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Las Vegas: A Good Gamble in a Down Economy

Las Vegas Travel Guide Eiffel Tower Paris Casino Las Vegas
What do you get when you combine a sluggish economy with over 80,000 Las Vegas hotel rooms? Great travel deals, of course. If you’ve never been to Sin City, or are dying to go back, this may be your golden opportunity.

Even if gambling is the farthest thing from your mind, don’t rule out Las Vegas as a vacation destination. With the onslaught of high-end resorts and retail complexes, you can be constantly entertained without stepping foot in a casino or breaking the bank. In fact, here are 10 things you can do and see in Las Vegas absolutely FREE:

1. The Fountains of Bellagio: Considered “the most choreographically complex water feature ever conceived,” the Fountains are a remarkable performance of water, music and light in front of the Bellagio hotel. Show times: weekdays 3pm – 8pm (every half hour), 8pm – 12am (every 15 minutes); weekends 12pm – 8pm (every half hour), 8pm – 12am (every 15 minutes).

Las Vegas Travel Guide Botanical Garden at the Bellagio

2. Conservatory & Botanical Garden: Inside the Bellagio, the Conservatory & Botanical Garden is a masterpiece of exotic flora and fauna complimented by water features, sculptures and gazebos. Open 24 hours a day, seven days week.

3. Streetmosphere: Follow the cobblestone streets along the Venetian’s indoor canals to check out a number of “streetmosphere” performances.

  • Musical performances take place in St. Mark’s Square (daily performance hourly from 12 – 6pm, except 3:00pm) and outside of Movado (11:45am, 12:15pm, 12:45pm, 1:15pm, 4:15pm and 5:30pm) and Ann Taylor (11:30am and 6pm).
  • The Living Statues perform in St. Mark’s Square daily from 10am – 6pm and outside of Ann Taylor from 12pm – 8pm.
  • The Venetian Trio is a music act that performs nightly in St. Mark’s Square from 6pm – 10pm. For more information visit www.venetian.com.

Las Vegas Travel Guide Paris Casino Las Vegas4. Paris: Wander through the Paris hotel to be instantly transported to France’s capital. The hotel features life-like replicas of many of the city’s famous landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Paris Opera House, the 800-year old Hotel de Ville and Alexander III Bridge.

5. Sirens of TI: Experience the battle between 17th century pirates and the beautiful sirens who lure them to their cove with their enchanting song at Treasure Island’s nightly showings of The Sirens of TI. Showtimes: 5:30pm, 7:00pm, 8:30pm and 10:00pm in Siren’s cove.

6. Dueling pianos: Check out the best-rated dueling piano show in Las Vegas every night from 8pm-3am at The Bar at Times Square in New York, New York.

7. Circus: Want to see Cirque du Soleil but can’t shell out the cash for good seats? Visit Circus Circus to see a variety of free circus acts daily. Show times begin at 11am and run every half hour through midnight.

8. Volcano: The volcano eruption at The Mirage has been considered one of Las Vegas’ signature attractions for over 20 years. The earth-shaking, fire-spewing event starts at 6pm (in the winter), 7pm (in the spring), and 8pm (in the summer) and occurs every 15 minutes through midnight.

Las Vegas Travel Guide MGM Grand Casino

9. Wildlife Habitat: If wildlife interests you, be sure to stop by the Wildlife Habitat located at The Flamingo. The habitat features hundreds of birds, African penguins, Koi, turtles and, of course, Chilean flamingos. Hours are: Daily 10am –  2pm, 3pm -2:30am; Fridays and Saturdays 24 hours.

10. Wine Tasting: Free wine tastings are offered daily at Fortuna – A Coffee and Wine Experience, located in the Hilton Las Vegas. Tastings are offered daily at 4 – 9pm.

In Las Vegas a couple bucks can go a long way. Here are some low cost entertainment options:

1. Ferrari showcase: The Penske-Wynn Ferrari-Maserati dealership at the Wynn Resort showcases dozens of ultra high-end sports cars including Ferrari, Maserati, Porsche and more. You can even get your picture taken in a Ferrari. Open daily. Admission costs $10/person.

2. Lamborghini showcase: On the ground level of the Palazzo Resort Hotel & Casino is an awe-inspiring Lamborghini showcase. Open Monday to Friday 9am – 6pm and Saturdays 10am – 4pm. Admission costs $10/person.

3. The Eiffel Tower Experience: Admire The Strip and the mountainous desert landscape from the Eiffel Tower’s observation deck 460 feet above ground level. The tower is located across the street from the Bellaggio, so you can get more bang for your buck if you time your visit with one of the hourly fountain shows. The Eiffel tower is open daily from 9:30am – 12:30am. Prices are: $10 for adults; $7 for seniors 65 and older and children 6-12; free for children younger than 5. Family packages are available for $30 from 9:30 am – 7:30 pm (two adults and two children). From 7:30 pm – 12:30 am, admission is $15.50 for adults and $10.50 for seniors and children.

4. The Stratosphere: In addition to being the tallest observation tower in the U.S., the Stratosphere is also home to some seriously extreme rides like the Big Shot (a larger than life slingshot), the X-Scream (which is reminiscent of a teeter totter with the thrill factor of being propelled over the side of the tower) and “Insanity, the Ride” (which features a mechanical arm that spins you at three times the force of gravity as you dangle high above The Strip). The best value is the Xtreme All-Day Unlimited Package, which gives you access to the tower and an unlimited number of rides for $33.95. Ticket prices and packages available online.

