Why bother going, then? It’s the thrill of the unknown that draws visitors to this desert outpost as much as their love of the kitsch. Not only does a visit provide the chance to speak to locals about the mysteries they’ve seen and heard, but there are also two spots in particular where Earthlings are welcome: the Alien Research Center in Hiko, which can’t be missed thanks to the towering alien outside, and the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, which offers accommodation, food and a gleaming metal replica UFO. Head to both for more souvenir photos, but don’t leave before beaming your hunger away at the latter with one of two appropriately named burgers: The Alien, featuring Thousand Island dressing “with zing,” and The Saucer, topped with sautéed mushrooms, garlic, onions and pepperjack cheese.
If you’d rather Area 51 not abduct your entire day, there are several ways to lose a few hours alien hunting without ever leaving Las Vegas. The city’s minor league baseball team is dubbed the Las Vegas 51s and – although there are no answers here, either – there are souvenir T-shirts and hats to purchase. Many are stamped with the 51s’ logo, which merges a baseball with the rounded head of a grey-skinned, wide-eyed alien. Stopping in for a game will also provide a chance to take a photo with the 51s’ otherworldly mascot Cosmo, said to have spent some time at the secret government base after crashing down to Earth from another planet.
If that doesn’t strike your fancy, the Las Vegas Smithsonian-affiliated National Atomic Testing Museum features an Area 51: Myth or Reality exhibit. Rumours are paired with official documents to allow visitors to draw their own conclusions. The museum is also home to regular radio broadcasts and lectures on the unknown.
Written by Rebecca Frisch