There’s a unique history surrounding Little Rock, Arkansas that you may not know about. You may know that there’s an Air Force base there. You may also know that it was an important location during the Cold War, a difficult time in the US and World History. What you may not know is that at one time, there were 18 ICBM (intercontinental nuclear missile) silos surrounding the Little Rock area. They were Titan II missile silos that housed nuclear weapons on a Gemini rocket, designed to be launched into space in under one minute. Crews of four men would work 24-hour shifts, followed by 24 hours off. They would meet at the Air Force base in the morning and drive to the missile launch control silo to begin their work day. They were given codes on paper, to be confirmed by the crew in place for a changeover, and the paper was burned. By 1986 these sites were all decommissioned and destroyed. However, thanks to the ingenuity and tenacity of one person with a unique determination, one of those missile sites have been renovated into a luxury rental that you can stay in!
Titan Ranch, located just northeast of Conway, Arkansas, is one of these nuclear missile bases. It has been painstakingly restored by GT Hill. The entire process of the opening, cleaning, renovation and updating is documented on his largely followed Titan Ranch YouTube channel, and I highly recommend checking it out. The process was eye-opening, and a great history lesson. It was time-consuming and costly, but thanks to GT’s determination to recover and preserve some history, you can experience it firsthand by touring or staying the night at Titan Ranch.
Underground Missile Silo
Titan Ranch is located in Vilonia, Arkansas, just northeast of Conway. Driving up to the ranch, you would never guess that you’re headed to an underground missile silo. Our stay at Titan Ranch began with driving down the gravel road, leading between cow pastures, the reason for the name “ranch.” Cows looked back at us, munching away, while we wondered if we were headed to the right place. We met with Nick, one of the current hosts, who led us down the steps into the bunker. From there, we watched a video all about the missile base, the history, and the long and difficult renovation. It’s a lot of heavy information in a short time, but worth absorbing every minute of it. Lucky for us, Nick was very knowledgeable and answered all of our questions. We were joined by GT himself, who gave us an incredible tour, along with stories about the restoration effort and a few “SNAFU” moments during the massive project. Take the time to ask questions and hear the stories. It’s worth it, I promise.
Missile Launch Control Center
The rental space is inside what was once the crew quarters and missile launch control center. The silo which housed the Gemini missile is sealed off and still remains destroyed. Walking across the gangplank feels something like a sci-fi movie, and my children’s insistence on bringing Star Wars costumes was rather apropos. Entering the next space, where the computers and control units would have been, you can still see the places on the floor where the desks with the key slots sat when it was an active site. It’s a bit of a chilling experience. The control room space sits on level two of an internal, solid steel “birdcage” structure. The steel structure needed to be able to move within the concrete silo and dome, in order to remain operational regardless of what was occurring outside. GT has renovated the second level to be a multipurpose space, complete with projectors, a sound system, party lights, multiple whiteboards, and tables and chairs if needed. For us, there were two, queen size beds set up for my children. My son was absolutely thrilled to learn how to use the tablet to control the lights in the room.
Originally, the launch control center had standard steps to reach multiple levels. While renovating, GT decided to put in a spiral staircase to save space and it adds to the industrial ambiance. Moving down from level two is the kitchen and entertainment space on level one. Titan Ranch missile control center comes with a full kitchen, stocked with drinks refrigerator, and a massive projector equipped with multiple movie streaming options along with some saved movies. There were tons of movie options for children and my kids had a blast watching Paddington on the huge white walls of the silo. For a one-night stay, I would recommend bringing all of your own food. There are not many food options close by, and besides, who else can say they cooked themselves dinner in a missile silo launch control center? GT has also set the space up to be able to host DJs and dance parties, for any kind of event.
The master suite is on the very top floor of the “birdcage” and is housed in what used to be crew quarters. The space has been turned into a luxury master bedroom, complete with an open concept walk-in shower, soaking tub, and enclosed toilet room. The large master bed appears to be floating above the floor, thanks to a creatively designed cantilever. One of the strangest things about the master suite is the domed concrete ceiling. If you stand in the middle of the room and talk, the sounds seem strangely muffled but also echo at the same time. You have to try it to see what I mean.
That night, the only clue we had that it was way past bedtime was our fatigue. There are no windows in the space and no inclination that the sun had retreated and the moon was up. I tucked my children into the beds on the second floor, while my son picked a color for the light to stay while they fell asleep. I retreated upstairs to enjoy the incredible shower in the master suite and stayed up entirely too late reading a book in bed. Amazingly, we all slept wonderfully. The next morning, my kids enjoyed the donuts I’d brought for them and another movie on the projector. I enjoyed a cup of coffee in the master suite thanks to the in-room coffee bar and read a few more chapters. All too soon, it was time to check out. But not before my kids donned their Star Wars Mandalorian costumes for a little photo shoot. GT and Nick met us again to check out and we got to see a sneak peek into the other side of the complex. Titan Ranch has a little gift shop with some fun coffee mugs and t-shirts and I bought my kids’ t-shirts.
Bucket List Worthy
While I wouldn’t recommend this for small children, it’s certainly a bucket list-worthy experience for adults and older children. There are only a few places in the United States where you can tour a former nuclear missile silo, but only one with luxury accommodations where you can also host a party, and it’s only a few hours away. Unsettling as that history may be, it’s worth it just to say you did it.