Beyond the free and low-cost entertainment, there are a number of ways to save serious cash while enjoying all that Las Vegas has to offer. One of the easiest is to stop by the Visitor Authority’s visitor center, located at 3150 Paradise Road, to select from hundreds of brochures offering discounts to shows, restaurants and other area attractions.

Las Vegas Travel Guide New York New York CasinoAnother option is to take advantage of the Tix-4-Tonight box offices located throughout The Strip. Tix-4-Tonight offers up to 50% discounts on most show tickets, coupons to a number of restaurants as well as discounted golf tee times. Specials are posted at 9:30am daily but you must go to a Tix-4-Tonight box office in person to see this information. Tix-4-Tonight box offices are located at: Showcase Mall (across from New York, New York at the base of the Giant Coke Bottle), Hawaiian Marketplace (between Planet Hollywood and McDonald’s), Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall (between Flamingo and Bally’s), the Fashion Show Mall (ground floor by Neiman’s), and North Strip (between the Riviera hotel and Denny’s). Tix-4-Tonight accepts all major credit cards, traveler’s checks and cash. Call 877-TIX-4-TNT for more information.

While plenty of people visit Vegas without ever setting foot in a casino, many consider gambling to be the heart and soul of this town. This doesn’t mean you have to pony up big bucks, though there are a number of ways to enjoy Vegas’ gambling scene without the fear of going home broke. The first rule of thumb is to avoid gambling in the newer hotels. While the ambiance is far more luxurious, the betting minimums are typically the highest. The best place to find the lowest betting minimums is at the older hotels (think Casino Royale, Circus Circus, Riviera and Sahara) and off-Strip casinos such as Gold Coast (located at 4000 W. Flamingo Rd.), the Golden Nugget (located at 129 E. Fremont St.) and El Cortez (located at 600 Freemont St.). There are also options like O’Sheas Casino, located next to the Flamingo and across the street from Caesar’s Palace, where you can find $5 black jack and craps all day along with 24-hour Happy Hour. Of course, if you’re dying to play at one of the high-end resorts the best way to protect your wallet is to go at off-peak times (weekday mornings and afternoons).

Are you a gambling neophyte? Not a problem. Many casinos offer free gaming lessons to novices for everything from Black Jack, Roulette and Poker to Craps and Baccarat. Participating hotels include: Circus Circus, Excalibur, Gold Coast, Golden Nugget, Imperial Palace, Luxor, Palms, Planet Hollywood, Riviera, Sahara, Stratosphere and Tropicana. Call the individual hotel for lesson times. Depending on where you gamble, many casinos have a player’s card that monitors your betting. Player’s Cards are free of charge and easy to sign up for but often entitle you to freebies, also known as “comps,” depending on your betting patterns, just ask the dealer if the casino has one.

Insider Tips

Best (Cheapest) times to visit Vegas

  • Weekdays: Weekday rates are generally half the price of weekend rates.
  • Mid-December and early January: The weeks leading up to – and the weeks following – the Christmas/ New Year holidays are a notoriously slow time for Las Vegas, giving you great deals on hotel rooms, show tickets and everything in between.
  • Summer: When temperatures spike in July and August, tourism in Las Vegas tends to fall off, leaving many great deals for those who are willing to deal with the heat.

Worst (Most Expensive) times to visit Vegas

  • Holiday weekends: President’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, etc. The city is crowded with people taking advantage of the long weekend.
  • Conventions: Prices are known to soar when big conventions come to town. A complete list of conventions is available online. Try to avoid traveling to Las Vegas at the same as a convention with 25,000+ attendees.
  • Sporting events: The first weekend of the NCAA’s March Madness is notoriously one of the city’s busiest weekends. NASCAR events also draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to Las Vegas and increase prices all around.

Other Money-Saving Tips

  • Instead of paying a premium to use your hotel’s fitness center, do a little exploring to see if your hotel has an outdoor track. If not, there’s no better place to stretch your legs than The Strip.
  • Since the weather in Las Vegas is generally warm and pleasant (except in July and August when temperatures can soar above 100°F) you can save on cab fares (and avoid the atrocious traffic) by walking to your destination or taking the climate-controlled monorail, which has seven stops between MGM Grand and Sahara. A single ride costs $5.00, a one-day pass costs $12.00 and a three-day pass costs $28.00. Hours of operation are Monday – Thursday 7am – 2am, Friday – Sunday 7am – 3am. For more information visit www.lvmonorail.com.
  • The most cost-effective way to get from the airport to your hotel is by way of the Gray Line Shuttle. A one-way airport transfer costs $6.50 or $12.00 roundtrip.
  • Most casinos serve free beverages and cocktails to players, even if you’re playing penny slots.

Where to Stay

With so many great deals at your fingertips, the hardest part will be figuring out when to call it a day. When you finally do, finding a reasonably priced place to crash is much easier than it sounds, especially because Las Vegas has over 80,000 hotel rooms for you to choose from. As you can imagine, rates are typically cheapest at the older hotels (Tropicana, Circus Circus and The Palms) and off-Strip hotels (The Golden Nugget and Rio). However, the economic downturn has left even the most luxurious properties vying for business.

Since room rates and availability are ever changing, your best bet is to compare prices online on a site such as Expedia, Travelzoo or Hotwire. Many airlines also offer airfare and hotel packages to Las Vegas.  Check out LasVegas.com for all sorts of deals including hotel specials.

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