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American Express There are about a dozen offices in town, but the closest one to the Strip is located inside the MGM Grand Hotel at 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (corner of Tropicana; tel. 702/739-8474).

Babysitters Contact Around the Clock Child Care (tel. 800/798-6768 or 702/365-1040). In business since 1987, this reputable company clears its sitters with the health department, the sheriff, and the FBI, and carefully screens references. Charges are $46 for 4 hours for one or two children, $9.50 for each additional hour, with surcharges for additional children and on holidays. Sitters are on call 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, and they will come to your hotel. Call at least 3 hours in advance.

Banks Banks are generally open from 9 or 10am to 5 and sometimes 6pm, and most have Saturday hours. ATMs are plentiful all around town. See also "Cash & Credit," below.

Cash & Credit It's extremely easy, too easy, to obtain cash in Las Vegas. Most casino cashiers will cash personal checks and can exchange foreign currency, and just about every casino has a machine that will provide cash on a wide variety of credit cards.

Conventions Las Vegas is one of America's top convention destinations. Much of the action takes place at the Las Vegas Convention Center, 3150 Paradise Rd., Las Vegas, NV 89109 (tel. 702/892-7575), which is the largest single-level convention center in the world. Its 1.3 million square feet includes 89 meeting rooms. And this immense facility is augmented by the Cashman Field Center, 850 Las Vegas Blvd. N., Las Vegas, NV 89101 (tel. 702/386-7100). Under the same auspices, Cashman provides another 98,100 square feet of convention space. Additionally, there are massive convention facilities at many of the big hotels, including the MGM Grand, The Mirage, Mandalay Bay, The Venetian, and more.

Dentists & Doctors Hotels usually have lists of dentists and doctors should you need one. In addition, they are listed in the Centel Yellow Pages.

For dentist referrals, you can also call the Clark County Dental Society (tel. 702/255-7873), weekdays 9am to noon and 1 to 5pm; when the office is closed, a recording will tell you who to call for emergency service.

For physician referrals, call the Desert Springs Hospital (tel. 800/842-5439 or 702/733-6875). Hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm.

Dry Cleaners Things spill, and silk is easily stained. When in need, go to Steiner Cleaners, 1131 E. Tropicana Ave., corner of Maryland Parkway, in the Vons Shopping Center (tel. 702/736-7474), open Monday to Friday 7am to 6:30pm, Saturday 8am to 6pm. Not only did they clean all the costumes for the movie Casino, but they were Liberace's personal dry cleaner for years.

Emergencies Dial tel. 911 to contact the police or fire department or to call an ambulance.

Highway Conditions For recorded information, call tel. 702/486-3116. You can also tune in 970 AM for traffic news or 1610 AM for highway reports.

Hospitals Emergency services are available 24 hours a day at University Medical Center, 1800 W. Charleston Blvd., at Shadow Lane (tel. 702/383-2000); the emergency-room entrance is on the corner of Hastings and Rose streets. Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, 3186 Maryland Pkwy., between Desert Inn Road and Sahara Avenue (tel. 702/731-8080), also has a 24-hour emergency room.

For more minor problems, if you are on the Strip, the Imperial Palace has a 24-hour urgent-care facility, the Nevada Resort Medical Center, an independently run facility on the 8th floor, with doctors and X-ray machines. It's located at 3535 Las Vegas Blvd. S., between the Sands and The Flamingo (tel. 702/893-6767).

Hot Lines Emergency hot lines include the Rape Crisis Center (tel. 702/366-1640), Suicide Prevention (tel. 702/731-2990), and Poison Emergencies (tel. 800/446-6179).

Liquor & Gambling Laws You must be 21 to drink or gamble; proof of age is required and often requested at bars, nightclubs, and restaurants, so it's always a good idea to bring ID when you go out, especially if you look young. There are no closing hours in Las Vegas for the sale or consumption of alcohol, even on Sunday. Don't even think about driving while you're under the influence, or having an open container of alcohol in your car. Beer, wine, and liquor are all sold in all kinds of stores pretty much around the clock; trust us, you won't have a hard time finding a drink in this town. It's even legal to have an open container on the Strip.

