|Cheap Lodging||There is no sense in paying for an expensive room on the strip, since you probably won't spend much time in it. For a very nice motel type room (except it has indoor, secure hallways) in the downtown area for $22, contact the
Hotel El Cortez at 800-634-6703 and ask for a room in their Ogden House. As of February 24, 2003, The hotel was providing a free shuttle from the hotel to the airport (but not visa versa) hourly 7am to 2pm during the day except Saturdays, but the driver said they would be imposing a small charge soon. Do not be put off by the considerably less than elegant lobby of this hotel. The rooms are modern and clean.
That same number will link you to other downtown hotels, presumably owned by the same company. Recently, the cheapest of these was the Western Hotel for $16, quality unknown, but described as a standard hotel room.
Sometimes the ideally located (across the street from the Mirage) Imperial Palace Hotel offers $20 rooms which include a meal and lots of extras, usually Sunday through Thursday occupancy. (800)634-6441
Also, frequently the Palace Station Hotel and Casino often offers $20 rooms. Being on the other side of the freeway from downtown and The Strip, it is not as ideally located as the others I mentioned, but it is a nice, full service hotel. 2411 West Sahara Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89102. (800) 544-2411.
If ambiance of the hotel is your thing, my choice is the Tropicana. Beautiful grounds. (888) 826-8767
|Food||While not the cheapest, the Carnival Buffet at the Rio is considered the best. (The cheapest buffet is at Railroad Pass in Henderson, the oldest continually operating casino in Southern Nevada.) LasVegas.com has a listing of all buffets in town, including hours, prices, and a link to the location.
In general food is cheap downtown and very expensive on the stip. However, across the street from Caesars, the Mirage, and Treasure you can find reasonably priced meals at Denneys, Burger King, Subway, TCBY, a pizza place and a small grocery store. Some of these are inside casinos, but there are signs out front. A ten minute walk north of this area will get you to Alberto's Mexican Restaurant, 3025 Las Vegas Blvd S. (702) 732-8226This is an Idine restuarant (see my "Other" page in my Free Frequent Flyer Miles section), inelligant and inexpensive. You can order ala carte for very little money, but this is not on the menu. One Chile Relleno cost me $3 in Feburuary, 2003. Dessert was an ice cream sandwich at the Walmart across the street.
|Entertainment||I think the best show in town is
the Freemont Experience Downtown on the top of every hour after dark until midnight. It is a free, must see light show on the canopy above Freemont Street which spans about four city blocks.
The volcano in front of the Mirage erupts every 15 minutes after dark until midnight. The art at the Belagio is wonderful. The pirate show in front of Treasure Island is fun - every 90 min after dark. The Court Jester theater in the Excaliber has free shows about every 30 minutes (mostly kid oriented). The moving statues in Caesar's Palace Forum shops at the top of every hour are interesting, as are the Forum shops themselves. Donít miss the white tigers and the rain forest inside the Mirage, the lions inside the MGM Grand, the free circus show in Circus Circus; the free outdoor show at Treasure Island. And for sure donít miss the fountain show in front of the Bellagio. Set in an 11-acre lake in front of the hotel, it features a computer controlled fountain show that is set to music and shoots water at times around 100 feet in the air. It runs either every 15 or 30 minutes after dark until midnight.
If you like old cars, be sure to see the Imperial Palace Antique and Classic Auto Collection. For free tickets, If no one is handing them out in front of the casino, go inside to the information desk (just off the strip entrance, to your right), and if they aren't on the counter, ask for them.
There is an IMAX theater in the Luxor. If you've never seen an IMAX film, I highly recommend doing so.
For off-strip casinos, Sam's Town (on Boulder Highway) has an indoor park, complete with real trees, but with mechanical animals and a simulated waterfall. Laser light shows at night. I like the atmosphere of the place for gambling.
I am told that you can get show tickets for up to half off for same day performances of big-name shows at Tickets2Nite, located at the Showcase Mall near the large Coke bottle across from New York, New York.
If you must gamble, don't play blackjack at any of the casinos that pay less than 1.5 to 1 when you get 21 on the first two cards. Many of the greedy strip casinos have begun doing this.
Frommers has a good article on what to do in Las Vegas.
|Transportation||Public bus 301 runs along the strip and downtown, every 7 1/2 to 15 minutes or so. Ask at your hotel to be sure, or check out the entire public transportation system at the Citizens Transit Area web site. The busses are often standing room only and take 25 - 45 minutes between downtown and Flamingo Avenue (Belagio, Ceasars, Mirage area), depending on traffic and the number of people who get on your bus. Fare is $2 as of 2/23/03, and transfers from and to other lines work. Beats a taxi, but watch for pickpockets.
Public buses 109 and 108 frequently run between the airport and downtown. The less frequent 108 will get you to the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Las Vegas Hilton. Fare is $1.25. You can get a free transfer to busses that run from these routes across to the strip (Las Vegas Blvd.) Yes, you can do this instead of the 301 for $0.75 less, but I wouldn't want to stand at the transfer points during the night looking like a tourist. (Daytime is perfectly comfortable.)
You can email the excellent customer service department to ask for specific directions for using the public bus system. Just tell them where and when you want to go.
Some of the casinos have shuttle busses and trams running between casinos. For example, Samís Town offers a free shuttle bus that goes to the south strip (San Remo/Tropicana), north strip (Stardust), and Downtown (California). However, Samís town is the hub. Itís not fast, but the price is right. The retired senior citizens have the schedules and routes of free transportation memorized, and have been known to travel around Las Vegas all day for free.
The cabbies are the rudest drivers anywhere. I suspect that they do not understand that the primary source of their income is the very tourists they seem to be trying to run over.
|Good Advice||Those same cabbies have done a good thing, however. They warn you where the BAD places in town are and what not to do in Las Vegas, on their web site Las Vegas Hack Attack.
|Outside the City||Outside of town, be sure to see Valley of Fire State Park, off of I 15, about 33 miles North East of town, and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, 20 miles west of town on Charleston Av. (State Route 159).Both are spectacular, and very different from each other.
If you can, go out to Boulder City and take in the sights. B.C. was built by the U.S Government to house the workers building what was then called Boulder Dam. After seeing so many newer buildings in Las Vegas, it's a welcome change of pace to take a walk down streets built before WW2. There's also a small museum inside the Boulder Dam Hotel that's worth a look, detailing the construction of the dam. The Las Vegas city bus system will get you there.
The dam itself is a wonder to behold. Just expect traffic snarls and driving down a wicked switchback. (If you don't mind the walk, the parking on the Arizona side is free!). If you can, go there twice, first in the day, then at night, when it looks like a gigantic art deco sculpture.
On your way down to the dam (if you're driving down Boulder Highway), stop off at the Clark County Heritage Museum in Henderson. Besides detailed exhibits of the county's history, there's also a "historical village" of older buildings restored from other places in the county, a reconstructed train station, and a simulated ghost town (with authentic old buildings).