two people in costume stand in front of the alien research center at area 51

Area 51 – Las Vegas’ Alien Home

First of all, yes—Area 51 does exist (the U.S. Government finally admitted it in 2013). The remote area, which is part of an active military base that’s patrolled and guarded by some of the heaviest security on Earth or anywhere else, has a long history of reported UFO sightings—but is it true, you ask? Well, the short answer is no. It turns out what people were seeing was top-secret military aircraft that had never been seen before, so it’s no surprise that people thought they were looking at alien spacecraft from another world. Since then, the reputation has stuck and made Area 51 a so-called hot spot for alien life and countless conspiracy theories.

We can neither confirm nor deny how many aliens Area 51 may be harboring, but we know where else you can safely space out on some only-in-Nevada extraterrestrial action without fear of arrest (or worse).

So, What is Area 51, NV?

Now that the mystery has been solved (or has it?), let’s get down to the question: what is Area 51? Area 51 is a military installation and a highly classified remote detachment of Nellis Air Force Base. It was built in 1955 as part of the more substantial Nevada Test and Training Range complex, initially to serve as a testing site for the U-2 Spy Plane. Although it has never been declared a “top secret base,” the area is highly protected and restricts both land and air use. Other well-known aircraft tested at Area 51 include the Archangel-12, the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter, and even the SR-71 Blackbird (yep, the X-Men’s preferred mode of transportation is a real aircraft).

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

If you find yourself close by Area 51, obey all posted signs and don’t even think about trespassing. You will be caught and you will be prosecuted—or worse. What’s more, you might even end up being meme-ified for all eternity. And let’s be real, no selfie or amount of likes are worth that kind of headache.

How Area 51 Got Its Name

Area 51 gets its name from the Atomic Energy Commission and old maps of the Nevada Test Site. The Atomic Energy Commission defined the allocation of land around Groom Lake as—literally—the 51st of the many areas that make up the military base. When Area 51 was first established, Lockheed—one of the U.S. Government’s major partners in top-secret aircraft and spy plane development—called the area Paradise Ranch in an attempt to attract workers to the project. Today, Area 51 and the Nevada National Security Site are part of what is known as the Nevada Test and Training Range.

UFO Sightings & Aliens at Area 51

Since the 1950s, when locals and visitors to this part of the Silver State have spotted top-secret aircraft, made of never-before-seen technology, flying at high speeds and performing uncommon aerial maneuvers, they were unsurprisingly mystified as to what they saw. Since these prototypes’ development was top secret and sightings were rare, it’s easy to understand how so many people must have thought the unusual aircraft must have been from another world. However, there have been no confirmed sightings of otherworldly flying saucers or aliens at Area 51.

To this day, Area 51, Nevada, remains a top-secret testing facility, and the government and United States military don’t want you anywhere near it. Currently, the closest you can drive to Area 51 keeps you more than 15 rugged, carefully monitored, and lethally defended miles away. In fact, the restricted airspace above Area 51 actually forms a rectangle with an area of 575 square miles, so don’t expect to get a drone in the sky, either, at least without an immediate response from camo-clad soldiers drawing weapons.

Visiting Area 51, Nevada

So you might wonder at this point if you can visit Area 51 at all. There are plenty of things to do near Area 51 in addition to ghost towns and stargazing for potential alien sightings. A common and popular stop near Area 51 would be Rachel, Nevada which is known as the “UFO Capital of the World.” It’s home to less than 60 people, but a favorite stop for replenishing road-tripping supplies or fueling up your belly at the Little A’Le’Inn with some out-of-this-world treats.

Area 51 Attractions

The Nevada National Security Site offers monthly tours that depart from the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas. Reservations open months in advance and fill up extremely fast, so pre-planning is key. While the visit doesn’t offer the chance to tour Area 51 itself, you can definitely get a sense of the martian-esque terrain as you tour more than 250 miles of the Nevada National Security Site that are generally off-limits to the general public.

Get a robust look at the history of Area 51 and Nevada’s atomic age without traveling out of Las Vegas by checking out the National Atomic Testing Museum or the “Atomic Nevada” exhibit at the Nevada State Museum–Las Vegas.

If you don’t have your own vessel, you can still hop on a full-day tour of all the best Extraterrestrial Highway attractions in a luxury vehicle (piloted by an actual ex-Air Force captain) with Area 51 Tours. The day trips launch Wednesday through Sunday out of Las Vegas and include lunch, snacks, personalized photography tips, and more Area 51 stories and lore than you can shake your antennae at.

Where is Area 51?

Before we get into where Area 51 is, we want to highlight that Area 51 is not a tourist attraction, and we highly recommend obeying posted signs to avoid getting into trouble. Although you can find it on a map, don’t expect to get even remotely close. The perimeter of the military base is marked with orange posts and patrolled by heavily armed guards with zero tolerance for would-be tourists or B.S. of any kind. Signage around the base promises that deadly force is authorized against Area 51 trespassers, whether they are attempting to “storm Area 51” during a viral Facebook event or simply hike up to a vantage point. Thousands upon thousands of CCTV cameras and motion sensors all throughout the land leading up to the base’s perimeter—plus immediate response times from security forces—guarantee it.

Still, if you must know (and don’t say we didn’t warn you), Area 51 is located in southern Nevada, 83 miles north-northwest of Las Vegas, on the edge of usually dry Groom Lake, which is located on the aforementioned Nevada National Security Site—not at Nellis Air Force Base (as some assume), which is located in North Las Vegas. The closest town to Area 51 is Rachel, Nevada, which is a famous stop for alien enthusiasts, and about a 148-mile drive from Las Vegas. But travelers beware, Rachel is the only place to stop between Tonopah and Alamo, and resources are extremely minimal in this corner of the world. We always encourage people to travel with extra fuel when traversing the back roads of Nevada.

This Location:

Central, Nevada