Las Vegas on a Budget | What to Do, Where to Stay & Eat

Eifel Tower at Bally's Las Vegas

Updated: January 30, 2020

Our Perspective on Las Vegas

Our perspective on Las Vegas is unique compared to most. Of course, the city is very famous for its countless casinos and long party nights, which is why most people usually go there in the first place, but we’ve been to Nevada’s favorite playground many times and realize that the city has much more to offer than that. That’s great news for anyone trying to visit Las Vegas on a budget. In our opinion, the real stars of the city are not the exuberant casinos or mystical magicians, but rather the abundance of natural beauty surrounding it. In fact, most people don’t even know that there are numerous State and National Parks surrounding Las Vegas. Of course, Las Vegas in itself is an interesting and astonishing place due to the detail-rich buildings and quirky characters on the streets, but that’s not all it is. To give you an idea, we’ve decided to share our perspectives on the city from a man’s and woman’s point of view.

He Said

What comes to mind when I think of Las Vegas? Obviously, it’s the lights, the glamour, the rat pack, the appeal of winning millions on one lucky spin and, of course, Clark Griswold losing his life savings at a blackjack table. I’ve been to Vegas many times and yet, somehow, the city has a way of giving you a different experience each time. One thing I’ve learned over the years is never to expect anything in particular, good or bad, and you can’t leave disappointed. Admittedly, I like gambling, but I also hate losing money. This brings us to one of my favorite Las Vegas pastimes: Nickel video poker and free drinks.

My two best pieces of advice to anyone visiting Las Vegas:

  1. If you want to gamble, go off the strip.
  2. Take some day trips to the surrounding parks. It’s so worthwhile!

She Said

Before going to Las Vegas, I was wondering how I would ever be able to enjoy this gambling paradise, as I really dislike spending money on a  game of chance. But, I have to admit, Vegas surprised me in many ways: spectacular mountain views, overloaded all-inclusive buffets, crazy people, bright lights, dry air and gorgeous national parks all around. What a mix! There’s definitely something for everyone, so do not not go just because you’re not a gambler. 😉

Whether you prefer nature, you’re ready to try your luck at some cards or want to place a wonky bet, Las Vegas has you covered; just like we’ve got you covered on how to have the perfect Vegas vacation on a budget.

Tips & Tricks for Las Vegas

Where to Eat in Las Vegas:

Las Vegas can be quite expensive in terms of eating out. However, there are three places that you definitely have to try and one of them is even really cheap!

  1. Whether you live in Las Vegas or are only there to visit, you have to try the Yama Sushi Restaurant in Las Vegas! We’ve tried many Sushi restaurants, but we’ve never ever had such an outstanding experience.
    At first we were a little skeptical about the outside appearance, but we trusted in the online-reviews and Denise insisted on eating sushi on her birthday. The staff at Yama Sushi managed to make this day a very special one. Not only did they sing for her and served a free birthday sushi dish, but they also succeeded in making the best sushi we’ve ever eaten.
    The waitresses were very nice and answered all of our questions. Moreover, for Vegas standards, the dinner price of $23 for all you can eat sushi was very reasonable. Another reason to go there is that they offer lots of different variations; many of which are made with cooked/smoked fish. Therefore, all people who always use the excuse to not try sushi because of the raw fish now have to check it out ;). In fact, Ryne’s parents had never eaten sushi and were very nervous, but they loved it! This experience spoiled them on sushi forever, as chances are that they will never find sushi this good again. Yama even offers pizza sushi! So don’t miss out on the super delicious sushi from the local Yama Sushi Restaurant.
  2. Another favorite among locals (and us) is Dona Marias Tamales. One of our cousins who lives in Vegas took us to this local Mexican restaurant and we must say, it lives up to the hype!
  3. If you don’t want to spend much money, but still want to eat out, the casino buffets in Las Vegas are the ideal option! Most of them offer their all you can eat buffets for a very low price.
    IMPORTANT TIP: Get a player’s card for every casino you want to eat at. They are free and give you awesome discounts for their buffets!
    We loved the buffet at Sam’s Town as they have so much to choose from! There are options for literally everyone! Get a player’s card from Sam’s Town and only pay $8 for the breakfast buffet (including drinks), $10 for the lunch buffet and $12 for the dinner buffet (both including drinks). We usually went to the breakfast and the dinner buffet, as three buffets a day are way too much food.

Where to Stay in Las Vegas

Usually, hotels in Las Vegas will give you many offers for cheap hotel rooms. However, make sure to stay at a hotel that is combined with a casino. This is the reason why they can afford to make such offers. They rely on you gambling enough to earn the equivalent of your hotel room price and more. Especially, if you have been to Las Vegas before, the same hotel will give you even better offers since they want to keep you as a customer and a possible gambler. This is where getting a player’s card is useful. This gives you many advantages throughout the hotel and casino, including discounts just for having the card. This is something you should do at every casino, regardless whether or not you intend to gamble, as these cards are free and give you many discounts! On top of that, you will also receive E-mail and mail offers for free or discounted rooms, eating discounts, free gambling money, etc.; some of which can be used at other locations around the country.

