Center of the Universe
Texas will soon be the only state to experience two solar eclipses in a six-month period. Here's where to see them both.
By Layne Van Vranken
Come October and next April, the best place to be will be deep in the heart of Texas. That’s where the brightest star of all will be at the center of two celestial phenomenons.
Within a span of six months, Texas will be the only state to witness not one, but two solar eclipses: an annular solar eclipse on Oct. 14, 2023, and—the one many are eagerly awaiting—the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. Whether you’re an astronomy buff or just have a passing interest in celestial events, don’t be left in the dark. Start planning how and where you’re going to witness these eclipses.
“We’re lucky that this is something millions of people in Texas will be right in the pathway of, and all they have to do is walk right outside or travel not very far to see it,” says Katie Kizziar, assistant director for education and outreach at the McDonald Observatory.
Still, there is one place where you’ll want to safely turn your eyes to the sky—the Hill Country. It’s here where within a cross-section of approximately 14,000 square miles you’ll be able to witness the rare back-to-back eclipses. Since many Texas towns and cities in this region are expecting an influx of visitors, you need to plan your itinerary with that in mind.
Read below for what you need to know to make the most out of your out-of-this-world road trip. After all, following the total solar eclipse in 2024, the next total solar eclipse that can be seen from the United States won’t be until 2044, so you won’t want to miss this one.
What are the best places to see the eclipses?
As mentioned above, if you’d like to see both eclipses in a prime viewing area, consider traveling to the Hill Country. “For folks who are wanting that group-viewing experience, we expect a lot of activity on the centerline [of the eclipses], and that’s going to be in places like Fredericksburg, Kerrville, Uvalde, and Bandera,” says Dawn Davies, night sky program manager for Hill Country Alliance.
If you’re unsure where you can find the best spot to catch the longest-running eclipse views, it’s worth checking these eclipse simulators for 2023 and 2024, which list Texas towns with viewing durations lasting between the shortest (just a few seconds) to the longest (around 5 minutes).
Another hot spot for the 2023 eclipse will be San Antonio, which is also going to get a partial view of the 2024 eclipse.
“We welcome 39 million visitors a year, so we have the highways, hotels across the city, and we’ve been preparing for this event for over a year,” says David Gonzalez, vice president of media relations and communications at Visit San Antonio.
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What about going off the beaten path?
Eclipse chasing is a great opportunity to explore areas you’ve never seen before, so venture out to lesser-known towns that will have clear, longer-lasting views of the eclipses.
In fact, the best sights will be in smaller towns. “For the total eclipse, maximum totality is going to be in places like Leakey, Kerrville, Fredericksburg, Lampasas, and Llano,” Davies says. “For the annular eclipse, places like Hondo and Leakey are going to be upwards of four minutes and 55 seconds and four minutes and 59 seconds; even Rocksprings and Bandera are in the four-minutes-and-45-seconds range.”
For October’s annular eclipse, Patricia Moore, executive director of Bandera County Convention and Visitors Bureau, says that many towns will be using the “ring of fire” event to test their readiness for the highly anticipated 2024 eclipse. “It’s truly a dry run for us,” she says.
What about accommodations?
Larger cities like Austin are equipped to handle the extraordinary tourism that an eclipse brings, but smaller towns with fewer places to stay and two-lane roadways are going to be booking out well ahead of time.
The 2024 eclipse is the bigger attraction of the two, so it’s best to plan for that one as soon as possible. “We’re already seeing some hotels book out for that eclipse,” Gonzalez says.
You may also come across accommodations requiring multi-night stays during high-demand events, so keep that in mind.
“As far as lodging, many hotel, motel, and short-term rental properties have started to take reservations [for the 2024 eclipse],” says McKenzie Moellering, communications manager of Fredericksburg Convention & Visitor Bureau. “But many of the local reservation services are requiring four to five-night minimums.”
If you are unable to snag a reservation at a hotel, bed and breakfast, or a short-term rental, this is where you’ll have to get creative and flexible with your plans.
