Las Vegas Luxury for Less
The glamour and glitz of the Vegas Strip is a huge draw for tourists seeking excitement, entertainment and elaborate distractions from everyday life. Luxury hotels line the strip, offering the ambiance of Europe or distinctive elegance, at a price. You can certainly explore the treasure trove of experiences, such as a gondola ride in Venice, without paying the high price tag.
To me, a room is a place to lay my head, shower, shampoo and shine for the next day. As long as it is clean and safe, has comfortable beds and reasonable service, I’m good. I realize of course, that not everyone is as cheap as I am, and people crave the energy of staying a casino hotel. You can have your Vegas casino without breaking the bank, if you know where to look.
Much of the strip has become a sort of amusement park, even offering rides and larger than life outdoor displays. A volcano erupts regularly, in front of the Mirage, and of course, the Bellagio Dancing Waters are world famous. Truly, you can spend a day exploring the free attractions on the strip, never plunking a single coin into the one armed bandits.
Another spectacular show, shown at least every hour, after dark occurs in old school Vegas. The Fremont Street Experience is an amazing technological fete that changes regularly. The length of the original Vegas strip (back in the day of Bugsy Siegel, the Rat Pack, and old school gaming), is covered in a continuous screen with millions of digital lights which are manipulated into extravagant shows complete with surround sound. You can see several different shows in the same evening.
Rooms at the older casinos are half the cost (or less). Some of the rooms are still a bit outdated, but most of the hotels have had amazing refurbishments, bringing them to current standards. The drawback of staying on Fremont Street is a lack of swimming pools. However, the pool at the Golden Nugget is really something. A clear acrylic waterslide takes you straight through a shark tank! Some of the hotels share pools with their neighbor. I can honestly say that although lounging by the pool was on my Vegas agenda, each and every time I have gone, I have yet to dip more than a toe in any pool or fountain.
Another perk of Fremont Street is the table gaming. Here, you can still find $5 tables, and sometimes, if you are lucky, you will stumble upon $2 craps. The atmosphere is friendly and intimate; where as the larger casinos’ dealers can feel rather icy. If I am going to lose my money to them, I at least expect them to be personable. And I like to win occasionally.
Don’t worry about the location. Some people feel like Fremont Street is miles away from the new strip, and terribly inconvenient. “The Deuce,” is the local transit bus that runs 24 hours a day, connecting both old and new worlds. It is about half a block from Fremont Street, and stops at nearly every major hotel. Buy a day pass, or one for the duration of your stay, and you can jump on and off as often as you’d like.
Even the hotels that are “next” to each other can be nearly a mile down the road. The size and scope of the hotels is truly overwhelming. The Deuce will save you the long and exhausting walk from one casino to the next. Cabs are pricey and can be dodgy. You may see some local color on the bus, but it is a safe alternative, and it often has a party-like atmosphere because everyone is on vacation and has probably consumed some libations. It’s a two-story bus, so there is usually enough room for everyone.
Many cities, like Las Vegas offer a City or ‘Power’ pass to a huge variety of attractions. These allow you to have access to the attractions that are not free. Rides at the Stratosphere, several roller coasters, a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower, the Titanic Experience, Madam Trusauds’ Wax Museum, and even fine art museums, are but a handful of the attractions that line the strip. The passes can also be used for trips to the Hoover Dam, and more off strip attractions. The passes allow you to pay one discounted fee, and you can choose the number of attractions, or unlimited admissions, based on how much you wish to spend. In most cases, these passes must be purchased ahead of time; as they are not available to residents, they are not generally sold in town.
I enjoy Vegas more as an adult vacation, but we visited several times when our kids were young. Circus Circus offers free circus style acrobats, and exciting shows, not to mention an entire carnival surrounding the acts, with games of skill and chance. It is an ideal place for the younger set. Slightly older kids would love to spend some time in the Adventure Dome, an enclosed amusement park within the casino building. There are thrills and family rides, something for the whole family. The Stratosphere offers rides for the very bravest of visitors. The view from the top is stunning, but I get dizzy just looking out the window. The Stratosphere rides plunge riders over the edge, dangling them hundreds of feet above the strip.
If you have children traveling with you, consider Circus Circus for your stay. Fremont Street is definitely more geared towards adults, with a few exceptions. This is not my favorite hotel to stay in, but for a family, the budget price and the amenities make it worth it.
One last tip on saving money: eat at the buffets, or the little deli’s, bakeries, or pizza joints offered at every casino. You will still find $2.99 steak and eggs, on the hopes that you will be lured to the machines. Free drinks are slower in coming these days, so I like to belly up to the bar to play slot games or video poker. As long as you are gambling, you get free drinks. Trust me, they are far more generous than the on the casino floor.
Using these tips you can spend several days in Las Vegas for the same amount as you might pay for a suite at the luxury spots. Go ahead and have some fun.