While it’s generally relatively inexpensive to get to Las Vegas, once you arrive in Sin City it is usually a whole different story. Even the most frugal travelers will swiftly find their budget busted as the cost of food, drinks and entertainment shock the wallet over and over again. Unfortunately, spending money in Vegas is an inescapable reality. However, there are still some good deals to be found, and savvy travelers can enjoy themselves without returning from their holiday with a whopping credit card bill. Here are a few of the inexpensive gems we found on our last trip to Las Vegas:
6 – Mon Ami Gabi – Fine dining without the big bill
At the base of the Paris Hotel is a chic french bistro called Mon Ami Gabi. They have a sidewalk patio reminiscent of what you’d see in the City of Lights, and it is the perfect place to sit and people-watch or take in the Bellagio fountains which are almost directly across the street from the restaurant. Every time we walked by the patio was packed, and the smell wafting down to the street from the restaurant was heavenly. After a couple of passes we stopped to check the menu, expecting yet another case of sticker shock. Well, we were shocked alright, but in a good way. The prices were very reasonable, and completely in line with what we’d find at a fancy restaurant at home. There was a good variety of entrees on the menu, with plenty of choices for each of us. We decided it looked like the perfect spot for our anniversary dinner.
Though there was a long wait to get onto the sidewalk patio, the restaurant also had a spacious interior and the queue for inside was much shorter, so we opted for that option. Within 20 minutes we were seated and toasting our anniversary with a carafe of delicious red wine Sangria. Our server was friendly, helpful and very efficient. After a little deliberation we finally settled on our entrees. I chose the flat iron steak, and let me tell you, it was a wise decision. It was as tender and as delicious a cut of meat as I’d ever tasted. My wife’s meal was equally as good and we both finished sated and very happy with our choice.
The bill with a shared appy, entrees, drinks and tip came to just over a hundred bucks. Though some might find this expensive, trust me when I say it is downright cheap by Vegas standards, particularly when considering the quality of the food, service and the great location and ambiance of the restaurant.
5 – Enjoy Cheap Fast Food at the The Earl of Sandwich
We couldn’t afford to eat at places like Mon Ami Gabi for every meal, but we also didn’t want to eat the bulk of our meals in greasy chain burger joints. We found the perfect compromise within the Planet Hollywood Hotel – a busy sandwich shop called The Earl of Sandwich. Again, the long lineup tipped us off that this might be a good spot to grab lunch. We scanned the menu board and were again pleasantly surprised by the low prices, so we decided to give it a try.
Though the line was long we progressed swiftly to the front and placed our order. We were given a futuristic looking round beacon that would announce when our order was up. We went and found a table and before we could get comfortable the buzzer was going off. We grabbed our sandwiches and tore into them with gusto. This was comfort food at its best, hearty, tasty and filling. I managed to eat all of mine, but my wife could only make it through half, and took the rest back to the hotel room, putting it on ice for a late night snack. In all the cost was less than 15 dollars. It immediately became our favorite lunch spot, and since it is open 24 hours we even visited it in the wee hours, getting our sandwich fix at 2:30 AM one morning.
4 – Cheap Drinks – Happy Hour at The Tequila Bar
Trying to find deals on cocktails can also be a frustrating exercise. Yes, you can always stop into an ABC store a buy a giant can of Budweiser to carry around, but after hours wandering down the strip in the heat, a nice cool place to sit and have a few drinks is certainly inviting. However, a 50 dollar tab when you’ve had just a couple of drinks each can be a sobering experience. A friend of ours recommended The Tequila Bar in Bally’s as a good spot to spend Happy Hour. Cervezas, margaritas, and, of course, tequila shots are all on special between 4:00 and 6:00 PM, and either of those beverages can be had for two bucks. Add in free chips and salsa, and you’ve got yourself a cheap primer for an evening out.
Though eating, drinking and gambling will take up the bulk of your time in Vegas, you can’t take a trip to this desert oasis without taking in a couple of shows. That said, tickets for events like Cirque de Soleil, Criss Angel or Blue Man Group don’t come cheap. We weren’t too keen on dropping $300 for a pair of tickets, so we did some research to see if we could find shows that were a little more budget-friendly without sacrificing entertainment value. Here are the two we chose, and both were well worth the money spent:
3 – Carrot Top Comedy Show
Some might be scoffing right now, remembering Carrot Top in his early days as a prop comic. Well, let me tell you that Mr. Top has come a long way and his show is one of the funniest acts I’ve seen. Though the props are still at the heart of his act, he has re-branded himself, introducing a more “adult” theme to his act. Some of his jokes are downright raunchy, so if you are offended by that type of humor then you might want to give this show a miss. It is definitely not something you’d bring your kids to see. Carrot Top keeps the audience laughing right from the opening monologue till the final moments of the show.
His show is also a good venue for celebrity spotting. We were in the crowd with Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs, whose seven foot frame already made him conspicuous before Carrot Top shone a spotlight on him and introduced him to the crowd. All in all the show was a lot of fun, and at around 60 bucks a ticket it was very reasonably priced. You can find him performing at the Luxor Hotel.
2 – See Human Nature Motown Tribute
Don’t let the fact that they perform at the rundown Imperial Hotel negatively influence your decision to go see this show. We found a two for one coupon for this show in our hotel room and we decided to go check them out. The tickets weren’t very expensive to begin with, so it was very economical compared to most shows of this caliber.
Yes, the premise might sound strange – Four Australian white guys performing Motown’s classic hits – but, let me tell you, it really works. These guys are super talented, engaging and fun. They had the audience out of their chairs, singing and dancing along throughout the whole performance. Even if you aren’t a fan of this style of music I promise that you’ll enjoy yourself, and if you are a big fan of legendary performers like Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson you’ll be blown away how closely this Aussie group emulate those music icons.
1 – Visit Freemont Street
So, you’ve got one more night in Vegas and your wallet is all but empty. What to do? Grab a bus and head down to Freemont Street for their laser light show. The entire length of the street has a giant screen as a ceiling, and the nightly laser light show is completely enthralling, free entertainment. Not only can you enjoy the lights, but their are a number of outdoor performers providing entertainment as well. The night we were there the 80s was the theme, and four different bands were entertaining crowds of people with the tunes of the decade that brought us acid wash jeans, mullets and leg warmers. Grab a few cheap beers from one of the convenience stores, wander the street and soak up the ambiance.
Freemont Street is just one example of the savings that can be had once you leave the strip. If you are the type who enjoys wandering off the beaten path then the best deals can be found out from under the monolithic shadows of the hotels that dominate the skyline of Las Vegas Boulevard.
Those are just a few tips for saving money in Las Vegas. Hopefully they’ll help you have as much fun as we did without breaking the bank!