As a mother of four, I know that sometimes us moms need a break – a break from carpools, a break from school lunches, a break from laundry. We just need to get away to relax and recharge in order to be an even better mom when we return home.
I can’t say I get a chance to explore on my own as often as I’d like, but when I do I make sure to go somewhere that both piques my interest and has a lot to see and do, whether quirky roadside attractions (which I love, by the way), engaging scenery or simply interesting people to meet along the way.
Last month, I flew to Las Vegas on my own, hopped in a rental car and set off to spend a few days exploring Central Nevada by way of the 98-mile stretch called the Extraterrestrial Highway. I was already planning to be in Vegas to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon with my husband, but opted to fly out a few days earlier to see what else was in Nevada (besides Las Vegas, of course).
The start of the Extraterrestrial Highway is less than two hours from Las Vegas. Really, it’s just a desolate section of State Route 375 that runs between Hiko and Warm Springs, but given its proximity to the mysterious Area 51 it was dubbed the Extraterrestrial Highway. And it’s worth the drive for the fantastic desert views and stops to make along the way, including:
1. National Atomic Testing Museum
Before you leave Las Vegas, make a stop at the National Atomic Testing Museum. It’s just a couple of blocks off The Strip and is home to “Area 51: Myth or Reality,” an exhibit that will leave you questioning the existence of aliens, UFOs, and of course, Area 51.
2. ET Fresh Jerky
Fill up with gas because your next stop isn’t for another 100 miles when you reach ET Fresh Jerky in Hiko. It’s basically a small convenience store and gift shop that sells gum, souvenirs and lots of beef jerky (apparently beef jerky is a thing in Nevada). But the real attraction is the cowboy alien mural adjacent to the shop. It’s practically begging for you to take a selfie.
There literally is nothing else out there aside from ET Fresh Jerky. Not even a gas station. But there is a bathroom, lots of snacks and two PokeStops at ET Fresh Jerky. So that’s a win all the way around. It was a double win for me because the owner gave me an alien driver’s license free of charge. 🙂
3. Extraterrestrial Highway Sign
Stop #3 is less than half-mile down the road. It’s simply a sign marking the start of the Extraterrestrial Highway, but it’s a much-visited and much-photographed sign, so stop and snap a pic. There’s a pull-off area too, making it very easy to park and safely take a photo.
4. Alien Research Center
Drive maybe another mile down the road and you’ll hit the Alien Research Center. I really should put “Research” in quotes because it’s not so much a place of research. It’s more of a kitschy gift shop with a 30-foot tall metal alien out front that may or may not be open. It wasn’t open when I drove by, but it was a Wednesday in mid-November.
5. Little A’Le’Inn Restaurant & Bar
About mid-way down the Extraterrestrial Highway, the Little A’Le’Inn Restaurant & Bar is a great spot to stop for lunch. They have free wi-fi and clean restrooms, but no gas, so hopefully you filled up before you left Las Vegas. There’s a wooden alien out-front holding up a sign that reads “Hello Earthlings.” There’s also a spaceship out front. Totally photo-worthy. And the salad I had for lunch was pretty good too.
6. Area 51
The Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, Nevada is about the closest you’ll get to Area 51. For 35 cents, one of the waitresses will sell you a map that will lead you to the back gate of Area 51 (I think I got one for free at ET Fresh Jerky). It’s about 12 miles from the main road. It’s not exactly a tourist attraction and the military police are not especially fond of alien-hunters, so keep that in mind if you choose to pay a visit.
Beyond Rachel and Area 51, it’s another hour to the end of the Extraterrestrial Highway, which stops in the town of Warm Springs at U.S. 6. From there, I drove another hour to the small former mining town of Tonopah where I stayed the night at the historic Mizpah Hotel.
All told, driving the Extraterrestrial Highway was a great solo adventure. I love the open road and there was a lot of it in Central Nevada. I can’t wait to drive more of their roads another day.