10 Ways to Do Vegas on a Budget

A trip to Vegas doesn't have to be a splurge—make the most of your time in Sin City with great deals and affordable attractions

Credit: Las Vegas

Our dollar may be down—but reasonably priced fun is riding high in Vegas

With the help of global superstars like Celine Dion and celebrity chefs such as Tom Colicchio, Las Vegas, Nevada has managed to overhaul its image in little more than a decade. The Strip is now home to luxurious resort hotels, the world’s biggest music acts and some of America’s finest food, but many come at a steep price. With the loonie hitting record lows this year, planning a visit to Vegas can seem daunting. It shouldn’t. Surprising deals, free experiences and budget options are available throughout the area, ensuring a stay that is both unique and easy on the pocketbook.

Click through for 10 ways to do Vegas on a budget…

Credit: Las Vegas

Flight deals

Getting there is half the battle. As Las Vegas expands its already impressive convention facilities, flying in can eat up more than half of your travel budget at popular times of the year. If your schedule is flexible, research the windows in the calendar that showcase cheap hotel rates. Given that properties have a firm handle on meetings and events, the least expensive accommodation dates in Vegas generally correspond with lower capacity—and flight costs tend to reflect this, providing consumer deals as a result.

Steal of a stay

As resorts on the Strip add luxury amenities, rates tend toward the sky. But that doesn’t mean budget-minded travellers are priced out. Check promotional tabs on resort websites to uncover often impressive deals. This summer, Treasure Island offers a “TV Ad Special” that showcases not just a low nightly rate but also 2-for-1 show tickets and discount beverages and spa services.

Further off the Strip, both the El Cortez and the Downtown Grand showcase classic Vegas style with new consumer offerings. The Grand welcomes visitors with a lobby of sleek dark wood plus sophisticated room decor. Special booking rates even provide free food and beverage credits for Citrus, their popular poolside restaurant and bar.

Over at the El Cortez—the longest continuously-running hotel and casino in Vegas—64 recently refurbished “cabana suites” offer a mixture of South Beach-influenced decor and modern amenities at rates as low as $40 per night this summer. Additionally, the property’s “Pick-a-Design” suites make major fashion statements. Dreamed up by champion designers in a competition held in partnership with the Las Vegas Design Center, each of the rooms reflects a different look: avant garde, clean contemporary, mobster chic or 1950s glam.

Credit: Josh Murray 

Free fun

An old adage bemoans, “Nothing in Vegas is free.” Except, today, it is.

Mystere—the city’s longest-running Cirque Du Soleil production—offers a free open rehearsal on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons weekly. For half an hour, attendees can marvel at performers as they teeter and totter their way through many of the gravity-defying tricks the Montreal-based company is famous for. Representatives on-site answer questions and—rather graciously—distribute a discount offer redeemable for significant savings on show tickets.

Downtown’s Life Is Beautiful Festival springs up on many blocks closer to the city’s Fremont Experience each fall. As a result, a year-round street art collection adds new wall murals annually to the area’s facades, all free for the viewing enjoyment of art lovers. The works – designed and created by some of the world’s most acclaimed visual artists – are scattered within comfortable walking distance and are credited with, quite literally, changing the face of the downtown area.

As part of the annual “Rock of Vegas” concert series on Fremont Street, some of America’s most beloved rock bands and solo artists take to the stage to perform and provide visitors with a Saturday alternative to expensive bars and crowded clubs. This August, Grammy winner Melissa Etheridge belts out her hits and California “All Star” rockers Smash Mouth are featured two weeks later, totally free to the public.

Special strolls

Younger visitors to Vegas have been fleeing casinos over the past two decades in favour of outdoor spaces. The rise of the day club at high-end resorts is one example, with beefy NFL stars and plump-lipped Kardashians presiding over sleek parties.

More down-to-earth though is The Park. Now open between Monte Carlo and New York, New York, the casual outdoor destination connects the Las Vegas Strip with the new T-Mobile Arena and offers pedestrians a variety of boutiques, restaurants, bars and, of course, shady spots to enjoy specially curated flower beds and foliage. With cooling 100-foot-long water walls, the towering 40-foot “Bliss Dance” sculpture by Marco Cochrane and the west’s first Shake Shack, the three-acre space is perfect to beat the heat.

Back on Fremont, the stylish Downtown Container Park presents an open-air shopping and dining experience fit for the whole family. Forty-three repurposed shipping containers are among the structures housing 38 boutiques and bistros. A 33-foot-tall slide and a tree house in the middle of the park are perfect for family-friendly playtime but also act as a whole new adventure for the young-at-heart once the park becomes adults-only at 9 p.m.

Cheap eats

Finding a meal deal is always a delight in Vegas and three such options are sprinkled around the map. At the Strip’s glamorous Cosmopolitan is Secret Pizza. The issue—as the name suggests—is finding the joint! Tucked at the end of a long corridor lined with vintage album covers, the eatery is a favourite of party-goers leaving the hotel’s popular Marquee Day Club. It offers both by the slice (starting at just $5) or by the pie.

