5 Big U.S. Cities in the Path of the 2023 Solar Eclipse
As the celestial clock counts down to the 2023 annular solar eclipse, the skies above the United States prepare to show a dance of cosmic beauty. On the fateful day – October 14, 2023 – an awe-inspiring “ring of fire” will emerge as the moon passes before the sun, casting an otherworldly glow across the nation and leaving onlookers breathless in its wake.
This extraordinary event presents a unique opportunity for residents and visitors of some of America’s most vibrant cities to bear witness to the splendor of the cosmos, as they gather together under the same sky, united in their fascination and reverence for the wonders of the universe.
Being in the path of annularity is key; anywhere else, you won’t see the distinctive “ring of fire” – you’ll only see a partial solar eclipse. (While still impressive, it has nothing on annularity!) If you’re uncertain about the differences in eclipses, be sure to learn about the types of solar (and lunar) eclipses first so you have a sense of what you’re seeing..
From the woodsy Eugene, Oregon, to the sun-kissed desert oasis of Albuquerque, New Mexico, here’s a list of the big U.S. cities in the path of the 2023 solar eclipse – plus tips on how to visit each one.
Note: Solar eclipse viewing glasses are required to view the 2023 annular solar eclipse. If you plan to view this eclipse, be sure to get yours now.
In this post, I promote traveling to destinations that are the traditional lands of many different groups of Indigenous peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
2023 Annular Solar Eclipse Details
While I have an entire guide to the 2023 solar eclipse forthcoming, I thought it would be helpful to cover the basics here:
- In the U.S., the annular solar eclipse begins at 9:13 a.m. PDT and ends at 12:03 p.m. CDT.
- The path will go from northwest to southeast across the U.S., from Oregon to Texas.
- The path then continues on across parts of Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Brazil
- As it is an annular solar eclipse, it will look like a “ring of fire,” and you need to wear protective eclipse glasses to view this eclipse.
Nestled in the heart of western Oregon on the slopes of the Cascade mountain range, Eugene was just outside the path of totality in the 2017 solar eclipse that cut across the Beaver State. In 2023 though, this Pacific Northwestern city has its redemption, and is smack dab in the path of annularity.
While Eugene has a small airport, it’s more likely you’ll want to fly into Portland and drive down Interstate 5 (about a two-hour drive). Portland is home to the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI) which is a fantastic experience for fans of these topics; I attended the 2017 eclipse at the OMSI viewing party in Salem (which you’ll drive by on the way to/from Eugene). Aside from the eclipse, Eugene has plenty to offer visitors in a similar vein. There are a few museums of note, including the Eugene Science Center and the Museum of Natural and Cultural History.
If you’re going to watch the eclipse from Eugene, you’ll need a hotel; here’s a list of the hotels that are still available for the weekend of the eclipse in Eugene (October 13-15).
Santa Fe, New Mexico
I had the pleasure to visit Santa Fe for the first time in late 2022 as part of a New Mexico road trip; now I’m contemplating a return trip to watch the annular solar eclipse in October 2023. Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico and has tons to offer visitors in addition to eclipse viewing – I actually have a full guide on my travel blog to help you if you decide to view an eclipse here.
To give you some ideas, I highly recommend taking the The Stargazer train by Sky Railway if you’ll be in Santa Fe a few days before the eclipse (there’s one on October 7th). You can also visit the otherworldly original Meow Wolf location (here’s a YouTube video I made from my experience) and admire art in many varieties at the various museums around town.
Santa Fe too has a small airport, but it makes more sense to fly into Albuquerque and drive up (an hour’s drive). If you decide to watch the eclipse in Santa Fe, here’s a list of available hotels that weekend. (They’re getting pretty pricey, so don’t wait!)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Speaking of Albuquerque, New Mexico’s biggest city is definitely one of the easiest major cities to visit if you want to watch the eclipse this year. While it’s not the capital, it is the second-largest city on this list and has a major airport as well as lots of hotels to choose from – all of this helps keep costs down if you’re last-minute planning a trip to admire the annular eclipse.
While you’re in Albuquerque, there’s plenty to do; I visited Albuquerque for the first time in the summer of 2021 (before watching the Virgin Galactic flight down at Spaceport America), and here are some of the space-related activities I recommend:
- The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History is an essential stop; in addition to sharing a lot of science and technology history, the site is home to several rocket bodies.
- The Meteorite Museum at the University of New Mexico is another essential stop for space enthusiasts.
- If you have a rental car, you can drive out to the VLA (Very Large Array); this wasn’t open during my visit but you can actually tour the facility now – advanced tickets required.
In terms of where to stay, there are still plenty of options for the eclipse weekend (at least as of writing this post) – though they too are getting up there in price.
As the path of annularity cuts a path across the U.S. from northwest to southeast, it crosses the great state of Texas (she says begrudgingly, as an Alaskan… 😉). There are two larger Texas cities in the path of the 2023 annular solar eclipse, the first of which is Midland.
Midland is home to more than 130,000, so it’s certainly big enough to handle an influx of visitors for the eclipse; there is also a small airport here which actually the place to fly into – the nearest larger airport is El Paso, a four-hour drive away.
In Midland, you can also visit the Museum of the Southwest or the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum which is an interesting take on the traditional science museum.
For accommodation your options in Midland are actually quite good right now – there are lots of hotels still available at affordable prices for the eclipse weekend; this is offset by the cost of flying into Midland, so be sure to compare your flight+hotel cost for any city you’re considering for the eclipse.
San Antonio, Texas
Last but certainly not least, San Antonio is the largest and last of the major U.S. cities in the path of the 2023 solar eclipse.
Home to almost 1.5 million people in the greater San Antonio area, you can easily plan a trip to enjoy all the city has to offer – in addition to experiencing annularity. The Riverwalk and a visit to the Alamo are essential, of course, but there is also a popular Zoo, the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA), SeaWorld, and Six Flags. San Antonio is definitely a great spot if you’re planning a family trip for the eclipse.
San Antonio is also home to a major airport, which makes it easier to reach with fewer connections (and thus fewer chances for delays interrupting your travel plans). In terms of hotels, there are literally hundreds of options still available for the eclipse weekend at this point, at a range of price points.
Major International Cities in the Path
When I sat down to write this post, I originally intended to focus only on big U.S. cities in the path of the 2023 solar eclipse – but then I realized there weren’t many, and that there were some bigger and potentially more interesting international cities in the path too. If you’re up for planning an international trip, these are all great options with large airports, lots of activities, and the chance to immerse yourself in a foreign culture:
- Belize City, Belize – The largest city in Belize, this is a great option if you’ve ever wanted to explore the picturesque coasts of this Central American country before or after eclipse viewing.
- Limón, Costa Rica – I’ve actually been to Limón on a cruise that made port here; in addition to admiring annularity, you can visit a sloth sanctuary.
- Cali, Colombia – Known for salsa dancing, Cali is a great option for experiencing Colombian culture.
- Natal, Brazil – Located in the state of Rio Grande do Norte in northeast Brazil, this city is known for its incredible beaches and is the last spot on land where the eclipse can be viewed.
There are, of course, many smaller communities and towns along the path of the eclipse throughout the U.S., Mexico, and Central America. If you want to go off the beaten path, there are options; I used timeanddate.com to look at the whole path and all the options along it.
Have any questions about which big U.S. cities in the path of the 2023 solar eclipse you should visit? Let me know in the comments below!