On Aug. 21, the United States will experience its first total solar eclipse since 1979. During a total solar eclipse, the moon, Earth and sun align so that the moon is directly between the Earth and sun, completely blocking the sun and casting a shadow on the Earth, causing the sky to turn dark in mid-afternoon as the sun's corona shimmers.
The website GreatAmericanEclipse.com estimates 360,000 to 1,440,000 will travel to Tennessee on eclipse day. That's because the closer you are to the center line of the path of totality, the longer you will experience a total eclipse, so you want to get as close to the center line as possible.
While Chattanooga isn't included in the path of totality, it's very close. Nashville is the country's largest city entirely in the path of totality. Nashville's eclipse will begin at 11:58 a.m. and end at 2:54 p.m. CDT, a total of two hours and 56 minutes, though the length of totality, or period the moon will totally block the sun, is much shorter: 1 minute, 57 seconds beginning at 1:27 p.m. CDT.
We've gathered a few of the best opportunities in the Music City for taking in the historic phenomenon.
In addition to the celestial display, Nashville has several new hotels worth checking out, including the Thompson, a new luxury boutique hotel in The Gulch where the rooftop is sure to be a happening place during the eclipse. All guest rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows, hardwood floors and sliding barn doors. The hotel also boasts three restaurants by James Beard Award-winning chef John Besh. An airbnb may be your best bet, however, as many area hotels have long been booked up.
Be sure to reserve a table at one of the city’s many great restaurants that evening to recount your eclipse experience with good company, food and drink. Head to Arnold’s Country Kitchen for Southern goodness like turnip greens, mac and cheese, fried catfish and black-eyed peas served cafeteria-style. You’ll likely find a long line at Biscuit Love the morning of the eclipse, but it typically moves fairly quickly and the “bonuts” (the love children of the biscuit and the doughnut) are worth it. Bartaco 12 South is a trendy spot offering tacos with creative toppings such as fried oysters and duck. Whiskey Kitchen offers the city’s largest selection of whiskey, bourbon, Scotch and rye along with wood-fired pizza, pub grub and classic Southern comfort foods.
You can’t go to Music City without visiting a honky tonk. Robert’s Western World downtown on Broadway is my favorite, or mosey down the street to Tootsies Orchid Lounge, which has three stages and a rooftop deck for skywatching.
The Adventure Science Center is hosting the three-day Music City Solar Eclipse Festival & Viewing Party Aug. 19-21, including a free outdoor festival featuring more than 100 booths to explore, live science demonstrations, solar telescope viewing opportunities, a splash pad and live music performances. Inside, ticket-holders can escape from the heat and view the museum's new traveling exhibit focused on extreme weather events, "Nature Unleashed," as well as hear guest speakers and experience special activities and demonstrations.
Learn about what you'll be seeing in the sky with "ECLIPSE: The Sun Revealed," showing in the science center's planetarium. During the eclipse, a large outdoor screen will display NASA footage from space. Safe solar viewing glasses are included with indoor festival admission and will be available for purchase at the outdoor festival for $2 a pair. While the outdoor events are free, tickets for the indoor festival must be purchased in advance and are $29 per day for ages 13 and older, and $49 per day for children ages 2-12. Groups of four or more attendees receive a discount of 35 percent or more. To sign up for the center's email list and stay up-to-date on eclipse activities visit adventuresci.org/eclipseme.
The former home of Andrew Jackson is hosting the Solar Eclipse Tailgate at The Hermitage, a free event in which guests are invited to park and picnic in the fields in front of The Hermitage's entrance gate. The first 2,000 people will receive free solar eclipse glasses, and children can participate in eclipse-themed crafts and activities. The field opens at 8:30 a.m. and space is first-come, first-served. Guests will receive a special discount on admission to The Hermitage that day. VIP reserved parking spaces, which include general admission for two to The Hermitage, are also available for $100. Reserve yours or learn more at thehermitage.com/event/solar-eclipse-tailgate.
Nashville's annual Italian Lights Festival and Street Fair — a celebration of Italian cultural traditions including food, art and music at Bicentennial Capitol Mall — is Aug. 18-21 this year, coinciding with the eclipse. The festival's viewing party is billed as "Nashville's largest eclipse-viewing event" and is a NASA-certified viewing location, so there will be NASA educators and scientists on-site leading the viewing. Be sure to check out the festival's other offerings, all free, including a meatball eating contest, bocce ball and grape stomping. Learn more at italianlights.org.
The Nashville Zoo is using the eclipse as a research opportunity, asking visitors to record its resident animals' behavior through photos and written observations during the natural phenomenon. Zoo educators will be on-hand to answer questions and point out unusual animal behaviors. To find out more visit nashvillezoo.org.
Typically closed on Mondays, the 55-acre Cheekwood Estate and Gardens will open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on eclipse day and will be charging half-price admission. The viewing party features live music, food trucks and special programming, and guests will be provided with protective eyewear for viewing the eclipse. Visit cheekwood.org for more information.