Last-minute tips for seeing April’s total solar eclipse in Erie

Last-Minute Tips For Seeing April’s Total Solar Eclipse In Erie

Photo courtesy of Rodney Bailey via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

By Kalena Thomhave

March 12, 2024

If you’re hoping to catch next month’s total solar eclipse here in Pennsylvania, you’ll want to head to the northwest corner of the state, where the city of Erie is pulling out all the stops to celebrate the rare occurrence of the moon blocking out the sun.

By now, you may have heard that a total solar eclipse will be visible to a swath of North America on Monday, April 8. You may have seen an eclipse before, but a total solar eclipse is special. Slowly, the moon blots out the sun, birds quiet, and it seems that night falls in the middle of the day.

Total solar eclipses are magical to experience, and the full totality of a solar eclipse will be visible across the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania. This is rare: The next total solar eclipse to be visible from any part of Pennsylvania won’t happen until 2079.

If you’re interested in viewing the eclipse and you haven’t made plans yet, you should start making plans now. Note, however, that Greater Erie has been planning for the eclipse for years — meaning that many Erie eclipse viewers have been planning their eclipse trip for years. But you can still make a last-minute plan to experience the eclipse!

One great thing about the total solar eclipse is that once you’re in the path of totality, all you need to do is look up — with proper eye protection, of course!

Last-Minute Tips For Seeing April’s Total Solar Eclipse In Erie

Pennsylvania eclipse map courtesy of Michael Zeiler via Great American Eclipse.

What is a total solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon totally obscures the sun to viewers on Earth. This occurs for just a few minutes, with the exact length of time depending on how close one is to the center of the “path of totality.” In Erie, full totality will last 3 minutes and 41 seconds, beginning at 3:16 p.m. on April 8.

Total solar eclipses happen about once every year and a half but can only be viewed from areas in the narrow path of totality. And total solar eclipses happen all over the world, so sometimes, the path of totality is in the middle of the ocean. That’s why viewing one is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Last-Minute Tips For Seeing April’s Total Solar Eclipse In Erie

Photo courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Eclipse events around Erie

Erie is the biggest city in the northwestern corner of Pa. that will experience full totality. As such, the area has planned a number of events for you to learn more about astronomy, celebrate the eclipse, and of course, actually see it. You can view the eclipse at a watch party, or you can head to a nearby park or field to watch it on your own. If you’re in the mood for an event, you’re in luck — events can be found in Erie as well as smaller towns like North East and Edinboro. Here are a handful of eclipse events you may be interested in, with many more planned across the northwestern corner.

The Erie Seawolves baseball team is hosting a free block party on the day of the eclipse (Monday, April 8) at UPMC Park, which will have the capacity for 2,000 eclipse viewers. Great for fans of space and baseball, there will be players there giving autographs, concessions, and free eclipse glasses for the first 1,000 attendees!

Also in Erie, Frontier Park will be open for 1,000 eclipse viewers, providing music, food vendors, and 1,000 free eclipse glasses.

If you head outside of Erie, you can still view the eclipse and perhaps be surrounded by fewer crowds. Burch Farms Country Market and Winery in North East is hosting an eclipse watch party on their three acres, which will offer a lovely view of the sky! The event is ticketed, but each $10 ticket comes with a wine tasting and free eclipse glasses.

Pennsylvania Western University at Edinboro is hosting a watch party for more than 1,000 eclipse viewers. You can set up blankets and lawn chairs around Mallory Lake and enjoy a picnic from food and drink vendors before the sky goes dark.

Where to stay

Many hotels in the Erie area have been booked for months as people prepare to view the eclipse. Hotels that have openings are inflated: Erie’s Quality Inn has rooms available for $418 for one night, while the Hampton Inn on Presque Isle Bay has a room available for $1,106 a night. (Yikes.)

What’s a last-minute planner to do?

Our recommendation? Stay near Erie, not in Erie. After all, thousands of people are going to descend on the city, and as long as you’re in the path of totality, you’re good. There are several parks around the county hosting events, or you can just find a clear view of the sky on your own. At publishing time, the Quality Inn in nearby Fairview had rooms available for $120 per night from third-party sellers, based on a three-night stay (April 6 to 9). And the Holiday Inn Express in Meadville had rooms for a one-night stay (April 8) starting at $256.

You can even stay in Pittsburgh and drive to the Erie area — it’s just a little over an hour to get to the path of totality! Don’t forget to check Airbnb and Vrbo to see if you can find any less expensive listings. Prices are inflated on those sites too, but maybe you’ll find a lovely little cabin not far from the path of totality.

However, our favorite lodging option is to camp. The campground at Pymatuning State Park is opening for the season a week early so that people can stay there for the eclipse, and at publication time there were still about a dozen sites available. (Shout out to Pa. state parks, as the cost to book a campsite starts at $24 per night.) The campground is in the path of totality, though you could also head to the lake area to join other park visitors preparing to view the eclipse.

Do I need special eyewear?

Yes! It’s always dangerous to look directly at the sun. To protect your eyes, you will need special lenses made for viewing solar eclipses; you can only take them off during the short period of 100% totality when the sun is completely blocked by the moon.

You can purchase eclipse glasses online, made affordable because they’re constructed with cardboard frames. We found a pack of ten pairs of eclipse glasses selling for less than $20. Make sure the eclipse glasses you purchase are ISO-certified and verified by the American Astronomical Society.

VisitErie will give out free eclipse glasses starting April 5 at the Pa. Welcome Center on I-90, at the I-79 rest stop near Edinboro, and at the Erie Visitor Center at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center. There will also likely be some eclipse glasses for sale in Erie before the eclipse, but just in case stores sell out, we recommend acquiring your lenses early.

What if I can’t get to Erie?

If you can’t make it to the Erie area to experience full totality, don’t worry — you can still see partial totality in the rest of the state. While 100% totality will be visible in Erie, Pittsburgh will experience 97.35% partial totality, Scranton will experience 94.69% partial totality, Allentown will experience 91.47% coverage, and Philadelphia will see 88.61%. Still, if you can get to Erie, 100% totality is more than worth it.

“If you’re not in totality, and it’s a nice day, it’s certainly worth getting some glasses and getting a peek,” astrophysicist Edwin Turner told DCist before the 2017 total solar eclipse that was visible across some parts of North America. “But don’t mistake it for the actual thing.”

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.Last-minute tips for seeing April’s total solar eclipse in ErieLast-minute tips for seeing April’s total solar eclipse in Erie

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