Newspapers & Periodicals There are two Las Vegas dailies: the Las Vegas Review Journal and the Las Vegas Sun. The Review Journal's Friday edition has a helpful "Weekend" section with a comprehensive guide to shows and buffets. There are two free alternative papers, with club listings and many unbiased restaurant and bar reviews. Both City Life and Las Vegas Weekly are weekly. And at every hotel desk, you'll find dozens of free local magazines, such as Vegas Visitor, What's On in Las Vegas, Showbiz Weekly, and Where to Go in Las Vegas, that are chock-full of helpful information--although probably of the sort that comes from paid advertising.

Parking Valet parking is one of the great pleasures of Las Vegas and well worth the dollar tip (given when the car is returned) to save walking a city block from the far reaches of a hotel parking lot, particularly when the temperature is over 100°F (38°C). Another summer plus: The valet will turn on your air-conditioning so that you don't have to get into an "oven on wheels."

Pharmacies There's a 24-hour Walgreen's (which also has a 1-hr. photo) at 3765 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 702/895-6878), almost directly across from the Monte Carlo. Sav-On is a large 24-hour drugstore and pharmacy close to the Strip at 1360 E. Flamingo Rd., at Maryland Parkway (tel. 702/731-5373 for the pharmacy, 702/737-0595 for general merchandise). White Cross Drugs, 1700 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 702/382-1733), open daily 7am to 1am, will make pharmacy deliveries to your hotel during the day.

Police For non-emergencies, call tel. 702/795-3111. For emergencies, call tel. 911.

Post Office The most convenient post office is immediately behind the Stardust hotel at 3100 Industrial Rd., between Sahara Avenue and Spring Mountain Road (tel. 800/297-5543). It's open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5pm. You can also mail letters and packages at your hotel, and there's a full-service U.S. Post Office in the Forum Shops in Caesars Palace.

Safety In Las Vegas, vast amounts of money are always on display, and criminals find many easy marks. Don't be one of them. At gaming tables and slot machines, men should keep wallets well concealed and out of the reach of pickpockets, and women should keep handbags in plain sight (on laps). If you win a big jackpot, ask the pit boss or slot attendant to cut you a check rather than give you cash--the cash may look nice, but flashing it can attract the wrong kind of attention. Outside casinos, popular spots for pickpockets and thieves are restaurants and outdoor shows, such as the volcano at The Mirage or the Treasure Island pirate battle. Stay alert. Unless your hotel room has an in-room safe, check your valuables in a safe-deposit box at the front desk.

Taxes Clark County hotel room tax is 9%, and in Henderson it's 10%; the sales tax is 7%.

Time Zone Las Vegas is in the Pacific time zone, 3 hours earlier than the East Coast, 2 hours earlier than the Midwest. For exact local time, call tel. 702/248-4800.

Veterinarian If Fido or Fluffy gets sick while traveling, go to the West Flamingo Animal Hospital, 5445 Flamingo Rd., near Decatur Boulevard (tel. 702/876-2111). They're open 24 hours and they take Discover, MasterCard, and Visa, and have an ATM.

Weather For local weather information, call tel. 702/248-4800. The radio station 970 FM does weather reports.

Weddings Las Vegas is one of the easiest places in the world to tie the knot. There's no blood test or waiting period, the ceremony and license are inexpensive, chapels are open around the clock, and your honeymoon destination is right at hand. More than 101,000 marriages are performed here each year. Get a license Downtown at the Clark County Marriage License Bureau, 200 S. 3rd St., at Bridger Avenue (tel. 702/455-3156), which is open Monday to Thursday 8am to midnight, and from 8am Friday through midnight Sunday. On legal holidays, they're open 24 hours. The cost of a marriage license is $50; the cost of the ceremony varies depending on where you go to have it done.

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