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6 things to do now if you want to watch the 2024 solar eclipse in April

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On April 8, the moon will pass directly before the sun, darkening the afternoon sky with a rare, total solar eclipse. For those along the path of totality, the solar eclipse will last around four minutes. With so many people clamoring to see this rare celestial spectacle, you’ll need a plan if you want to be among them.

Related: Solar eclipse, supermoons and meteor showers: These are the 11 celestial events worth traveling for in 2024

Whether you plan to watch the solar eclipse from home, on the road or even from the sky, here are the things you should be doing now to prepare.

Know what time the solar eclipse will be in your area

solar eclipse path map

The best place to see the total solar eclipse is along the 115-mile-wide band known as the path of totality. In the U.S., the eclipse path begins in Texas and travels through more than a dozen states. These are the states in order: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Even if you are not along the path of totality, you may be able to observe a partial eclipse where the moon partially covers the sun. Regardless of where you’ll be, you must pay close attention to when the eclipse will pass over your area.

NASA maintains a detailed chart with start and end times for major cities along the path of totality. If you aren’t along the path of totality, the Time and Date website has a search function. You can enter your location and find details on when the eclipse will be partially visible in your area.

Brush up on solar eclipse safety

Young man looking up at solar eclipse wearing paper protective glasses
Young man looking up at solar eclipse wearing paper protective glasses. CAVAN IMAGES/GETTY

Since childhood, you’ve probably been told that you shouldn’t look directly into the sun. That advice applies even when the sun is shaded by the moon (except during the brief moment of totality). You can view NASA’s full report on solar eclipse eye safety. The most important thing to know is that you need solar viewing glasses or a solar viewing device to look at the sun during the partial phases of an eclipse.

Regular sunglasses won’t cut it. Solar-viewing glasses are thousands of times darker than the sunglasses you wear on a sunny day. NASA doesn’t recommend any particular brand, but you want to look for glasses that comply with the ISO 12312-2 international standard.

NASA also warns against looking directly through binoculars, a telescope or a camera lens (including a smartphone), even with approved solar viewing glasses. The sun’s rays can burn through the filter and cause eye damage. If you use one of these tools, you must fit them with a special solar filter.

Get your solar eclipse gear

Group of people looking at a solar eclipse. LEOPATRIZI/GETTY IMAGES

Because you’ll be outside and possibly taking photos of the eclipse, here are the things you may need:

Solar viewing glasses: This 10-pack of ISO-certified solar eclipse observation glasses costs $21.99 and comes with enough pairs for any friends and family who want to watch the eclipse with you.

Camera filter: If you do plan to photograph the eclipse (though we may argue it’s better to put your phone down for this once-in-a-lifetime moment), this two-pack of VisiSolar smartphone photo filters ($11.99, regularly $14.99) will help you do it safely.

Outdoor picnic blanket: A foldable blanket that is waterproof and sandproof can keep you and your gear dry and clean while you focus on what’s happening in the sky. This large outdoor picnic blanket ($13.99) also has a carry handle for easy transport.

Have a rainy-day eclipse plan

Aerial view of thunderstorm clouds from an airplane
Aerial view of thunderstorm clouds from an airplane. FRANK BIENEWALD/GETTY IMAGES

If it’s cloudy or raining where you are — or if you’re not along the path of totality — you may want to have a backup plan in place for viewing the eclipse. NASA will broadcast live eclipse coverage on April 8 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. EDT on NASA TV,, the NASA app and YouTube.

Make your solar eclipse travel plans

Rochester Hotel & Spa – a Doubletree by Hilton. RICH PAPROCKI/FACEBOOK

If you plan to travel to a city on the eclipse’s path of totality, you’ve hopefully already booked your accommodations. If you haven’t, the time is now. Hotel availability in these cities is dwindling fast. TPG has a guide to the best places to see the eclipse, along with hotel recommendations and a guide to the best hotel packages for the solar eclipse.

If the hotel you were hoping to book is sold out, you have a few other options. You could look into a smaller city nearby. For example, if you were hoping to watch the eclipse in Indianapolis but can’t find a hotel that works for you, try nearby Hamilton County, Indiana. The Renaissance Indianapolis North Hotel even has a couple of fun eclipse-themed hotel packages to get you in the “solar spirit.”

You could also forgo a hotel stay altogether and opt for alternative accommodations. You could rent an RV through a company like Cruise America or RVshare and find a campground that is hosting an eclipse event.

There are also opportunities to view the eclipse during a three-day vintage train ride to Niagara Falls. Or, you can take a daytrip on the Arcade and Attica Railroad from Arcade, New York, for a unique solar eclipse experience. Amtrak also offers a 15% discount on train rides throughout New York, but you would still need to find overnight accommodations.

A few lucky flyers can even view the eclipse from the air. Delta recently added a path of totality flight that will give passengers a bird’s eye view of the eclipse.

If you want to stay in a tent or cabin, there are many campgrounds near the path of totality. KOA has a guide showing which campgrounds are on the path, and many state and national parks will also have good viewing opportunities. Some sites are hosting an Eclipse Explorer Junior Ranger program so kids can enjoy the fun.

Purchase solar eclipse event tickets

Annual solar eclipse with "ring of fire."
Totality during an annular solar eclipse with “ring of fire.” PHILLIP JONES/GETTY IMAGES/STOCKTREK IMAGES

In addition to accommodations, many cities will host special events for the eclipse. Some are free, but others require a ticket. For example, you will need a ticket if you want to watch the eclipse from the Lowell Observatory in Waco, Texas. But, you can watch for free without a ticket or reservation from the Kerrville Eclipse Festival in Kerrville, Texas.

The Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio — the birthplace of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong — is hosting a full weekend of events with your museum admission. Elsewhere in Ohio, at the Great Lakes Science Center and North Coast Harbor in Cleveland, you can attend a three-day celebration that is free and open to the public.

Now is the time to see what is available in your area (or the area you plan to travel to) and get your tickets if necessary.

Bottom line

No matter where you plan to be during this rare celestial event, you should make a plan now. This way, you’ll have a stress-free solar eclipse experience. These tips will help ensure you can focus on the temporarily darkened sky and not your lack of forethought.

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