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Las Vegas on a Budget

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Although most people think of going to Las Vegas to gamble, in truth, there are a lot of people who travel there for very different reasons--conferences, trade shows, conventions, etc. Even if one is traveling on company expense, many of those companies are also tightening spending limits. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to limit costs.

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5 Places

6 City Tips

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5 Places

Bonanno's New York - Restaurant & Bar

Restaurants

Grand Lux Cafe

Restaurants

800 Degrees

Restaurants

La Salsa Cantina

Restaurants

Cucina By Wolfgang Puck

Restaurants

AHW676's City Tips

  • Entertainment: Las Vegas is jam packed with shows. We've seen all the currently available Cirque shows. "Michael Jackson One" at Mandalay Bay is my favorite one. It helps if you like Michael Jackson's music, of course, but it's also the show with the most action and no dead spots in it (most of the other shows have short interruptions in the action with clowns and other short acts, presumably to prepare for following acts). The only time that I might suggest seeing a different one is if you are planning on seeing other Cirque shows afterward, as it might spoil you for most of the other shows. Other highly recommended shows include "O" at The Bellagio (water based) and "Ka" at MGM Grand. "Beatles Love" at The Mirage is a frequently mentioned favorite (better if you like Beatles music, obviously). Only caution about that one is that it's frequently shown on a stage divided into four parts, and no matter which part you watch, you'll miss three others. Shows that I personally do not recommend of the Cirque series: "Criss Angel" at the Luxor is the one that I consistently hear as being the worst of all of them. I don't even know what makes it a Cirque show. So far as we could tell, it consisted of lackluster magic tricks and juvenile humor. I have still yet to hear of a single person who has seen it and recommends it to anyone else. "Zumanity" at New York, New York is described as being "sensual". I found it less sensual and more filled with raunchy sexual humor. "Zarkana" is the newest iteration at "Aria". Although there was nothing specifically offensive about it, it tended to be languid and drag, in my opinion. If it's your first Cirque show ever, you may like it. If you've seen others, then you'll probably have seen a lot of these same acts before, and done better. Other recommended shows: "Le Reve" at the Wynn--similar to "O" in that it has water-based acrobatics. "Human Nature" at The Venetian is my first choice for a music performance (with four handsome Australian boys singing Motown, you really can't go wrong). "Jersey Boys" at Paris is another favorite. "Rock of Ages" at The Palazzo is a fun show, but has plenty of adult humor. "Terry Fator" at The Mirage and "Jeff Dunham" at Planet Hollywood are both ventriloquist shows and both more fun than I had initially expected. Jeff Dunham has bits of gratuitous adult humor and language. I did not enjoy "Absinthe" at Caesar's Palace, which, like "Zumanity", is more raunchy adult humor than anything. Before buying tickets to any show, make sure you check with one of the Tix 4 Tonight outlets along The Strip. I think there are seven outlets in all, and most of the shows offer some discounts for performances that night or the next night. In most cases, you buy tickets, but won't get an assigned seat until you go to Will Call at the show an hour before it opens. Some shows virtually never get discounted (such as "O"), although you will save a few dollars if you buy with your M Life card (with the MGM branded properties). Most shows start right on the dot at the appointed time and last ninety minutes.
  • Food: I love food. And eating in Las Vegas can range from remarkably affordable to much less so. I assume that anyone can find the expensive places on their own, so I'll point to a few of the less expensive ones. On the north end of The Strip, both The Palazzo and The Venetian have The Grande Lux (one in each hotel). Prices are affordable (owned by The Cheesecake Factory, I think), the menu has a wide variety, and the restaurant is open 24 hours. Moreover the lunch specials are valid until 5:00 PM (at least the last time I went). Other very inexpensive common choices include several Denny's along The Strip, and a Chipotle. Mid Strip at Miracle Mile Mall (at Planet Hollywood) a couple of good choices include Earl of