days
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until the total solar eclipse.

Guide to Atlas Obscura’s Ecliptic Festival in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Everything you need to know about the Ecliptic Festival and why it might be the best place to see the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse.

By Jason Barnette | Travel writer and photographer with 15+ years of road tripping experience

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Affiliate Disclosure here.

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The 2024 Total Solar Eclipse is the most spectacular natural event of the year – and Atlas Obscura’s Ecliptic Festival is one of the best places to experience it. The festival is a 4-day intriguing mix of science seminars, music festival, and day at the public park. But it’s also limited to 4,000 attendees, so you must buy your ticket fast.

The festival is held at a municipal park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Weather in early April in Hot Springs is typically mild, with a good chance for clear skies.

Read this guide to learn more about Atlas Obscura, the Ecliptic Festival, and see some tips on planning and packing for this event.

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What is Atlas Obscura?

In 2009, author Joshua Foer and documentary filmmaker Dylan Thuras launched the Atlas Obscura website. The website is a compendium of obscure, intriguing places typically not found in guidebooks.

Since its founding, one of the core objectives of Atlas Obscura has been to create a real-world community of engaged explorers who do more than just add obscure places to a bucket list. Atlas Obscura hosts trips around the world and experiences led by local guides.

In 2016, Foer, Thuras, and Ella Morton published Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. Now in its second edition, the 480-page book features some of the most obscure and interesting places to visit around the world. In 2021, Thuras and Cecily Wong published Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide.

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What is the Ecliptic Festival?

Atlas Obscura’s Ecliptic Festival is a 4-day celebration featuring guest speakers, musical performances, and celestial events from April 5 until April 8, 2024.

Read More | Travel Guide to the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse in the U.S.

The folks at Atlas Obscura partnered with Valley of the Vapors organizers, an annual independent musical festival in Hot Springs. “We’re bringing the Atlas Obscura approach to the festival,” Megan Roberts, Vice President of Experiential, explained. “What we’re trying to do with the programming and the music and the art is to elevate the eclipse experience.”

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International musicians perform in between seminars on eclipse mythology, astronomy, and folklore. Guest speakers include best-selling authors, scientists, and Atlas Obscura’s founders.

The festival is held at Cedar Glades Park, a small municipal park about 10 minutes from downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas. The festival will have food, restrooms, and water available throughout the weekend.

The park’s amenities will be open during the festival, including:

  • An 18-hole disc golf course
  • 10 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails
  • A 3-story treehouse for children
  • Two playgrounds
  • A climbing wall

A primitive campground will be built exclusively for the festival – camping is typically not allowed at the park. Overnight guests can bring their own tent, park an RV, or indulge in a luxury canvas tent.

Read More | 9 Best Places to See the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse in Arkansas

Roberts added, “Ecliptic is 100% family friendly. We have made it available to a wide range of audiences that are thrown together by this shared excitement for the eclipse.”

General admission to the festival ranges from $70-$385 for single-day or full weekend passes. Children aged 10 and under are admitted for free. The festival is limited to 4,000 attendees to keep it an intimate experience. Visit the Ecliptic Festival website to buy an admission pass.

  • Partial Eclipse | 12:31 to 3:10 p.m. (CDT)
  • Start of Totality | 1:49:29 p.m. (CDT)
  • Duration of Totality | 3 minutes 37 seconds
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How to use this map | Click the icon in the top-left corner to open the Map Legend, then click on any of the legend items to display more information. If you have a Google account, click the (very faint) star at the end of the map’s name to save this map to your account, then access the map from your smartphone during your trip.

How to Get There

Atlas Obscura’s Ecliptic Festival is held at Cedar Glades Park, a municipal park 3.5 miles from downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas. It takes about 10 minutes to drive the scenic route across the small mountain range to the park.

Hot Springs is a somewhat remote destination – it’s easy to drive there, but flying or riding a train is challenging.

Pro Travel Tip | The festival’s campground is primitive, with no showers or supplies other than potable water. I strongly recommend driving to the festival – either your car or a rental.

Bill & Hillary Clinton National Airport (LIT) and Amtrak’s Union Station are an hour away in Little Rock, so a car rental from the airport is required to finish the journey into Hot Springs.

Driving is easier with Interstate 30, which is about twenty miles away. I-30 connects Little Rock and I-40 to Texarkana and I-49.

One of the perks of staying at the festival’s campground is free parking. Other attendees must pay for parking – $35 per day or $100 for a 4-day pass. The fee includes parking and a roundtrip shuttle. Visit the Ecliptic Festival website to buy a parking pass.

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About the Musical Artists

Atlas Obscura’s Ecliptic Festival is partnered with the Valley of the Vapors, an annual independent musical festival. The music festival typically features over 100 artists, but there will be fewer in 2024 because of the partnership with Atlas Obscura.

See the complete lineup of musical artists for links to their Instagram and Spotify accounts.

The music begins early on Friday with five performances. Over a dozen artists perform between guest speakers and seminars about the eclipse on Saturday and Sunday. Monday culminates with a string of musical performances leading up to totality at 1:49:29 p.m. (CDT).

Attendees should bring their own chairs to enjoy the music from a temporary soundstage in a large meadow. The Coleman Camping Chair is a classic foldable quad chair that’s easy to pack and inexpensive. The Helinox Ultralight Camping Chair is a fantastic upgrade with a lightweight, packable chair that’s easy to carry throughout the day.

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Special Guest Speakers

Departing from the typical music festival, the most interesting thing about Atlas Obscura’s Ecliptic Festival is the impressive lineup of guest speakers. The festival is about a 1:2 ratio of guest speakers to music, allowing attendees to learn about the science of eclipses and enjoy music.

