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Best Places to See the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse in Illinois

Learn about the best places and alternate locations to see the eclipse in Illinois.

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

Located on these road trip routes:

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

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April 8, 2024
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April 8, 2024

The 2017 Total Solar Eclipse passed over southern Illinois. And now, a few towns are again in the Path of Totality as the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse passes over. Like seven years earlier, it’s a great place for Chicago residents to escape the city for the weekend and experience the eerie wonderment of a total solar eclipse.

Southern Illinois is the northernmost area where you can travel in the Path of Totality without facing a high chance of clouds in early April. Spring weather in this area typically features daytime highs in the upper 60s and overnight lows in the upper 40s. Pack a jacket and jeans for after dark, but you’ll be comfy all day in whatever you wear.

The eclipse cuts across the southern portion of Illinois, but it’s also a rural area. Few towns lie in the Path of Totality. Fortunately, Carbondale and Marion, the two largest towns in the region, are near the centerline.

There are no airports in the Path of Totality, so you’ll need to fly into nearby airports in St. Louis or Nashville. But Amtrak passes through the state with four stations – including one in Carbondale. 

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What is the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse?

A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon moves between the Earth and the Sun, completely blocking the sunlight and casting a shadow on the Earth. As the Earth, Moon, and Sun continue to move, the shadow sweeps across the Earth – called the Path of Totality.

Anyone in the Path of Totality experiences the eerie wonderment of Totality. Totality is the longest on the centerline of the eclipse. And for the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse, it’s the longest in southwest Texas.

The 2024 Total Solar Eclipse is on Monday, April 8. The partial eclipse will last from 12:42 until 3:21 p.m. (CDT). Totality will start between 1:58 and 2:04 p.m. (CDT), lasting up to 4 minutes and 8 seconds.

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How to Safely View a Total Solar Eclipse

The only time it’s safe to look at the Sun during a total solar eclipse is during Totality, when the Moon completely blocks the sunlight. But it’s critical to wear solar eclipse glasses or use solar filters while looking at the partial eclipse before and after Totality. These specially designed glasses and filters comply with the ISO 12312-2 international standard, allowing only 0.0032% of light to pass through.

During the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, the American Astronomical Society found that Amazon was flooded with counterfeit solar eclipse glasses claiming to be compliant. The AAS compiled a list of verified suppliers of safe and compliant solar eclipse glasses to combat the dangerously fake glasses.

All my recommendations for solar eclipse glasses, solar binoculars, and solar telescopes below are made by suppliers verified by the American Astronomical Society.

Here are a few options for certified solar eclipse glasses:

Read More: Solar Eclipse Glasses, Binoculars, and Camera Filters for Safely Viewing a Total Solar Eclipse

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How to Choose a Viewing Location

Photographers, scientists, and avid eclipse chasers will flock to southwest Texas to see the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse. That’s because they are looking for the slightest chance of clouds, the longest duration of totality, and the easiest travel logistics. Their sole purpose for traveling is to view the eclipse. But they will see nothing if it’s cloudy on Eclipse Day.

That’s why I think you should use the eclipse as an excuse to travel and not just travel for the eclipse.

Instead of choosing a place based on the best eclipse conditions, choose an exciting travel destination that gives you something to do over the preceding weekend.

Here’s what I recommend you consider when choosing a viewing location:

  • Travel destination. Does the place you want to visit have things to do, like local shopping, outdoor recreation, and great places to eat? If the destination has a tourism office, you’ll likely find things to do.
  • Historical cloudiness and weather. AccuWeather says places in southwest Texas have the slightest chance of clouds in early April. The further north along the Path of Totality, the greater the chance of clouds. Places northeast of Illinois have the highest chance of clouds.
  • Duration of Totality. The duration is longest along the Centerline in Texas. However, it’s only a minute shorter – and almost 3.5 minutes long – along the Centerline in Maine.
  • Travel logistics. Fortunately, it’s remarkably easy to travel to almost any place in the Path of Totality.

Read More: How to Plan a Trip to See the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse

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Essential Eclipse Articles

Browse these essential eclipse articles to learn more about planning a trip to see the eclipse, solar eclipse glasses and other things to pack, and how to find lodging for the eclipse.

Get ready for the eclipse with details, planning tips, and best places to see the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse.
Read this step-by-step guide on how to plan a trip to see the eclipse.
Read this guide on different types of lodging and how to find something for the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse.
Learn about solar eclipse glasses and other essential things to pack for the total solar eclipse.
Browse an interactive map to find the best places to see the eclipse, airports, and Amtrak stations.
Read the review for the most essential app to have on Eclipse Day.
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Map of the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse

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.

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Best Places to See the Eclipse in Illinois

Only two towns in Illinois make the list of best places to see the eclipse. These towns have tourism, hotels, and a long duration of totality.

Note About Eclipse Times

Times and durations can vary widely. For precise times while choosing a viewing location, use Xavier Jubier’s Interactive Map. On Eclipse Day, use the Solar Eclipse Timer app for precise times based on your location.