Sandwich (open 24 hours) and La Salsa Cantina (most entrees between $10-$15 for dinner). Caesar's Palace also has an Earl of Sandwich, but not open 24 hours. My favorite recommendation on The Strip is Bonanno's Restaurant, just on the south side of Planet Hollywood (next to the Walgreens facing the street). There are several Bonanno's Pizza spots along The Strip, but only one restaurant. Along with pizza, there are plenty of pasta choices, pricing is incredibly reasonable for the portion sizes, and Groupon seems to be perpetually offering a $59 prix fixe special for two, which offers two appetizers or salads, two entrees, two (enormous) desserts, and two specialty coffees. Besides that, the wait staff is very friendly (though I hear my favorite guy has moved away). They are also available for staff dinners for large groups, if notified in advance. Another great pizza choice would be 800 Degrees that just opened a year ago in front of the Monte Carlo hotel. It's set up sort of like Subway, where you choose a base pizza and add toppings, then the whole pizza is cooked in a wood fire oven and served. You can easily make a sixteen inch pizza for less than $10. Another La Salsa Cantina is located close to the south end of The Strip. Groupons are frequently available for restaurants, including in The Strip, particularly Bonanno's. Besides these choices, every hotel I can think of has its own buffet, but most are not priced to be cheap--usually $20-$40 per person, depending on location and whether it's lunch or dinner. There is a "Buffet of Buffets" deal, in which you can eat at a number of different buffets over a 24 hours, but the ones included are not those at the top tier hotels, and my experience with eating at these suggests that most are not even as good as your typical Golden Corral.
  • Transportation: once you land at the airport, you'll need transportation to The Strip. Although it looks like the airport practically abuts the south end of The Strip, in truth, the route to The Strip may end up being roundabout, even hitting the highway, in order to avoid the traffic on the actual Strip. So the taxi ride that looks like it should only be a few blocks can easily become a $20 trip. Fortunately, there are a number of shuttle services that will transport you and your luggage to any hotel on The Strip (maybe other area hotels too, I've never tried it) for around $8 one way. I've never tried a return trip on the shuttle, but I've seen advertisements for round trips, so it's theoretically possible. Another advantage of the airport shuttle is that you don't have to wait in the taxi line, which can be quite long. Admittedly, you may have to wait a few minutes for the shuttle to take other passengers, but the actual line to board a shuttle is rarely long. Options for traveling on The Strip include (in order of increasing cost) walking, free trams connecting certain hotels, city bus, monorail, and taxis. There are pros and cons for each, and really depends on the situation. Walking is typically the most direct path between casinos, but distances are usually deceiving because some streets require you to take stairs or an escalator to a sky bridge to cross, and most people walk at an indolent pace. For a walk that might look a mile long on the map, plan on a forty minute walk, even at a brisk pace. There is a free tram that connects Treasure Island and The Mirage on the north end of The Strip. There's also a free tram that connects The Bellagio, Crystals, and Monte Carlo. Finally there is a free tram that connects Excalibur, the Luxor, and Mandalay Bay. These are all on the west side on The Strip. On the east side, there is a monorail that goes from the Westgate (formerly Las Vegas Hilton) to the Las Vegas Convention Center, then makes stops at some of the hotels on the east side of The Strip, ending with, I think, MGM Grand. Last time I checked, tickets were $5 per ride, $12 per day, and $56 for the week. If you are really trying to get to a hotel on the west side of The Strip, the monorail is not likely to be your best choice because the distance to cross The Strip to the other side, then walking the distance to get to the back side of the casino where the monorail is will be quite long. The City Bus is actually a reasonable way to get up and down The Strip, and some buses continue past the end of The Strip, to Fremont Street and the outlet malls north and south of The Strip. Tickets can be purchased for a couple of hours or for longer periods of time. For everything else, the taxis are available, but keep a few tips in mind. First, even if it looks like you are taking a taxi to a