WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (Aug. 4 2017) – Where are the best spots in the West to watch the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse since 1918, and the first to touch U.S. mainland since 1979?
If you're in Northern California, you'll need to travel a bit to find totality -- but not too far. Here are some tidbits and tips to prepare for the Aug. 21, 2017 eclipse:
1. You Should Have Booked Your Hotel or Campsite ... Months Ago
Excitement has been building about this total solar eclipse has been building for months, and prime locations near the center line have been nearly full for weeks. Idaho Falls (830 miles from San Francisco), a little city of 60,000 in southeastern Idaho is expecting somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 visitors the day of the eclipse, which will begin at 10 am. By mid-July there were no hotel rooms available in Idaho Falls the night of August 20, according to Via Magazine, although some hotels are reportedly holding back a few rooms for late bookings with deep pockets.
2. Oregon Sure Sounds Nice This Time of Year
One of the first (and best) cities to experience the eclipse is Salem (590 miles from San Francisco), and the nice people of that city decided to take advantage: all 12 city parks will be FREE for campers the night before the eclipse -- at no charge, according to local news reports. If you're staying local, AAA's Gig Car Share in Oakland and Berkeley offers affordable one-way car rentals for users seeking good views and higher ground. Why not take a Sunday morning trip to Mount Tam?
3. In the mood to celebrate? Head to Casper for the 2017 Wyoming Eclipse Festival
AstroCon 2017 will hold its annual event in Casper (1,145 miles from San Francisco) which lies directly in the path of totality, and the city has plenty of fun events for families. If you're making the long drive, get your car checked out in advance: Engine fluids, tires, and batteries are the most common reasons for car breakdowns. Remember to bring water, food and maps, and tell people where you're going.
Don't rely on cellphones and GPS if you're headed to unfamiliar and remote territory. Download 'offline' maps to your smartphone to ensure you have a backup when you lose signal, or stop by any AAA branch to pick up detailed maps for your car.