An Extraterrestrial Hwy road sign

Nevada's 'Extraterrestrial Highway' Takes You As Close As You Can Get to Area 51

Photography duo Allie Leepson and Jesse McClary find wide-open spaces — and plenty of roadside kitsch — in the tiny towns along State Route 375.

There have been so many claims of UFO sightings along State Route 375, a quiet road in south-central Nevada, that in 1996, the government officially renamed it in honor of its alleged extraterrestrial visitors. Last June, Allie Leepson and Jesse McClary drove the 98-mile corridor, documenting alien attractions in small communities like Rachel — the closest town to Area 51.

"We're fascinated with alien visualization in American culture," McClary says. "Our trip actually coincided with the CIA's long-awaited declassification of their UFO-related documents." We want to believe.

An alien statue at the Alien Research Center gift shop
Allie + Jesse

"The Alien Research Center is the self-proclaimed 'Gateway to the E.T. Highway.' It's really a gift shop, but it has some exhibits about Area 51 history. You can see this two-story alien made of sheet metal from the road."

Pair of photos showing an Extraterrestrial Highway road sign, and slot machines at the Mizpah hotel
Allie + Jesse

"The Mizpah Hotel opened in 1907 as a social club for the booming silver-mining town of Tonopah. Now it has 52 rooms, a full bar, and a restaurant, plus slot machines. We liked the contrast with the old Western wallpaper."

The interior of an alien themed restaurant
Allie + Jesse

"We stopped for Alien Burgers at the Little A'Le'Inn, an inn, bar, and restaurant. We loved the illustrations of UFOs on top of the hutch."

A Donald Trump alien themed fortune teller game in an alien-themed shop
Allie + Jesse

"E.T. Fresh Jerky, in Hiko, was a must-stop. They've got all sorts of jerky: beef, of course, but also gator, ahi tuna, elk, wild boar, and buffalo. A modified Zoltar fortune-telling machine inside the store sounded exactly like Trump."

A novelty mailbox roadside in the desert
Allie + Jesse

"This is the so-called Black Mailbox, in Rachel. Originally, it was a legitimate postal box belonging to a rancher who lived close to Area 51. Over the years (and before the Internet), it became a meeting place for UFO enthusiasts to share information about possible sightings — and to communicate with extraterrestrials."

A version of this story first appeared in the July 2022 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline "Stranger Things."

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