Top 5 not-so-frugal things to do in Las Vegas

The last two times I went to Vegas (July 2011, July 2010) were for business, so aside from a little bit of shopping, everything else – flight, hotel, food, entertainment, etc. – was expensed to the company. I went in 2009 with an ex-boyfriend, and I believe I spent about $700 total (including flight/hotel, spending money for 3 days/2 nights). And the first time I went to Vegas was in 2008, and spent just around $700 as well (for 3 days/3 nights).

Well, last week was my FIFTH time to Vegas in just 6 years, so I knew this trip was going to be different. First of all, I have a lot more disposable income than I did back in 2008 or 2009, and I was going with someone who had never been before. But most importantly, the things that I really wanted to do in Vegas were going to cost me money. And I had been putting them off for years. But not anymore. Since this was my fifth time going down to the desert, I have a feeling I won’t be going back anytime soon. So it was now or potentially never.

So here I present to you my top 5 (not so frugal) things to do in and around Las Vegas:

6. Have a drink at The Chandelier bar in the Cosmopolitan ($12-16)

I really thought this lounge area was cool. Not only was it three-storeys high, but it had such a different atmosphere from the casino floor that surrounded it. There’s fun live music, and it’s a great place to sit, relax, and people watch. Even if you’re only going to splurge for one drink – because it’s pricey! Oh, and as you can tell from the pictures, it really was like sipping cocktails inside a chandelier. :)

5. Bacchanal Buffet in Caesar’s ($45.99 dinner on weekdays)

We purchased the $50 Buffet of Buffets deal, which gives you 24-hour access to 6 different buffets in Vegas, plus a discount on the Rio Seafood buffet, as well as the Bacchanal in Caesars.

If you time it correctly, you can get 4 buffet meals in 24 hours, so for our last meal, we decided to splurge and pay the $25 extra to get into Bacchanal for dinner, and it was completely worth it. It is by far the best buffet I’ve ever been to. Just look at all the delicious food!

4. New York, New York roller coaster ($14)

Every time I’m in Vegas, it’s a pre-requisite that I have to ride this roller coaster. It’s a splurge, but SO MUCH FUN! And definitely worth the wait to sit in the front row.

Sorry for the crappy photos – these were taken in 2008 on my first trip to Vegas.

3. Shoot a gun at a firing range ($30-50)

I’ve never shot a gun before, but I’ve always wanted to give it a try. And every time I’m in Vegas, I tell myself I’m going to do it. And then I either chicken out or I run out of time. But this trip, we had plenty of time. And when I saw an ad for Battlefield Vegas, I knew I had to go.

When I got there, the guys were pretty friendly. I had no idea what kind of gun I wanted to shoot, but ended up with a Glock – the kind that police officers use. I was tempted to go big and try a machine gun, but decided to play it safe (and cheap) since the small Glock was only $40 for 30 shots. And I found out my aim is pretty good! :)

2. Grand Canyon ($25 fee) & Hoover Dam (car rental + hotel)

This was one of the things I really wanted to see in the USA, and each time I went to Vegas, I thought – this will be the trip! But unfortunately, the south rim of the Grand Canyon is just far away enough that it makes it inconvenient. Plus, if you’re going to go all the way to the Grand Canyon, you have to stop at the Hoover Dam, right? So this trip, we went down for 5 days – which gave us enough time to leave the Strip for a night, and still have time to see everything that we wanted to see in Vegas. Our hotel in Williams, Arizona only cost $50, and made the trip more pleasant than trying to cram in an entire day of driving. We saved money by buying groceries instead of going to a restaurant to eat.

My only regret was not spending MORE time at the Grand Canyon. I would have loved to go on an overnight hike to the Colorado River.

1. Red Rock Canyon National Park ($7 fee + car rental)

Located just half an hour outside of Vegas, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to check out Red Rock Canyon. Especially since I’m a hiker. We chose to go on the Calico Tanks hike, which is only about 2.5 miles long. It was beautiful, and I’m glad that we went… but I wish we had more time to explore the area. Maybe even brought my climbing shoes. :)

 What are your favourite frugal (or non-frugal) things to do in Vegas?

About Krystal Yee

I'm a writer, personal finance blogger, and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I'm a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner's Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I'm not working, you can usually find me running, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Looks like you really made the most of this trip! Just wondering though about the firing range…why was it something you had to do in Vegas? You can’t do that in Vancouver?

