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Top Five Las Vegas Reader Questions Answered

The Deal Detective is’s resident bargain hunter, Kate Hamman. She’s always on the lookout for new travel deals and invites you, dear reader, to submit your own questions.

Given the overwhelming response to my most recent Las Vegas column, I’ve selected five reader questions that deserve further attention. From travel on the cheap to taking the kids, here are the ins-and-outs of visiting Sin City.

Jeanie writes, “Me and three of my girlfriends will be in Las Vegas from April 16 through 19. We have found a cheap flight out there but need a return flight for the 19th. We also would like to go to a show and would like some ideas where to go inexpensively at night for fun and some good and inexpensive restaurants. Should we take a tour of Las Vegas? What are the best things to do for a short period of time … inexpensively? Thank you.”

Las Vegas is a prime spot for those short on cash—and I don’t mean because you can take a little money and make a fortune. (I hear it does occasionally happen, but sadly never for me). Gambling aside, the city is a smorgasbord of budget buffets, free entertainment, and low-cost activities.

It’s not difficult to find dining deals all over the strip, including prime rib specials starting at about $7.99. The real jewel of the cheaper side of Vegas, however, is the notorious all-you-can eat buffets, which you can find in almost every casino on or off the strip. The price and assortment of dishes depends on the time of day you go, whether for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. One way to save a little extra cash is to go for lunch, which may cost up to about $15, and then have something like a hot dog, which runs about $2, for dinner.

As for things to do during the day or at night, you can find a plethora of free attractions, including a chocolate tour at the Ethel M factory store, the fountain show at Bellagio, the Sirens of TI, and my all-time favorite the overhead show at the Fremont Street Experience. These may not all be front-row entertainment, but they’re well worth the (free) price, if only for the kitsch factor. (I’m looking at you, Sirens.) If you feel like spending a little more than no money, you can always find a show that will fit in your budget.

These are only a few suggestions on what to do to keep your costs down while in Sin City. I suggest talking to your hotel’s concierge about other ways to save on the Strip.

Know It All Guy writes, “I was thinking of going to Las Vegas along with many other southwestern cities. The hotel that I am highly considering is the Hilton Grand Vacations Club on the Las Vegas Strip for $161/night (one-bedroom suite). We are not in Las Vegas to gamble (we have a child with us) and are mainly [there] to visit college friends during the summer. The hotel does not have to be “super family-friendly,” like Circus Circus or something and we are on a budget and trying to lower the price. Is there another hotel that you can think of that’s affordable and meets our expectations? Thank you for all your help and articles in SmarterTravel.”

Since “Las Vegas” and “kid-friendly” go together like oil and vinegar (it just requires the proper blending to get them to combine), choosing a hotel can be difficult. However, many of the resorts are pretty well-suited to handle your tyke’s needs (and some even offer deals geared towards the family set).

For instance, the medieval-themed Excalibur, which is already pretty exciting for kids (it’s shaped like a castle!), also offers a family package (look on the right-hand side of the reservations page), which includes two-for-one tickets to the Tournament of Kings, the Circus Circus Adventuredome, and the hotel’s Magic Motion movie ride, as well as 20 percent discounts on the Luxor exhibits of Bodies and Titanic, buy one-get-the-second-half-off tickets to Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, and 10 free passes to the Fantasy Faire midway. The promotion expires January 31, 2010, and rooms start at just $61 per night in May.

You might also consider MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, and Mirage. And here are a few things to do to that will keep the kiddies smiling.

Carolyn Lebo writes, “Could you please tell me why the shows are so outrageously expensive? We will be in Vegas April 2 through 5. What would you recommend that would be about $60.00 per person (I want to be able to SEE).”

Vegas shows are as varied in type as they are in price. In only a few days, you can see a magician make a lion disappear, listen to a famous singer belt a few tunes, laugh out loud at a comedy act, dance as showgirls do the can-can, watch a Broadway production, or sit in awe of acrobatic displays of artistic performance. With all of these options, it’s not surprising that some of the bigger productions can be a bit pricey.

The good news is that you can still find cheap tickets to some of the smaller, yet still popular, acts such as Jubilee for $50 per ticket, comedian Rita Rudner for $63 per ticket, V the Ultimate Variety Show for $66 per ticket, and the magician Lance Burton for $67 per ticket. These are only a few of the options for shows in your price and date range. I would also recommend speaking to your hotel’s concierge to see if there are any deals being offered during your stay.

divinejewelry58 writes, “My husband and 17-year-old son will be in Vegas March 17 through 20. What do you suggest would be the three top things for us to do?”

Top three lists always make me a bit uncomfortable, because they’re really such a personal thing. For instance, I could tell you top three places for foodies, sport fans, families, gamblers (though I noted your son is only 17), art fanatics, and shopaholics, but would any of these actually apply to your likes and dislikes? Instead of me rattling off a slew of lists, I’m going to let, do the job. The site offers good suggestions for a range of different personalities and desires.

vegasvirgin writes, “I would like to surprise my husband with a trip to Vegas to celebrate our 20-year-wedding anniversary coming up in November. Neither of us has been there before. Maybe stay three or four nights. Need help planning and suggestions on where to stay and what shows to see.”

I think four days is the perfect amount of time for a first-timer to Vegas. My favorite place to stay for location and price, albeit minus the flash or glam of other hotels, is Bally’s. This unassuming hotel offers rooms starting at $59 per night in November, and is literally in the heart of the Strip (connected to Paris through an indoor walkway, across from the street from Bellagio, Flamingo, and Caesars Palace). You can see quite a bit without going too far. If you’re looking for something a little more traditional and themed-style Vegas, you can always keep an eye out for hotel deals that may become available closer to your travel dates.

As for entertainment, as I mentioned above, it all comes down to taste and what you want to do during your stay. A few of the more popular, and a bit more expensive, big-production shows are Cirque du Soleil’s O, LOVE, and La Reve.

As for my other readers: Are you a Vegas veteran? Do you know some insider secrets to getting the most for your money? Please share any and all tips below.

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