The best places to see the total solar eclipse in Ontario

Southern Ontario’s solar event of the century is just around the corner. Where will you be?

On April 8, as the moon traces its path across the afternoon sky, its shadow will collide with daylight and momentarily block out the entirety of the sun. Southern Ontario will experience an incredible celestial event: a total solar eclipse. 

But how rare is this event? Is it truly once in a lifetime?

Dr. Robin Metcalfe, director and associate professor of natural science at York University, explains the probability.

“Solar eclipses actually happen quite often – at least twice per year. Total solar eclipses are a bit less frequent. They typically occur once every two years.” 

But Metcalfe, who specializes in astronomy and astrophysics, noted that although solar eclipses aren’t uncommon, the path of the upcoming solar eclipse is.

“Total solar eclipses can only be seen from a very narrow strip of our planet — only about 150 km wide. Since Earth is mostly water, it’s far more likely for total solar eclipses to be visible only from the ocean. That’s what makes the April 8 total solar eclipse so rare,” Metcalfe said.

“Not only will it be visible over major North American cities, but its path will include parts of Southern Ontario, as well. This won’t happen again for the GTA for another 100 years or so.”

Torontonians recalling the 70 per cent solar eclipse of Aug. 24, 2017, may wonder how this event differs. With the GTA expecting more than 99 per cent coverage this time, the difference is substantial — but don’t expect to have the same experience as those in the path of totality. 

“Viewers in the GTA will not actually witness the total eclipse phase as Toronto is a few kilometres outside the path (unless you happen to be out on Lake Ontario),” Metcalfe said.

“It sounds like a tiny difference, but that remaining 1 per cent changes the experience dramatically. While the changes to the sun are quite spectacular, viewers won’t experience the darkening of the sky, nor will they see the sun’s outermost atmosphere.”

Asked how long the eclipse will be, Metcalfe notes Toronto’s partial solar eclipse will last approximately 2.5 hours, starting at 2 p.m. and peaking around 3:15 p.m. Outside of Toronto, viewers in the path of totality can expect anywhere from 1-4 minutes of total solar eclipse.

“Fortunately, the path of totality does hit landfall both east and west of Toronto, including Cobourg, Belleville, Kingston and Burlington, Hamilton, St. Catharines, and Niagara Falls,” she said, “The path of the moon’s shadow just happens to be avoiding Toronto. Maybe it heard about the traffic!”

Indeed — expect traffic. If you want to experience the big day in full, you’ll want to plan ahead to avoid disappointment, especially if the weather is good.

“If you’re planning to travel to the path of totality, it’s best to head out very early in the morning, or ideally the day before,” Metcalfe suggested. “And keep in mind that when the eclipse is over, everyone is going to leave at roughly the same time. Like a Blue Jays home opener and a Leafs and Raptors playoff game all ending at the exact same time!”

Despite the potential for traffic jams and crowds, those who journey to the path of totality will get rewarded with a spectacular astronomical phenomenon. 

“I have never witnessed a total solar eclipse and am planning to travel to the path of totality and hope that the weather behaves. I’ve been told it’s an incredible and surreal experience,” Metcalfe said.

Curious to see the total solar eclipse, too? Why not explore these ten nearby locations and plan your very own cosmic road trip now? Just don’t forget snacks for the road — and, of course, a good pair of eclipse glasses.

Bay of Quinte

Encompassing Belleville and the surrounding area, the Bay of Quinte will host several special events, including a community bike ride and various themed viewing parties.

Cobourg

The beach town of Cobourg and other nearby communities offer excellent viewing locations for the total eclipse. Areas like Cobourg Beach and East Pier will be lively.

Fort Erie

Closest in proximity to the eclipse’s central path compared to anywhere else in Canada, Fort Erie can expect nearly four minutes of total eclipse time — the longest in the country.

Hamilton

Special events include a free ticketed celebration at Tim Hortons Field and a viewing party at CF Lime Ridge, led by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Kingston

Promising free local transit for the day, Kingston will host several eclipse-related events, including celebrations at nearby Grass Creek Park and historic Fort Henry. 

Niagara Falls

Admire the wonders of the falls and solar eclipse from one of many local viewing areas. The tourist town will also host special events, including a parking lot party featuring live music and food trucks.

Niagara-on-the-Lake

Enjoy the total eclipse amid the picturesque scenery of Niagara-on-the-Lake and surrounding wine country. Cycling tours and vineyard celebrations will be occurring throughout the area.

Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority

Experience the solar eclipse within the Niagara region’s best parks: Ball’s Falls, Binbrook or Long Beach. Day-use campsites and overnight tent camping are available. Pre-bookings only.

Prince Edward County

Solar eclipse events, including viewing parties, wellness retreats and themed brunches, are available throughout the county. Though unstaffed, Sandbanks and North Beach provincial parks will also be popular destinations.

Windsor-Essex and Pelee Island

Locations dotted along Lake Erie’s shoreline, such as Leamington and Point Pelee National Park (a dark sky preserve), offer superb viewing opportunities within Canada’s most southerly region.

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