On April 8, 2024, the moon’s shadow will completely cover the sun for several minutes. The last total solar eclipse to travel across the United States was in 2017, and it won’t happen again for another 20 years. To celebrate, Atlas Obscura is throwing an out-of-this-world eclipse festival near Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas: four days of music, science, art, and wonder.
The path of totality is quite narrow, and the festival site in Arkansas is one of the best places to see the eclipse in its full glory. There are few things we love more than a good road trip, so we’ve put together this series of guides for getting to Hot Springs from other parts of the United States while exploring some fascinating places along the way.
The starting point of the historic U.S. Highway 66, the “Mother Road” that helped define America’s love affair with the road trip, is in Chicago, which makes it feel like a fitting place to begin your drive. Cutting a path through Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas, you’ll have a chance to see a museum dedicated to hats, a reconstructed thousand-year-old solar calendar, and an adoption center for singing fish.
To get to Arkansas from Music City, you’ll be heading west on Interstate 40. But if you’re down for a short detour at the start of the drive, you can go north first and see the Bell Witch Cave, which lies at the heart of a 200-year-old ghost story that inspired The Blair Witch Project. Elsewhere along the route, you’ll find a car built just for Johnny Cash and one of Arkansas’s most acclaimed barbecue joints.
The route from St. Louis to Hot Springs holds quite a few treasures. There’s the farm where you can say hello to the Budweiser Clydesdales, a former mine that has become a deep underground lake, and some of the oldest exposed rock formations in the country.
Heading south from Kansas City, you’ll have a chance to set foot in three different states at once, see a Frank Lloyd Wright house that was picked up and moved from New Jersey to the Ozarks, and even spending an afternoon mining your own quartz crystals, if you so choose.
This one is kind of a doozy—about 1,300 miles, down the mid-Atlantic and then west through the Appalachians—but the journey holds lots of amazing sights, from a Philadelphia cave where America’s first doomsday cult awaited the end of the world to a box that holds Dolly Parton’s final song. There are also natural wonders, including the largest natural land bridge in North America, and human-made ones like the Charlotte Russe, a jam-filled sweet treat that you can find at a 150-year-old bakery in Staten Island.