On a single day in August, the sun will disappear behind the moon, and sky watchers in the eclipse's path across 14 states from Oregon to South Carolina will witness a total solar eclipse.
The remarkable event occurs when the moon blocks the sun, turning daylight into twilight and leaving the sun's atmosphere -- or corona -- visible for a fleeting moment. Birds stop singing, and nocturnal animals get briefly confused by the appearance of darkness.
Monday, August 21, will mark the first total eclipse in the United States since 1979. And it's been even longer since the last total solar eclipse to cross from the Pacific to the Atlantic: That occurred June 8, 1918, when an eclipse crossed from Washington to Florida.
Eclipse-chasers from around the world will head to viewing spots August 21, joining millions of Americans to witness this incredible natural phenomenon.
It even has a name: the Great American Eclipse.
Proper eye protection is, of course, crucial in watching the eclipse. Only during the two-minute "total" phase of the eclipse can viewers look directly at the sun.
Plenty of hotel rooms and camping sites have sold out, but we still found a few with availability.
Here are some of our favorite spots to view this unique and unforgettable event. They had spots available at the time of this story's publication but could quickly sell out. (Expect higher hotel rates during this rare astronomical event.)
Terra Vina Wines, Oregon
Oregon is the first state where the total eclipse will be visible and Mt. Hood Territory, in the heart of wine country, offers lodging and fun down on the farm at the Terra Vina winery, about 25 miles south of Portland.
Terra Vina has lodging, but it is also offering admission for day-trippers. It's kicking off the celebrations with a "Wine and Swine" whole hog buffet and live music with a viewing party on the day of the eclipse, featuring the winery's new sparkling wines.
Terra Vina Wines, 33750 SW Ladd Hill Rd, Wilsonville, OR 97070; +1 503-925-0712.
Amangani, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Amangani means "peaceful home," a resort on a private mountain overlooking Jackson Hole in Wyoming, a natural setting to inspire awe without the bonus of an eclipse. But there is just one private home left at this exclusive resort, which has scheduled a special week of star and sky-gazing activities led by University of Maryland University College astronomer Matthew Bobrosky.
Rates are $13,000 per night for this particular home during the eclipse, and starting on August 18, a five-night minimum stay is required.
Amangani is offering celestial cocktails and a laser-guided and telescope tour of the sky, weather permitting. For the day of the eclipse, guests will be serenaded by classical musicians on a poolside terrace 2,000 feet above the valley.
Amangani, 1535 NE Butte Road, Jackson, Wyoming 83001; +1 307 734 4870.
Jefferson City, Missouri
The Missouri capital of Jefferson City is located near the center of the arc, and the city has big plans to mark August 21.
The celebrations include carnival and education events, but the most eye-catching are definitely the city's "Total Eclipse of the Park" party with music, sci-fi movies and the Pink Floyd "Dark Side of the Moon" tribute concert on the lawn in front of the state capitol.
While most area hotels are sold out, Jefferson City's North Jefferson Recreation Area still has space available for RV (no hookups), car and tent camping.
Call +1 (573) 634-6482 for reservations.
Brasstown Valley Resort, Young Harris, Georgia
A two-hour drive from Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tennessee, this mountain resort offers log cottages and spa suites to put the romance in the eclipse experience.
When you're not gazing to the heavens, Brasstown Valley Resort has terrestrial distractions such as golf, tennis, riding, fishing and hiking -- and the Appalachian Trail is on your doorstep.
Brasstown Valley Resort, 6321 U.S. 76, Young Harris, GA 30582; +1 800-201-3205.
Eclipseville, aka Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Hopkinsville, Kentucky, normally has a population of 30,000. But as the "Point of Greatest Eclipse," the community is preparing to welcome tens of thousands of visitors.
Residents are going all the way, even renaming the town "Eclipseville" as they plan more than 20 special events in the runup to August 21. (And they have the best website name: eclipseville.com.)
The town is also hosting NASA scientists and Brother Guy Consolmagno, chief observer of the Vatican Conservatory.
All local hotels with a solar eclipse logo on the site still have availability.
A Walk in the Woods, Tennessee
The Great Smoky Mountains are an ideal location from which to appreciate the beauty of this astronomical event.
A Walk in the Woods is hosting an all-day boat trip on Fontana Lake with naturalists and an astronomer as your guides.
Just ask for the Bonnie Tyler's '80s classic-inspired "Total Eclipse of the Heart of the Southern Appalachians" package.
Sitting directly in the path of eclipse totality, the pontoon boat tour allows access to some of the park's remote spots. The guides are experts in wild plants, animals and local history, to ensure that visitors get a full flavor of one of the South's most picturesque spots.
A Walk in the Woods, 4413 Scenic Drive East, Gatlinburg, TN 37738; +1 865 436 8283.
Gorges State Park, North Carolina
The only North Carolina state park in the path of totality, Gorges State Park will open at 5 a.m. -- two hours early -- to accommodate day-trippers who want to stake out prime viewing spots. Park rangers recommend arriving by 11 a.m. at the latest.
Home to beautiful and rugged river gorges (hence the name), waterfalls and rock walls, the 7,500-acre park will host food trucks and music performances on August 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (There's also a family fun eclipse day scheduled for August 20, the day before the eclipse.)
Greenwood, South Carolina
The tiny town of Greenwood in South Carolina is toward the end of the eclipse's arc across the United States and will experience more than two minutes of darkness in the afternoon.
Lake Greenwood State Park is expecting visitors to congregate on the lawn terraces sloping down towards the lake to witness the rare event. The town's visitors bureau will even provide complimentary souvenir sunglasses. And it's a deal: Park admission is just $2 per person.
Lake Greenwood State Park, 302 State Park Road, Ninety Six, SC 2966; +1 864 543 3535.
Cascades and Coast tour, Intrepid Travel
To maximize your time around the summer eclipse, pick one of Intrepid Travel's six itineraries to catch it.
One nine-day road trip around Washington and Oregon takes in Mount Rainier, rugged coastlines and scenery, and vibrant Seattle and Portland. August 21 will be spent on Airlie Farms in Oregon's Willamette Valley, where the 226 acres of pastures and hills provide a perfectly peaceful backdrop for eclipse gazing and contemplating one's place in the universe.
Berry Islands, Bahamas
True, the Berry Islands are not in the United States, and no, they''re not in the path of totality. But if you're after a secluded viewing spot with sand under your toes, then the Berry Islands in the Bahamas is an ideal spot.
With a population of just 400 -- and no light pollution -- Great Harbour Cay offers the promise of clear skies. The four-bedroom Carriearl property offers an on-site restaurant, freshwater pool and plenty of rum punch.
CarriEarl Boutique Hotel, Great Harbour Cay Drive, Great Harbour Cay, Bahamas; +1 242-367-8785.