Get ready for solar eclipse mania. Destinations in the path of the Aug. 21 eclipse, which will be visible in the U.S. along a narrow path from Oregon to South Carolina, are going wild with plans for festivals, concerts and viewing parties.
Hotels in Idaho Falls are charging up to 10 times their usual rates. Rooms at Sun Valley Resort have been booked for years.
Many hotels are offering eclipse packages. Hotel Jackson in Jackson, Wyo., has an “eclipse concierge” to help guests plan their $699-a-night stay.
Consumers in Oregon have complained about hotels canceling reservations they made long ago, claiming rebranding or new ownership, then charging much higher rates for rebooking.
An eclipse tour in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park sold out in 10 minutes. The Smokies are among 20 National Park sites that will experience the total solar eclipse, from sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina to Wyoming’s Grand Tetons.
“We are expecting record visitation,” said NPS spokesman Jeffrey Olson.
Hopkinsville, Ky., population 32,000, and Carbondale, Ill., population 23,000, expect 50,000 visitors each. The destinations, 140 miles apart, will experience about 2 minutes and 40 seconds of total darkness, among eclipse sites with the longest duration. Events in the region include an “Eclipse Con” festival, concerts and tailgate parties.
South Carolina’s Clemson University also expects 50,000 people at a campus event that will feature astronomers and other experts. Twenty thousand people will gather in the Ochocho National Forest for Oregon Eclipse 2017, with music, yoga, theater, art installations and more. Wind River Reservation in Wyoming hosts “bring back the sun” ceremonies.
A Pink Floyd Tribute band plans a “Dark Side of the Moon” concert in Jefferson City, Mo. The South Carolina Philharmonic in Columbia offers “Star Wars Musiclipse.” Sylva, N.C., has a “Moonlight Madness” run.
Sharon Hahs and her husband, Billy, have chased 14 eclipses around the world from Mongolia to South Africa. They’ll see this one from a family farm in Missouri, not far from their St. Louis home.
“There is nothing else in our universe that looks like a total solar eclipse,” Hahs said. “The air gets cool. You have 360-degree dusk. Nature sounds really happen: the cock crows, birds get quiet. We even had a horse cross our viewing area to return to the stable.”
Michael Allen of Southampton, England, is a “keen amateur astronomer” who considers the eclipse “a once in a lifetime opportunity.” He can’t travel alone because he has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, so his brother Nick is accompanying him on a three-day tour to Nashville with eclipse-viewing at the Kentucky border.
Jack Bohannon of Anchorage, Alaska, plans to see the eclipse in Nebraska as the “culmination of a summer-long RV trip” with family. “We were originally going to book an RV park in the eclipse path in Wyoming, but everywhere was full,” he said.
Location and weather
As the moon moves in front of the sun, daylight will yield to darkness from Oregon to South Carolina along a path 60 to 70 miles wide. The path of totality will also cut across broad swaths of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee, along with corners of Kansas, Georgia and North Carolina, and a tiny chip of Iowa. Totality will first hit Oregon around 10:15 a.m. Pacific time. South Carolina will experience the final moments of total darkness at 2:49 p.m. Eastern time.
Some spectators are heading to mountains and forests to experience the eclipse in a natural setting.
“Think of an eclipse as an incredible short night,” with “a rapid sunset and then sunrise,” said Sara Morris, an ornithologist and biology professor at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y.. “Birds go back to roost. Animals that are active during the day will stop foraging and put themselves in a place of safety.”
Destinations such as eastern Idaho that offer easy highway access have an advantage in bad weather: You can drive elsewhere to seek clear skies. “Clouds are the enemy of eclipse chasers,” said Hahs. “If one can move, one should.”
A higher probability of clear weather also makes eastern Idaho a popular viewing destination. Government and tourism officials are expecting as many as 500,000 visitors in the region.
The Post Register contributed to this report.