Lonely Planet Writer

A rural Kentucky town is the epicentre of this year’s total solar eclipse

While people across the US will catch a rare show when this year’s total eclipse occurs, one rural Kentucky town can claim to be at the centre of it all.

Early morning sun highlights a tree in a cut wheat field in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
Early morning sun highlights a tree in a cut wheat field in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Image by Alissa Sanderson/Getty Images

Hopkinsville, Kentucky is a small town of about 33,000 residents, just an hour’s drive from Nashville, Tennessee. During this year’s total solar eclipse, it will be the “point of greatest eclipse”, meaning it’s the spot where the axis of the moon’s shadow passes closes to the earth. Spectators in and near the town will have the best view for the longest period of time. The eclipse will last about two minutes and 40 seconds on Monday, 21 August.

Hopkinsville Community College.
Hopkinsville Community College. Image by Hopkinsville-Christian County Convention and Visitors Bureau

While the actual duration of the eclipse is very short, the town will be marking the occasion with a full weekend of celebrations. There will be events from Friday to Sunday in the lead up to Monday’s event. The town is anticipating 50,000 to 100,000 visitors, with many astronomy enthusiasts flocking there – as well as scientists from NASA and the Chief Observer of the Vatican Observatory, Brother Guy Consolmagno.

A cornfield in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
A cornfield in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Image by Hopkinsville-Christian County Convention and Visitors Bureau

Even if you’re not that enthused by the eclipse, the events that will run through the weekend will appeal to many. There will be live music, family games, line dancing, and even “Eclipse Con”, a Comic-Con-style event. Find out more about what is happening on the official Eclipseville website.

Downtown Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
Downtown Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Image by Brooke Jung

However, if you’re too far from Hopkinsville on the day of the eclipse, you can still get a good view. About 80% of the US population lives within 600 miles of the path of totality. Accommodation around the country has been booking up, and some companies are even getting creative – Royal Caribbean is offering a cruise for eclipse-chasers, while one lucky person can win a flight on an Alaska Airlines charter flight to see the event. Or, try your luck in one of the cities that have the most Airbnbs left during the eclipse, though prices are rising to match the rarity of the event.