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Taking the Kids: The solar eclipse in the Smoky Mountains

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

No wonder people are flocking to easily accessible American cities and towns. Official viewing areas have been set up by the local communities in the path. For more information on eclipse activities and viewing safety, visit

Is it worth upending your schedule for something that will last just two minutes? Only you can decide. Clearly it's a unique opportunity to get the kids engaged in science and the environment. "Eclipse 2017 provides an incredible opportunity to engage the entire nation and the world, inspiring learners of all ages who have looked to the sky with curiosity and wonder," said Steven Clarke, director of NASA's Heliophysics Division in Washington, D.C. Understanding the sun, of course, has always been a top priority for space scientists.

NASA will be providing images captured before, during, and after the eclipse by 11 spacecraft, at least three NASA aircraft, more than 50 high-altitude balloons, and the astronauts aboard the International Space Station -- each offering a unique vantage point for the celestial event. NASA Television will also air a multi-hour show with unprecedented live video of the celestial event, along with coverage of activities in parks, libraries, stadiums, festivals and museums across the nation, and on social media.

"Never before will a celestial event be viewed by so many and explored from so many vantage points -- from space, from the air, and from the ground," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Take time to experience the Aug. 21 eclipse, but experience it safely," he said.

Of course, there is no substitute for being there, assuming you can get a place to stay. You still may have some options, according to You can also drive in just for the day, if you don't live too far.

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) has announced a viewing event at the state fairgrounds in Sale, and Oregon SOLARFEST is being held in Madras.

Casper is hosting the Wyoming Eclipse Festival with events the entire previous week -- everything from an Eclipse Farmer's Market to a free concert to a special show at the Casper Planetarium. If you are planning to head to Grand Teton National Park, in the path of the eclipse, expect huge crowds.

Nashville, Tennessee, the largest city wholly within the path of the total solar eclipse, is touting eclipse vacation packages (including a blanket, presumably to sit on while watching the eclipse). Columbia, S.C., meanwhile, will be the most accessible city with hotels in the path of the total eclipse and is hosting a Total Eclipse Weekend with more than 80 eclipse-related activities.

A lot of people will be heading to Great Smoky Mountains National Park -- already the most visited national park in the country -- because the western half of the park will be in the path of the eclipse. (The park is currently planning organized public viewing events at three locations in the park. Visitors may view the eclipse from other areas, but the National Park Service warns that due to the influx of eclipse viewers during the already busy season, certain areas may have to be closed on August 21 to reduce grid lock.)

Just be forewarned. If it's cloudy, "you won't see anything," says

But that will make a story in itself.


(For more Taking the Kids, visit and also follow "taking the kids" on, where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.)



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