The stereotypical image of a Vegas vacation is one of ultimate indulgence and excess: big spending, big meals, big ticket shows, and of course, big gambling. But there’s so much to do in the area that doesn’t involve engaging in any of it to the detriment of your checking account or your waistline, and in fact, it’s easy to construct an incredible Vegas itinerary that flouts all of those conventional expectations.
If you came to Vegas, you probably came to gamble in some capacity (on whatever scale you choose), or at least want to explore what the center of the gaming universe is all about. Various casinos run promotions for new players that sign up for their player’s club cards, and these can range from a few dollars in free slot play and food comps all the way up through chances to spin prize wheels with some pretty juicy jackpots. The promotions rotate frequently, so a deal that was available to new players last month (or even last week) may no longer be in effect, but as long as you’re on the strip, you’re never far from the best offer around on any given day.
For those who want to indulge in a bit of gaming action, the best bets for beginners are blackjack and video poker. Proper basic strategy is simple and fairly easy to learn, and when properly employed, the house edge is minimal. Casinos often give free introductory classes for those who want to learn to play table games like blackjack and craps, as well as poker.
The Bellagio is worth a visit even if you don’t plan to put a single dollar in play. The conservatory is free to enter and is open 365 days a year with stunning displays of flowers and seasonally-themed décor, and the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art plays host to a rotating cast of world-class exhibits at very reasonable prices. And of course, the fountains in front of the property on the strip are not to be missed.
Those willing to venture away from the ritzy steakhouses and mile-long buffets that pepper the strip will find some of the best authentic Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese food about 10 minutes away in Chinatown. From pho shops to sushi restaurants to tea shops, there’s something for every palate, and all at prices far more reasonable than those found on the strip. Sushi Kaya serves up impossibly fresh and delicious sushi for lunch and dinner, ordered either a la carte or all-you-can-eat. And Violette’s Vegan is a haven for the vegan traveler, offering breakfast, lunch, dinner, and delicious smoothies.
If you need a caffeine infusion, head downtown to the Arts District, where you’ll find Vegas mainstays such as The Cornish Pastry Company, Vesta Coffee Roasters, and Makers & Finders. Be sure to schedule these stops for earlier in the day, as the majority of downtown coffeehouses close at 4:00 pm.
After grabbing your cup of coffee downtown, head to one of the nearby yoga studios for a class to center yourself. Blue Sky Yoga offers a variety of classes geared towards all levels, and is frequented by a fairly diverse crowd (read: nobody looks or feels like they don’t belong). Plus, it’s 100% donation-based, so if it isn’t to your taste, you aren’t obligated to pay an outrageous price for an experience you didn’t enjoy. We think you’ll like it, though.
Red Rock Canyon is only about half an hour from the strip, and it’s one of the most frequently-overlooked attractions in the entire Las Vegas area. There are a multitude of trails for all skill levels, and the entrance fee is extremely reasonable (although Nevada residents get a break). Everyone who has the opportunity to experience a sunrise at Red Rock should do so. Not only is the view breathtaking, but the morning hours are by far the best to hike around in the desert, which becomes blistering the moment the sun is too far overhead.
A Vegas vacation doesn’t have to break the bank or belt buckle; it’s very possible to spend and eat reasonably and still have the time of your life.
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