Unless you’ve been on a social media break or you live under a rock, you’ve heard about the total solar eclipse this summer (Aug. 21, 2017). And the bigger news for Nebraska is that the path of this eclipse passes through it.
Why is a total solar eclipse big news?
A solar eclipse is a type of eclipse that occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, and the Moon fully or partially blocks the Sun. When it’s a total solar eclipse, the Moon fully blocks the Sun, and then a shadow is cast on Earth – it’s almost as dark as night.
Edgerton Explorit Center educator, Dan Glomski, explained the significance in Nebraska well (read full text here): “Total solar eclipses are extremely rare events. The last visible from the Grand Island area occurred in the year 1194, and the next won’t be until the year 2744. In fact, there hasn’t been a total solar eclipse witnessed in the continental United States since 1979 and won’t be another until 2024.”
Where To See The Total Eclipse In Nebraska
So, now you want to be somewhere that falls along the path of the total eclipse, don’t you? I’ve been geeking out about this for months, and already booked my hotel room in Grand Island. Should you go there? Should you go somewhere else? Don’t ponder it for too long, lodging is filling up.
Here’s a list of some of the activities I thought sounded the most promising for families.
There’s a weekend of events in Alliance, as they bill it: “Food, Bands, Arts, Games along with educational and fun events to make your visit to Alliance memorable, educational, and fun for the entire family.” What stood out to me were the motocross races that weekend. There’s also the music fest, Toadstock: Party on the Prairie, Aug. 18-22. Carhenge also happens to be one of the viewing places for the eclipse, so there’s that.
The weekend before the eclipse, head to Edgerton Explorit Center, a hands-on science center, to see shows in a portable digital planetarium, high-altitude balloon launches, a night time star party at a local prairie preserve, and more. At The Leadership Center on the day of the eclipse, longtime amateur astronomer and Edgerton Explorit Center educator Dan Glomski will lead be the guide during the viewing.
One of the closest cities to Omaha that’s falls into the path of the total eclipse is Beatrice. The main viewing site is Homestead National Monument of America, and they have the biggest special guest in attendance: Bill Nye! Find Nye there the day of the eclipse. The The PBS animated show, “Ready Jet Go,” will be part of the events Aug. 20 and 21, with all-ages programming, including demonstrations by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory astrophysicist Dr. Amy Mainzer and live music by the Ready Jet Go Band. Around town, find Stock Car Racing on Aug. 18, as well as special screenings of ‘50s horror movies . It also coincides with Village of Adams Community Days. There’s a reason why Beatrice was named by USA Today as one of the top 10 places to view the solar eclipse.
There are four days of activities in Broken Bow leading up to the solar eclipse. There’s a street dance, cowboy church, barrel racing, party at a brewery, outdoor movie, and a ton more. On the day of the event, there is a lot planned at the Scenic Byway Barn, including a presentation called “The Math of It All” by Stephanie McCaslin, PhD.
There will be country music and a life-sized board game in the park, and following the eclipse, the town plans on having a brief fireworks display and a watermelon feed and ice cream social.
There are several events planned in Crawford the weekend of the eclipse, including a Senior Pro Rodeo. You can watch the eclipse from the rodeo grand stand; other viewing options include the Crawford Community Building & Ball Field, the Golf Course Driving Range or Fort Robinson State Park (park entry permit required).
Crete and Wilbur
The Saline Solar Shadow Celebration in Crete and Wilbur includes spectacular viewing points, shopping tours, interactive events, educational presentations, food fair and much more.
Gering and Scottsbluffs
There are three days of pretty unique activities in the Gering-Scottsbluffs region. On Saturday night, go to the summit of Scotts Bluff National Monument where astronomy professors will lead a program with telescopes (there’s also a beer and wine festival in Scottsbluffs that night, if you’re into that sort of thing…I am). The Moon Over the Monument Welcome Event is Sunday at Five Rocks Amphitheater in Gering. On the day of the eclipse, there are three designated viewing venues: Five Rocks Amphitheater in Gering, Legacy of the Plains Museum in Gering and Landers Soccer Fields in Scottsbluff.
There’s free viewing at the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, which sounds like a cool venue for it. The Crane Trust has some amazing activities included with its two-day packages, including kayaking, fat biking and hiking (price includes overnight stay). The city has also partnered with nearby towns for a complete weekend of activities, includingThe partnership is working to create viewing opportunities and educational programs surrounding the eclipse, including Eclipse Extravaganza at the Edgerton Center, a portable planetarium that will travel throughout the state, a nighttime star party, and more.
Hastings is holdings its first ever SolFest from Aug. 18-21, that looks like it’s going to mix art, music, and science.
Kearney will have several viewing sites, including the Arch. Some of the weekend festivities include live music and an astronomer chat.
Our state capitol is on the north end of the totality path. Head to the Saltdogs baseball field, Haymarket Park, for viewing. There is a special noon game that day, which will go into eclipse delay, so fans and players can enjoy the rare phenomenon.
Maxwell Nebraska Heritage Days Annual Celebration coincides with the weekend of the eclipse, so there are activities for families including a parade and demolition derby.
Sitting on the edge of the totality path, North Platte has some great activities for all ages in the works, including historical presentations of Native American and early settlers’ reaction to past eclipses; make and take art workshops; astronomy education for all ages; and area historical and cultural presentations.
Omaha isn’t in the path of the total eclipse, but it’s pretty darn close. Flagship Commons, the food hall at Westroads Mall, will provide sunglasses to visitors and will offer lunch specials.
There are a couple sites to view the total eclipse. In Table Rock, one location includes a farm with a view of the valley and the entrance fee covers lunch. Organizers point out that the farm is neighbors with Amish, so there’s an interesting twist to your viewing.
Details aren’t out yet for Ravenna, but organizers have indicated that festivities will include speakers, concerts, vendors, games, and many more exciting opportunities.
Head to Concordia University for day-of viewing activities, including commentary from the science department during the eclipse.
Activities start Aug. 17 here, with a rodeo that runs through Aug. 20. There’s also a 5K race and parade on Aug. 19. There’s a lot planned actually. There are two dedicated viewing sites: Logan County Fairgrounds or August Wind Golf Course.
Morgan Birdwood Ranch in Sutherland has a couple packages for those looking for an unordinary way to experience the eclipse: From a secluded ranch. The price point is out of my range, but maybe you’d like it.
A lot of activities on the schedule for Aug. 20 and 21, in addition to viewing the eclipse, but the ones that sound fun to me include a prairie tour/trail ride for $35/family, a working cow dog exhibition, sod house tour, and a petting zoo.
More things to know about the solar eclipse
Where did I get this information and where can you find updated details? You’re going to want to go to this site first. Several cities or counties have their own pages, as well.
Before you go: Some of these viewing sites charge a fee, so be sure to make a reservation to be sure you get in on the day of the eclipse. And as noted earlier in this post, hotels are filling up. My first choice destination for the weekend had ZERO hotel rooms left, so don’t procrastinate on booking.
Are you planning on traveling to see the total solar eclipse? Where and why did you pick it?
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