1979. Raise your hand if you were born yet. That’s the last time a solar eclipse occurred in the US and it’s been 92 years since Chicago was close to the path of totality (when the Moon blocks the Sun completely) for a total solar eclipse. The Moon will start its big cover-up August 21 at 11:54 a.m. and will block up to 87 percent of the Sun by 1:19 p.m. Read on to hear about this out-of-this-world event and ways you can make it memorable (and educational, too!) for the kiddos.

Alder Planetarium is buzzing with anticipation
The folks at Adler couldn’t be more excited for this rare event to happen in their own backyard, and they’re inviting you to celebrate right alongside them. On August 21, from 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m., they’re hosting Chicago Eclipse Fest. All guests will receive free safe solar viewing glasses and will enjoy live entertainment, hands-on-science activities for all ages, programming from partners across the city, local food trucks and, of course, a solar eclipse viewing that’s second to none. Highlights of the day include a Mad Science Show live on stage; opportunities to Ask an Astronomer anything you can imagine; eclipse trivia; design challenges including solar car races, making solar ovens and creating pinhole projectors; solar science demos including UV beads, a sundial station and sun prints; carnival activities; telescope viewing; a selfie station and more!

photo: Adler Planetarium’s Chasing Eclipses

While you’re there, don’t forget to check out Chasing Eclipses. This temporary exhibit prepares you to experience an eclipse, answers questions about what they are and why they’re so important, lets you experience what it’s like to stand in the presence of totality with a simulation experience, educates on how people throughout time have predicted when and where they’ll occur, displays artifacts from the Adler collections that have helped predict solar eclipses and shares stories on sightings from across the world. Guests will also be treated to a live-feed of the total solar eclipse from locations that are in the path of totality in an immersive dome theater.

photo: Adler Planetarium viewing glasses

This huge event calls for some very big glasses
Adler wants you to be equipped to eclipse, so they’re helping you out by placing giant viewing glasses around the city. You’ll see them in blue, pink and orange — find all three colors, snap a pic of each tagged with #EquippedtoEclipse on Instagram and you can win a free membership to Adler. These traveling glasses designed to educate you on all things eclipse can be found at Oak Street Beach (Jul. 14-28, orange), John Hancock Center (Jul. 7-21, blue), Maggie Daley Park (Jul. 21-Aug. 4, blue), Grant Park (Aug. 4-18, blue) and Daley Plaza (Jul. 10-Aug. 21, pink).

photo: Seadog Cruises

Take the viewing to the water
An open-air speedboat cruise with Seadog Cruises is the perfect way to safely view this rare phenomenon, with the help of solar viewing glasses from the Adler Planetarium. Boaters will board at 12:45 p.m. and the cruise is scheduled for 1 p.m.-1:45 p.m. The cost is $36.95 for adults and $21.95 for ages 3-12. Riders under the age of 2 are free, but an adult ticket must be purchased.

Take a quick lunch break to take a peek
If you work in Chicago’s Loop and want to take a step outside to give a wave hello to the Moon and Sun, Adler is hosting a viewing station at Daley Plaza. Staff will be on-hand to give out solar viewing glasses and answer eclipse-related questions.

The ‘burbs are getting in on the action, too!
If you don’t want to make the trek to the city, check your local public library for viewing activities on August 21. The Oak Lawn Public Library welcomes visitors ages 7 & up from 1 p.m.-2 p.m. for a live feed from NASA, hands-on activities, a Skype call from the Shawnee National Forest where totality will occur and, if clear skies allow, a viewing outdoors. Palos Heights Public Library’s event is 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. and features a demo on an out-of-this-world eclipse, a space project and a viewing with safety glasses. From 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Aurora Public Library, you’ll make a pinhole projector and then head outdoors to watch the eclipse’s progress using a telescope donated by the Fox Valley Astronomical Society.

photo: Naper Settlement

To the west, Naper Settlement is hosting a viewing picnic from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.  Pack a lunch and your viewing glasses and you’ll hear celestial legends and experience the eclipse in a prime spot on the main green. Complimentary viewing glasses will be available for those that don’t have their own.

One more thing before you go . . .
It’s important to note that your kids (and you) should be instructed not to look directly at the sun. For those that can’t attend one of these viewing events, Adler has put together information on how to experience it safely at home. They even give tips on ways to view the eclipse using household products and food items you probably have in your pantry – or you can purchase a pair of glasses.

Where do you plan on viewing the solar eclipse? Share your secrets in the Comments below.

— Maria Chambers