Setting aside events like the Super Bowl and even the Copa America, what is one of the biggest USA-based tourism events? The answer might surprise you but it’s the total solar eclipse, which will happen in April.
A total solar eclipse, in case you need a dictionary definition, is when the moon passes between Earth and the sun, thereby obscuring the view of the sun from a part of the Earth, totally or partially. And this spring, millions of people will be headed to cities that make up what is known as the “path of totality,” defined as areas where the sky will go dark.
And it’s big business. This is no joke. Hotel rooms have been sold out for years and destinations are planning plenty of tie-ins. Newswise reports that between one and four million people are expected to travel to cities in the path of totality. (About 31 million already live there.)
According to NASA, the action takes place on Monday, April 8. The eclipse will cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States and Canada. It will begin over the South Pacific Ocean. Weather permitting (because cloudy and rainy skies tend to put a damper on such things), the first location in continental North America that will experience totality is Mexico’s Pacific coast at around 11:07 a.m. PDT.
NASA continues, “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 of Newfoundland, Canada, at 5:16 p.m. NDT.”
The cities expected to be in the path of totality are as follows:
Dallas, Texas; Idabel, Oklahoma; Little Rock, Arkansas; Poplar Bluff, Missouri; Paducah, Kentucky; Evansville, Indiana; Cleveland, Ohio; Erie, Pennsylvania; Buffalo, New York; Burlington, Vermont; Lancaster, New Hampshire and Caribou, Maine. All areas will also experience a partial eclipse before and after these times.
The last time a solar eclipse crossed North America was in 2017 (which made it the first solar eclipse in 100 years), and wow, did sports destinations embrace it.
This year looks to be no different. There are the Beat the Eclipse 5K in Albuquerque and the Dark Side of the Wabash Solar Eclipse 5K (neither of which, it should be noted, are in the much-vaunted path), as well as a whole lot of others. Not that it stops anyone; a visit to Running in the USA brings up a calendar list that includes day-before races like one in Elmira, New York (Eclipse Your PR) and another in Terre Haute, Indiana (Total Eclipse of the Haute), as well as a full listing of 5Ks on Monday (probably the least popular day to do a 5K, but with names like Moon Shadow 5K and Texas Eclipse Ring of Fire Half Marathon, well, who can blame them? Oh, and Maine has this great run, the Millinockeclipse, which starts at 2:20:53 p.m. (the same time the eclipse begins) in Millinocket. At 3:34:15 p.m. (the end of the total eclipse), all runners will turn around from wherever they you are, and head back. Whoever goes furthest wins. (Maine, in fact, has its own landing page for the eclipse; find it here.)
Many of the totality cities spots are already throwing some shade (heh) at other destinations by playing up their location and inviting others to come visit.
Erie, Pennsylvania has the “Ultimate Sun block” promo going on, with the tagline, “Hope to see you here. Until we can’t.” The destination also has a running calendar of events on this page. Additional resources and information can be found at this link. Lake Erie Wine Country (which is the largest grape-growing region East of the Rocky Mountains, and home to many growers for Welch’s) is hosting an event called “Lights Out!” which will include tasting at local wineries as well as eclipse viewing at a host winery. The event runs from April 5-8, 2024. The Lake Erie Speedway will host a festival on April 8 that will feature food trucks and vendors, drifting and ride-alongs as well as live music.
Camp Fitch, another Erie location, is hosting an Eclipse Camp April 7-9 that includes lodging in their cabins, a “Solar Bear” plunge in Lake Erie, and programming/camp activities that includes rock climbing, mountain bikes, archery and other activities. The camp is located right on the shores of Lake Erie as well, so eclipse viewing is expected to be excellent. And finally, Mercyhurst University was designated as a NASA “Sunspot Viewing Site” and will host events leading up to and during the eclipse on their Erie campus.
Little Rock, Arkansas has a whole landing page, with concerts, activities and more, including the MiLB team, Arkansas Travelers’ event, “Total Eclipse of the Park.” (If it’s anything like the 2017 event for the Oregon Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, fans and players on the fields were issued team-logo eclipse safety glasses. The game was expected to be stopped for the 15 minutes or so the light would be affected, after which, play resumed.) Heads in beds are, of course, always desirable, but so are butts in seats at sports events.
In Dallas, a special landing page has a countdown, a video detailing places to see the eclipse and a calendar of events at sites including the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Downtown Dallas Inc. at Klyde Warren Park, Frontiers of Flight Museum, Marriott Dallas Downtown and Samuell Farm. There are also links to help visitors find accommodations.
Visit Butler County, MO (where Poplar Bluff is) likewise has a dedicated landing page for the event. Oh, and Cleveland, hats off to you for this great car racing game to try to beat the eclipse.
Expect more – a whole lot more – as spring gets closer.