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Las Vegas lucky 7: What troops, veterans and military families should know before they go

May 30, 2017 (Photo Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
When Military Times asked its readers for advice on what to do in Las Vegas, many of the responses echoed this message, from the sea-service side of the ledger:

“Nice try,” read the Facebook post. “NCIS not gonna get me that easily.”

Fair enough. Visitors looking to sin in Sin City likely won’t need to look far. But not everyone in town has debauchery on their to-do list, and some of the area’s long-term guests — the 14,000 service members stationed at nearby Air Force bases, for instance — may be in need of some military- and family-friendly fare.

Here’s a Las Vegas hit list based on feedback from readers, officials at Creech and Nellis Air Force bases, and others tied to the area’s tourism industry. Click here for more advice on Vegas and other travel tips to previous Military Cities:

1. Discount deluge. Las Vegas has nearly 150,000 hotel rooms, and a wide swath of them come with some type of military discount. Ditto for shows and restaurants. Finding a deal won't be difficult, but finding the best one may take some work. A bit of guidance:

  • Travel websites can help compare deals, but they often won't include information about discounted rates that can be found only at the hotel website. Once you've got your ideal destination in mind, go directly to that hotel (or hotel chain) site to do your research and, if the price is right, your booking. Larger operations like Caesars and MGM Resorts have pages dedicated to military-discount details, including proof-of-service specifics and eligibility rules.
  • Base information, tickets and travel, or ITT, offices may have deals that beat published prices. Check with your installation.
  • With so many tourists inbound (nearly 43 million last year), businesses offer an array of discount programs, some of which can't be combined with other deals. Don't leap on "10 percent off for service members" if you can get a lower rate via another program.
2. Discount dynamics. Gamblers in Las Vegas often receive "comps," or complimentary lodging/food/etc., based on how long they're at the tables. Easily the most common piece of advice for obtaining comps is that the gambler can't be shy: If you don't ask, you can't receive.

The same goes for military discounts. While the advice in the first section applies to planning your trip, you may find other instances where a military ID will save you a few dollars while on the road, at places you might not expect. GameWorks, one of few places in Vegas where visitors know in advance that the machines won't pay off in cash, offers a half-off military discount on the first Thursday of every month. Station Casinos offer Military Monday promotions, where benefits can vary.

These aren't the types of deals that you'll plan a weeklong trip around, but they are examples of savings you may find as you explore the area. Like comps, you only know if you ask.

3. Airman's choice. Concerts, boxing matches and comedy clubs are among the top draws for service members locally stationed, officials at Nellis told Military Times. The multiple Cirque du Soleil shows and tours of the Grand Canyon also top the list.

The base's ITT office can provide discounts to other top events, including rides atop the Stratosphere tower, water parks, the Madame Tussauds wax museum (located on the Strip at the Venetian) and the family-friendly Circus Circus Adventuredome

4. Get out of town. Among the most popular questions asked by new arrivals at Nellis: "What is there to do besides gambling?" If you're not up for any of the entertainment venues sprinkled between the slot machines, hit the road.

Both the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam took in about 7 million visitors in 2016, according to National Park Service figures. A less-crowded option: Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, located just west of the city, features hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, camping and a 13-mile scenic drive (open during construction).

Admission details are here; for more on the America the Beautiful pass that includes free admission to this park and similar ones nationwide, go here.

5. Culture over casino. Shying away from the noise and the neon is one thing, but there are several pockets of art and history sprinkled among the drink specials and high-dollar blackjack:

  • Stop by the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art to see an exhibit paying tribute to Muhammad Ali. Bring your military ID and receive $2 off the regular $18 admission.
  • Get a dose of radioactive history from the National Atomic Testing Museum. Active military members receive $4 off the regular $22 admission with ID.
  • Learn about your favorite wiseguys (and wisegals) at The Mob Museum. Military members with ID get $6 off the regular walk-up ticket price of $23.95.
6.  Don't bet on it. Boulder City, less than an hour's drive south of Nellis Air Force Base, is one of two jurisdictions in Nevada that doesn't allow gambling. On the way to Hoover Dam and just minutes from the Lake Mead National Recreation Area visitors center, it offers some traditional tourist fare (get your alien fix at The Flying Saucer, for instance) and its own  Hoover Dam Museum, with details from the perspective of the workers who built the engineering marvel.  

7. Don't bet on it, Part II.
 All new arrivals to Nellis and Creech receive guidance on gambling regulations applicable to service members. The ADAPT, or Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment, Program at Nellis offers gambling-addiction services in addition to its drug and alcohol counseling for active-duty service members. More information is available at 702-653-3880. 

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