Where to View the Total Solar Eclipse: The South

Even though the total solar eclipse doesn’t hit until August 21, the places that will deliver “path of totality”—astronomer-speak for the optimal position from which to view the event because you’re in the direct path of the resulting blackness—have already become highly prized. While the eclipse will be visible throughout North America, only a 70-mile-wide region of the U.S.—from Oregon to South Carolina—will be in that famed “the path of totality.” To find the perfect spot, feel free to plumb the depths of NASA’s own (free) maps. Or just use our regional guide.

Next up: The Southern states where you can witness pure totality, including Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia. This region boasts the largest city to hit total blackness, as well as more remote regions of the country.

Hopkinsville, Kentucky

Astronomers predict that the greatest point of eclipse (the moment when the axis of the moon’s dark shadow passes closest to the Earth’s center) will hit between the towns of Hopkinsville and Princeton, with a totality that’ll last 2 min and 40 sec. The small town is pulling out all the stops, including eclipse events and Eclipse Con, a comic convention that’ll have some serious sci-fi cred considerably this August thanks to this celestial phenomena.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

The entire western half of this famed national park falls within the path of totality, and the park is organizing three public viewing events. Expect crowds—the park is already one of the most popular in the country. Or consider heading into the backcountry to escape the throngs; backpack camping is allowed, and might be a solid option for the intrepid. The park is also hosting a special event on Clingman’s Dome, which boasts views expansive enough to catch the moon’s shadow racing across the landscape, but tickets are already sold out. Any cancelled tickets will pop up on recreation.gov, if you’re feeling like a digital scavenger hunt.

Nashville, Tennessee

The largest city to get plunged into complete darkness, expect a party-like atmosphere in Nashville, where the path of totality will partner nicely with all of the city’s other attractions: amazing food and killer music. Expect lodging to be scarce!

Indian Creek, Georgia

Atlanta sits 85 miles out of the eclipse’s path, with only 97% totality, but you could stay there and light out for Indian Creek, where things will go dark around 2:36 PM (head out early to avoid the city-dwelling crowds). Or try to secure a spot at Black Rock Mountain State Park, a higher-elevation parcel of public land that will see the eclipse for 2:36.

Franklin, North Carolina

Asheville may be on the rise with its influx of great craft beer and loads of outdoor pursuits, but they’ll only see 99.2 percent totality. Instead, light out for the smaller town of Franklin, a scenic locale surrounded by some of the state’s most pristine landscapes—think rivers, mountains, waterfalls, and valleys—along with 2:30 of daytime darkness.

Charleston, South Carolina

The historic city of Charleston will get 1:31 of darkness starting at 2:46 PM, offering stunning views of the eclipse as it crosses from the mainland over the country’s eastern coast. And the city itself boasts legions of attractions, from its maze of interconnecting waterways to its storied role in both the American Revolution and the Civil War to some of the best damn Low Country eating available…pretty much anywhere. Want a bit more time in the darkness? Nearby North Charleston will get an additional 17 seconds of totality.

Can’t Miss Festival:

Less a festival and more of the epicenter of all things science-related, the Roper Mountain Science Center in Greenville, SC, will host a week of activities starting August 14, including a new planetarium show, with astronomers on-hand during the main event, which will see about two minutes of total darkness.