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Nevada National Security Site

#198 of 538 Tours in Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV, USA
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Nevada National Security Site
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vzabaly wrote a review Mar 2020
Burbank, California39 contributions83 helpful votes
So, how many times in life can you go where literally almost no one else has gone before? How many locations can you visit that give you virtually unique and lifelong bragging rights? And how many of those places are also rich with American history and serve as an up-to-the-second reminder of the vast power and responsibility our nation possesses? There aren't many that meet the bill, but this is one of them. The Nevada National Security Site (formerly the Nevada Atomic Test Site) is a vast expanse of desert where over 900 nuclear devices (weapons and experiments) were detonated during the Cold War. The Site halted testing in the 1990s, but remains in significant use to this day for scientific experiments, disaster response training, low-level nuclear waste burial, and many other purposes. The Site is closed to the public, except for once-monthly tours offered by the Department of Energy. On the tour, you receive a full drive through of the Site, stopping at or viewing over a dozen historic locations, learning about the incredible history, and witnessing how the Site is used today. First and foremost, these tours are completely FREE. They are a service to all of us as Americans, and we are welcome to and should take advantage of them. That said, it's almost impossible to get a spot on a tour. Signups for tours open only once a year and reserve out all the spots for the coming year's tours all at once. Usually, the registration opens in June. You MUST pick a month to go at that time and apply immediately or you will not get a spot; all the spots are gone within days (at most, several weeks) of the registration opening. People come from all over the world for this, so it's a big deal and should be treated as such; if you want to do this, you should plan your trip around it. Each month's tour is around 40 people (one bus load), so you are in very elite company. To sign up, just go to the Nevada National Security Site website and see the tour schedule. Tours typically happen on a Tuesday each month. The tour is an all-day affair: arrive at the departure point (the incredible Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas) by 7 AM, board the bus, drive to the Site (a drive of an hour or more), spend the whole day at the Site, and return around 4 PM. While most of the tour is driving, you will walk around outside in the desert, so bring good shoes, dress for the weather, and prepare to be amazed. There are absolutely no cell phones or cameras on this tour. Leave your devices in your car (or better yet, your hotel) and prepare to absorb everything in-person. Being separated from your personal devices for the day makes the activity more engaging and interesting, as you really look at everything through your own eyes (rather than through a screen to capture for posterity). Moreover, focusing on what you're seeing and learning impresses you with the awesome, terrible power of what atomic weaponry truly represents. On the tour, you will see historic sites including test houses which were built to study the destructive power of nuclear weapons, as well as whether buildings and people could survive. You will see a massive test site structure where a subterranean bomb would have been detonated, had the suspension of testing not occurred weeks before the blast (you can go right inside the drilling rig structure, touch the real equipment, and stand inches from where the bomb would have gone; this is a Smithsonian-level exhibit, straight from reality, and exclusive to you). You will see the twisted remains of structures, including a full-size bridge, bent back by a nuclear shockwave. You will see the iconic benches and trenches where journalists and soldiers alike witnessed blasts. You will see mountain ridges where bombs were set off in long horizontal test shafts. You will see the largest man-made crater on Earth (and also get your only souvenir, a group photo with everyone on the tour, to prove to your disbelieving friends and family that you were really there). You will see, in the distance over the mountains, where Area 51 is (this is the closest you will ever get, unless you're in the Air Force). And you will also see modern sites, including a nuclear waste burial field, testing labs where physics experiments are done, a training area for our first responders, and the site facilities where workers keep the Site very much alive. You will eat in cafeterias alongside these workers, maybe even talk with them, and come to understand what working in one of America's most secure locations really is like. You will also get to know your tour guide, who likely will be a 40-year+ veteran of the Security Site with many amazing stories (my guide never ran out of information and stories, some of them hilarious, some of them chilling, even in 9 hours with her). You might also get some rare bonuses, like spotting a Reaper drone while driving past Creech Air Force Base, or seeing planes flying over the Site toward Area 51 for training maneuvers. Whatever you see, it will be like nothing else, anywhere else, that you've seen before or since. If every American politician were required to come out here to the desert and see what our Cold Warriors experienced to keep us safe, they would know the futility of war and the utter necessity of preserving peace. This is one of those chapters of history where, paradoxically, the pursuit of destructive power led to greater safety and served as a deeply cautionary message that the whole world owes itself to absorb. For the sake of everyone here and for all those yet to be born, this long, hard look into what could have been (and could still be) our collective abyss is the greatest plea humanity can make for peace.
