Atomic Sightseeing

While it seems insane now, watching atomic bomb tests was once big business –especially in Las Vegas. Sin City saw a massive influx of tourists who turned up not only to try their luck at the tables, but to watch the government test its newest ordinance.

Of course, this is not something people can do anymore. While modern nuclear weapons are much safer than their predecessors, no one wants to see these things explode in the desert today. But that does not make atomic sightseeing any less interesting. Aside from its historical value, just think of all the story potential this presents for sci-fi/fantasy writers. From where I stand, it looks like we struck it rich!

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Viva Las Vegas!

Watching Atomic Bombs Explode was a Big Tourist Attraction in Las Vegas

Ian Harvey

Jan 29, 2020

Come for a show, stay for the atomic bombs in Las Vegas! Vegas is a gaming and entertainment mecca famous for its notorious nickname Sin City. People go there to indulge, believing the old maxim that “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” In other words, just about anything goes in Sin City, and no word travels to the folks back home about that bad behavior, whether you’re a huge star or a soon-to-be-married fellow whose bachelor party is held in a local hotel room. It’s as though Vegas exists in a moral vacuum, so no one worries about what they do while inside that vacuum.

It’s hard to imagine today, but one activity folks used to enjoy in Vegas had nothing to do with slot machines or the blackjack tables and everything to do with atomic bombs. From 1951 and continuing for several years, people watched nuclear tests light up the Vegas skyline, and reveled in the sight of these gargantuan bombs going off, irrespective of the danger they presented.

It’s a mindset that’s hard to fathom today, knowing what we know about the risks inherent in all things nuclear. But back then, local officials saw a business opportunity to exploit the risk and danger, and — true to Vegas’ nature — they seized that opportunity and made it work for the city. What unfolded was the strange scene of nuclear explosions becoming a tourist attraction in Las Vegas during the 50s.

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