The guest speakers will lead seminars about the mythology of eclipses, the folklore of the celestial event, and the science behind the spectacular experience of totality.

The lineup of guest speakers includes Adam Savage, astrobiologist Dr. Graham Lau, storyteller Dr. Kelly Reidy, and rocket scientist Summer Ash. Atlas Obscura founders Dylan Thuras and Joshua Foer will also speak at the Ecliptic Festival.

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Feature Film Screenings

Another interesting feature of Atlas Obscura’s Ecliptic Festival is a series of feature film screenings. The films are an interesting choice to celebrate the total solar eclipse.

On Friday night, A Trip to the Moon will likely introduce a fresh audience to their first screening of the 1902 French silent film. Directed by George Méliès, the film is about a group of astronomers who travel to the moon. Although the special effects will appear silly by today’s standards, they were revolutionary at the time – it was the 1900s version of Jurassic Park.

On Saturday night, The Arrival is an art house film produced by the Unarius Academy of Science. It’s a curious film about supernatural events revolving around UFO encounters.

On Sunday night, audiences will be introduced to Fantastic Planet. The 1973 French animated film directed by René Laloux is about abducted humans living on the planet Ygam among gigantic blue humanoid Traags.

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Experiencing the Eclipse

The Ecliptic Festival’s schedule is filled with musical performances and guest speakers. But everything over the weekend leads up to the big show on Monday: the total solar eclipse.

Cedar Glades Park features a large meadow where the festival’s main stage is located. It’s an excellent place to experience totality – especially if you’ve already set up comfortable chairs for enjoying the live music.

The festival’s attendance is limited to 4,000. This ensures an intimate totality experience instead of a chaotic zoo. The park is large enough for people to spread out instead of sitting shoulder-to-shoulder.

One of the best places to experience the eclipse is one of the hiking trails in the park. Guests can head out on one of the trails to a private location to experience totality.

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Camping & Glamping at the Ecliptic Festival

What’s a music festival without primitive camping? But this isn’t just any primitive camping – it’s Atlas Obscura’s approach to camping.

Attendees can BYOT – bring your own tent – with small primitive sites in Cedar Glades Park. You can also park an RV, but without concrete or paved pads, I would not recommend bringing anything with slide-outs.

The peak of the camping experience is glamping in luxury canvas tents provided by the Shelter Co. These circular tents are furnished with 1, 2, or 4 beds, luxury Egyptian cotton sheets, down comforters, bedside tables, and lounge chairs. The standing height of the tent makes it easier to spend the night camping.

National Park Week 2024

Learn about the annual celebration of the National Park System and read my travel guides to national park units across the country.

Although no hookups exist in the campground, it’s not entirely primitive. Shower trailers and restrooms will be parked near the campground. Potable water will be supplied. Although a phone charging station will be provided, I recommend bringing a solar generator like the Goal Zero Yeti Power Station or a large power bank like the Anker Portable Power Station to keep your devices charged throughout the weekend.

There are two perks to spending the weekend camping on the festival grounds.

Overnight guests in the campground get a complimentary parking pass. But the greatest perk happens after dark – stargazing. B&H Photo will bring high-end telescopes and lead stargazing parties observing the night sky.

Campsites begin at $85 per night for bringing your own tent, $850 for an RV over the weekend, and $1,450 for a luxury canvas tent. Visit the Ecliptic Festival website to book a campsite.

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Other Places to Stay

If you’re not a fan of camping – even in a luxury canvas tent – there are plenty of other options in Hot Springs. But, hotel prices will be significantly higher because of the one-time event. You’ll likely pay about 600% of the average nightly rate for the weekend.

Here are a few hotels where you can stay while attending Atlas Obscura’s Ecliptic Festival.

Read More | How to Find Affordable and Available Lodging for the Total Solar Eclipse 2024

The Waters is a luxury boutique hotel owned by Hilton. Spacious rooms with balconies and an on-site restaurant and bar create a comfortable atmosphere for spending the weekend. Book now with Booking.com or Expedia.com

Embassy Suites is an excellent place for families to stay within walking distance of downtown attractions and restaurants. The hotel features an indoor swimming pool and rooms with sleeper sofas. Book now with Booking.com or Expedia.com

The Hotel Hot Springs is conveniently located in the middle of downtown. The hotel features free parking, an on-site restaurant, and spacious rooms. Book now with Booking.com or Expedia.com

The Holiday Inn Express is five minutes from downtown Hot Springs and 15 minutes from the Ecliptic Festival. The hotel features an indoor swimming pool and rooms with a sleeper sofa for families. Book now with Booking.com or Expedia.com

TownePlace Suites is the best place in Hot Springs for families to stay. Each room includes a small kitchen with a full-size fridge, allowing guests to prepare some meals in the room and save money. The hotel features an outdoor swimming pool and gas grills. Book now with Booking.com or Expedia.com

The Best Western is an inexpensive small hotel across the road from the Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. The hotel features an outdoor swimming pool and spacious rooms. A family suite includes two double beds and a sleeper sofa that comfortably sleeps a family of 4. Book now with Booking.com or Expedia.com

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Things to Know Before You Go

Atlas Obscura’s Ecliptic Festival and the total solar eclipse are two of the biggest events to happen in 2024. There are a lot of things to plan and pack before hitting the road to Hot Springs.

Here are some things you need to know before going to the festival.

  • Commemorative eclipse glasses are included with admission, but I recommend you bring a pair as a backup
  • The festival events end on April 8, but camping continues until April 9
  • No refunds are offered in case of cloudy weather on the day of the eclipse
  • A parking fee is required for all drivers, but you can avoid the fee if you take a rideshare to the festival
  • This is a family-friendly festival
  • Bring chairs or blankets to enjoy the music and totality

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