At the Downtown Container Park, visitors can find a number of dining and drinking options from street tacos to vegan cuisine but Chefinni’s hot dogs provide a truly unique treat. Choose one of the house specialities, like “The Grandfather” with pork belly and a quail egg, or simply start with a naked dog (beef, turkey, vegan or bacon-wrapped) for $5 and then add any number of unique toppings, from dry chorizo bits to fresh avocado.

At Viva Las Arepas, traditional Venezuelan sandwiches (fully-loaded!) are on the menu and a deal at between $5 and $8 per piece. The laid-back locale began life as a street cart before moving up the food chain to full café.

Reasonable moves

Despite a red-tape-riddled launch, Uber has been a staple in Vegas transportation now for a year. The challenge? Surge pricing is in effect often and can turn commutes along busy passenger corridors like Las Vegas Boulevard into steep fares. As a more reasonable option, check out the rather underappreciated Las Vegas Monorail. It travels along the eastside of the Strip, stretching nearly four miles from the MGM Grand to the SLS (formerly the Sahara). An unlimited one-day pass costs just $12.

On the opposite side of the road, hotel trams connect many of the sprawling resorts. Three smaller train systems operate free for riders throughout the day. With the exception of a short walk past Caesar’s Palace (to transfer from one tram to the next), it’s possible to ride the full two and half miles from Mandalay Bay to Treasure Island for free, with stops at nearly every hotel along the way.

Credit: Josh Murray 

Take in the views

Las Vegas has always been ‘sensory overload’—and recent additions make sights and sounds no less exciting. At 550 feet tall and 520 feet in diameter, the High Roller Observation Wheel is the world’s largest of its kind. Both day and night trips offer visitors incredible 360-degree views from enclosed pods. Pre-purchased online passes for the 30-minute thrill ride begin at $18 per adult. For added fun, tack on a “happy half-hour” with an open bar for an added cost of $10 per adult during daytime hours.

If you don’t sleep late after a long night, head out to the stunning Red Rock Canyon in the morning for a respite from the bright lights. The national conservation area contains 19 marked trails for hiking with plenty of photo ops to capture its namesake formations from the perfect angle. There’s even a scenic 13-mile driving loop if you’d rather stay in the comfortably air conditioned car. Per vehicle rates to enter the grounds—located less than an hour’s drive from downtown—run just $7.

If you’d rather find yourself airborne, Slotzilla at the Fremont Experience offers gasp-inducing views. Two options mean major thrills for adventurous visitors: the ‘zipline’ starts at approximately seven stories above the street, costs 25 dollars per passenger and zips you along half of expansive Fremont. Higher up, the ‘zoomline’ launches from 10 stories above ground and travels half a kilometre to the famed Golden Gate at a cost of 45 dollars. Discounts are available for rides prior to 6 p.m. when the street fills with lights, flair bartenders and revelers in the thousands.

Old-school charm

If it’s good enough for Sharon Stone and the cast of Casino, it’ll certainly do. The famed Peppermill Fireside Lounge—often a filming location for major Hollywood productions—showcases beautiful cocktail servers, red velvet booths and some of Vegas’ most classic cocktails. The “fire fountain” flickers away romantically as happy hour revellers enjoy 50 per cent off well drinks, beers and house wines every day from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and again from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. (For a real challenge to the liver, share the 64-ounce Scorpion.)

Carmine’s is a classic in the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace. Replicating its famed New York locations in Times Square and the Upper West Side, the restaurant serves family-style Italian dishes of gigantic proportions. A chicken parmigiana—priced at $35—serves five (very comfortably) while the “Titanic” dessert of cake, ice cream and cookies is so large you may need to share it with the next table.

Credit: Josh Murray

Keep active

If the food ‘n’ drink focus of the city is daunting, cut some calories from your daily tally with exercise at any number of cool—and reasonably-priced—sports and gaming facilities.

Topgolf opened just this spring and offers four levels of unique driving-range-meets-party-facility excitement. VIP lounges, pools, a concert venue, five bars and, of course, 108 hitting bays explain the reason Golf Digest labelled it “the world’s most insane driving range.” All of that for hourly rates that work out to just $5 per player—if you can round up others to fill a bay.

Fewer floors but no less fun is found at Brooklyn Bowl. Located near the High Roller along the bustling Linq Promenade, the collective space boasts 30 lanes of bowling, “comfort food” by New York’s Blue Ribbon Restaurants and a concert venue that hosts everything from AC/DC tribute bands to funk legend George Clinton later this summer. On non-performance nights, bowling for a team of up to eight will run you $20-25 per half-hour (depending on the day of the week.) Shoe rental is $5 a pair and dedicated wait staff will tend to your food and beverage needs right at your lane of choice.

Finally, board games are on deck at downtown’s Gold Spike, the Season 31 location of MTV’s The Real World. The “backyard” at the hotel features oversized games, wall art and a small bar, plus live music on weekend evenings.