Las Vegas is a bucket list destination. Known as the entertainment capital of the world, this city has enough stuff to keep you busy for weeks. While Las Vegas does have the nickname “Sin City,” it has so much more to offer than just vice-feeding activities.
While I do love to gamble, I don’t love to lose money; my bank account doesn’t either.
Best Budget-Friendly Things to Do in Las Vegas
Yes, Las Vegas is an expensive place. You’ve probably heard stories of people that have come home from Las Vegas tens of thousands of dollars poorer. This is definitely possible, especially if you aren’t careful.
Spending time in Las Vegas luxury hotels, like MGM Grand and Caesars Palace, is likely going to lead to a lower bank balance. However, from our experience, you can have a really good time in Sin City without breaking the bank, as long as you are careful.
One way to keep it cheap and ensure that you’re doing Las Vegas on a budget effectively is to fill up your schedule with some budget-friendly things to do in downtown Vegas while minimizing your time in casinos like Wynn Las Vegas. Here are our top recommendations for budget-friendly things to do in Las Vegas.
1. Hit the Casinos in Downtown Las Vegas
Say what? Gambling is a budget-friendly activity? Well, sort of.
The key is going to the downtown area to do it. Downtown Las Vegas is not the Strip. It is an entirely different thing, and oddly enough, it is located north of the strip.
When you hit the casino hotels on the strip, the minimum bet is almost always going to be at least $25 per hand. Ouch. Lose your first four hands? There went $100.
Downtown Las Vegas is not as greedy. Several casinos have $5-10 minimum bets, which stretches your money out a lot further.
Also, I heard a little rumor that the casinos downtown have much better odds of winning. Now, technically the odds shouldn’t ever change, as they’re set by numbers, not casinos…in theory. But the strip makes a killing, and people tend to lose less money downtown.
Fishy? Maybe. Better for your wallet? Definitely.
2. Visit Some National Parks and the Hoover Dam
While Las Vegas is a major city and is absolutely buzzing all of the time, it’s also pretty conveniently located to some stunning natural wonders. Las Vegas is awesome, but it can really wear you out. To avoid burnout, I recommend taking some time to see the local nature.
If you’re only looking for a short getaway, you can go somewhere close, like the Red Rock Canyon or Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. These are only 30-60 minutes outside of the city and are great ways to spend a morning.
If you’re looking for a bit more adventure and want to cross off some true bucket list places, consider going a little bit further into the wilderness. There are some mesmerizing places within 5 hours of Las Vegas. One, for example, is the Grand Canyon. And boy, is it grand! Bryce Canyon is within reach as well.
These types of places are once-in-a-lifetime spectacles and I highly recommend checking out at least one. If you’re interested, check out my guide on the top 4 places to visit near Las Vegas. They range from 1 hour to 5 hours, and they’re all worth every minute of the drive.
3. Go Stargazing in the Nevada Desert
Whether this sounds like a cool thing to you or not, I can’t recommend this one enough. First of all, it’s free other than whatever transportation you take to get to a good lookout point. When it comes to doing Las Vegas on a budget, free is one of the best words you can hear!
Secondly, the night sky in the Nevada desert is absolutely amazing. While Las Vegas is one of the most light-pollutive cities in the country, it is surrounded by absolutely nothing.
We opted to head north to the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, and we were very happy that we did. I didn’t realize that there were so many stars in the sky. It was so clear that you could even see planets.
My best tip for you would be not to try to catch the sunset. While sunsets are beautiful, it takes almost 2 hours after the sunset for the night sky to be fully revealed. Unless you have a picnic packed and don’t mind a 2-hour wait, I’d leave Las Vegas an hour or so after the sun goes down.
4. Check Out Some Free Shows
One of the questions I got asked a lot when I mentioned that I was going to Las Vegas was “are you going to any shows?” Now, people are typically referring to the types of shows that don’t necessarily mesh well with doing Las Vegas on a budget.
David Copperfield would be an incredible act to see. For $75? Nah, that’s my dinner money for the next 4 nights. I love Bruno Mars, but $250 for a back-row seat? Can’t quite justify that one when that’s what I paid for a week of accommodation.
The good news is that not all the best shows in Las Vegas are expensive – or even cost money at all!
Many of the most famous casinos on the strip offer free entertainment to the public. Many people have heard of the water show at the Bellagio, which by the way is amazing.
But I think that fewer people have heard of things like the Fall of Atlantis show at Caesar’s Palace and the free Cirque du Soleil show at Circus Circus. These shows are actually pretty entertaining. As entertaining as Usher? Nope. But for free, I’ll take it!
