will pass over 14 states from coast to coast, it's important to keep your plans flexible and visit places you would want to experience anyway, says Teddy Minford, editor at Fodors.com. If you're interested in springing for a once-in-a-lifetime eclipse package, consider Charleston's King Charles Inn, which is offering "a unique viewing experience aboard a schooner with a talk [led] by an astronomer," she says. The three-night package also includes a celebratory glass of Champagne and customized coasters as keepsakes; nightly rates start at $397.
As the largest city along the line of totality, Nashville will undoubtedly be swarming with visitors this August. Happily, plenty of rooms are still available, and revelers can pick from a variety of accommodation and activity options tailored to their interests and budgets. Gear up for the spectacle with an astronomy lesson featuring interactive demonstrations, solar photography, music and more at the Adventure Science Center's Sudekum Planetarium. Top eclipse-viewing locations across the city include Cedar Hill Park, Bells Bend and Beaman Park. As for lodging, you'll find a high-low mix of chains and boutique hotels offering enticing promotions, from the Hotel Indigo Nashville to the Westin Nashville.
St. Joseph, Missouri
Across St. Joseph, you can participate in a variety of eclipse-themed events, says Dan McGlaun, a veteran eclipse-chaser and founder of the nonprofit Eclipse2017.org. A standout eclipse-viewing party will be held at the Rosecrans Memorial Airport and is anticipated to lure thousands of spectators, he says. Plus, a variety of meteorologists, solar-observing displays and themed shows are expected across the area. When it comes to lodging, you can choose from campgrounds at nearby state parks, as well as cost-effective bed-and-breakfasts. Just keep in mind that rooms are filling up quickly at popular places like the Radisson Hotel St. Joseph.
"Technically anyone in North America can see the partial phases [of the eclipse]," McGlaun says. But observing a rare total solar eclipse is a spectacular experience that "changes you fundamentally," he says. And though hotels are selling out of rooms quickly and you'll need to be creative about where you watch the event, under-the-radar places like Beatrice are ideal, he says. Beatrice offers festive events throughout the weekend, including movies at the Gage County Fairgrounds, an annual auto and bike show and wine tasting in the Village of Adams, as well as exciting viewing spots like the Homestead National Monument of America. What's more, there are a variety of campsites and economical lodging options in Gage County and nearby Lincoln.
If you love the great outdoors and are eager to enjoy wildlife viewing, camping and white-water rafting adventures, Minford advises catching the total eclipse in Riverton. The area happens to be located along the line of totality and is offering a variety of packages catering to outdoorsy types, she adds. Whether you want to camp at a historic place like the 1838 Rendezvous site to take in the event, or you would rather splurge on a unique package with outfitter Bear Basin Adventures to enjoy horseback riding and camping in the Wind River Range, there are plenty of viewing options to pick from.
Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho
One outside-the-box area for eclipse-chasing is Idaho, Minford says. "Stanley, Idaho, is a tiny town at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains," she explains. "Surrounded by granite peaks, glacial lakes and over 350 miles of hiking trails, it's a perfectly rugged getaway for off-the-beaten-path explorers," she adds. As for lodging, Minford points to VRBO, Airbnb and campsites as smart options. For adventurous types, backpacking through Sawtooth National Forest may make for an unforgettable trip. "You can set up a tent wherever you want, as long as it's 100 feet from [trails, lakes and streams]," she adds.
While you can expect heavy crowds across Salem, given the area's enviable location for eclipse-viewing along the line of totality -- and clear visibility -- plenty of nearby Willamette Valley hotels are worth checking out to embrace the Pacific Northwest's charms when you're not taking in the eclipse action. Join other revelers at the Solar Eclipse Viewing Party at the Oregon State Fairgrounds, and after catching the phenomenon, retreat to the Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, Oregon, which currently has availability on Aug. 21. Alternatively, consider reserving a campsite in one of Oregon's state parks via Recreation.gov (managed by the U.S. Forest Service) for a budget-friendly accommodation option.
Liz Weiss is the Travel editor for Consumer Advice at U.S. News, where she writes and edits consumer-focused travel content that offers trip-planning inspiration and helps consumers make smarter travel decisions. She has been covering the travel industry for nearly five years at U.S. News & World Report. She also manages the En Route blog, and has been interviewed on a variety of outlets, including MarketWatch and Fortune. Prior to joining the Consumer Advice team, Liz oversaw the development and content creation for U.S. News Travel's Best Cruises, Best Travel Rewards and Best Vacations franchises. A native of Washington, D.C., she received a bachelor's degree from George Washington University. You can follow Liz on Twitter or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.