8 exciting destinations to experience October’s ‘Great American Eclipse’

Solar eclipses are such special events that umbraphiles travel the world to experience them. This October 14, they’ll gather across the United States and parts of South and Central America for what has been dubbed ‘The Great American Eclipse.’ 

An eclipse happens when the moon passes in front of the sun and casts a shadow on the Earth, the umbra. The width of this shadow is very small, between only 100 and 160 kilometres wide, and has the effect of plunging the area into near total darkness for about six to seven minutes.

Because the moon is too far away from the Earth to completely block the sun this October observers will instead see a ring of fire around the moon making it an annular eclipse instead of a total eclipse.

Even though solar eclipses occur somewhere on Earth on average every 18 months, large portions are often only visible at sea or remote parts of the planet and it can be anywhere from 360 to 410 years before they return to the same spot which is why eclipse chasers are so excited by this year’s event.

If you’re considering travelling to experience this spectacular astronomical happening, here are some destinations to consider seeing it. Just hope it’s not a cloudy day when you are there!

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio, TexasWhile the eclipse’s path of totality travels from the northwestern United States in an arcing line towards the southwest, it doesn’t pass through that many large cities. One it does touch is San Antonio, a fun and diverse destination that features such attractions as the historic Alamo, its beautiful River Walk along the San Antonio River and an exemplary culinary scene where you can fill up on delicious Tex-Mex dishes. And if you miss this year’s eclipse, amazingly, the city will be in the path of a total solar eclipse less than a year later on April 8, 2024.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque, New MexicoAnother major city to consider witnessing this year’s event is Albuquerque. It also bills itself as the hot air ballooning capital of the world and this year’s Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta also happens to take place during the eclipse. Even if you’re too late to book a flight in a balloon that day, it would still be an amazing sight to see the sky filled with balloons with a ring of fire in the background! As an added bonus, Albuquerque is a pretty cool place to visit even when eclipses aren’t happening.

Eugene, Oregon

Eugene, OregonFor Canadians in the western part of the country looking for an accessible destination to observe the eclipse, the beautiful city of Eugene fits the bill perfectly. Afterwards, you can enjoy walks along the scenic Willamette River or drive to the stunning Oregon coast for some time on the beach. It’s also a haven for the arts so check out its many museums, galleries and abundant street art and don’t forget the many live theatre options available. Oh, yes, it’s also a famous spot for craft beer thanks to the hops that grow abundantly in the region.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National ParkWind, water and snow have carved out a fantasy land of red rock hoodoos, natural stone bridges and rainbow-hued cliffs in Bryce Canyon National Park that are a photographer’s dream. As the sun rises and sets, the changing light creates a symphony of colour and shadow on the rock formations which will be particularly amazing on the day of the eclipse which will pass over this incredible landscape. 

Roswell, New Mexico

Roswell, New MexicoRoswell is famous for being the site of a supposed UFO crash in 1947 and the town has embraced its alien legacy making it a fitting place to observe October’s amazing astronomical event. While you are there, check out the International UFO Museum and Research Center to learn more about the Roswell Incident and other UFO phenomena. Roswell’s main street really leans into the town’s extraterrestrial obsession so you can pose with alien statues, murals and street lamps, or visit one of the many alien-themed shops, restaurants and attractions. 

Campeche, Mexico

Calakmul pyramid, MexicoIn Mexico’s Yucatan state, sits the beautiful coastal city of Campeche which still retains the walls and fortifications that were built to protect it from pirate attacks. A great place to observe the eclipse would be nearby Calakmul, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once the capital of a powerful Maya kingdom. It has two gigantic pyramids that rise above the jungle canopy, offering stunning views of the surrounding biosphere reserve. The Mayans were obsessed with calendars and time, making this an ideal place to see such an event.

Cali, Colombia

Cali, ColombiaSavvy travellers are discovering the incredible destination of Colombia. This South American nation offers a vast diversity of gorgeous landscapes and vibrant cities to explore. One of those cities is Cali, which also claims the title of salsa capital of the world. After you watch the eclipse, you can can learn to salsa, discover its rich historical district or sample some of the fantastic cuisine that can be had there. The people of Cali are known for their warmth and hospitality so you can be sure that the eclipse will be an occasion for a big party.

WARNING:  It is never safe to look directly at an eclipse without proper eye protection. Follow these instructions from NASA on how to do it safely and be aware that the precautions for an annular and a total eclipse are different.

Blue Jays spring-training home of Dunedin, Florida ready to welcome Canadian visitors again

Dunedin TD Ballpark Florida baseball

If you’re a Toronto Blue Jays fan, you won’t be able to see them play any home games until the COVID situation in Ontario improves, but you might be able to catch a game if you can get to Florida.

The Major League Baseball team has been playing its home games in its spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida since opening day and the original plan was that would last until May 21 which would amount to 22 games, or 27 per cent of the home schedule.

The way things are going in Canada’s largest province with the pandemic, it’s probably a good bet that their stay there will be extended, although there is talk of playing some games in Buffalo, New York, if necessary. At least it would be closer to home, but I’d imagine fans (and probably players) would rather see their team play in the Sunshine State if they had the chance.

A delegation from Visit Florida met with media and travel advisors last week to pitch the attractions of Dunedin which has been the springtime home to the Jays for the past 44 years when they play at TD Ballpark,  which has been newly renovated as a state-of-the-art player development facility.

More akin to a minor-league ballpark, the intimate stadium is a great place to catch a game, especially during February and March when the Jays would normally be playing Cactus League pre-season baseball.

Located on the state’s west coast near Clearwater, Dunedin has more to offer visitors than just baseball, including the thing that all sun-starved Canadians crave during the cold months and that’s ready access to an abundance of beautiful beaches.

Among the beaches nearby include St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island Beach and Clearwater Beach, which frequently top lists as the best beaches in the United States. If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, the Visit Florida Beach Finder Tool will help you find a beach to suit your tastes. The state has 1,327 kilometers of beaches so you’re bound to find something.

There’s a Dunedin in Scotland and this cit,y with its quaint downtown filled with antique shops, art galleries and inviting restaurants, shares the name because it was founded in 1899 by a pair of Scotsman. Those Scottish roots remain strong.

“We are one of the only cities in our state that has bagpiping as a part of the school band for middle school and our high school and we also have an adult city band that on any given day you can see a bagpiper on the pier and our marina,” said Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski. “We also host a one of the largest Highland Games and Celtic festivals.”

Bujalski said Dunedin’s downtown is one of its great strengths.

“Most of the things that are going on in downtown are restaurants and retail and they’re all independently owned, so you’re not going to find these places anywhere else except in Dunedin and we’re very, very proud of that. So in other words, no chains, and we guarantee that you’re going to get to know the name of your local bartender or waitress or even owner of a restaurant,” she said.

“We are really known for our breweries as well we have eight breweries in our city and we partner with visit St. Pete/ Clearwater on brewery tours,” said Bujalski, adding that the city is proud that is home to the state’s oldest microbrewery, Dunedin Brewery.

And, of course, because it’s by the sea, Dunedin boasts a wonderful marina where you’re going to find great seafood, fishing and dolphin-watching charters and the ferry that will take you to Clearwater Beach.

The mayor added that the city is also known for the arts, so you’ll find galleries, mural tours, a history museum, historical walking tours and even the state’s largest arts-teaching facility.

“Interestingly enough, we have all of this and we’re only 38,000 people that live here, and we’re only 10 square miles, so we are packed full. And then, almost every weekend you’re going to find a festival,” she said.

“But of course, along with our beaches, we have baseball, and we couldn’t be more proud to be the original home for the Toronto Blue Jays’ spring training. We just love them. We have been so thrilled to have been able to sign a deal to have them here for another 25 years,” concluded Bujalski. “We’re really proud and want to welcome you back and hope that we get to see you soon.”

Flags of the World Quiz #11: Know your United States

The United States is made up of 50 states and each has its own flag. Many of them are easy to identify simply because the state’s name is written upon them, either on a coat of arms or in some other inscription.

How familiar are you with the other flags that aren’t so easily identifiable? Here are 10 state flags for you to identify. Can you get all 10?

Welcome to your Flags of the World Quiz #11

Which flag is this?

Which flag is this?

Which flag is this?

Which flag is this?

Which flag is this?

Which flag is this?

Which flag is this?

Which flag is this?

Which flag is this?

Which flag is this?

Flagstaff to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing

It’s hard to believe that this year will mark the 50th anniversary of man’s first walk on the Moon. It’s harder to believe that I still remember when it happened, even though I was a small boy at the time.

I remember my Dad making me watch the grainy image on our black and white TV of Neil Armstrong stepping off the Eagle on to the Moon’s surface and telling me that I should remember this day because it was very historic. It must have stuck, because I still do.

I was reminded of that time by a press release that rolled through my inbox from Flagstaff, Arizona. The desert town played a role in that great Apollo exploration in a variety of ways and they are celebrating it with 18 months of events.

When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon on July 20, 1969, followed by 11 astronauts over the next three years, it was made possible through years of preparation in northern Arizona, including astronaut science training, instrument development and lunar mapping.

According to the press release, Flagstaff’s lunar milestones include the following:

  • Every one of the 12 astronauts who walked on the Moon, from Neil Armstrong to Gene Cernan, prepared for their journeys in northern Arizona.
  • Artists worked with scientists at Lowell Observatory to create detailed lunar topographic maps, while cartographers at the USGS Flagstaff Science Campus developed geological maps of the Moon.
  • USGS Flagstaff Science Campus scientists taught astronauts geological principles and techniques at Meteor Crater, the Grand Canyon, Sunset Crater, and the cinder fields that blanket northern Arizona.
  • Astronauts studied the Moon through telescopes at Lowell Observatory, Northern Arizona University, and the US Naval Observatory. In addition, the Museum of Northern Arizona supplied office space.
  • Using explosives, scientists created a simulated lunar surface in the cinder field near Sunset Crater, complete with a network of craters modeled after authentic Moon craters for training astronauts and testing several lunar rover vehicle simulators (moon buggies) in the surrounding volcanic features.
  • For decades Flagstaff has and continues to be an epicenter for space science studies.

I visited Flagstaff years ago with my wife on a Babymoon in a time before the word was even coined. We were on a Route 66 pilgrimage and we spent some time in Flagstaff and were charmed by the scenic town. It’s actually the world’s first International Dark Sky City and is home to Lowell Observatory where Pluto was discovered. We visited the observatory and found it an interesting stop.

As a weird aside, our son who my wife was carrying at the time, was fascinated with Pluto as a child so I don’t know what kind of cosmic coincidence that is.

Lift-off event for Flagstaff’s celebrations launches July 20, 2018 in downtown Flagstaff at the Orpheum Theater and events to mark the occasion will continue through 2019, including exhibits, lectures, book signings, demonstrations, lunar photography, guided hikes, entertainment, and restaurants and bars offering moon-themed dishes and drinks. You can find a calendar of events at www.flagstaffarizona.org/lunarlegacy.