Beyond the free shows, there are some really cool sights that you can take in for free in Las Vegas. Things like the Eiffel Tower and the Gondolas in the Venetian Las Vegas are incredibly unique, and even seeing them is a blast. While gondola rides are expensive, watching someone else go on one is free!
How to Get to Las Vegas, Nevada
As Las Vegas is a major city, your best bet is to simply fly there unless you live in one of the cities within a drivable distance, like Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Las Vegas has two airports: McCarran International Airport (LAS) and North Las Vegas Airports (VGT).
To be honest, I can’t think of a single reason to use North Las Vegas Airport other than the apparent flights it runs to the Grand Canyon. Which, by the way, is so much better to do by road trip. If you’re interested in road-tripping to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas, I highly recommend it.
There are several reasons for this.
Firstly, it’s so conveniently located. It sits just 5 miles off of the Las Vegas Strip, making it very accessible. Secondly, if you’re worried about doing Las Vegas on a budget, here’s some great news for you; McCarran International Airport is one of the 10 busiest airports in the United States.
If you read my top tips for finding cheap flights, you’ll remember that bigger airports equal lower flight prices almost all of the time. You can literally fly from New York City to Las Vegas – that’s a 5-hour flight – for $150 round trip, and sometimes even less. Honestly, when it comes to doing Las Vegas on a budget, McCarran International Airport is one of your greatest assets.
While some people are really afraid of budget airlines, Las Vegas is one of the biggest budget airline hubs in the United States. Some people have heard horror stories about budget airlines, and some people think that the pilots are flight school dropouts that couldn’t get a job with a “real airline.”
Let me just say, if you’re thinking of doing Las Vegas on a budget – or any destination, for that matter – budget airlines have the potential to become your new best friend. For example, we flew from San Diego to Las Vegas for $40 each.
Crazy, right? If you’re worried about budget airlines, or you’re doubting me, or you’re genuinely curious about them, you really should check out my budget airline tips. It’s a pretty comprehensive guide, and it will give you some tips to save money when using budget airlines, too. They’re very cheap for a reason, and this post will help you to not get fooled by surprise fees.
Once you land in Las Vegas, how do you get to your hotel?
Whether you’re staying on Fremont Street or on Las Vegas Boulevard, getting from the airport to the city is very easy!
Uber is always an option, of course, but when it comes to doing Las Vegas on a budget, the $30 Uber from the airport might not be worth it to you. If this is the case, there are several direct buses that run into the city. When I travel, my best friend for navigation is Google Maps, because it shows you detailed public transit information for wherever you’re headed.
We took one bus from the airport that wound up being a bust, but that was our own fault. If you get on the right bus, some take you right along a street that runs one block parallel to the strip. This is only going to cost you a couple of bucks, and is definitely an easy way to save money if you don’t want to shell out for the Uber and don’t mind waiting for the bus to show up.
How to Get Around Las Vegas
BUS | SHUTTLE | UBER
I’m going to center this section on getting around the strip. If you’re staying off of the strip, Las Vegas has some really decent public transportation. The area’s bus system is really well structured and can get you to most places you’re looking to go.
A bus to the strip might be your best option to get into the middle of things. I’d double-check if you’re staying at one of the Las Vegas hotels off of the strip because many of them offer free shuttle buses.
Not to mention that Las Vegas is in the middle of a desert and really, really hot. Daytime temperatures for most of the year will leave you sweating bullets.
Luckily, the city got smart and created a shuttle system that goes exclusively up and down the full length of the strip. This shuttle system moves very slowly, but it is a pretty affordable way to get around nonetheless. And hey, at least you’re not walking a marathon in the heat!
A 24-hour pass costs $10, but you can get a 72-hour pass for only a little bit more. If you’re staying for several days, I highly recommend the 72-hour pass.
You can buy them from electronic machines right by any of the bus stations, or you can buy them for the same price on the Uber app and have your pass digitally with you at all times. This is a huge win for you because you don’t need to worry about forgetting your pass, losing it, sweating it into oblivion, etc.
Uber is an option at all times, of course, but Uber is not very conducive to doing Las Vegas on a budget. Some Ubers that we took were reasonably priced, while others were just absurd. Like, $26 to go 2 miles down the strip at 2:00pm on a Tuesday. That shouldn’t be a busy hour and I don’t understand how Uber can surge at that time! But hey, that’s Vegas, baby.
Cheap Places to Stay in Las Vegas
Instead of telling you the “best hotel” to look at, I’m going to give you three tips for finding cheap places to stay in Las Vegas.
Final Tips for Saving Money in Las Vegas
That’s all we have for you about doing Las Vegas on a budget! Hopefully this blog post helps you to visit Las Vegas without breaking the bank.
If you have any other budget tips for Las Vegas, Comment below! We’d love to hear your thoughts!