hotel just one or two casinos away, taxis don't pick up or drop off passengers on the street. They only pick up from hotel taxi stands and drop off at the other hotel's taxi stand. So again, the distance will likely be much longer than one would naturally expect. Then you wind up walking from the taxi stand at the destination hotel to wherever you wanted to go in the hotel. Because some of the casinos are so huge, that walking distance is sometimes substantial. One time we took a taxi from The Cosmopolitan to MGM Grand, intending to go to Hakkasan. By the time we had walked to The Cosmopolitan taxi stand, taken the taxi to the MGM taxi stand, and then walked across the gigantic casino footprint to Hakkasan (which is right on The Strip, whereas the taxi stand at MGM is on the other side of the hotel), it was obvious that it would have been much faster and cheaper to just walk. Second, the shorter distance of driving The Strip always has to be weighed against the traffic. Sometimes it's faster and cheaper to avoid South Las Vegas Boulevard altogether. Sad to say, some taxi drivers do take advantage of passengers to run up the meter. By afternoon to evening, most of South Las Vegas Boulevard looks like a slowly moving parking lot, and is rarely the fastest way to get anywhere, in my experience.
  • Hotel rooms: I have no special tricks to getting a hotel room as I've never done it past my first time to Las Vegas years ago, when I bought an airfare and hotel room combination package from Southwest Airlines. I do have a few tips regarding hotel rooms, in general, for travelers. Hotel rooms generally have small refrigerators in them. However, by far, those refrigerators are intended to store mini bar items, not your own food, and if you remove the mini bar items to use the refrigerator, you will be immediately charged for the item, as the items are seated on a sensor in the refrigerator. Even if you don't remove the mini bar item and put something on top, the sensor will still note the change and generate a charge. The Wynn permits you to remove an item for thirty seconds or so, presumably so you can read the ingredient list or otherwise examine the item, then return it. The Delano had a mini bar refrigerator but offered a small courtesy shelf, which I thought was a nice bonus. We have had full refrigerators at The Cosmopolitan and Vdara, as many of those rooms were originally designed to be condos. In fact, every time we've stayed at The Cosmopolitan, we've had a full kitchen, including top of the line stove and oven. However, guests are not actually expected to use these appliances, as you'll quickly discover that there are no utensils, plates, cups, or even coffee maker in the room. I have heard that these items are available for a charge. I usually bring my own. Many rooms do have coffee makers, but as the hotel prefers for you to buy your coffee in their restaurants, the average charge I've seen is $4/cup for the Keurig or other coffee making kit in the room. And this is why I travel to Las Vegas with my own electric kettle and coffee. Some hotels have refrigerators available upon request, but the charges are along the lines of $30/night, so probably not worth it to store your leftovers. While you stay at a certain hotel, you can certainly visit any of the others, and some are so beautiful it's worth a visit just to see the decor. The Bellagio is smack in the middle of The Strip and has a musical fountain show every fifteen minutes from noon until midnight or so. The music and the fountain dance changes every show, ranging from playful to romantic to inspirational to awe-inspiring. If you are lucky enough to get a hotel room on the north side of The Cosmopolitan, you might be treated to a whole series of fountain shows from a remarkable viewpoint, but you won't hear the music from that high up. Inside, The Conservatory display inside the casino changes each season and is consistently gorgeous. I don't think I've ever made a trip to Las Vegas without visiting it. Make sure to take notice of the Chihuly glass pieces in the lobby and elsewhere. The Palazzo also has a beautiful seasonal display between the casino and the connector to The Venetian and the theaters. The Wynn and Encore are also connecting hotels with colorful flower displays and well worth a visit. So far as hotel choices go, most people will probably choose one geographically close to some activity, such as a convention. All things being equal, however, my favorite in terms of room decor is The Palazzo. However, this may be influenced by being the first one I stayed in, so luxury rooms were more of a novelty then. The