Where should I stay if hotels sell out?
If you’re the outdoorsy type and have the equipment to support it, you can book a spot at a state park or a day pass (up to a month ahead of time) or a campsite (up to five months ahead of time). On the day of the eclipses, parks will not allow entry without pre-purchased passes, so you’ll definitely want to reserve in advance.
Wondering what parks fall in view of the two eclipses? Check out this handy list of state parks and natural areas that will have eclipse viewings, including Garner State Park and Lost Maples State Natural Area.
Should you find your desired state park stay is already sold out, you can also find alternative lodging options at sites like Hipcamp, which allows users to book stays at private campgrounds. The site has compiled listings for the ring of fire eclipse and the total solar eclipse, like this Hill Country Nature Retreat and this Sunset Hill Bell Tent.
When is the best time to go and leave?
You won’t be the only one who is eager to view the eclipse, and that’s something to keep in mind. “I would suggest leaving the day before,” says Julie Davis, president/CEO of Kerrville Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Especially since October’s eclipse is in the morning, you’ll want to be here well ahead of time so you don’t miss anything.”
Indeed, many travelers will be hitting the road to experience the eclipses, so you’ll need to be prepared and pack plenty of patience for the ride. Heavy traffic is to be expected in areas where eclipse views are prominent, so give yourself plenty of extra travel time and consider making your day trip a weekend stay instead, so your travels will be less stressful. If you decide to leave and return the same day, expect heavy traffic.
Feel free to fit in a non-eclipse event during your overnight stays as well, such as the Kerrville River Festival or the Kerrville CHALK Festival, both of which take place the same weekend as the 2023 eclipse.
What’s more, Davies says that viewers can take in the beauty of the stars long after an eclipse is over, specifically the 2024 eclipse. “For astrotourism, one of the messages we’re trying to drive home in communities that have limited access to roads is ‘come for the sun and stay for the stars,’” she says, “because you can’t have a total eclipse without a new moon, and a new moon is a great time to view the night sky.”
What should I pack?
In case of delays, have plenty of fuel, food (more than a power bar and an apple), and water to accommodate longer-than-expected waits. Don’t count on great cellphone reception either if you’re in an eclipse hot spot since cell towers tend to be overwhelmed by an influx of crowds.
You’ll also want to be fully prepared with your certified eclipse glasses as well, which is the most important thing you’ll need to safely view an eclipse. (For more on glasses, see “Eyeing the Eclipse” sidebar.)
What if I don’t want to travel to see the eclipses?
Believe it or not, many towns are featuring a variety of eclipse events to accommodate those who don’t want to hit the road to chase the eclipse epicenter action. Find events through your local convention and visitors bureau’s events calendar, and be mindful that in certain cities you’ll need to be in the right spot to make the most out of your eclipse viewing. You can also check out some local events through the Texas Highways events calendar.
Enjoy the eclipses and don’t forget to look responsibly.
Here’s a roundup of October annular eclipse events. More can be found at texashighways.com/events.
This multiday intimate campout at the Four Sisters Ranch in Utopia will be the place to be for unparalleled, clear views; fun, infectious melodies; and an amazing communal viewing experience.
Solar Eclipse at Six Flags Fiesta Texas
This San Antonio eclipse VIP viewing will feature a chance to experience the venue’s Oktoberfest Food Festival and includes viewing glasses and a souvenir shirt.
Hill Country Arts Foundation’s Stonehenge II
In Ingram, this communal eclipse experience will offer food trucks, hygiene stations, and a beer tent. Finish off the day’s event with live music.
Eclipse Day at the Blakemore Planetarium
Along with a viewing of the eclipse, McDonald Observatory staff will be onsite at the Blakemore Planetarium in Midland to host kid-friendly and family-friendly activities, along with a talk from retired NASA astronaut John Herrington.
Kerrville River Festival
Usually a popular free-of-charge music festival, this year’s Kerrville River Festival will also include the presence of a NASA crew, who will be live broadcasting coverage of the eclipse at the event.