Las Vegas presumably needs no introduction. The city in the state of Nevada in the US calls itself “The Entertainment Capital of the World”, as such it’s one of the world’s leading tourist destinations, known for its mega-casino hotels and extravagant nightlife. The casino hotels are in fact small towns on their own, and it’s absolutely insane that such a place in the middle of the desert ever exists. You have to see for yourself how decadent humans can get.
As the saying goes, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, whatever you choose to do among the wide range of entertainment options, don’t leave without checking off the following attractions that only Las Vegas can deliver. Here is our tips to experience the best of Las Vegas on a budget!
Wander the Las Vegas Strip
The most famous mega-casino hotels in Las Vegas are located in the area known as the Strip. Even if you’re not into gambling, just hotel-hopping and people-watching would keep you for a full day and night busy. If you fancy, you can ride a cheesy and overpriced gondola in Venetian, climb the Eiffel Tower in Paris, take a selfie (free) at the Fountains of Bellagio, and watch a volcano erupting at Mirage just to name some. If you’re short on time, focus on Caesars Palace, Paris, The Venetian, and Bellagio Hotels first. You can visit the others like New York, Excalibur, and Luxor if you have more time.
|Erected in 1959, the Welcome Sign is a landmark and marks the start of the Las Vegas Strip.
Explore Fremont Street in historic Downtown Vegas
The Fremont Street Experience (FSE) is a 24-hour pedestrian mall with free concerts, light shows, cute cafes, street art, even an opportunity to zipline under the world’s largest screen canopy, and more.
Fremont Street had Vegas’ many firsts: the first hotel, first paved street, first Nevada gaming license, and first casino in the first half of the 20th century. By 1992, 80% of the Las Vegas casino market was on the Strip. Downtown Vegas hotels and casinos sought a way to attract more visitors to their businesses. Thus, the FSE pedestrian mall was born in 1995 with an extensive schedule of free events.
The Strip still attracts the majority of tourists but make sure to visit historic Downtown for a more down-to-earth experience. You can still find the nostalgic slot machines in downtown casinos that are not fully computerized as in the fancy Strip ones. And gambling is cheaper here if you want to try your luck. If you are not into luxury, I’d even recommend you stay in the Downtown area and take the free shuttle bus offered by most downtown hotels to the Strip. This way you would have best of both worlds in Las Vegas on a budget.
While you’re here. make sure to visit the Downtown Container Park at sundown to witness the awakening of The Mantis. Every night at sundown a drum circle awakens the giant mantis which is then followed by a fire show (click to watch on Youtube, the video starts with a surprise scene on Fremont ).
Fly SlotZilla Zipline at Fremont Street Experience
The centerpiece of Fremont Street Experience in historic Downtown Las Vegas is the Viva Vision, the world’s largest video screen, which is 1,500 feet long, and 90 feet wide. You can get mesmerized by simply looking up at the ceiling, where the massive LED canopy is suspended 90 feet above the pedestrian mall below. The best way to experience it without breaking your neck, you ask? Zipline! ✅
Viva Vision runs free light shows every night starting at 6pm until 1am. Simply head over to Slotzilla to fly beneath the largest screen canopy in the world.
Slotzilla is a zipline attraction in the shape of an 11-story-slot-machine, featuring Las Vegas icons such as coins, dice, a martini glass, a pink flamingo, a giant arm, and two showgirls. Taking off to heights at the world’s largest slot machine is just the right kind of Vegas fun for the adventurous.
Slotzilla offers two ways to fly: the lower Zip-Zilla zipline in the sitting position, and the upper Superhero Zoom (Zoomline) in the flying position. Needless to say, I went for the superhero zoom, although more expensive, it’s the longer and taller of the two. Even so, it still felt too short and it was not the most adrenaline-boosting zipline I’ve ever done, yet flying over a human flood was pretty a unique kind of experience. Check it out at this link in motion: https://youtu.be/MdDc3PQ_muY!
Get a bypass surgery at Heart Attack Grill
Ever heard of Heart Attack Grill? A hospital-themed funny restaurant located right on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas. Ever since we had seen it on TV, we wanted to visit this unique restaurant with an odd sense of humor. One main reason that brought us back to Las Vegas at the end of our road trip in 2018.
The HAG menu is simple, all you need to know is the number of bypasses you can handle. Their Quadruple Bypass Burger with nearly 10,000 calories was even awarded in the 2013 Guinness Book of World Records, “The world’s most calorific burger“.
