Las Vegas. Sin City. The land of all night parties and neon light graveyards. Where it doesn’t take sitting at the Blackjack tables to lose a crap ton of money really fast. Shoot, just two drinks can easily set you back $36 or more and that’s not including a tip! But don’t lose heart. Budget travelers can still have a great time in this neon lit town. We’re going to share with you some of the best things we found to do in and around Vegas for budget travelers.
1. Rent a Car
First things first, rent yourself a car. We paid just under $20 a day by booking through our Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Actually, we didn’t pay anything because we used our ultimate reward points. The rental car company tried to upsell us for insurance but we knew that insurance for the rental car was covered between the benefits of our credit card and our normal car insurance policy. You will want to check the terms and conditions of your particular policies to be sure. For us, doing it this way saved us over a hundred dollars.
And if you don’t have a travel rewards card yet, get one! It’s definitely one of the top ten ways we use to get more money for travel.
2. Cheap Breakfast at Tacos Rico’s
If you like authentic Mexican food, you will love this place. No frills, nothing fancy. They just have the biggest $6 breakfast burrito I’ve ever seen. And their $8 plate of chilaquiles is muy bueno. Top these off with fixings from their well-equipped condiment bar such as pickled onions, cilantro, pico de gallo, or one of the many salsas. Both your taste buds and your pocketbook will certainly thank you. Bam, breakfast for two for under $15.
3. Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive
Now that you’ve topped up with a good breakfast, head into the hills to take in the beauty of the Mojave Desert. There’s no other place like it. On this thirteen mile scenic loop you’re surrounded by ancient sand dunes now hardened into stunning red rock. Tackle one of the many day hikes available. We ventured the short walk to the Petroglyph Wall. There are also some ice caves to explore on a hot day if you can get across the desert without bursting into flames. We spent most of the time in the comfort of the air-conditioned car on this trip. June is hot in the desert but to see all those desert flowers in bloom was pretty cool. There is a small entry fee ($7) for the drive unless you have a National Park pass.
4. Mount Charleston
After enough locals mention a place you can probably bet it’s worth a visit. Mount Charleston is one of those. You can easily do both the Red Rock Canyon scenic drive and Mount Charleston in a day or split it up. The drive is amazing, first wandering through a sea of Joshua trees then ending up in towering pines. Typically ten degrees cooler than the city, it’s also a good place to go to escape the Vegas heat.
If you have time, stop off at the Visitor Center. It’s pretty cool.
5. Mt. Charleston Lodge
The road to Mount Charleston culminates at the Mt. Charleston Lodge where you can get a monstrous order of chili nachos and a decent IPA out on their patio overlooking the treetops of the ravine below. Go for the half order of nachos for $9. It was plenty for the two of us to share with a few left over.
6. Japanese Ramen at Fukumimi
After his year in Japan, Jim sort of has a weakness for a good bowl of Ramen. Fukumimi did not disappoint. I should have snapped a photo of the menu for you. Their prices are phenomenal. We tried the Fukumimi Ramen, a bowl of Japanese curry rice, the Karaage Japanese style fried chicken, plus a side of kimchi, a side salad, and a Sapporo to share. All this as dinner (or a big lunch) for two, for under $30.
7. Affordable Foodie Heaven at Carson Kitchen
You’re not going to get off as cheap here as you will at Fukumimi but after a dinner at this place you’ll feel like you died and went to foodie heaven. For real. The menu changes here about every three months. It’s seasonal and fresh, just the way we like it. Ask to sit at the counter near the back door and you’ll have an excellent view of the talented staff assembling the night’s delectables. This may make it a little easier to order but good luck with that, you’ll want one of each. Awesome date night atmosphere. Dinner for two (four small plates to share) and cocktails, $65.
8. Cheap Shots and Good Grub at Therapy
Not super cheap to eat here but also not incredibly expensive, the $2 shots make up for it. Therapy is a jazzy kind of joint down on Fremont street serving up a varied menu. We tried the Empanada Trio ($21) and Korean BBQ Pork Belly ($14). Both were tasty, but like I said, not super budget friendly.
