The total solar eclipse on Aug. 21 is expected to be an attraction for cities along its path, including Nashville. Hotels from Hopkinsville to Murfreesboro are even advertising special eclipse vacation packages to attract the out-of-towners.
But given it’s been nearly four decades since a similar event in the U.S. — and even longer in Nashville — the city's tourism officials say it’s hard to predict just how much of a boost the city will see.
In fact, if you ask a true eclipse enthusiast, the best place to watch is not here. It’s somewhere out west, like Idaho, Wyoming or Nebraska, where the weather prospects are clearer.
"Oh my god, I didn't even think about that," admits Sam Warlick, a Washington, D.C., resident who's flying into Nashville the weekend before the eclipse. But if his viewing is foiled by cloudy weather, he says, "You know what? It won't be a loss, because I'll get to see Music City."
That's the mentality tourism officials are hoping for. Although Warlick and a group of his friends won't be spending money on hotels — they're staying with his parents — they are staying the whole weekend before the eclipse, as a vacation.
"They're excited to see Nashville," says Warlick, who grew up in West Meade. "It was definitely two birds with one stone."
So Warlick and his friends will still contribute to the $15-20 million worth of visitor spending that tourism officials are predicting, according to the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. They also expect to see at least 50,000 out-of-towners.
But they warn: This number will be difficult to tally, even after the fact. At an event like CMA Fest or New Year's Eve, everyone is gathered in one area of the city. When the main event is something anyone can just look up and see, there's no way to count the crowd.