When ordering just be careful: if you fail to finish your burger, you’ll be publicly spanked with their infamous paddle Tom went for a Single Bypass Burger, but he couldn’t finish it (poor Tom). To keep the calorie-damage low, I went for a jello vodka shot from a giant syringe, which was too sweet that I couldn’t finish either (no punishment).
We had so much fun visiting this place and can absolutely recommend it. No burger sharing, but you don’t have to order food if you don’t want to, so another iconic place for your best of Las Vegas on a budget list.
See a Cirque du Soleil show
Tourism in Vegas is driven by entertainment, and I barely have any doubt about it being the entertainment capital of the world. As such, you will find countless shows, events, and concerts on offer. I wish we could have gone to more shows but we only had one shot. So, after hours of research, it was going to be the resident show KÀ by Cirque du Soleil. One word: WOW! Absolutely phenomenal, the best thing in Las Vegas, and the most stunning performance I’ve ever seen in my life. With its amazing storyline, music, insane acrobatics, costumes, effects, and vertically rotating stage, KÀ is an extravaganza worth every penny. Don’t leave Vegas without seeing it!
|Yes, the stage can rotate 360 degrees!
There is no bad seat in the MGM Grand theater where the show takes place, but to see the details of make-up and costumes either bring binoculars or get a seat towards the middle, don’t sit too far back. You can watch some scenes on Youtube, and find more details on the official site or fandom page (https://cirquedusoleil.fandom.com).
Dangle from the top of the Skypod Observation Deck
By now you must have noticed that in Las Vegas there is no shortage of fun, a word perhaps appears a tad too many times in this article Well, to keep having more fun, in my opinion, one of the best things to do in Las Vegas is pay a visit to The STRAT Hotel, Casino, and SkyPod (formerly the Stratosphere) for spectacular views and thrill rides in the sky!
We’ve been to many towers around the world and we had actually decided not to visit any more, but the SkyPod at The STRAT, the tallest free-standing observation tower in the United States, is truly worth it just for the stunning 360-degree views of the Las Vegas Valley and beyond. Unlike most other observation towers that require you to stay behind glass, here you have access to an outdoor observation deck standing 1,150 feet/ 350 meters tall above the Strip, where you can walk around in the fresh air.
And if you need some adrenaline rush, sky rides are there for ultimate fun. For my taste, the rides last too short though, so make sure to get an unlimited ride pass if you want to get enough adrenaline pumped. I tried them all: X-Scream, Insanity, Big Shot (epic!). *The images below are taken from the official website.
X-Scream is a roller coaster ride propelling the passengers over the edge of the tower, where you are dangled weightlessly above the Strip before being pulled back and shot over the edge again. On Insanity, you spin at three Gs while dangling from the SkyPod on a giant arm. Big Shot catapults riders from the 921-foot platform up the tower’s mast to a height of 1,081 feet, and then back down. If you need to select among the rides, the order in descending adrenaline level would be Big Shot, Insanity, and X-Scream.
Money saving tips
Skip weekends. This is the number one rule to experience the best of Las Vegas on a budget. You can find the lowest hotel rates on weekdays but the majority of the hotels close to the Strip ask for a nightly resort fee (the highest of these over $50 US a night as of 2022) plus tax. In the end, even on weekdays, a night can cost a minimum of $100 US on the four-mile-long Strip. For more economical options, either consider staying in Downtown Vegas or check on Airbnb and download the RideRTC appto buy bus tickets for the residential fare. As usual, we preferred to get around on foot given that most of the Vegas Strip is connected via walkways. But there is also a monorail making stops at seven different points on the Strip, and a free shuttle bus from Downtown.
When in Vegas, don’t just show up and pay the full rate for the attractions. At the discount ticket boxes along the Strip or online at websites like vegas.com, bestofvegas.com, and smartervegas.com you can always find some good deals, even very last minute. For instance, I found discounted Skypod tickets at bestofvegas.com, ordered via the hotel’s free wifi while standing in front of the ticket desk, showed them the emailed voucher, and got my tickets for less than half the regular price.
Las Vegas tries to get all your money but luckily the main fun is for free. If you pay a little attention to getting the most bang for your buck, you don’t need to spend a fortune for uncompromised fun in Sin City, which has become one of our favorite cities in the US alongside San Francisco and New York.
Enjoy your moments of extravaganza and insanity in Sin City!
Viva Las Vegas!