9. The Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo
Duck off the strip for a walk through the Flamingo’s mini zoo. Real pink flamingos, giant koi, and more. It’s not huge, but it is interesting… and FREE.
10. $5 Blackjack on the Vegas Strip
What’s your game? Ours is Blackjack. If Blackjack is your game too then maybe you’ll be on the lookout for some tables that will allow you to play without cringing. We found two $5 Blackjack tables at Treasure Island. One of them is even single-deck which makes the odds a little more interesting. New York, New York also advertises five dollar tables. We were told that you can play for only $1 at Hooters, if that’s your thing.
11. BLT Bloody Mary at Hash House A Go Go
Not exactly cheap, but when you look at it like a drink and snack in one $14 is not horrible. The BLT Bloody Mary at the Hash House pretty much has its own following, it’s that good. It comes with a bacon salted rim, a big slice of smoked bacon, a huge round of juicy red tomato, a rib of lettuce, a piece of white toast and a packet of mayo. Ask for a side plate and build yourself an open-faced BLT sandwich! That’s what I did. If you’re still hungry order one of the hashes to share. There’s plenty for two.
12. Sit in on a Timeshare Pitch to take in a Free Show
This was not part of the plan for our Vegas stay, but they grabbed us off the sidewalk and offered free stuff! You might have to be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of one of these deals but if you are offered the chance, why not? Listen to a two-hour sales pitch (and buy yourself a timeshare, or not) and then go enjoy dinner and a show, or whatever else they are offering, for free.
13. $5 Poolside IPA from Bouchon Bistro
A five dollar IPA is not exactly what we would consider cheap but have you seen the prices for good beer in this town?! If you happen to be staying at the Venetian which is so not budget friendly, you are going to want to know where you might be able to save a couple bucks. Hey, maybe you’re there for business, or maybe you’re taking advantage of all these awesome money saving tips so you can actually fit a night or two at this stunning award winning resort into the budget.
Or if you are a business traveler, try this one: Business Travel Tips: 14 Hacks to get the most from your next trip
14. Free Tickets to a Cirque de Soleil Rehearsal
From time to time, Cirque de Soleil opens their rehearsals to the public for FREE! You might have to do a little research to find a show but we’ll share a good place to start. You can call the Treasure Island box office at 702-894-7722 to see what they currently have available. As of the writing of this post, their rehearsal show is at 4:00 on Mondays. Various Cirque de Soleil shows play around Las Vegas at different resorts. Call their box offices for more information.
15. Stroll through Container Park
Free, but you have to be twenty-one and over. Way more sterile and ‘street mall’ than I thought it would be, it’s still a cool stop if you’re in the neighborhood. You’re greeted by a forty foot long flamethrowing preying mantis on your way in and a multi-story treehouse with an adult friendly tunnel slide once you get inside. Not sure about the prices but we’re told that Oak & Ivy is one of the best places in town for custom craft cocktails.
16. The Famous ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ Sign
Selfie time! You can’t miss this Las Vegas icon. It doesn’t cost anything but there may be a line of people waiting to have their pictures taken. If you don’t mind a little bit of an angle to your photo (I actually prefer it), skip the line and simply move off to the side for your shot.
17. Lastly, Vegas does have Airbnb!
We didn’t stay with Airbnb this time, but if we make it back this Las Vegas Airbnb will be high on the list. Tell me if this 50th-floor condo with views of the Vegas Strip doesn’t look like its worth checking out. It is hosted by an Airbnb Superhost so you know you’ll be taken care of. Superhosts work hard to earn this status by getting consistently great reviews from their guests. How much, you ask? A whopping $69 per night!
In case you are new to Airbnb, you can sign up through this link and get travel credit for your first stay (and so do we!)
Do you have more budget-friendly things to do around Las Vegas?
I’m sure there are more things to do around Vegas that work for us budget-minded folk. If you know of or find any that we missed, please share in the comments below! We have to watch out for each other, ya know?