Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Travel

Solar eclipse mania spurs festivals, tours, sold-out hotels

Get ready for solar eclipse mania. Destinations in the path of the Aug. 21 eclipse, which will be visible in the United States along a narrow path from Oregon to South Carolina, are going wild with plans for festivals, concerts and viewing parties.

Hotels in Casper, Wyo., are charging five times their usual rates. Rooms at Idaho's Sun Valley Resort have been booked for years.

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 National Park Service 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 and tailgate parties.

South Carolina's Clemson University 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, Miss. The South Carolina Philharmonic in Columbia offers "Star Wars Musiclipse." Sylva, N.C., has a "Moonlight Madness" run.

In small or remote destinations, hotels and campsites in the path of totality are completely sold out. But bigger cities still have openings.

Don't assume lodging is sold out because a travel booking site says so. Call hotels directly.

Many hotels are offering eclipse packages. Nashville's Loews Vanderbilt package includes eclipse viewing glasses, T-shirt, Uber gift card and bar credit. Hotel Jackson in Jackson Hole, Wyo., has an "eclipse concierge" to help guests plan their $699-a-night stay.

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, 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.

The driest section of the path is from eastern Oregon to western Nebraska, but "even the driest places on Earth experience clouds, fog and rain," said Brady Phillips at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is developing an online weather map for the eclipse.

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