Wynn, despite having a gorgeous lobby, has a sort of spartan looking room look with most of it being white. The Cosmopolitan has a very contemporary feel, the full kitchen with no utensils or plates, and piles of fake books in the room for decoration. Its motto is "the Right Amount of Wrong". The Vdara is also contemporary looking, and the kitchen had one feature that no others have had, which is a refrigerator with filtered water dispenser. The Delano is recently remodeled and quite nice, although in fairness, since we got a suite the size of a city block, its hard to complain. However, we did learn that getting a room opposite of the Mix nightclub was a mistake, as the music was loud enough that it sounded as if it was right outside our window and the nightclub stays open until 0200.
  • Shopping: there are outlet malls both north and south of The Strip, and then plenty of malls right on The Strip itself. The outlet malls include the usual offerings at a typical outlet mall in most cities. The Fashion Show Mall (north end of The Strip) and Miracle Mile Mall (Planet Hollywood) have fairly typical mall stores, while Crystals, Caesars Palace, and The Palazzo/The Venetian seemed to have more high end stores. There are Ross stores at both the north end of The Strip (just north of The Wynn) and near the south end, along with a Marshalls at the south end. In my experience, the Ross stores are the busiest stores along The Strip. For last minute emergencies, there are a couple of Walgreens and CVS stores along The Strip. I will mention that last time I went in, they did not have the usual sales flyers in their stores, but they did tell me that they would honor a sale if you could show a copy of the flyer from another store, or I would guess on your smart phone. I have not tried this myself. I notice a lot of people who are starting to buy bottles of water and cereal from these stores, which I happen to think is a great idea. I myself, go to Las Vegas armed with a small 17 oz. Bodum electric kettle to make instant coffee and oatmeal in the room.
  • Navigating The Strip: regardless of your original purpose for coming to Las Vegas, there is always plenty of beautiful, fascinating, or just plain weird things to see just walkking up and down South Las Vegas Boulevard (the main street of The Strip). Treasure Island has a free outdoor show in front of the property involving pretty girls, sailors, and some sort of plot that involves the sailors eventually diving into the water, swimming to the ship of the temptresses, and everyone dancing together. I think the show is about twenty or thirty minutes, and occurs periodically through the evenings. The Mirage has a fake volcano eruption that occurs at intervals through the evening, but in my opinion, is not one of the more compelling shows. The Venetian used to have something happening periodically through the evening, along the lines of a projected clock on the side of a wall, but that was a long time ago, and I don't know if that still happens. Now that I think of it, all the outdoor shows are at the north end of The Strip, and there are no free shows south of The Bellagio. There are plenty of sidewalk buskers starting at the Miracle Mile Mall and onward toward MGM Grand. They do expect tips though, as will all of the Hello Kitty's, Elvis', Darth Vaders, Spiderman's, and other characters that you might be thinking of photographing on the sidewalks. There are also artists who create spray paint art on the sidewalk. Each piece takes about fifteen or twenty minutes, and is pretty remarkable, considering that it's getting sprayed out of a can. If you are in to this sort of thing, there will be plenty of people handing out pornographic cards advertising some sort of activity that I'd imagine will be outlined on the card. They are usually wearing some sort of matching t-shirts, so not difficult to spot (such as the yellow shirts with "ORGASIM CLINIC" (sic) printed on them). Obviously you are not obligated to take their cards, but by the end of the evening, the streets are littered with these little pornographic photos, so it's something to be aware of if you are bringing small children. Bear in mind that many people come to Las Vegas without any particular schedule, and their walking pace is usually reflective of that. If you have a show or dinner to make on a certain schedule, give yourself plenty of time, and remember that walking distances are usually much longer than it would appear on a map.
  • Bonanno's New York - Restaurant & Bar
    Restaurants (Italian, Pizza)
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    AHW676 Says:

