Given the current state of America’s economy, it’s probably no revelation that resort towns are suffering. Las Vegas’s troubles, in particular, have been well publicized. In the wake of this country’s recession, many companies have tightened their belts, forgoing business trips and conventions in Sin City. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority , visitor volume, citywide occupancy, convention attendance, and gaming revenue are all down this year.
Of course, the good news is that the average daily room rate has gone down, too. So, it’s not a bad time to visit this wonderfully vibrant city – an ideal place for individuals, couples, families, and business travelers. Although my longest stay in Vegas was a mere three weeks, I’ve been there more times than I can count. It was an especially quick and easy getaway when Dan and I were living in Los Angeles year-round. Over the years, I’ve witnessed the Fremont Street Experience , sampled a wide array of buffet meals, and explored nearly every casino on the Las Vegas Strip, from Circus Circus  to Mandalay Bay . About nine years ago, I even got married at the Chapel of the Flowers , frequently voted the best wedding chapel in town.
Although I’ve spent many holidays there, from the Fourth of July (when the heat was almost unbearable) to New Year’s Eve (when it was clear and mild), it’s usually advisable to visit off-season (such as weekdays in June and July), when prices are lower. Nowadays, however, online bargains are everywhere. If you’re looking for inexpensive hotel deals and show tickets, check out websites like EarlyVegas.com  and Cheapo Vegas , plus the official portals of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority  and the Las Vegas Tourism Bureau .
While it’s thrilling to risk a little moolah at a Las Vegas casino or catch one of the six Cirque de Soleil  shows on offer, there’s no need to blow your whole budget in Sin City. Some of my favorite sights are absolutely free, including the lion habitat (11 a.m.-7 p.m. daily) at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino  (3799 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702/891-7777) and the periodic musical fountain display (3 p.m.-midnight Mon.-Fri., noon-midnight Sat.-Sun.) at the Bellagio  (3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702/693-7111). While not free, the roller coaster (10:30 a.m.-midnight daily, $14) at the New York New York Hotel & Casino  (3790 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702/740-6969) promises a good time as well as a great view of the Las Vegas Strip; for $25, you can even purchase an all-day “scream pass” that allows unlimited rides on one of the coolest accessible attractions in Sin City. Better yet, you can even get hitched on this exhilarating coaster – no, seriously, you can take the plunge while taking a plunge. How Vegas is that!
In case you’re wondering, my favorite meal in Vegas is the all-you-can-eat buffet (8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 8 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat., $19-39) at the Wynn Las Vegas  (3131 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702/770-7000), which offers everything from weekend brunches to sumptuous dinners. With sushi, crab legs, prime roast, various salads, delectable desserts, and 16 live cooking stations in all, it’s well worth the hefty price at night. But, trust me, there are also plenty of cheaper eats in Vegas, including Canter’s Delicatessen (11 a.m.-midnight daily, $10-15) at Treasure Island  (3300 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702/894-7111) – an offshoot of the Los Angeles landmark. So, although it might be true that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” it’s nice to know that not all of your money has to.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me at laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.