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Deal Me In: Vegas on the cheap

25 October 2013

Dear Mark: It would never have occurred to me to e-mail you except I am reading your column in today's Detroit Free Press and I see a non-gambler wrote you to say how much he enjoys your column. Ditto for me! However, I do want to tell you that my wife and I love to go to Las Vegas at least once a year. We lie by the pool during the day, walk up and down the Strip like first timers, look at the people and hit two - four shows, then we're "outta here!” When I get back home I brag that I didn't gamble one nickel (it's true) and retell the story of how my wife and I stopped by the hotel bar for a drink; she slipped a 20 in whatever game was in the bar top and got her drink for "free." I had to pay eight bucks for my drink. Yep, that round came to $28 plus tip. The story is at least 10 years old, but I still tell it every chance I get. Dave W.

If someone is doing Vegas right, it’s you, Dave. On my last Las Vegas excursion, after doing some recon casing the new joints and offerings, I went your route, el cheapo; doing as much as I could for FREE.

Las Vegas has skylines, architecture and themes of all kinds condensed onto one of the busiest streets in America. So, I began at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, hoofed it up the Strip from the south end, and got some decent exercise and sightseeing in knowing a feeding frenzy at a buffet was in the offing.

You can actually save some serious Ka-ching by visiting the attractions of Las Vegas; this is if you consider viewing the Eiffel Tower in Vegas over the one in Paris. Ever fantasized about a romantic canal ride in Venice? There are gondolas and a St Mark’s Square at the Venetian. You might not be able to see a Yankee game in LV, but New York-New York Hotel & Casino has the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Central Park.

OK, some of these themed resorts pay tacky homage to other places around the world. However, other attractions that have been included are worth checking out. Here are just a few, of many, of my favorites.

The Conservatory & Botanical Gardens at The Bellagio. Crafted by a team of over 100 horticulturalists, the Bellagio's conservatory features elaborate arrangements of plants and flowers in its atrium. In addition, every evening, a water and music show plays in their spectacular fountains along the quarter-mile-long lake in front of the Bellagio.

The Mermaid Show at the Silverton Casino Lodge Las Vegas' aquarium. This 117,000-gallon reef aquarium has over 4,000 tropical fish and live mermaids.

Back in the day, Las Vegas hotel lounges were legendary for offering opportunities to see big-name artists from the '60s and '70s for a two-drink minimum, and in many cases, free. While this is no longer the norm, these hotels still have comfortable lounges with bar and/or cocktail service, and typically feature live music and comedy acts from up-and-coming performers.

Billed as the "world's largest classic car showroom," my favorite freebie is the auto collection at The Quad Resort and Casino, formerly known as the Imperial Palace. It has the world's largest collection of antique, muscle, and special-interest cars, and admission to view the collection is free if you take the time to visit the website and print out a coupon.

Although Las Vegas exists for the sole purpose of separating visitors from their hard-earned money, no matter how you spend non-gambling funds, just remember that the best cheap things to do can be the ones that will NOT cost you a couple mortgage payments.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Las Vegas sits here in the middle of the desert and produces absolutely nothing, yet it supports a half a million people. I guess it's a kind of modern miracle something like loaves and fishes." – Alvin Alvarez, The Biggest Game in Town (1983)
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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.