Still making plans for the solar eclipse? Here are 4 options, based on vibe

Handout from NASA. The Washington Post

The most watched—and most documented—solar eclipse in the history of the world is next Monday, Aug. 21. Are you ready? And most importantly, do you have watch plans?

The last total solar eclipse visible from the contiguous United States was in 1979. And while Charlotte isn’t in the path of totality (a.k.a. when the sun is 100 percent obscured at the peak of the eclipse), we’re not far. So you’ve got a perfectly good excuse for a little fanfare.

I’ll be chilling in a meadow a mile high in the Great Smoky Mountains (more on that below). Don’t have plans yet? Here are four options, based on your vibe and how far you want to travel.

Local celebration


Watch the solar eclipse from one of Charlotte’s best vantage points, at Le Meridien’s City Lights Rooftop bar. NASA certified glasses will be provided, Chef Oscar La Fuente will be serving up gourmet hors d’oeuvres, and guests get their choice of a champagne toast or solar-eclipse specialty cocktail. There also will be live music and a live art installation by local artist Sharon Dowell. Event runs from 1-4 p.m.
Travel time:
This is for you if…You have to go back to work afterward. (Reality hurts.)
Totality: 97.81 percent
Cost: $30 per person (includes $5 validated parking)
More details here.

A mountaintop experience

Cataloochee Ranch: Photo by Bill Harbin

I’ll be posted up at Cataloochee Ranch, located in Maggie Valley, N.C., part of the Great Smoky Mountains. The celebration starts at noon, and as you wait for darkness to fall, there will be a chuckwagon cookout, a Native American storyteller, and 360-degrees of open, unobstructed views. A cellist will be playing during the 2-and-a-half minutes of 99.89-percent darkness. Glasses provided.
Travel time: 2 hours, 50 minutes.
This is for you if… You want a quiet, intimate experience in a natural environment.
Totality: 99.89 percent.
Cost: Tickets are $150 per person and include special glasses for viewing the eclipse. If you make a weekend of it, the celebration is discounted: Spend one night at the ranch and you’ll get 50 percent off the eclipse party. Two nights, 75 percent. Three nights? It’s free.
More details here.

The tailgate

via Facebook

There are more than 120 events around the eclipse in Columbia, S.C.—the “total eclipse capital of the East Coast”— and it’s the nearest city with the longest period of totality. One of the region’s biggest celebrations will be the “Total Eclipse Tailgate” at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds. There will be entertainment, concessions, and a limited number of eclipse glasses will be given out. Gates are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Travel time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
This is for you if…
 You’re gearing up for football tailgate season. 
Totality: 100 percent.
Cost: Admission is free. Parking is $5 per car, and you’ll need to purchase a parking ticket. More details here. 

The sea breeze

The Palmetto Breeze: via

Charleston, S.C. is one of the few traditional vacation destinations that’s also in the path of eclipse totality. And what better way to view the phenomenon than on a harbor cruise? Hop aboard Aqua Safari’s Palmetto Breeze for a three-hour tour, from 1-4 p.m. Admission includes bottled water, soft drinks, and light snacks (think Moonpies and Sun Chips, not fancy apps). Adult beverages will be available for purchase. Glasses provided. Prefer a private cruise? Spaces are running out, but try Harborview Charters.
Travel time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
This is for you if… You want the chance to see dolphins before the sky goes black.
Totality: 100 percent
Cost: $85 per person for a ride on the Palmetto Breeze. Private boat rentals can run several hundreds of dollars.
Details here. 

As for those solar eclipse glasses: Wherever you land, if they’re not provided, yes you need to buy some. Beware of scammers selling fakes that could lead to eye damage in people who wear them while looking directly at the sun.

Authentic glasses that meet the international standard for safely viewing the sun will have ISO 12312-2 standard scrawled somewhere on the sides, Time reported Monday. They’ll look like cardboard 3D glasses and have darker lenses than normal sunglasses. Companies that sell certified glasses are listed at

Lead photo: Handout from NASA.The Washington Post 


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