This list is in order by Start of Totality.

Carbondale, IL

Partial Eclipse: 12:43 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)
Start of Totality: 1:59:16 p.m. (CDT)
Duration of Totality: 4 minutes 8 seconds

Carbondale has the distinction of being the point where the 2017 and 2024 Total Solar Eclipses cross. Southern Illinois’s “big city” will experience over four minutes of totality in 2024. Spend the weekend before the eclipse exploring the wineries, outdoor adventures, and scenic drives in Jackson County. Then, explore the booming downtown area, where you’ll find local restaurants and shopping. Visit the Southern Illinois Crossroads Eclipse Festival page to learn about weekend events and viewing locations.

Marion, IL

Partial Eclipse: 12:43 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)
Start of Totality: 1:59:44 p.m. (CDT)
Duration of Totality: 4 minutes 7 seconds

Marion is just 15 miles east of Carbondale and experiences over four minutes of totality. Go for a scenic drive in the countryside to local wineries. Explore the local restaurants and shops in the charming downtown area surrounding the clock tower. Visit the Solar Eclipse 2024 page to learn more about viewing locations in Williamson County.

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Alternate Places to See the Eclipse in Illinois

These are additional places in the Path of Totality where you can still experience totality.

Note About Eclipse Times

Times and durations can vary widely. For precise times while choosing a viewing location, use Xavier Jubier’s Interactive Map. On Eclipse Day, use the Solar Eclipse Timer app for precise times based on your location.

This list is in order by Start of Totality.

PlacePartial EclipseStart of TotalityDuration of Totality
Chester, IL12:42 to 3:17 p.m. (CDT)1:58:55 p.m. (CDT)3 minutes 25 seconds
Murphysboro, IL12:42 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)1:59:09 p.m. (CDT)4 minutes 6 seconds
Makanda, IL12:42 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)1:59:10 p.m. (CDT)4 minutes 8 seconds
Ferne Clyffe State Park12:43 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)1:59:32 p.m. (CDT)3 minutes 59 seconds
Metropolis, IL12:42 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)2:00:11 p.m. (CDT)2 minutes 33 seconds
Fort Massac State Park12:42 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)2:00:16 p.m. (CDT)2 minutes 27 seconds
Harrisburg, IL12:44 to 3:19 p.m. (CDT)2:00:27 p.m. (CDT)3 minutes 53 seconds
Mount Vernon, IL12:44 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)2:00:35 p.m. (CDT)3 minutes 45 seconds
Centralia, IL12:44 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)2:00:58 p.m. (CDT)2 minutes 44 seconds
Eldon Hazlet State Park12:44 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)2:01:55 p.m. (CDT)0 minutes 34 seconds
Effingham, IL12:46 to 3:19 p.m. (CDT)2:03:26 p.m. (CDT)0 minutes 49 seconds
Marshall, IL12:47 to 3:21 p.m. (CDT)2:04:04 p.m. (CDT)2 minutes 35 seconds
PlaceEclipse Details
Chester, ILPartial Eclipse: 12:42 to 3:17 p.m. (CDT)
Start of Totality: 1:58:55 p.m. (CDT)
Duration of Totality: 3 minutes 25 seconds
Murphysboro, ILPartial Eclipse: 12:42 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)
Start of Totality: 1:59:09 p.m. (CDT)
Duration of Totality: 4 minutes 6 seconds
Makanda, ILPartial Eclipse: 12:42 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)
Start of Totality: 1:59:10 p.m. (CDT)
Duration of Totality: 4 minutes 8 seconds
Ferne Clyffe State ParkPartial Eclipse: 12:43 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)
Start of Totality: 1:59:32 p.m. (CDT)
Duration of Totality: 3 minutes 59 seconds
Metropolis, ILPartial Eclipse: 12:42 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)
Start of Totality: 2:00:11 p.m. (CDT)
Duration of Totality: 2 minutes 33 seconds
Fort Massac State ParkPartial Eclipse: 12:42 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)
Start of Totality: 2:00:16 p.m. (CDT)
Duration of Totality: 2 minutes 27 seconds
Harrisburg, ILPartial Eclipse: 12:44 to 3:19 p.m. (CDT)
Start of Totality: 2:00:27 p.m. (CDT)
Duration of Totality: 3 minutes 53 seconds
Mount Vernon, ILPartial Eclipse: 12:44 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)
Start of Totality: 2:00:35 p.m. (CDT)
Duration of Totality: 3 minutes 45 seconds
Centralia, ILPartial Eclipse: 12:44 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)
Start of Totality: 2:00:58 p.m. (CDT)
Duration of Totality: 2 minutes 44 seconds
Eldon Hazlet State ParkPartial Eclipse: 12:44 to 3:18 p.m. (CDT)
Start of Totality: 2:01:55 p.m. (CDT)
Duration of Totality: 0 minutes 34 seconds
Effingham, ILPartial Eclipse: 12:46 to 3:19 p.m. (CDT)
Start of Totality: 2:03:26 p.m. (CDT)
Duration of Totality: 0 minutes 49 seconds
Marshall, ILPartial Eclipse: 12:47 to 3:21 p.m. (CDT)
Start of Totality: 2:04:04 p.m. (CDT)
Duration of Totality: 2 minutes 35 seconds
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How to Get to the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse in Illinois

Traveling by train certainly has some advantages. You won’t have to deal with congested traffic on the highways or find parking at the viewing location. You’ll have to wade through the least number of fellow travelers at the stations. And you can enjoy the gorgeous scenery in Viewliner cars.

