Doing Vegas Without Breaking the Bank

Reed Travel Features Las Vegas editor Amy Baratta recently toured the Strip on the cheap. Her report follows:

LAS VEGAS -- Don't feel like spending $75 a piece for those Siegfried & Roy tickets? Well, neither did I, and I still managed to see things inherently "Las Vegas" without breaking the bank. Here's what I did and saw, in no particular order:

  • One activity that's always free -- unless you buy something -- is browsing. In Las Vegas, window-shopping venues range from minimarts to megastores to souvenir shops that double as drugstores and film-processing centers. Souvenirs, too, run the gamut from the merely tacky to the outrageous, and I'm willing to bet that nowhere else on Earth is there such an assortment of items that use dice in their design. There are stuffed dice, personalized dice and dice on clocks, earrings and in drinking glasses. I'll admit that my shopping trip wasn't exactly free, but I spent under $5. Image
  • Without a doubt, one of the best free shows around takes place at Buccaneer Bay in front of Treasure Island. There, every 90 minutes from 4 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., bystanders can watch a band of pirates attack a British navy ship. The special effects are great, but clients should plan to stake out a spot early because crowds tend to swell when a performance begins.
  • To get a better lay of the land, not to mention an incredible view of the city and surrounding desert, I opted for a $6 elevator ride to the top of the 1,149-foot-tall Stratosphere tower. The tallest freestanding observation tower in the U.S. also features a couple of amusement park rides outside on the deck, which cost extra. However, they shut down when the wind gusts too much, as it did the day I visited. There also is a lounge and revolving restaurant inside the top of the tower.
  • It's kitschy, but, come on, wouldn't you like to know who the heaviest man in the world is (Robert Earl Hughes, at 1,069 pounds) or who holds the record for eating the most baked beans (Karen Stevenson, 2,780)? Then come to the Guinness World Record Museum and Gift Shop, where, for the admission price of $4.95, visitors can discover these and other fun facts. Don't miss the video of the world record for falling dominoes.
  • Another entertaining -- and free -- outdoor show is staged at the Mirage, when the volcano there erupts every 15 minutes after darkness falls.
  • For car buffs, or anyone else who sees beauty in a Model J Duesenberg, the sightseeing road leads to the Imperial Palace and its very impressive auto collection. For an admission price of $6.95, visitors can wander through rows and rows of vintage vehicles, including Al Capone's 1930 V-16 Cadillac, Elvis Presley's 1976 Cadillac Eldorado and Marilyn Monroe's 1955 Lincoln Capri.
  • I really didn't know what to expect when I paid my $2 to enter the newly opened World of Coca-Cola, but what I took away with me was a better-than-working knowledge of the soft drink, packaged in a very pleasant experience.
  • Let me first back up by saying that by the time I arrived at the huge Coke bottle facade that marks the entrance to this attraction, my feet were throbbing and I was tired and starting to get a little on the cranky side. All that started to dissipate after my ride up the gigantic bottle in a glass elevator. As soon as the doors closed, I was surrounded by the sounds of a Coke's being opened and poured over ice. By the time I disembarked, I was feeling as tingly as those carbonated bubbles.

    From there, it was on to various displays explaining the history of Coca-Cola and filled with vintage memorabilia as well as a sampling station where different Coke products from around the world can be tasted. I found the screening room that showed nothing but old and new Coke commercials interesting, and even the short presentation that featured everything from trivia to human interest stories involving the soft drink was a pleasant surprise.

    Of course, these are just a few of the free or inexpensive sights this city has to offer. I still have yet to make it to the Liberace museum, to party at the Rio's Masquerade Show in the Sky or to ride the Manhattan Express roller coaster at New York-New York. I guess there's always next time.

    JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI