Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Solar Eclipse Part II: Blount County, Tennessee

This summer, a rare thing happens. Parts of the United States will experience its first total solar eclipse in 26 years, and the path of totality travels right across the South. While everyone in the country should be able to see a partial eclipse, only those in the direct path will witness the total blockage of the sun. The path of totality — don’t you love that expression? — will cross parts of Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Missouri.

This is a big deal, folks. The last solar eclipse to cross the continental United States was in 1918 and the next solar eclipse will take place on Aug. 12, 2045. And that next one won’t be as good.

Where’s a good place to watch the total eclipse? This is the second of many blog posts showcasing totality hot spots. Today, we’re looking at Blount County, Tennessee, thanks to
Cades Cove, Townsend
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host an informal event at the historic Cable Mill in Cades Cove. Visitors for the Cades Cove viewing will have the added educational benefit of docents provided by the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. The Institute is holding a four-day science program for local, under-served, inner city high school students who have expressed an interest and aptitude for science. This science-themed leadership program trains the students to be solar eclipse docents—sharing their newly gained knowledge. There is no fee to participate. Vehicle access may be closed when parking becomes full or roads become congested.    
Cades Cove
Chilhowee Inn, Walland
Chilhowee Inn will offer a three-day eclipse special which includes a three-night stay at the Inn, a picnic lunch the day of the eclipse and ISO CE certified eclipse viewing glasses.

Dancing Bear Lodge, Townsend
Guests of the lodge and members of the community are invited to the Total Solar Eclipse Party, a picnic on the lawn at Dancing Bear Lodge, to witness the eclipse. Lunch will be served “food truck style” on the deck from 1-2 p.m. and the lodge will provide blankets, chairs and eclipse glasses to each guest. The event is free. Dancing Bear Lodge Owner Mark Oldham urges visitors to book reservations by visiting them online or calling 800-369-0111 as accommodations are selling quickly.

Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center, Townsend
The Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center is hosting a Solar Eclipse Tour to one of the best viewing areas, Cades Cove. Guests will depart from the Center at 9:30 a.m. and the $30 per person fee covers a box lunch and a pair of solar eclipse viewing glasses. The tour is limited to 46 guests and can be booked by calling 865-448-8838.

Solar eclipse path over Tennessee
Harmony Family Center, Maryville
For those who prefer to stay in town, the city of Maryville, Tenn., will also offer solar eclipse viewing events. One such event is the Harmony Family Center’s Great American Eclipse Viewing Party in the Montvale community. The pool and basketball courts will be open with food and beer trucks and experts speaking on the details of the eclipse. Tickets to the Harmony Family Center event are $25 for adults and $10 for children and include viewing glasses. Gates open at 10:30 a.m. and will the event will end at 3 p.m. Proceeds benefit the Center’s programs.

Look Rock, Walland
One of the best views of the Tennessee mountains is from the observation tower at Look Rock. The concrete tower is high above the trees and mountains with plenty of parking along Foothills Parkway. The trail crosses the road at the end of the parking lot. It’s a short hike up to the observation tower.

Pellissippi State Community College’s “Tailgating in Totality” event, Maryville
Pellissippi State’s Blount County campus is planning a community and college-wide watch party, Tailgating in Totality, from noon to 3 p.m. The free event is touted as “the largest solar eclipse tailgate in the world.”
River Rat Tubing’s “Totally Tuber Solar Eclipse Celebration,” Townsend
River Rat Tubing will host an afternoon shindig, the Totally Tuber Solar Eclipse Celebration starting at the time of the eclipse, around 1:30 p.m. Afterwards, attendees will enjoy live music and family activities at River Rat Tubing’s main building at 205 Wears Valley Road. The $25 fee includes tubing, a glow in the dark t-shirt and a unique view of the eclipse.

Visitors to Blount County for the solar eclipse have the added benefit of another must-see event: The inaugural Great Smoky Mountain Hot Air Balloon Festival. Taking place two days prior to the eclipse, the festival will feature tethered hot air balloon rides, food, craft vendors and children’s activities. The event will take place from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, at the Townsend Visitors Center located at 7906 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway. For more information on the Hot Air Balloon Festival, visit

For more information to understand and prepare for the solar eclipse, visit the NASA website or

Coming up next: Capital City/Lake Murray County in South Carolina and Blue Ridge and Helen, Georgia.

Cheré Coen is a food and travel writer who loves weird and unusual things, and simply cannot wait until the total solar eclipse.

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