    • Yeah I think there are a few firing ranges in Vancouver… but everyone I know says the best selection is in Vegas. That being said, I ended up shooting a pretty standard gun because I was afraid a machine gun would hurt my shoulder with its kickback. :)

  2. I’ve only been to Vegas once…and I saved a total of $4000 to do it. Airplane/Hotel (The Venetian) was about $900 for 6 days/5 nights. I took $3100 for spending. Seems like a lot but I wanted to enjoy myself. I only spent $2000 but came back with a new wardrobe and plenty of awesome memories.
    I have the best worst photo from the New York New York roller coaster. My mom was supposed to go with me but her stomach was bugging her. So I had plenty of time in line to freak myself out. I totally look like I’m about to throw up LOL.

    • Hahahaha that’s awesome! Impressive that you saved so much money for your vacation – good for you. And seriously if I was only going to go to Vegas once, I’d do the same and go all out.

      As for the roller coaster, I knew where the cameras were, and I finally got my timing right so my pics came out pretty hilarious. Wanted to buy one of them, but couldn’t stomach the price.

  3. Wow those are great suggestions! I’ve heard that Vegas can be a real money-pit (for obvious reasons), so if I go I’ll want to spend my money on things that are actually worthwhile memories. Awesome pictures of the Grand Canyon!

    • Yeah, that’s the thing. It’s super super cheap to get there (only cost me $300 for flight and 5 nights accommodation), but everything is more expensive there. Drinks are overpriced (unless you’re gambling, and then they’re “free”), attractions are expensive (even with coupons), and even food is way pricier. We went to Subway twice on our trip in an effort to save at least a bit of cash – once quite far away from the strip on our way out of town. A 6-inch breakfast sandwich was like $3. On the strip, that same breakfast sandwich was over $6!!! Brutal.

  4. Going to Vegas is definitely on my list of things to do. I can’t believe you’ve been that many times and still wanted to go back! I will definitely consider trying out all of those and checking out the grand canyon and hoover dam would be a great experience as well.

    • Haha I know. I usually don’t like going to a city more than once. But twice was for work. It’s just so cheap to get down there that it’s hard to say no. And I really, really wanted to see the Grand Canyon and Red Rock Canyon. Now that I’ve done everything on my Vegas list, I doubt I’ll go back again. At least not for many, many years.

  5. I went to Vegas and the Grand Canyon (by way of the Valley of Fire – another awesome side trip outside of Vegas) earlier this year! And visited the Hoover Dam on my way back into Vegas! We hiked down to the Colorado River, stayed a night, and hiked back up. I loved it – I’ve never been so awestruck in my life (or sore – it’s a pretty serious hike!). The scenery is amazing, and the pace of the hike really lets you enjoy it. I think one of my favorite parts was how quiet the world is at the base of the canyon. And the stars – oh my, so amazing.

    • Jealous! That sounds like a fantastic hike. I really wish we had the time to hike down to the Colorado River. I want to say “maybe next time!” but I don’t know if that’s true. :) But it makes me want to start planning a hiking trip ASAP.

      • It’s definitely something to do while you’re young and strong! You can ride the mules down to the river, but I really liked the hike because we could stop and admire as much as we wanted. The only thing I would change about my trip is that I’d stay two nights at the base of the Canyon instead of just one. We wanted to explore more of the North Rim trails (we hiked down from the South Rim), and we could have rested a little more before hiking back up.

  6. My friend keeps on saying I should go to Vegas with her. I once promised my mom not to gamble when I was a kid (Asians and gambling don’t go that well). But I love hiking. I never knew Grand Canyon was near Vegas. I love hiking.:) I guess I leave the gambling and shopping to my friend and I go for a long stroll and a tan. We don’t get much sun here in The Netherlands.:(

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  7. I’m glad you had a blast in Las Vegas. Unfortunately it seems like a hit or miss these days because of the recession and continuous belt tightening by the companies that make up Las Vegas. In regards to your mother nature excursions, there is one more you should check out which is Zion and Bryce Canyon in neighboring Utah. My favorite frugal thing to do in Las Vegas is watching the fountains of Bellagio. My favorite non-frugal thing to do is eating :P Good choice on the Caesars buffet, it is the best!

  8. I’ve been to Las Vegas once and it was a very short trip that got shorter because of flight delay. I want to go there again and #6,5,1 from your list will be added to mine. Thanks~

  9. Haha I’ve done more of these than I imagined! We stayed at Circus and went on the rollercoaster there (got one free ticket in our welcome booklet). Also had the buffet there which was surprisingly good and definitely cheaper than a lot of the fancier ones. T dragged me along to a firing range (which I hated) and we visited both Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon before getting to Vegas.

    We didn’t go to Red Rock Canyon although we had a car, but we visited the Red Rocks in Sedona which look pretty similar, which is why we stayed put in Vegas.

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