Las Vegas: Save vs. Splurge

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Las Vegas is a notoriously pricey town. Four-star restaurants, high-end cocktails, top-drawer hotels — it all adds up. For regular working folks, sampling the good life in Sin City without going broke can be a challenge. But don’t fret. Our insider know-how can give you the leg up on finding Vegas luxury for less.

Shop around for a hotel: You could easily spend $300 or more per night for a room at Wynn Las Vegas or at Mandalay Bay — and that’s the low end. Experienced types who want a room on the Strip stay at the Monte Carlo, where you can get a spacious room and bathroom (with Italian marble) with views of the Strip for half the price.

Dine in style off the Strip: All the great chefs are doing time in Vegas these days, at Aureole, Spago, and Fleur de Lys. That’s great, but if you don’t want to spend $400 on dinner, check out Rosemary’s, which proves that high-quality restaurants can survive off the Strip. If you want something a little more casual, but still delicious, make a pit stop at Burger Bar, in Mandalay Place. French-born chef Hubert Keller brings his sophisticated European palate to bear on America’s favorite food item.

Try the outlet malls: Love to shop? Vegas is the place to be, but if you spend your time at the Forums Shops at Caesars, you won’t get much bang for your buck. Check out the factory outlet malls. You’ll find the same Dior and Chanel items, but for much less. One place you should definitely check out is Fashion Outlets Las Vegas — all the superstar stores are here, including Burberry, Williams-Sonoma, Versace, with discounts up to 75%. A shuttle service runs daily from the MGM Grand and Miracle Mile shops ($15 round trip; 702/874–1400 for reservations).

Don’t be a lemming: MIX, in THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, is a perennial hot spot. The views are great, but the crowds and the prices can get you down. You can enjoy the same drinks for less at the Peppermill Fireside Lounge, a 24-hour establishment located right between the Riviera Hotel and the old Stardust. Plus, it’s one of the few places in town where you can still feel the presence of Frank, Sammy, and Dino. For something a little splashier, try hooking up with friends at the Sahara’s Casbar Lounge, which lives up to its famous name by offering better-than-average lounge acts.

Casino action? Think outside the box: Wynn Las Vegas and Bellagio are great, but expect expensive minimums and pricey cafes to add up. Broaden your horizons. Head downtown to El Cortez. You can’t beat the low table minimums or the old Vegas feel. There’s also Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon (3595 Las Vegas Blvd. South), formerly the Barbary Coast. It’s now a low-roller’s dream. It’s got Slots-a-Fun and cheap blackjack tables.

The likes of Broadway: Seeing a show in Vegas has become almost as expensive as seeing one along the Great White Way, but there are bargains to be found. If you absolutely must see one of the big blockbusters, make sure you visit the Coca-Cola Tickets2Nite (888/484-9264) and the Tix4tonight booths. Both sell last-minute, discounted tickets. You won’t know what’s available until you get there, but be flexible and you could get a real steal. If you’re not up for the lines at the booths, try an afternoon show like comedian and magician Mac King (at The Orleans Hotel and Casino; $21.95) or magician Rick Thomas (Harrah’s Las Vegas Casino & Hotel ; $33). Both offer big entertainment for bargain prices.

Also see:

  • Tips for Vegas Virgins
  • The Las Vegas Pool Scene
  • Fodor’s Choice Las Vegas