Americans have a long, noble tradition of staring up at the night sky, seeing a strange convergence of light, and believing (hoping?) that they’ve witnessed something from beyond our world.
From sea to shining sea, people have witnessed Unidentified Flying Objects flying across the sky—but of course, some places seem to be more desirable than others when it comes to rest stops favored by extraterrestrial visitors.
Whether you’re a Mulder or the much-put-upon Scully to someone else’s Mulder, these extraterrestrial-friendly destinations will make your road trip searching for the truth one to remember!
UFO Reporting Center
WHERE: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Most places in the U.S. that are known for their UFO activity tend to be isolated parts of the Southwestern desert or heavily forested areas of the Pacific Northwest. But it turns out that one of the best places to look for UFOs is a town better known for golf and sunburned vacationers. Myrtle Beach has played host to a huge number of sightings. And while it hasn’t held as notable extraterrestrial pedigree as, say, Roswell, the people of the South Carolinian beach town have been diligent in reporting on the appearances of UFOs.
The National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) is chock full of sightings from tourists and locals alike describing the presence of floating orange orbs (some of which appear to be dripping molten lava), leap-frogging lights, mysterious triangular light formations, and giant fire-like spheres hanging over the water.
But if UFO hunting from Margaritaville isn’t your style, travel slightly inland to nearby Conway. Conway might have the most sightings per capita, with 43 UFO sightings for every 100 people.
Kecksburg UFO Memorial
WHERE: Kecksburg, Pennsylvania
On a December night in 1965, thousands of people across six states (and even Ontario) witnessed a fireball arch through the sky, scattering metal debris in its wake. The object would finally land in the small Pennsylvania town of Kecksburg. But the exact nature of that object has been the subject of debate and speculation for over 50 years. NASA even changed its official story; after saying the object was a meteorite at the time of the incident, they released a new statement in 2005 declaring that the object was, in fact, a Russian satellite that had crashed upon re-entry.
So what is the truth? Stop off at the Kecksburg UFO Memorial and find out for yourself.
While no legit physical evidence remains, believers can still pay homage to the 1965 incident with the affectionately named Space Acorn statue. (By all accounts, the object was shaped like an upside down acorn as opposed to a sleek, metallic disc.) When the TV show Unsolved Mysteries came to town in 1990, they constructed a life-size recreation of the object. After shooting was completed, the people of Kecksburg turned the abandoned prop into a roadside destination (complete with gift shop) off Highway 982.
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Roswell Crash Site
WHERE: Roswell, New Mexico
Is it really a Great American UFO Road Trip without a stop at Roswell? The New Mexico city is, of course, famous for being the site of an alleged alien spacecraft crash. And while certain party-poopers (a.k.a. the U.S. government) have insisted that the 1947 incident was merely a nuclear test surveillance balloon gone awry, the Roswell crash has remained a point of fascination for UFO believers and conspiracy theorists for over half a century.
Intrepid believers looking to do a little investigating of their own at one the alleged crash sites will have a difficult time of it. The sites are all located in difficult-to-get-to parts of the New Mexico desert outside of the city of Roswell. While there used to be a bus tour (and even a helpful sign) to a site in a field on the outskirts of Corona, visitors looking to venture forth will have to arm themselves with coordinates, a GPS, and possibly an ATV.
Whatever the truth may be, Roswell has embraced its cosmic notoriety—at least when it comes to providing kitschy experiences. Visitors looking for something less labor-intensive can get their UFO-related kicks at the Roswell Spacewalk and the International UFO Museum and Research Center.
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The Devil’s Highway
The Devil’s Highway now goes by the official name of Route 491, but up until 2003 it was known as Route 666. But the route’s nickname isn’t entirely due to its beastly numbering. The 200-mile stretch of road that goes through New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah has been a hotbed of bizarre and unexplainable activity. It’s been said that everything from packs of demon dogs to mad truckers have plagued travelers on this desolate stretch of highway. But the unusual incidents most pertinent to UFO enthusiasts are the reports of missing time.
It’s a common trope in alien abduction stories that the abductee’s memories of their time among their extraterrestrial captors is erased. When they’re returned, they only realize something is amiss upon checking a clock and discovering an inordinate amount of time has passed that can’t be accounted for.
Drivers on the Devils Highway have reported being much farther along than they should’ve been without any way to account for the lost time. Some travelers have gone missing for as long as days. Is this a sign of alien contact or highway hypnosis? There’s only one way to find out and that’s to set your course for Route 6—ahem—Route 491.
The only downside is that if you are taken aboard an alien spacecraft whilst traveling the Devils Highway, you’re not likely to remember the experience.
Potential UFO sightings are usually unpredictable, one-off occurrences. Even areas that are known for being repeatedly visited by possible alien spacecraft don’t have exact timetables or viewing points for potential UFO hunters to focus their efforts on.
This isn’t the case just a few miles east of Marfa, Texas. The mysterious Marfa Lights have appeared repeatedly with reports of their appearance going back as far as the 19th century. The lights appear as glowing orbs that change in color and intensity as they move erratically across the backdrop of the Chinati Mountains.
But the thing that makes the Marfa Lights ideal for UFO hunters is that you’re almost guaranteed to see them. The mysterious lights appear on a nearly nightly schedule just as dusk settles across the Mitchell Flat. Curious visitors have visited this reliable spot so frequently that the state of Texas set up an official viewing area for those hoping to spot what many believe to be evidence of UFOs.
The state of Arizona is an esteemed locale for UFO sightings. Even former governor Fife Symington, who witnessed the famed Phoenix Lights sighting, stated that what he saw was “otherworldly.” But if it’s UFOs you’re looking for, Sedona is the site for you.
Maybe it’s the presence of the mysterious “vortexes” or the high altitude, but there’s something about Sedona that has rendered it a hotbed of UFO activity. And if you’re a bit of a novice, there are a handful of tours that’ll show you the ropes of identifying bona fide UFOs.
The desert town is home to nightly UFO tours. Hosted by experts, these tours take visitors out into the exceptionally clear Sedona nights armed with military-grade night vision goggles to scan the night skies for signs of extraterrestrial activity. When on the tours, novices are taught how to distinguish between stars, aircraft, and satellites, and (naturally) UFOs. Because knowing what you’re not looking for is as important as knowing what you are looking for.
Joshua Tree, CA
California was recently bestowed with the auspicious honor of being named the top state for UFO sightings. But of all the Golden State’s UFO-friendly spots, it’s Joshua Tree National Park that allows enthusiasts to hit two birds with one stone.
Joshua Tree has been a hub of UFOs and the people who seek them out for decades. You can visit the appropriately named Giant Rock that’s served as a gathering site for enthusiasts since the 1950s. Take a “sound bath” in the Integatron, whose creator claims to have been contacted by Venusians with instructions to build a time-travel dome. And of course, there’s always striking out into the night in search of unexplainable lights zipping across the sky. You can even go searching for the legendary hidden alien base that’s said to be located somewhere beneath the rocky desert landscape.
And if you do happen to have a close encounter and want to share or make sense of your experience, be sure to check out Contact in the Desert. The UFO convention, held May 19-22, is the largest of its kind in the U.S. attracting thousands of UFO rookies and experts alike. Attendees can spend the weekend attending lectures on secret excavations in Antarctica, workshops on how to prepare for contact, or even doing a little yoga (it’s still Southern California, after all).