Mar 14, 2024 - Things to Do

Southern Illinois is a hotspot for solar eclipse tourism

<span style="display: block;text-align: center;">Path of the April 8, 2024 eclipse</span>
Data: NASA; Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

State officials want stargazers to make Illinois their destination for the April 8 solar eclipse.

Why it matters: "Astro tourism" is the top travel trend this year, per Condé Nast Traveler, and it's expected to draw up to 269,000 estimated visitors to the state next month.

Flashback: Our last solar eclipse, in 2017, brought in more than $15 million in tourism revenue, the state's tourism head Daniel Thomas said at a recent press conference.

State of play: Illinois officials are jumping at the opportunity to cash in on eclipse mania, creating a tourism campaign and a lineup of events. They're also highlighting prime viewing locations along the path of totality, when the moon will completely obstruct direct sunlight and unveil the sun's outer atmosphere.

  • Local business owners are seeking to capitalize on the demand. Searches for Airbnb rentals are surging, and listings in Carbondale — home to Southern Illinois University and along the path — go for up to $2,700 a night for stays the weekend before and during the eclipse.
  • Thomas said hotel rooms and campsites are still available and that the eclipse can be viewed from more than 30 state parks.

How it works: The complete solar eclipse will unfold over about three hours, with the moon starting to cover the sun at 12:43pm CT and moving to complete obstruction by 1:59pm, according to Southern Illinois University.

  • The total eclipse will last 4 minutes and 9 seconds, twice as long as the 2017 eclipse.
people on a grandstand
Spectators take in the 2017 solar eclipse. Photo: Courtesy of Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Zoom in: SIU is calling Carbondale the "Eclipse Crossroads of America" and celebrating with a four-day festival, complete with astronomy talks, music performances, "celestial connection through rhythm and dance" and, of course, a viewing from the stadium.

  • Can't make it to southern Illinois? NASA TV will have telescope feeds from the campus.

What's ahead: The next solar eclipse won't happen for 20 years.


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