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Credit: Flickr/http2007

Be entertained in the entertainment capital of the world for a surprisingly small price

A trip to Las Vegas doesn't have to mean splurging; you'll be surprised by how many options there are for affordable fun

The Vancouver summer is making a very delayed arrival and I’ve been feeling the need for extended amounts of sun on my face for some time now.

Back in May, with the long weekend fast approaching, we decided we had to get away. Money and time didn’t allow for us to travel to the tropics so we decided on what seemed like a sure thing for heat, relaxation and fun: Las Vegas.

Our best friends were about to embark on a month-long motorcycle trip into the western United States and my husband and I had more than enough Air Miles to get roundtrip tickets to Vegas, so everything fell into place for a meet-up in Sin City.

Vegas is often associated with excess, extravagance, indulgence, and high-rolling. But this is a story about low-rolling, frugality and economy. Our intent was to spend as little money as possible while still having maximum fun. Here’s how we did it.

Affordable Vegas Accommodations

luxor2.jpgThe Luxor hotel and casino in Las Vegas (Image: Flickr/Christian Haugen)

Stay off the Strip
On a previous trip to Vegas our friends stayed at a beautiful hotel called Tuscany Suites and Casino that was less than two blocks off Las Vegas Boulevard or the “Strip,” as it’s most commonly known. Not only is it close to the Strip, it’s close to the middle of the Strip, so it has great proximity to all of the action at the big resort hotels. Mid-week rates for June start as low as $41 per night, which includes the $13 tax resort fee, and it has a nice pool for lounging and relaxing. 

Go mid-week
On our most recent trip, we initially planned on staying at the Luxor over the May long weekend for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, but when we compared those rates to the mid-week rates, we decided to rearrange our schedules and stay Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

According to Luxor’s website, the room rates for Friday, July 1 to Sunday, July 3 start at $95, $199 and $150, respectively, whereas the room rates for Monday, July 4 to Wednesday, July 6 start at $80, $55 and $50, respectively.

Eating Vegas-style

steak-and-shrimp-dinner.jpgThe Market Street Cafe's $7.95 steak and shrimp combo

All you can eat, all day long
Even though this is a tale of low-rolling and frugality, excess and indulgence can be yours in the form of all-day, all-you-can-eat buffets, which exist in abundance in Las Vegas. It may not be fine dining, but at $24.99 per person for unlimited access from 7 am to 10 pm, the Roundtable Buffet at Excalibur is a great deal and has a wide selection of different foods from Chinese to Mexican to traditional North American fare like prime rib and roast turkey with all of the trimmings.

If you a want a little more variety than eating at the same place all day, $32 gets you access to MORE The Buffet at Luxor and the Roundtable Buffet at Excalibur. Both restaurants are open from 7 am to 10 pm daily. 

Or you could really splurge and get the Buffet of Buffets all-access pass for $44.99 which gets you into the buffets at Caesars Palace, the Flamingo, Harrah’s, Imperial Palace, Paris, Planet Hollywood and Rio. The pass is good for a 24-hour period but check each restaurant for business hours.    

Eat off the Strip
The Bougainvillea Café at Terribles Hotel and Casino is just over a block away from the Strip and has $9.99 dinner specials including t-bone steak or a full rack of ribs with sides. And if you travel a little further to the Fremont Street Experience (more on Fremont to come) there are plenty of cheap and cheerful places at which to eat.

We hit the Market Street Cafe at the California Hotel and Casino and had a tasty steak and shrimp dinner for $7.95 each.

Sin City's Cheap Entertainment 

gambling.jpgThese two have a wad of $1 bills and are ready to hit the penny slots

Gambling on a budget
Even if you're staying at a cheaper hotel, it doesn't mean you can't gamble at one of the nicer hotel's casinos. We decided to get a taste of the high life by doing a casino crawl down the strip, stopping at some of the nicer venues like Caesars Palace and the Bellagio, and playing the penny slots with a very modest budget of $5 to $10 each at each casino.

Adding to our savings throughout the night was the fact that “every casino offers free drinks while you gamble,” as Vegas.com will attest, and starting off by tipping your waitress a dollar or two will ensure she keeps coming back to top up your drinks as long as you're gambling.

walking-the-strip.jpgBe sure to put on some comfy shoes for the marathon that is walking the Strip

Cruising the Strip by foot or bus
Vegas is such a vibrant, over-the-top place and just walking around and taking in the sights is great entertainment in itself – and free entertainment is the best kind when you're low-rolling. Where else would you find a roller coaster perched on top of a hotel, a spectacular water fountain show, and scaled-down replicas of the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, and a Venetian canal offering gondola rides all on the same street?

But looks can be deceiving in Vegas, and even if the place you plan on walking to is only three resorts away, the sheer size of the resorts is staggering and the walk can be much more than you anticipated.

On our last day there we wanted to walk the whole Strip but didn't have time to walk both ways so we hopped on the Strip's public transportation, a fleet of double decker buses nicknamed The Deuce, to the north end and walked all the way back to our hotel, Luxor, which is almost at the tip of the south end. The Deuce runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is only $7 each for 24 hours. 

big-cans-of-beer.jpgWe've died and gone to heaven with our huge, cold, $3 beers

If you get a little thirsty while you're walking, it's perfectly legal to walk down the street while enjoying an alcoholic beverage, according to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Cold beer is so cheap to purchase from the liquor store, it almost seems like a shame not to enjoy a brew while you wander around.

fremont-experience.jpgThe canopy before (left) and during (right) the spectacular light show on Fremont Street

The Fremont Street Experience
For a unique experience that you won't find on the Strip, be sure to head downtown to Fremont Street, also known as the Old Strip. The four of us took a cab from our hotel for less than $20.

Dubbed the Fremont Street Experience, it's an adventure not to be missed. A huge canopy covers the length of five football fields and starting around dusk what previously looked like an inocuous metal covering turns into a spectacular light show choreographed to groovy tunes. Check the schedule for showtimes and see below for a little video I took.

Also not to be missed are all of the casinos, stores, cheap eats, and people-watching.

vegas-pool.jpgCooling off in one of Luxor's pools

Hit the pool
One of my favourite things to do in Vegas is lay by the pool and take in the heat. The Luxor pool area is quite nice and nothing beats chatting with friends, people-watching, and flipping through magazines, with the odd dip in the pool to cool off. Bliss.


profile-image.jpgCatherine Roscoe Barr, BSc Neuroscience, is a Vancouver-based writer, editor, and fitness professional. Before settling on the west coast she lived in Sydney, Toronto, Oregon, Montana, and practically everywhere in Alberta. She can be found jogging with her adorable dog, dining with her fabulous husband or voraciously reading anywhere comfy.