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Towns on solar eclipse's path of totality brace for a crush of visitors

Municipalities across Central and Eastern Canada have been gearing up for a momentous celestial event that promises just a brief three-and-a-half minutes of awe: a total solar eclipse set to darken parts of the country in April.

Cities and towns in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island are bracing themselves for an influx of visitors from all corners of Canada and beyond, all eager to witness the rare alignment of the sun, Earth, and moon on April 8.

Tourism boards and local authorities are seizing this opportunity to welcome tourists with open arms. It's as if the peak travel season has arrived early, with hotels fully booked and attractions preparing for an early kick-off, featuring live music performances and food trucks bustling with activity before their usual summer schedules.

For Miramichi, N.B., the upcoming solar eclipse marks the highlight of the tourism calendar, according to Paul McGraw, the city's economic development officer. Planning for this momentous occasion began early in 2023, and the city is now poised to host a series of solar eclipse-themed events, including a drone light show, an astronomy conference, a music festival, and an innovation fair that will draw in 2,500 students from across Atlantic Canada.

Miramichi, with its population of around 18,000, has ordered a whopping 20,000 pairs of eclipse eyewear to accommodate visitors and locals alike. The city is also providing ample space for local businesses to sell eclipse-related equipment. On the day of the eclipse, enthusiasts can gather at the Miramichi-Chatham Airport parking lot for an unobstructed view, with bookings already surpassing 800 and a capacity for 1,500 cars, aiming to accommodate an estimated 6,000 spectators.

Elsewhere, demand for accommodations has skyrocketed, with prices for hotels and short-term rentals surging. Niagara Falls and Montreal have emerged as the top two destinations for eclipse chasers, with hotel rooms in high demand and prices reaching double their usual rates.

In Niagara Falls, where upwards of one million visitors are expected over the eclipse weekend, hotels are nearly fully booked, prompting travelers to make reservations months in advance. To accommodate the surge in travelers, additional GO Transit trains will run to and from Niagara Falls, with extra cars added to trains to ensure maximum capacity.

Ontario boasts several other prime spots along the path of totality, including Hamilton, Belleville, and Kingston. In Kingston, visitors have the option to embark on a boat trip on Lake Ontario during the eclipse, a unique experience as major attractions typically remain closed until later in the season.

Port Colborne, situated on Lake Erie, is set to transform the eclipse day into an educational adventure for visitors, featuring an inflatable planetarium, telescope tours, and interactive sessions with experts from Brock University.

With anticipation building and preparations in full swing, Canadian towns along the path of totality are gearing up to provide front-row seats to this extraordinary celestial event, ensuring that visitors from near and far will have an unforgettable experience.