Last-Minute Solar Eclipse-Viewing Events
photograph by Jordan Wilms

On Monday afternoon, a total solar eclipse will span the entirety of the United States for the first time in 99 years. The sun will disappear behind the moon, turning daylight into twilight.

The length and time of the eclipse will vary according to your location, but just nine counties in North Carolina — Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Swain, and Transylvania — are in the eclipse’s “path of totality.” This narrow path, about 90 miles wide, will cut across portions of 14 states, and is the only area in North Carolina where viewers can experience the total eclipse. But even if you can’t head west at the last second, a partial eclipse will still be visible everywhere in the state.

Important Reminder: Never look directly at the sun without wearing ISO-approved eclipse-viewing glasses.

More than seven million Americans are expected to travel during this event, and while no one knows precisely how many people will converge on North Carolina communities in the path of totality, law enforcement is already warning of heavy traffic. Their two suggestions? Arrive early and stay late: Allowing for plenty of extra travel time if you head to an eclipse-viewing event, and waiting to leave your event until the crowds thin will help cut down on traffic.

Most ticketed events are sold-out, but don’t panic; you still have plenty of options to choose from that are out of this world. Although not a complete list, here are some free events — within the path of totality and outside of it — to get your last-minute planning started.

The following events are all on August 21.


Events in the path of totality, Western NC:

The Village Green Commons, Cashiers • Two minutes and 23 seconds of totality
Starting at noon, this free community festival will host live music, food trucks, special talks, and special viewing equipment at the gazebo and on the lawn.

Learn more: villagegreencashiersnc.com.

Hall Memorial Park, Andrews • Two minutes and 38 seconds of totality
Andrews is the only place in North Carolina where the very centerline of the eclipse’s path travels over the town. Enjoy food, beer, wine, live music, and more at this free event.

Learn more: andrewsnc.com.

Gorges State Park, Brevard • Two minutes and eight seconds of totality
Gorges State Park is the only state park in North Carolina that will experience eclipse totality. Admission is free, but capacity will be limited to the first 1,800 cars to arrive. The park opens at 5 a.m., and encourages visitors to arrive before 11 a.m. There will be food trucks, live music, demonstrations, hikes, and more.

Learn more: friendsofgorges.org.

Brevard College, Brevard • Two minutes and four seconds of totality
Brevard College will offer a free viewing party on the school’s campus. They will also provide free eclipse viewing glasses. Fields near the athletic complex will be open to the public. Parking will be limited.

Learn more: brevard.edu.

Downtown, Bryson City • One minute and 57 seconds of totality
There will be a variety of open, downtown events, including: A block party with live music at the railroad depot, live music at Riverfront Park, and live music, food trucks at Swain County Event Park.

Learn more: greatsmokies.com.

Darnell Farms, Bryson City • One minute and 57 second of totality
If you can’t find a parking spot downtown, there will be live music, food, vendors, science discussions, and more on the open fields of this farm, open to all visitors.

Learn more on the event’s Facebook page.

Downtown, Franklin • Two minutes and 30 seconds of totality
Attendees will enjoy live music, a kids’ zone with a bouncy house and slides, a NASA livestream, and more. The first 2,000 people to arrive to this free event will receive eclipse-viewing glasses. Most streets will be open to traffic.

Learn more: franklinnc.com.

Kelsey Hutchinson Park, Highlands • Two minutes and 33 seconds of totality
A day-long celebration from with food, drinks, live music, this free eclipse-viewing party will offer T-shirts and eclipse-viewing glasses while supplies last. 10 to 5 p.m.

Learn more: highlandseclipsefest.com.

Stetcoah Valley Center, Robbinsville • Two minutes and 35 seconds of totality
There will be free admission and free eclipse glasses for the first 500 attendees to arrive at this event on the 10-acre campus of the Stecoah Valley Center. An official NASA event, enjoy food and cold drinks for sale, educational activities, and music. Parking is $5. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Learn more: stecoahvalleycenter.com.

Bridge Park, Sylva • One minute and 47 seconds of totality
Live music, kids’ activities, food trucks, and presentations, and more will entertain attendees to this downtown eclipse festival. A shuttle to the site will run from the Jackson County Justice Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Learn more: discoverjacksonnc.com.


Partial eclipse viewing options in Central NC:

Duke Gardens, Durham
Head to Duke Gardens’ family-friendly Solar Eclipse Celebration for hands-on activities, a live-stream of the total eclipse, observation stations, and more from noon until 5 p.m. A limited number of eclipse-viewing glasses will be given away during the event. The event is free, but be prepared to pay for parking.

Learn more: gardens.duke.edu.

Historic Yates Mill County Park, Raleigh
Close to downtown, this park will host a free eclipse-viewing event from 1 to 4 p.m. in its open field. The park will provide eclipse-viewing glasses while supplies last, and no registration is required.

Learn more: wakegov.com.

NC State University, Raleigh
Hosted by the university’s College of Sciences, this free Eclipse Day Celebration in the Brickyard is open to the public, and will include a pinhole camera creation station, screens with live streams of the total eclipse, a mini weather tower on-site and weather balloon launch, entertainment and games, and food and water stations. Free parking is available at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Learn more: sciences.ncsu.edu.

Raven Rock State Park, Lillington
Stop by Raven Rock’s visitor center between 1 and 4 p.m. to explore education stations; bring lawn chairs and blankets to set up behind the visitor center. A limited number of eclipse-viewing glasses will be given away during the event.

Learn more: ncparks.gov.


Partial eclipse viewing options in Eastern NC:

Neuseway Nature Park, Kinston
Watch the eclipse live stream via the NASA station; enjoy kids’ activities and a talk by guest speaker Jason Perry, astronomy professor from Lenoir Community College. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Learn more on the event’s Facebook page.

Airlie Gardens, Wilmington
No need to pre-register for this event; but general admission fees to the garden apply — $9 for adults, $5 for New Hanover County residents and military with identification, and $3 for children ages 4-12. Games and activities are planned throughout the afternoon. 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Learn more: airliegardens.org.

Town Hall, Zebulon
Head to the front lawn of Town Hall starting at 1 p.m. for music, food, and activities. The first 200 attendees will receive free eclipse-viewing glasses.

Learn more on the event’s Facebook page.

This story was published on

Katie Schanze is the assistant editor of Our State.

×