We recommend staying at Sam’s Town because it’s one of the most affordable hotel/casinos in Las Vegas. Sam’s Town gave us each up to 5 free nights and a $150/day food voucher that we could use in all restaurants within the hotel. However, we only got this great offer because Ryne and his dad have been there before and gambled quite a bit.

Nevertheless, offers are easy to get and the hotel itself is really nice too—very clean, very quiet and it has everything you need (Swimming Pool, Cinema, Casino, Restaurants, Shops etc.). Moreover, the Sam’s Towns firelight buffet is always super cheap ranging from $8-10 a person for an all you can eat buffet including drinks. The buffet is even cheaper with a player’s card! You can get a free players card from the Player’s Club inside the casino. If you’re looking for places to stay downtown, then you should check out hotels on the strip.

IMPORTANT TIP: Hotels on the strip are way more expensive! Getting a room off the strip will save you tons of money. Additionally, hotels like Sam’s Town have free shuttles that will take you to and from the strip as well as to and from Old Las Vegas. It is really not worth it to spend a fortune just to be on the strip.

What to Do in Las Vegas

There is so much to do in Las Vegas that we would never be able to list everything here. Instead, we have picked out some of the top activities as well as some of our favorite best kept secrets! If you’re wondering what to do here, then the following two lists should be a good start:

Travel Itinerary Teaser Desktop Version

The Touristy Things

We usually aren’t into all the touristy things, but Vegas is a little different. If you don’t do the following 3 activities, then you’ve never really been to Vegas.

  1. Obviously, you have to take a picture with the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. Sure, it’s cliche, but let’s be real. That’s what you do when you come here.
  2. Next on the list is simple, but solid: Walk the strip. We recommend starting in the early evening as temperatures are getting cooler. You’ll get to see the hotels and casinos light up and the streets will begin to fill up with crazy performers with even crazier personalities.
  3. The third stop on our tourist jaunt is Fremont Street. This is also known as Old Las Vegas. Come down here to catch a small glimpse into what the city used to be. Of course, nobody under 40 is likely to have seen the Old Town in it’s prime, but we hear it was something magical. The city has been trying to revitalize Fremont Street for some years now, so you can enjoy a light show, a zip line and an ever-growing number of novelty activities.

Other tourist attractions are the Stratosphere hotel, casino & tower, the real pawn shop from the U.S. TV series Pawn Stars (have fun standing in line for 3 hours) and now, the Las Vegas Eye. There are also hundreds of magic shows, creative performances, bars and clubs as well.

Our Favorite Things to Do in Las Vegas

Now it’s time to list off our personal favorites! When it comes to spending time in the city itself, this is how we prefer to spend our time.

  1. Nickel video poker and free drinks! This is our personal favorite because we get to gamble at a very low risk (5 to 25 cents per spin) and we can drink all the cocktails we want. Important! Vegas casinos offer their players free drinks, which are served by cocktail waitresses walking on the playing floor. These lovely women work for tips, they’re great conversationalists and you shouldn’t dish out any jokes if you’re not ready for them to retaliate with a good comeback. Bonus Tip!: The nicer you are to them and the better you tip them, the more often they’ll come back with drinks. 😀
  2. The Improv at Harrah’s: This is a stand-up comedy show that takes place at the Harrah’s Hotel & Casino. Denise isn’t really into stand up, but Ryne loves it, which is why we had to list it.
  3. Eating. We mention this one here because Las Vegas is known for its extravagant buffets. Some of these come with a hefty price tag, but either way, you’ll marvel at the food and dessert choices available to you. Other than casino buffets, there are some great local restaurants where we love to eat whenever we’re in town.

7 Must-Do Day Trips from Las Vegas:

Many people go to Las Vegas and only stay in the city. This is such a waste, because the surrounding area has so much to offer! Below we list 7 must-do day trips that you have to take from Las Vegas!

Travel Shoes Teaser Desktop Version

  1. The Grand Canyon ($30 per car at the South Rim)
    You really shouldn’t miss out on going to the Grand Canyon while in Las Vegas. Is it a long trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon? Yes it takes between 4-5 hours from Las Vegas to the South Rim, but it is so worth it! Start at 8 am, spend 2 hours (which is more than enough time) in the park and head back at 2 pm.
    IMPORTANT TIP: Make sure you drive to the SOUTH RIM of the Grand Canyon, as you cannot see the Grand Canyon from the closer located West Rim for only $30. This is because at the West Rim, you can only see the Grand Canyon by paying at least $56 per person, not allowing you to walk freely but only to certain viewpoints. Going to the South Rim is much more worth it, as you actually get to walk freely on a very long path along the Grand Canyon.