    Great food, large portions, reasonable prices, and no pretension. There are not many places in Las Vegas that can say that, and there is a perpetually available Groupon for a $59 prix fixe meal for two that I highly recommend.

    Good for
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    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Thrifty Traveller
    From the community
    Ranked #0 of 0 restaurants in
    • Tasty food 22/11/2017
    • Great late night slice 06/03/2017
    • Bonanno's New York - Restaurant & Bar
    Address:
    3717 Las Vegas Blvd S
    Las Vegas, NV 89109-4384
    Phone:
    +1 702-891-0942
    Price range:
    US$30 - US$30
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    12:00 PM - 12:00 AM
    Other:
  • Grand Lux Cafe
    Restaurants (American, Cafe)
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    AHW676 Says:

    Open 24 hours, extensive menu options (mostly American food, similar to The Cheesecake Factory, which is no surprise as it was also opened by the founder of that restaurant), and very reasonable pricing. Lunch specials are available until 5 PM, last I checked.

    Good for
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Thrifty Traveller
    From the community
    Ranked #155 of 4,098 restaurants in Las Vegas
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Slightly Better than Cheesecake Factory 20/05/2019
    • Yummy breakfast buffet 14/05/2019
    • Grand Lux Cafe
    Address:
    3327 Las Vegas Blvd S
    Ste 1580
    Las Vegas, NV 89109-1402
    Phone:
    +1 702-733-7411
    Hours:
    Sun - Thu
    6:00 AM - 2:00 AM
    Fri - Sat
    6:00 AM - 3:00 AM
    Other:
  • 800 Degrees
    Restaurants (Italian, Pizza)
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    AHW676 Says:

    Custom made wood-fired pizza starting at less than $7 per 16 inch pizza with the cost increased per extra topping. Appetizers and salads are also available. Theoretically you can be sitting in front of your freshly fired pizza in ten minutes or less.

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
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    • Senior
    • Family
    • Thrifty Traveller
    From the community
    Ranked #231 of 4,098 restaurants in Las Vegas
    • Freshly baked pizza 11/04/2019
    • Very good wood fired pizza 21/01/2019
    • 800 Degrees
    Address:
    3770 Las Vegas Blvd S
    Monte Carlo Resort & Casino
    Las Vegas, NV 89109-4337
    Phone:
    702-730-6800
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    11:00 AM - 2:00 AM
    Other:
  • La Salsa Cantina
    Restaurants (Mexican, Southwestern, Latin)
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    AHW676 Says:

    Two locations along The Strip, menu is typical for a nice Mexican restaurant, quality of food is excellent, and pricing is extremely reasonable for Las Vegas.

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Thrifty Traveller
    From the community
    Ranked #248 of 4,098 restaurants in Las Vegas
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Basic mexican food 07/05/2019
    • GREAT Food, Service and Location 03/05/2019
    • La Salsa Cantina
    Address:
    3785 Las Vegas Blvd S
    Ste 1500
    Las Vegas, NV 89109-4333
    Phone:
    +1 702-240-6944
    Other:
  • Cucina By Wolfgang Puck
    Restaurants (Italian, Pizza)
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    AHW676 Says:

    This is higher priced than most of my other suggestions for Las Vegas, but if you want to splurge a little for a celebrity chef, this one, in my opinion, is a reasonable one with most entrees between $25-$35. This one is at the Crystals Shopping Center, but the MGM version seems to have a very similar (if not the same) menu.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    From the community
    Ranked #206 of 4,098 restaurants in Las Vegas
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Would give another chance. 06/05/2019
    • Great Dining Experience 05/05/2019
    • Cucina By Wolfgang Puck
    Address:
    3720 Las Vegas Blvd S Ste 240
    Crystals at City Center
    Las Vegas, NV 89158-1639
    Phone:
    +1 702-238-1000
    Price range:
    US$31 - US$50
    Hours:
    Sun - Thu
    11:30 AM - 10:00 PM
    Fri - Sat
    11:30 AM - 11:00 PM
    Other:
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