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Saturday, June 30, 2012

48 Fun Hours on a Budget in…Las Vegas


This is a new series showing you how easy it is to budget travel anywhere, where I also give you a quick overview of a new city each time in a brief 48-hour itinerary.

A lot of us fancy a short getaway throughout the year and need to balance a good time with smaller travel costs, because if you spend too much on your getaway, you won’t be going on that big vacation you’ve been dreaming of all year. We tend to stretch a weekend for a quick trip – 2-4 days – and then go on our 1-2 week trip in the fall. If you ask me, taking some mini vacations during the year can really keep you sane, but can also drain your bank account if you aren’t careful. Just a bit of research can go a long way to saving you big.

McCarran Airport

I love Vegas, but I can easily go overboard with my spending there. If I plan out my time, I spend more time walking and enjoying what he city has to offer and less time losing all my money at the slots. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still going to dump a few quarters in and hope for a big win, but with just two days, I’m going to make the most of my time.

Salad bar

Day 1
Breakfast Buffet! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so load up on protein and carbs to get you through your morning activities at an affordable buffet:
  • The Fantasy Market Buffet at the Palms ($7.99) 
  • Circus Buffet at Circus Circus ($10.49)
  • Studio B Buffet at M Resort ($10.99)
  • French Market Buffet at Orleans ($6.95)
  • Ports O’ Call Buffet at Gold Coast ($6.95)
  • Any of the Fremont Street casinos offer super cheap buffet prices, if you are willing to get up early enough to make it over there.

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Wander the streets of Paris (at the Paris) and New York (New York New York).

Visit the lions at MGM Grand. This is one of my favorite things to do in Vegas, because lions are awesome, and trainers come through every so often talking about the lions and teaching starers about their habits and characteristics.

Explore Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden at The Mirage. ($19.95)

Head over to Caesar’s Palace to grab lunch – maybe at the Cypress Street Market – and then through the shops to witness the Fall of Atlantis. You could marvel at the statues and gold paneling in the casino for quite some time, too.

Play pinball and marvel at games you used to love or have never seen at Las Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame Museum. (Free admission, though it costs $.25-.50 to play each machine.)

Treat yourself to a truly unique dining experience at Dick’s Last Resort in the Excalibur Hotel and Casino. Or go to the Hard Rock Casino and get a table at Mr. Lucky’s. Ask for the “Gambler’s Special”, which is not on the menu, and receive an 8oz flatiron steak, three jumbo shrimp, salad and mashed potatoes for just $7.77. Winner!

Bellagio Hotel and Casino

Make your way to the Bellagio and wander the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Admission is free and it’s open 24 hours a day. Once you’ve had your fill of beautiful plants and flowers, wander outside to catch the free Fountains of Bellagio show. Of course if the weather is uncooperative, you can always see them well from the windows across from the shops upstairs.

Go down the street to Treasure Island and see the free Sirens of TI pirate show. If fire is more your thing, head back to the Mirage instead and watch the new Volcano show, complete with water show, flames and rockin’ music. Don’t forget to duck into the front entrance to admire the hard work of four gardeners with the atriums indoor rainforest. Wow!

Try your luck at the casino or call it a day.

Day 2
Get off the strip and head over to Ellis Island on the street behind the Paris. You can get a delicious and hearty breakfast for just $6.99.

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Put some of your hard-earned money on the tables or in the slots and cross your fingers, then ride the free tram over to the Rio and wander the colorful floor, before making your way upstairs to browse shops and wait for the Mardi Gras Show in the Sky. The best time you’ll have outside of Rio de Janiero and New Orleans.

Take your beads and get a dose of Hawaii at the Hawaiian Marketplace near Polo Towers. You can find anything you could possibly want – and a lot that you don’t – at the vendors here as well as be entertained by live music, shows and dancing. If you’re looking for a cheap lunch, you’ll find it here. Or you could:

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Linger over a Parisian lunch at JJ’s Boulangerie at the Paris Hotel and Casino. (Average $10/person) Once rested, take the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower and take in the strip and Vegas as far as the eye can see. ($10.50, which saves you $5 if you go before 7:30pm)

Ride over to Fremont Street to take in Fremont Street Experience and also engage in some ziplining. Yes! Ziplining in the middle of the city! It’s a bit spendy, but when will you ever have a chance to do something similar again? Only the next time you’re in Vegas. ($16-20)

If it’s not dark yet, splurge on a trip to The Mob Museum at the Golden Nugget. Sure, tickets cost $18, but it promises you “The story of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” If you’re into learning about the city’s seedy (and kinda glamorous) past, then you can’t miss this attraction.

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Head into the Golden Gate Casino and get a $1.99 shrimp cocktail from the San Francisco Shrimp Bar & Deli, watch more cool stuff out on the streets and then find dinner at the Four Queens Hotel and Casino’s Magnolia’s Veranda and get a prime rib dinner for just $8.95 or indulge in another buffet (it’s not a trip to Las Vegas unless you’ve been to one or two) and treat yourself to the $18.99 dinner buffet at the Golden Nugget.

At this point I would head back to my room and pack up for my trip back home. Two days crammed full of unique and traditional Vegas awesomeness and not too much money left on the tables. An average of $120 would be spent per person if you hit up all attractions and recommended eateries. Use VegasHotelOffers.com to find the latest room deals, BookIt to find a solid bargain on a hotel and airfare package or shop the Expedia and Travelocity summer sales to stay on your budget. 

What are some of your must-do things in the City of Sin?
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