    Find more information here: National Park Service Information on the Grand Canyon

  2. Valley of Fire ($10 per car)
    Valley of Fire used to be a quite unknown state park. However, it recently gained popularity as it offers similar rock formations as the famous The Wave in Arizona and is much easier accessible. It’s only a 1 1/2 hours drive from Las Vegas and offers many beautiful hiking trails through an incredible park full of majestic rock formations.
    IMPORTANT TIP: Seriously, bring PLENTY of water, a hat and sunscreen when walking any of the trails in this park. It can get really hot, just as indicated by ample signs within in the park. Therefore, hiking even short trails requires to bring water, as there is almost no shade. We didn’t bring enough and almost had to carry home two dehydrated parents. So, please take this serious!

    For more information, click here: The Valley of Fire State Park Information

  3. Zion National Park ($30 per car)
    One of our favorite day trips from Las Vegas is Zion National Park. Zion is one incredible park and leaves everyone who has ever visited in awe. The park is 2 1/2 hours away from Las Vegas and therefore, a perfect day trip to spend the day hiking one or two of the wonderful trails through the Zion Valley or even up on the Zion cliffs.
    IMPORTANT TIP: Pick a hiking trail before you get to the park, otherwise you will waste lots of time deciding which one to take, as there’s so many to choose from. We made this mistake and were therefore, only able to take one trail instead of two or three.

    For more information, click here:
    Summer Map for Zion National Park

    Winter Map for Zion National Park

  4. Red Rock Canyon ($15 per car)
    This is one of the best trips you can take to get out of the city and discover the beauty of Las Vegas’ surroundings. It is only a 30 minute drive from Las Vegas to Red Rock Canyon. The Conservation Area offers a scenic loop drive with many beautiful views of rock formations and the city of Las Vegas. Additionally, you can choose from many different hiking trails to get even closer to nature!

    For more information, click here: Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area Information

  5. Death Valley ($20 per car)
    Everyone has heard of the hottest place on earth: Death Valley. A must-see for everyone in Las Vegas as it is only a 2 1/2 hours drive from the city. In the park, you will find ghost towns, long empty highways, deserted areas, craters and rock formations.
    IMPORTANT TIP: Tell someone exactly where you’re going within the park, as there is no service and very rarely will you see a passing car that could help you. So, in case your car breaks down or something happens to you, someone will know where to find you. We’ve all watched 72 hours and know how a scenario like this can end 😉

    For more information, click here: Death Valley National Park Information

  6. Hoover Dam ($10 for parking)
    Sadly, this very famous dam does not have much water left. All water supplies for Las Vegas come from this dam. Since it is such a dry area that has not gotten enough rain in recent days, this dam is very close to drying out, meaning that Las Vegas will be left without water. Nevertheless, it is incredible to see what humans are capable of in terms of building and it is only a 45 minute drive from the city of Las Vegas.

    For more information, click here: Hoover Dam Visiting Information

  7. Mojave National Preserve (Free)
    Finally a park that is actually free! Yay! Mojave National Preserve is only a 1 hour drive from Las Vegas and it has so much to offer. In this beautiful desert, you can discover great sand dunes, rock formations, canyons, mountains and much more. Apart from driving through the park from one attraction to the next, you can also take some hiking trails to get even closer to nature! Most of them are really short, so you can easily manage to hike a few within a day.
    IMPORTANT TIP: Make sure you enter Mojave National Preserve with a full tank of gas as there is no gas station nearby! We’ve made the terrible mistake of driving in with only a quarter of a tank and almost got stranded! Don’t be like us, be smarter. 😉 You can read our full story on Mojave, here.

    For more information, click here: Mojave National Preserve Information

Transportation in Las Vegas:

You won’t need a car if you plan on staying in Las Vegas only. Sam’s Town and other casinos even have a free shuttle that will take you to all the important places like Fremont Street and the strip. However we highly recommend renting a car if you plan on visiting the amazing national parks and Hoover Dam near Las Vegas. Although we don’t usually like renting cars, we always rent one when in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the United States is not very developed in terms of public transportation. Mostly, you will find none and hitchhiking is too dangerous. So, renting a car is really the only option for the United States unless you stay in cities.

Las Vegas Facts and History

Las Vegas is located in Nevada and with a population of around 645,000 and growing, it is the largest city in this state. Las Vegas was founded in 1905, but the city experienced a rapid growth in business and population between 1990 and 2000. Today, Las Vegas refers to itself as the “Entertainment Capital of the World”. This is because of the 24 hour casinos, bars, clubs and hotels. Everything is always open and it seems like Vegas never sleeps.

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About the Authors

Authors Ryne Cook and Denise Braun from He Said or She Said

Ryne Cook and Denise Braun have been to Las Vegas multiple times throughout their lives, giving them unique insights into the best things to do in Las Vegas, the best places to stay and which day trips you can take from Las Vegas.

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