CLEVELAND—Four minutes. On April 8, 2024, that’s how long the sun is going to be completely blocked by the moon if you happen to be in the right place along the narrow path of totality. If you are looking for the best place to travel for this incredible natural event, look no further than Cleveland, Ohio.
If you’ve never seen an eclipse before, you will be surprised just how dark it gets. Not merely the dimness of an overcast sky or storm clouds; we’re talking like nightfall just after sunset. It’s so convincing for the natural world that birds take to their nests and insects start making their night music.
Even for total eclipses, four minutes is a pretty long time, and the folks in Cleveland are putting on one heck of an event for it. You might hesitate to travel somewhere for four minutes, but how about for a long weekend with abundant eclipse-related content and the setting of a Great Lake City already worth a visit by itself?
Total Eclipse Fest
Beginning on Saturday, April 6, 2024, the Great Lakes Science Center (GLSC) is hosting three days of abundant family-friendly activities in a safe and educational place to enjoy the eclipse. Situated along the shore of Lake Erie, right between the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Browns Stadium, the GLSC is already a must-visit for its excellent collection of interactive exhibits that pique the curiosity and fascination of both children and adults. Not only that, Cleveland is also home to NASA’s Glenn Research Center, out near the airport, and the visitor center for that facility is located right inside the GLSC.
“NASA will be here. People from all of their research centers across the country will descend on northeast Ohio to work with us and our public,” said Scott Vollmer, vice president of education and exhibits at the GLSC. The entire front lawn of the GLSC will be taken over by NASA exhibits, and NASA TV will be broadcasting live onsite.
The Total Eclipse Fest offers a 25-acre viewing area, including the lakeside Voinovich Park and North Coast Harbor area (which hosted the NFL draft in 2021), which, along with exhibitor tents, will also host food vendors and feature a Sunday performance by the world-famous Cleveland Orchestra with space-related musical selections.
The science center and Destination Cleveland have been planning this event for more than a year. “We’ve looked at model after model of weather and I can tell you that on Lake Erie at North Coast Harbor if there are clouds over the city, you are less likely to have clouds over the lake. So this is a prime meteorological viewing area,” Vollmer said.
Not the Only Show in Town
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History also has eclipse fever. Already a destination for anyone interested in science, with fascinating exhibits featuring everything from dinosaur fossils to moon rocks, the museum and its planetarium have a full schedule of events.
On Thursday evening, April 4, the museum will bring back its popular event series called Think & Drink with the Extinct (for the 21 and older crowd), when attendees can watch special shows in the planetarium, see the newly opened Visitor Hall, and mingle with scientists, all while enjoying space-themed food and adult beverages. On Saturday and Sunday, the museum has kid-friendly events, and on Monday, there’s a large-scale viewing party in Wade Oval, the green space across the street
A new presentation, “Meeting Totality,” runs from January through April 8 in the planetarium, which is included in museum admission. “That will be a deep dive, really going in depth, talking about the phenomenon, the whole experience of totality, [including] a little bit of history, mythology, and talking about how these events have been viewed over thousands of years, and leading into today and predicting these events with great accuracy,” said Nick Anderson, one of the museum astronomers who leads the planetarium shows. “The total eclipse has been used to make some monumental scientific discoveries.”
All organizations involved are emphasizing safe viewing, and proper eyewear will be available. Viewers should be sure that any glasses or filters meet the ISO 12312-2 standards to prevent eye damage. Reports of counterfeits during the 2017 eclipse compelled the American Astronomical Society to issue a warning and recommendations for assuring quality.
The Main Event
The eclipse will start at 1:59 p.m. and last 2 1/2 hours, from the moon’s first contact with the edge of the sun to its last, with totality beginning at about 3:13 and lasting 3 minutes and 50 seconds, during which time one can actually look at it without the use of protective eyewear. Don’t miss this. It is the last total solar eclipse visible in the contiguous United States until Aug. 23, 2044. Next chance for Cleveland? 2444.
If You Go
Event organizers are confident that weather will cooperate, but if Mother Nature lets us down, the abundant free science-related events, orchestra concert, and a long weekend in Cleveland make a pretty good consolation (er, “constellation?”) prize. Along with the Museum of Natural History, along University Circle, you can find the prestigious Cleveland Art Museum. With free admission (except for the rotating special exhibits), you can see an incredible collection of works across history, from ancient Greece and Asia to familiar artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, and Caravaggio.
Along the lakeside, the GLSC maintains the William G. Mather, a Great Lakes steam freighter open for exploring, and of course, there’s the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, a must for music fans. And a short walk east gets you to the International Women’s Air & Space Museum.
Stay for the Eats
The West Side Market is a collection of more than 100 vendors offering lunch items, gourmet foods, fresh baked goods all in a handsome 1912 market building in Ohio City, once its own town but now assimilated into Cleveland. Susan Chapo of Relish Cleveland guides food walking tours here and through the neighborhood, offering some great historical perspective on Cleveland’s melting pot of cultures.
Nearby is a goldmine of craft breweries all within a short walk of each other, including Ohio’s oldest craft brewer, the award-winning Great Lakes Brewing Company, which occupies a collection of historical buildings a block from the market.
Prosperity Social Club is a good retro tavern with a dining space that serves pierogi along with a few other similar ethnic specialties, such as potato pancakes and cabbage rolls. You probably should not leave town without trying a Polish Boy, the sausage sandwich of the city, best had at Whitmore’s BBQ.
Finally, for an elevated culinary take on “Midwest nice,” make reservations at Cordelia—or maybe sit at the counter for a kitchen view—and slow-dine your way through their tasting menu. Come hungry.
Shows and Sports
In the United States, Cleveland’s theater district, Playhouse Square, is second in size only to New York City’s.
The NCAA Women’s Basketball Final will be played in Cleveland on April 7, and the Cleveland Guardians have their home opener on Monday, April 8.
Kevin Revolinski is an avid traveler, craft beer enthusiast, and home-cooking fan. He is the author of 15 books, including “The Yogurt Man Cometh: Tales of an American Teacher in Turkey” and his new collection of short stories, “Stealing Away.” He’s based in Madison, Wis., and his website is TheMadTraveler.com