When I tell people I recently returned from a trip to Las Vegas, they all act surprised. I don’t drink or gamble or like the night club scene, so what could I possibly enjoy in Vegas?
Thing is, Vegas expects you to spend your money doing all of those things. So, to entice you to go there, everything else is cheaper. (I could otherwise title this blog “How to enjoy Vegas sober.”) Every resort is trying to outdo the other by offering free amenities and shows. This means, you can go on a fun trip to the “city of lost wages” without spending much money. It just takes a little foresight.
1. Buy discount tickets to shows before you go
In Vegas, you really don’t have to pay full price for anything. Before leaving for vacation, I bought $19 tickets to Recycled Percussion through Travelzoo. Tickets are normally $35 to $82. I was even seated in the front row.
In the weeks leading up to your trip, peruse all the discount sites (Groupon, LivingSocial, Travelzoo, Amazon Local) for any kind of show, activity or restaurant that appeals to you. Maybe you want to take a trapeze lesson? Or eat at a well-known restaurant? It very well might be offered at a discount, and if not…
2. Grab discount booklets
In Las Vegas, you’ll quickly learn to completely ignore anyone trying to sell you or hand you something on the strip. However, if you see someone simply giving out visitor guides, such as “Vegas 2Go,” grab a copy. Not only do these contain maps that show points of interest, they also have coupons for attractions and restaurants. One of the booklets led me to a coupon book at the Fashion Show Mall, where I was able to stop in for a free smoothie. (Nice to have during a day in the Vegas sun!)
3. Walk through indoor gardens
The whimsical gardens at the Bellagio and the Wynn are great spots for a photo opp and a nice respite from all of the cigarette smoke you’ve been smelling.
Each one of these hotels has great water features, too. The Bellagio has water shows set to music that are great to watch day or night, though they only last the length of a song. The Wynn has a “lakeside” restaurant that faces a waterfall, which you can view from the garden.
4. Use the free shuttles to visit other resorts
If you stay at a cheap resort, it might not have the best amenities. The pool at my hotel, for instance, wasn’t great. Many Las Vegas hotels are known for having elaborate pools.
I took a shuttle from the strip to the Rio hotel (off the strip) and hung out in its pool for hours. The pool at the Rio was warm, clean and had multiple waterfalls. On weekdays, there isn’t a cover charge! So basically, I got to hang out in a fantastic pool without having to pay to stay at the Rio or pay to get there. Which brings me to my next point…
5. Instead of clubbing, go pooling
Pools are huge here. Some pools have live music, foosball and ping pong tables, giant movie screens, waterfalls, lazy rivers, water slides that go through aquariums…the works. Plus, swimming is a wonderful way to beat the heat. Most pools have cover charges, but it’s totally worth it if you find one that’s a good value (some resorts wave cover charges on weekdays, as mentioned above).
6. Take a day trip and enjoy the scenery
If you’re renting a car or have a relative who lives in Las Vegas, I highly recommend visiting Red Rock Canyon. You’ll be stunned at how something this gorgeous exists just 30 minutes outside of the Las Vegas strip. Willing to travel a little farther? In two hours driving, you can get to Zion National Park or Death Valley. In four hours, the Grand Canyon (or Disneyland if that’s more your scene).
7. Watch free Circus shows
Most recently, I stayed at the Circus, Circus hotel. While I was there, I watched every single circus act they had. Why? It’s free and quick entertainment (the shows last about 15 minutes). If you have some down time on your way out to the strip or are looking for entertainment before heading to bed, the shows are definitely worthwhile.
8. Fish tanks, wildlife and the volcano at the Mirage
If you like zoos, aquariums or Seaworld, Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat can be a fun stop. When you enter the hotel, you can check out the ginormous tropical fish tank in the lobby. Right now, tickets to the habitat are discounted because it’s under construction.
Another quick wildlife stop would be the flamingos (and other birds) at Flamingo Las Vegas.
After dark there is a “volcano eruption” outside the Mirage facing the strip. It’s fun to watch and a lot of people gather to see it happen.
9. Experience Freemont Street
The Freemont Street Experience located on the north/older end of the strip isn’t something I can easily describe. If you can, imagine an overhead video screen that’s as long as a football field. During the summer, you can see a sort of music video production, which results in dancing in the street and all this festivity. This area also just opened a zipline that runs down the length of the video screen.
10. Bring a water bottle
I saved the most boring for last. Vegas gets brutally hot, even in early spring, and it doesn’t take much walking on the strip for you to get dehydrated. Lots of people will be out trying to get you to buy bottled water or expensive drinks. (Even the Jamba Juice I mentioned earlier cost way more in Vegas than it does elsewhere.) A sturdy water bottle with a filter is a worthy investment when you can fill it up with ice and water at your hotel. If you think you’ll need some electrolytes, remember to bring some of those flavored water packets.