By: Bridget Farengo, Air Force Spouse

Welcome to Nellis AFB, Home of the Thunderbirds!  Las Vegas is a melting pot of people and cultures.  Finding a native can be difficult.  With most of the residents working in hospitality or for the military, this town has a very friendly feel.

Where is Nellis AFB?

Nellis AFB is located in Southern Nevada about 20 minutes away from downtown Las Vegas. Nellis offers a unique base set up.  It is divided into two bases: Main side and Hospital side.  Main base includes the dorms, Nellis AFB lodging, and most operation job sites and offices. Hospital side includes the Nellis AFB commissary, hospital, the newly renovated athletic facility, the BX, and all your basic family needs. It is a busy base with many airmen on temporary deployment to and from and the base.  The neighboring communities are also home to over 70,000 veterans.  There is a newly built VA hospital five miles from Nellis AFB.

Nellis AFB Housing

Living on base here feels like a vacation. Temporary housing is found on both the Main and Hospital side.  Housing on main side includes two-bedroom houses and the dorms. Hospital side includes the Nellis AFB hospital and all other housing (3+ bedroom).  The housing on hospital side is newly renovated along with the housing office and pool.  The pool on hospital side includes a splash pad and a hot tub.  Driving around hospital side has a resort feel with palm trees, Spanish tile roofing and a fresh new feel to the neighborhood.

Off-Base Housing

An extremely impoverished area surrounds Nellis AFB so off-base housing is several miles from base. If you are interested in living off base, check out North Las Vegas and Aliante.  These are great neighborhoods that are about 15-20 minutes away from base.  Centennial Hills is a beautiful area about 25-35 minutes from base and Summerlin is about 40 minutes away.  Summerlin is where most of the private schooling is located.  All of these areas offer quick access to grocery stores, daycares, restaurants, and other stores that provide everyday necessities.

Nellis AFB Weather

It’s hot and dry! Pack your lip protectant, lotion, hats, sunglasses, water bottles and cooling towels.  You can expect 60-degree weather on Thanksgiving and Christmas and pretty perfect nights all year round.  From June to September expect temperatures to exceed 100 degrees.  There is usually no humidity, which is helpful but make no mistake, it’s hot.

Nellis AFB BAH & Cost of Living

Your BAH should go far while stationed at Nellis AFB. The cost of living is very reasonable and home ownership is an attainable goal for many while stationed here. The median home cost is $264,300. Need to find a REALTOR® in the Las Vegas area? Your fellow military and veteran community has reviewed them for you at PCSgrades.com.

On Base Amenities

The newly renovated Nellis AFB gym on Main side is a wonderful added feature to this already great base.  Nellis is also home to the Thunderbirds celebrated in a pretty great museum on Main side. The Nellis AFB hospital is a full accommodation facility.  Due to a large veteran community in Las Vegas, the hospital offers a wide variety of services.  There are two pharmacies on base; one located in the hospital and a satellite pharmacy on Main base. The community center offers gymnastics, dancing, and jujitsu.  The youth center hosts a wide variety of activities for kids of all ages. There is also a home-school group on base that meets every Tuesday at the housing center on Hospital side.  Make sure to plan at least a month out to register your children for any of these activities.

Culture & Customs

Take the family out to the famous Las Vegas neon sign and stop by the Neon Museum for a scenic tour of all the neon signs that once decorated the strip. Warning, this is an outdoor tour.   

The Las Vegas Motor Speedway sits across the street from Nellis AFB and hosts an elaborate holiday lighting at Christmas time (free for military).  The race track also hosts music events, marathon races, air races, and it can convert to a golf course, and a trade show venue.

Expect to see lizards and geckos everywhere!  These little fiends can be seen scurrying across walking paths and racing across the brick walls that line the neighborhood streets.  Along with these quick friends are chipmunks and bunny rabbits.  Hummingbirds dance from plant to plant and can be found anywhere in town.  The koi ponds at the local parks are home to many turtles. You will find lots of geese and other birds there, too.

Local Cuisine

Las Vegas has every cuisine you could dream of!  As the strip is a short 14.2 miles south of Nellis AFB and home to many world-renowned chefs, you can find something for the whole family.  If you would like to stay closer to base, Las Vegas has a plethora of mom and pop taco shops, some delicious pho and noodles shops, ice cream parlors, sushi any way you like it (rolls/wraps/bowls/burritos), and of course, the famous IN and OUT burger.

Area Attractions  

The Grand Canyon is 252 miles or about 4 hours of Nellis AFB.  There is a Grand Canyon West Rim and Hoover Dam Tour from Las Vegas with optional Skywalk for about $140 per person.  There are many day tours to, in and around the Grand Canyon depending on your budget. 

The Hoover Dam is only 33.8 miles (about an hour) from Nellis AFB which sits on the Colorado River that runs through Lake Mead.  Lake Mead offers biking, boating, fishing, hunting, educational classes “parks as classrooms,” wildlife, marinas, canoeing, kayaking, camping and resorts if you are more of a “glamper.”

Camping Fun

Bring your camping and hiking gear as Las Vegas has much to offer.  From hiking the many scenic trails provided by Red Rocks to snow skiing at Mount Charleston and Lake Mead, these are just a few options to entertain the family outdoors.  Enjoy one of the many National parks surrounding Las Vegas, either staying in Nevada or venturing out to California, Utah or Arizona. Longdale Trails, about an hour north of Nellis AFB, includes dry camping and lots of family fun.  Brian Head, Utah is a small ski town with nearby camping areas including Mammoth Creek, Duck Creek, and Panguitch Lake.  And then there is the Pahrump Winery which is a fun, perhaps more mature, destination. Catch a hockey game! Las Vegas is home to the brand-new hockey team, The Golden Knights.  The Knights made it to the Stanley Cup in 2018 with odds of 500 to 1.  Although the Knights did not win the Stanley Cup, fans are excited for their return next season.

Outdoor life

Las Vegas has many different parks all over the Clark County.  Most parks include a splash pad which are designated watering areas operated by a large button.  When pressed, water spills out from buckets, tubes and other metal fixtures. Parks are located in or right next to every community.   There are little “pack a picnic and play” parks, as well as, parks featuring amphitheaters, koi ponds, dog parks, unique toys and learning, and more. The Springs Preserve is a nature exhibit that offers kids camps in the summer, and nature and wildlife activities and events all year round. Shark Reef and Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat are two fabulous aquariums in the area.  Clark County Wetland Park provides educational, recreational, and research opportunities to the public, and, it’s free! Nellis AFB is a unique duty station so enjoy your time here by creating memories to last a lifetime.

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Bridget Farengo is an Air Force spouse and mother.  She works for Clark County in Emergency Management and volunteers with the American Red Cross disasters unit.

Bridget Farengo