Area 51 - What Is It?
Should you visit Area 51? In reality, Area 51, located in a remote part of Lincoln County in Southern Nevada, is part of the Air Force Nevada Test and Training Range. It is more commonly known as Groom Lake. Top secret experimental aircraft have been tested in the area. There is an airstrip at the location for people brought in from McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. The identifier is KXTA and the airstrip is known as "Homey Airport." But I can't say more except that it is within restricted airspace (a wide swath of restricted airspace).
Getting to Rachel, Nevada and Area 51
Map From Las Vegas, take I-15 North for 22 miles. Take exit 64, US-93 North and follow the road for 85 miles. 12 miles past Alamo, NV there will see an intersection. Take Hwy 318 to the left and in less than a mile veer to the left and follow Hwy 375 (Extraterrestrial Highway). The town of Rachel is several miles along this road. Just after the intersection, you may see mile marker 34.5 on Highway 375. Groom Lake Road is to the left. This is NOT a road to explore (more on that later).
OK, Here's the Alien Story
According to the Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce , in November of 1989, a Las Vegas resident, Bob Lazar, claimed that he had worked with alien spacecraft at Papoose Lake, in the Nellis Range about 35 miles south of the town of Rachel. He claimed he saw nine flying saucers in a hangar built into a hillside. Once UFO enthusiasts heard that, they flocked to the Tikaboo Valley to look for UFOs. Some stopped at the Rachel Bar and Grill (re-named A'Le'Inn). Of course, there is more. The Dreamland Resort Website has more Area 51 info than you could "dream of."
What's There to See in Rachel?
The A'Le'Inn (pronounced alien) in Rachel is about all there is. You can try an Alien Burger. I haven't tried one but some say they are "out of this world!"
What Do the Locals Say?
The locals I spoke with discounted tales of alien spacecraft and the mysterious Area 51. They did say that the government maintains the top secret area and cautioned about driving down Groom Lake Road. "By the time the men with machine guns reach you, they know your name, social security number, names of your family members and everything about you." One innkeeper added that the sonic booms from low flying (experimental?) aircraft break windows and crack plaster. They have called the Air Force to complain but their pleas go unheeded.
On the Extra-Terrestrial Highway
The State of Nevada renamed NV Hwy 375, "The Extraterrestrial Highway." But don't look for the sign. I heard that the State has removed it. What you will see is a shiny new Quonset hut with a gigantic shiny new alien figure beckoning you. This is the new home of the "Alien Research Center." Hours are limited so check before you go out there. It sounds like and up and coming place to get your Alien T-shirts and Alien Jerky. I have to say, the outside of the building was pretty shiny and impressive!
Should You Venture Down Groom Road
I understand that tourists do make it quite a ways down Groom Road. There is a loop. It's unpaved and dusty. Here's what you might see when you travel Groom Road. Personally, I don't think it's worth bothering the "camo dudes" or "Pave Hawk Security Dudes."
The Pros and Cons of Visiting Area 51
For UFO enthusiasts from all over the world, it's a pilgrimage. Bring your imagination and get ready to snap a few pictures and have some fun. If you expect to have a look at Area 51, stay home. If you expect a world class museum like the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, stay home.
But if you want to have a little fun exploring the Extraterrestrial Highway, downing an Alien Burger and enjoying the beautiful green valley, then, by all means, include this area in your vacation plans.