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Hot Spots: The Best Places In The U.S. To Watch The Solar Eclipse

Black hole sun, won’t you come

The long-awaited total solar eclipse is almost here, and maybe not a moment too soon. We've pretty much reached peak eclipse fervor since we've got everything from makeup and tunes to go with the main event this Monday. The path of the eclipse cuts the United States in half on a diagonal from Oregon straight through South Carolina, so while you can see some or most of the eclipse no matter where you are, the cites directly on that diagonal path will have the best views of the full show. You probably have your plans on lockdown, but in case you're up for a little last-minute travel or you're still not sure where the best viewing spots are, fear not. Here's are the hot spots:

Madras, Oregon: This coastal city should be bright and sunny tomorrow, but also super hot at 92 degrees. So, just because the sun is going to be temporarily blocked out, don't forget to bring plenty of water. As earthsky.org points out, the coolest thing about this locale is that you'll be able to the peak of Mt. Jefferson to the west darken just a few moments before Madras itself goes dark.

Snake River Valley, Idaho: Love camping? This is your location. The Snake River Canyon is a truly gorgeous area, making this one of the most beautiful places to glimpse the eclipse.

Casper, Wyoming: Seeing some clouds in the sky? Don't worry, they shouldn't interfere. The Astronomical League is holding its annual convention here just beforehand, which will definitely add to the eclipse overcrowding. However, you shouldn't lack for an expert to help you understand what's going on and why you shouldn't stare at the sun.

Sandhills of western Nebraska: Worried about overcrowding along the eclipse path? The Sandhills might be the place for you. Located in Hooker County, which has a population of just 732 people, there's plenty of big, open sky for you to (safely) look up.

St. Joseph, Missouri: This is one of the few locations that the eclipse will last the longest, making it a particularly attractive place to stop and stare. While it's looking like it'll be cloudy and rainy here tomorrow, it should still get dark and spooky.

Carbondale, Illinois: If you can't hoof it to Carbondale tomorrow or if it ends up being too cloudy to see much, you might want to make your reservation for 2024. That's when the next total solar eclipse is going to come around, and this is one of the few cities with prime viewing of both.

Hopkinsville, Kentucky: The wide, open skies of Kentucky make anywhere along the eclipse path an ideal viewing location. So, if it gets a little too cloudy in Hopkinsville, you might want to drive around a bit and see if you can try your luck on the road.

Nashville, Tennessee: This already-popular destination is sure to be packed to the hilt with stargazers. Put on Dolly Parton's "The Moon, The Stars & Me" for added effect.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Another gorgeous place to go for campers and those who are worried about overcrowding. As earthsky.org notes, one of the coolest possibilities at this locale is getting to see the moon's shadow race across the landscape. 

Columbia, South Carolina: Almost at the southernmost edge of the eclipse's path, you'll be able to see the eclipse for a full two minutes and 30 seconds here. Unfortunately, it looks like the clouds might ruin the fun, but here's hoping they clear away in time.

It should go without saying but no matter where you view the eclipse, make sure you don't look at it without proper eclipse glasses. No, sunglasses won't do the trick and no, this isn't some kind of marketing hoax; just like your mom told you when you were a kid, staring at the sun will do permanent damage to your eyes, including going blind. While eclipse glasses have sold out many places, you might be able to find some here:

Warby Parker: most brick and mortar shops are probably out of stock, but it couldn't hurt to drop by and ask.

Amazon.com: won't help without 1-day or same-day shipping, but it's an option. 

Best Buy, Lowes, and Walmart: The American Astronomical Society lists all three of these retail giants as recommended eclipse glasses vendors. So, if you manage to find a pair at any of these locations, you can rest assured that they're the real deal and won't cook your retinas.

Finally, what happens if you can't get outside or the weather in your area is a complete bust? NASA's is live streaming the whole shebang, so you can get your eclipse on from the comfort of your own couch.