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Date of experience: September 2019
5 Helpful votes
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billhordy wrote a review Dec 2019
Kansas City, Missouri203 contributions88 helpful votes
waited over a year for a ticket to visit the Nevada test site tour. GREAT TIME GREAT VISIT. glad I did, only reason I came to Las vegas. full day tour. guide 89 years old with decades of atomic energy work experience, he saw many tests first hand knowledge. great history that many people know nothing about. i spoke to many people who didn't know that we tested nuclear weapons in Nevada and people use to have blasts party in the 1950. strict enforcement no cellphone or camera are allow. so no picture to add to review. support local museum. get tickets for the free tour. Amazing visit. museum shop nonprofit so no sales tax a plus. good selection of souvenirs tee shirt and gifts. support local
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Date of experience: December 2019
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Yellowtrike wrote a review Jan 2019
Pahrump, Nevada277 contributions140 helpful votes
This is FREE. In July the next year's tour dates are released. If you don't make a choice quickly you wont be able to get a tour. We met at the Atomic Muesum, received our badges and got on the very nice touring bus at 8 a.m. Our leader, Sheryl, was great. As a former test site member she brought a wealth of information that added insight into what we were seeing. The tour went all over the site...and ended back at the museum around 5 p.m. Snacks and lunch are available to purchase on the cafe. If you are interested in the history of the Nevada security site, this is the tour to take. Then go to the Atomic museum!
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Date of experience: January 2019
1 Helpful vote
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Skygirl wrote a review Dec 2018
Corinth, Texas10 contributions3 helpful votes
If you are a nuclear geek, this is the tour for you. You will literally stand on history. Apple 2 houses, Icecap, stand on a ground zero site. Was extremely surprised at the tour of the low-level hazardous waste site, even that was extremely interesting. You get your picture taken at the Sedan crater. There is no sky in the picture because Area 51 is behind us. Don’t steal rocks.
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Date of experience: January 2018
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Babu2773 wrote a review Aug 2018
Chicago, Illinois843 contributions439 helpful votes
We had to wait two years to get on this fantastic free trip to the NNSS, and it was well worth the wait. First, we had to wait two years because by the time we found out about this trip, the sign-up time had already been opened for five months and all trips were full for the following calendar year. I contacted the tour coordinator who was helpful and told me when the next sign-up window would open for the 2018 tours, and once the window opened, I pounced. You can select different dates to attend, but we only had one opportunity, and luckily, we got on that tour. The tour coordinators are extremely helpful, so don't hesitate to reach out to them, especially if you have questions about the paperwork you must fill out before you are accepted on the tour. The tour leaves from the Natonal Atomic Museum and you get a discount on museum admission for the next day with your ticket. A comfortable coach bus ferries you out to the site with a guide. We had two guides, both retirees from NNSS and/or the military. Our guides were funny and professional and concerned that we had the best tour possible. Once you reach the site, you may find another NNSS employee hopping on board to explain their area of the site. Our temporary guide explained the nuclear waste removal site to us. While you aren't guaranteed to see everything possible because it is a working site and areas might be closed, the guides will keep in touch with "home base" to see if areas that were closed off are re-opened. That happened to us during our lunch in the "bistro" (a cafeteria with accommodating staff who seemed genuinely happy to see the field trippers) at the site. Our guides learned we could get out to Sedan Crater and everyone nearly ran to the bus to make sure we could see this amazing crater. Three different sets of group pictures were taken, one at the crater, one at the Apple II house, and another at the museum, and emailed to participants, which was greatly appreciated since security restrictions don't allow for cameras, or cell phones, by the way. And for those of you who think no one will know if you have your phone, trust me, they know. We had several people who didn't turn in their phones after the whole group was asked to make sure they surrendered their phones if they had brought them, and they sheepishly gave up their phones after our guide said he knew three people still had their phones. The only problem with the tour was the uneven sound system on the bus. It was hard to hear what the guides were saying at times, and when we asked the guides to speak louder, they would forget to consistently speak louder. But their personal stories were excellent, especially about the mannequins in the Apple houses. This is a great tour to take and is highly recommended. You will need to set aside an entire day as the tour begins at 7:30 a.m. and return around 4 p.m. We actually returned around 4:30 p.m., which was fine with us. If you take this tour you will leave with a greater understanding of our atomic history, present, and future.
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Date of experience: July 2018
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