However, traveling by train does come with a few disadvantages. Amtrak has a notorious reputation for delayed trains – do not plan to travel by train on Monday. There are also far fewer trains scheduled than any other transportation, which means fewer seats. And the cost of traveling by Amtrak is frequently higher than flying or driving.

The 931-mile City of New Orleans route connects New Orleans, Jackson, Memphis, Carbondale, and Chicago. It’s the only route bringing passengers from Louisiana and Mississippi to the eclipse. After reaching Carbondale, the route shares stations with the Illinois Service.

The 308-mile Illinois Service route connects Chicago to Carbondale for a quick and easy trip out of the city. There are four stations along the route in the Path of Totality.

Read More: How to Plan a Trip to See the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse

Traveling into Airports

Flying is a great way to travel for the eclipse because you bypass the congested highways and don’t have to deal with finding parking. It’s a better option than the train because flights are more flexible to sudden increases in air travelers.

There are no airports in Illinois in the Path of Totality. But there are a couple of nearby airports if you want to rent a car to finish your drive to an eclipse destination.

International airports are typically larger than domestic airports because they must have customs and border control facilities for passengers flying between countries. These airports offer the most amenities, carriers, and flights.

St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) is the closest major flight hub about 90 miles northwest of the eclipse’s centerline.

Nashville International Airport (BNA) is about 160 miles southwest of the eclipse’s centerline.

Read More: How to Plan a Trip to See the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse

Traveling by Car

It’s easy to drive to the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse with dozens of interstate highways crisscrossing the Path of Totality. Interstates 10, 40, 70, 80, and 90 cross the nation through the eclipse path, connecting almost every state with viewing destinations.

But since most people traveling for the eclipse will travel by car, it will become increasingly difficult the closer the Eclipse Day. Friday evening and Saturday morning are the best times to drive to your destination before the eclipse, and Tuesday is the best day to drive out.

On Eclipse Day, plan for the driving time to be 2-3 times longer than a typical day. If you plan to spend the night before somewhere outside the Path of Totality, be ready to leave early to account for heavy traffic congestion. You can avoid much of the congestion after the eclipse if you wait about 2-3 hours before leaving your viewing location.

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Things to Pack for Eclipse Day

Neatly folding your clothes into packing cubes and grabbing your travel tech bag is a good start to packing for any trip. But packing for the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse isn’t like packing for a typical weekend getaway. It’s more like going to an outdoor concert that requires safety equipment.

Here are my suggestions for essential safety gear, chairs, power banks, outdoor games, and apps for seeing a total solar eclipse.

There are only 3 essential things to pack for a solar eclipse:

A quasi-essential thing to pack is a good power bank to keep your smartphone charged throughout the day. Some of these power banks have enough capacity to keep multiple devices charged:

  • The Anker PowerCore III is a versatile power bank for Apple and Android phones. What I love most about this power bank is the wireless 10W Qi charger – simply set a compatible phone on top of the power bank, and it’s charging. There is no need to carry a charging cable. But the power bank also has an 18W USB-C and 15W USB-A port for additional charging options.
  • The Anker Magnetic Battery only works with Apple MagSafe iPhones, but Wired
  • wrote an article about adapting MagSafe products for Android phones. This power bank features a wireless MagSafe charger with an integrated stand – perfect for setting the phone upright to see the timer on Eclipse Day.
  • The Anker Prime 20,000 mAh Power Bank is perfect for charging multiple devices on Eclipse Day. The hefty power bank features two 100W USB-C ports and a 65W USB-A port with a max 200W simultaneous charging capacity.

After packing the essentials for comfort, safety, and power, how about packing a few extra things for entertainment? Take one of these outdoor games for hours of fun while watching the partial eclipse slowly inch across the sky:

Finally, consider downloading some or all these apps that will be extremely useful during Eclipse Day:

  • AccuWeather is my favorite app for tracking weather. The app is typically accurate and easy to use and has some great features you might find useful. Download on iOS or Android.
  • If you insist on capturing eclipse photos with your smartphone, get the Camera+ 2 app. It’s one of the best camera apps, with many features and settings for getting the most out of your smartphone camera. Download on iOS or Android.
  • Google Maps will be invaluable for spotting congested highways and finding alternate routes after watching the eclipse. It’s also a great tool to help you find public transportation to and from your viewing location. Download on iOS or Android.

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