On April 8, the U.S. will experience a rare astronomical event as the moon completely blocks the sun. The last total solar eclipse occurred in 2017, and the next one won’t take place until 2045. This year’s event — known as the “Great American Eclipse” promises to be even better than 2017’s, lasting almost twice as long and passing over some of the country’s more populated regions. One of the best places to view the eclipse — while also enjoying some down-home hospitality — is Plano, Texas, about 20 minutes north of Dallas.

LEARN MORE: Arizona has 6 of the 17 best stargazing destinations in the U.S.

Eclipse Expectations

A total solar eclipse is when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, completely obscuring the view of the sun. April’s eclipse is expected to start in the South Pacific Ocean and pass in a northeastern direction across Mexico to eastern Canada.

All lower 48 states will experience a partial eclipse. But a narrow swath of total darkness will touch 15 lucky states — Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine — plunging them into a night-like darkness for a brief period of time.

Texas is widely considered to be the best state for viewing the total solar eclipse. In fact, Dallas is predicted to be one of the most crowded cities for the event because not only will the area experience the longest duration of totality of anywhere in the U.S. — at 4 minutes, 26 seconds — but also because it has the highest chance of clear skies.  

To enjoy the solar spectacle in a more laid-back atmosphere, head to nearby Plano, which will be smack-dab in the center of the path of totality. According to Visit Plano, the city’s official tourism and destination marketing department, darkness will begin at 12:23 p.m. on Monday, with total blackness happening at 1:43 p.m. The entire event will last for 2 hours and 39 minutes.

Legacy West in Plano, Texas. (Provided photo)

A Party in Plano

Plano will be welcoming stargazers for this once-in-a-lifetime event with a long weekend chock-full of activities, viewing parties and special events. There are two official viewing locations: Windhaven Meadows Park to the northwest and Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve to the northwest. Spend the morning exploring acres of trails, water features and dog-friendly open spaces before settling in for the eclipse.

Many hotels are offering total eclipse packages. The Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West invites guests for a special celebration that will include an exclusive cocktail hour at its rooftop bar on April 7. An astronomer from the Carnegie Institute for Science will be on-hand to discuss the celestial phenomenon. Then, on April 8, there will be viewing party. Safety glasses will be provided.

The AAA Four Diamond Renaissance, which opened just days after the 2017 solar eclipse, is located on Legacy Drive at the intersection of Dallas North Tollway and State Highway 121 — an easy 20-minute Uber ride from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

About a half-mile away, across Legacy Drive and the Tollway, the Dallas/Plano Marriott at Legacy Town Center will be offering a similar cocktail event on April 7, facilitated by the Perot Museum.

Both hotels overlook Legacy West, a sprawling outdoor entertainment/shopping district that boasts high-end retail — think Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Golden Goose — and endless dining options to satisfy just about any craving. Enjoy a full-service meal at Haywire, a two-story steakhouse and whiskey lounge with a rooftop cigar patio showcasing a vintage Airstream turned Instagram-ready bar. Or, sample the globe at Legacy Hall, a spacious three-story artisanal food hall with 20-plus vendors dishing up everything from Indian curries and Mediterranean street food to tacos, pizza, sushi, vegan bites and, of course, Texas barbecue.

Historic Downtown Plano will be throwing a free street party on April 7 from 5-9:30 p.m. This charming arts district is home to a variety of specialty retail businesses, ranging from antiques stores and clothing boutiques to art galleries and even a fun doggie gift shop, along with trendy coffee shops and dozens of independent eateries. During the party, the area will be closed to vehicles, and the streets will be filled with outdoor dining options, live music and entertainment and celestial-themed activities.

And Southfork Ranch — best known as the setting for the hit ’80s TV series “Dallas” — will open its gates and allow visitors to take in the eclipse from its scenic grounds. Garden chairs and viewing glasses will be provided, and guests will have the opportunity to purchase discounted same-day tickets to tour the legendary “Ewing Mansion.”

The eclipse itself may take up only a fraction of the day, but there’s plenty to do and see in Plano. And with the city being only a quick two-hour flight from Phoenix, you can come for the day or make it a weekend getaway.

For more information, go to visitplano.com.