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Where, how, when, and why to watch this phenomenon

If you’re in North America come 10 a.m. PT/2:30 p.m. ET on August 21, you’re going to want to be looking up. When you do, you’ll see the sun begin to darken as the moon moves in front of it in a rare celestial occurrence: a full solar eclipse visible from North America, which hasn’t happened since 1979. The next time a total solar eclipse will be visible on both North American coasts won’t be until 2045. 

Many hotels, campgrounds, and travel outfitters located within the line of totality (where the full solar eclipse will be visible) are offering unique viewing opportunities to make the day even more special. One such place is Hotel Jackson, in Jackson, Wyoming. The property hasn’t just added eclipse programming; it’s brought in an “eclipse concierge,” David Capario, to facilitate all sorts of creative, eclipse-centric activities and educate guests about what to expect and how to prepare for the big day.

Capario has been dreaming up activities surrounding the eclipse for months, so he’s the guy to talk to if you still need plans. A lifelong traveler, Capario grew up in New Jersey and later studied in Russia. He and his wife worked with the Peace Corps in west Africa (where he saw his first solar eclipse), took office jobs in New York City, worked with Doctors Without Borders in the Congo, and traveled extensively in Southeast Asia before settling, most recently, in Jackson. “We wanted to move somewhere pretty,” Capario says.

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His history gives him a unique mindset, and the eclipse programs he’s championing reflect that. “The experiences are divided into two groups,” he explains. “We have some land reserved north of town for guests to go where the path of totality crosses Jackson, and we’ve arranged some excursions with local vendors—personalized boat trips down the river, private horseback riding, and yoga under the eclipsed sun, to name a few.”

But there are ways to see the action even if you’re not a guest of the hotel, Capario says. “There are several areas of Jackson that will be open to the public for the eclipse, as well. Right at the base of Snow King Mountain, for example, there’s a big open area for viewing.”

Your other options are plentiful, too: Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Teton Village (to the soundtrack of Pink Floyd cover band Pinky and the Floyd), a total eclipse sky party at Spring Creek Ranch in conjunction with Wyoming Stargazing, and all of Jackson’s state and public parks, for starters. (See Teton County’s official eclipse website for more event options and public viewing areas.)

No matter where you’re watching the eclipse, it’s important to prepare. First things first: Know what you’re getting into. “The actual eclipse begins at 10:17 a.m.,” says Capario. “It’ll take an hour and 20 minutes to go from not eclipsed to fully eclipsed, and then about the same amount of time to go from fully eclipsed back to not eclipsed. The full eclipse lasts only about two minutes, but the buildup to it is just as important.” 

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You’ll need specialized eclipse glasses (Hotel Jackson is providing those for guests, but you can also find them at sporting goods stores or on Amazon), an eclipse filter for your camera (it works on telescopes and binoculars too), sunscreen, and water—pretty much anything you’d bring on a mountain hike, plus a few extra eclipse-specific items (remember, you’ll be at mountain elevations).

Ultimately, the way you see the eclipse doesn’t really matter. Whether you’re on a fancy excursion or posted up in the middle of the forest on your own, the phenomenon is a rare moment to slow down and appreciate nature. “There are few things in this world that are so awe inspiring,” says Capario. “Use this as a chance to make it about you, and use nature as your guiding force.”

Rooms at Hotel Jackson are from $699/night starting August 17.

>>Next: A Great Off-the-Radar Place to Watch the 2017 Solar Eclipse