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Cheap Thrills in Vegas

(also see our separate pages about free attractions and non-free attractions)

First we made a page about free attractions in Vegas.  Then we followed it up with a page about fun things you have to pay for.  But there's a middle ground -- things that either cost a couple of bucks, or which are free but not big and super-exciting like the Bellagio Fountains or Fremont Street Experience.  That's what this page is about:  Things that are either really cheap, or free but not mind-blowing.  I'm just getting this page started, so if there's anything you think I should add, please let me know!


Get smashed for cheap

Casino cocktail waitresses serve free booze to anyone as long as they're actually playing a game.  And the cheapest game in Vegas is the penny slots, which are everywhere, even in the fancy casinos.  Sure, you have to play 20 credits x 9 lines ($1.80/spin) in order to win the jackpot, but who says you have to try to win the jackpot?  Nothing's stopping you from playing a penny a spin...slowly.  One spin every 12 seconds works out to $3 an hour into the machine, and you'll probably win about $2 of that back, for a net loss of $1 an hour while you're drinking it up.  It really does work -- in my test at Circus Circus I played just one penny per spin and the waitress showed up in seven minutes to take my order.  And in that seven minutes I was already ahead $1.50.

You should tip the cocktail waitress (especially if you want her to keep the drinks coming), but the good news for cheapskates is that $1 every other drink is actually sufficient, so your drinks will cost only 50.  (See our separate article about tipping.)  Just be sure to tip on your first drink (not the second), so the waitress knows you're a tipper.


Welcome to Las Vegas sign

Take your picture under the world-famous "Welcome to Vegas" sign, a Vegas landmark since 1959.  It's in the median on Las Vegas Blvd. (the Strip), 3/4 of a mile South of Mandalay Bay.  Many visitors miss the sign, because it's not in a popular place:  the last casino on the Strip is Mandalay Bay (and the sign is due South of that), and there ain't really nothing there, except the sign.

In 2008 the county finally opened a small parking light in the median so that tourists wouldn't have to risk death by running across Las Vegas Blvd. to get under the sign.  But that helps only those who are driving -- if you're on foot (or you tried to drive but the parking lot is full), then good luck crossing the road!

You can take the Deuce bus directly there, or take the SDX bus to Mandalay Bay and then walk 15 minutes South.  (See the bus page for more on the buses.)  Though again, once you're there on foot, there's no legal way to cross the road.

Here's the Wikipedia article on the welcome sign.


$5 tour of the Strip

Get on the Deuce (the double-decker bus), sit on the top near the front, and get a great view of the entire Strip.  This used to be only $2 until they hiked the rates, but $5 still isn't bad.  (And if you pay $7, you can get a 24-hour bus pass.)

If you got a day pass, then when going northbound, get off at the Stratosphere, cross the street, and then get on the southbound bus.  Without a day pass, the bus will go to the Fremont Street Experience and then the downtown transfer center, where they'll probably make you get off and wait for five minutes before the bus heads South towards the Strip again, but you won't have to pay to re-board.

Going southbound, with a day pass, get off at the Mandalay Bay, then cross the street to pick up the northbound bus.  Without  a day pass, you'll go to the South Strip Transfer Terminal (SSTT) where they'll probably make you get off and wait for five minutes before the bus heands North towards the Strip again, but you won't have to pay to re-board.


$1 massage chair at Flamingo, Imperial Palace, and Stratosphere

I wasn't expecting much when I saw these bill-operated chairs, but I figured I could blow a dollar to check it out.  Boy was I surprised.  I expected the chair to just vibrate, but instead it actually kneads your back and head -- and feels kind of creepily like human hands.  It's not just a static program, either, it keeps changing.  A mere dollar gets you three minutes in the chair.  Absolutely worth it, if just for the experience.  On a price-to-entertainment ratio, this is one of the best cheap thrills in Vegas.  At the Flamingo and Imperial Palace the chairs are just outside the buffets, and at the Stratosphere they're in the mall.



Free prize at Planet Hollywood

Planet Hollywood has a special slot machine set up right outside the entrance.  You get a free spin, and every spin wins something.  The cheapest prize is a coozie or a bottle opener (your choice), but it's not unusual to get more valuable prizes like the free Lettuce Wrap from P.F. Chang's.  The couple ahead of me got $50 in free slot play.  The top prize is $1 million, but don't hold your breath.  The catch is that to redeem your prize you have to go inside and wait in line at the Player's Club.

If you like free spins, the Four Queens downtown also has a free-spin machine set up, but there's no guaranteed win on their machine.  (However, yours truly won a baseball cap.  Ha ha, in your face!)

Casino Royale has their own free spin thing, but the rules are poorly explained and the value is lacking.  I'd skip this one.


Street performers

I don't know what took them so long, but circa 2010 street performers started populating Vegas, mostly the South Strip between Tropicana and Flamingo, but also Fremont Street downtown at night.  The most common are the folks in costume, who hope you'll take your picture with them for a $1 to $2 tip.  As I write this we've got the Mad Hatter, Captain Jack, Hello Kitty, Woody & Buzz Lightyear (from Toy Story), Elmo, Sexy Cops, Sponge Bob, Spiderman, Pikachu, a fat guy in women's lingerie, a Transformer, and more. 

There are also musicians and magicians, and again $1-2 is the standard tip.  The beggars are usually anything but amusing, but sometimes they'll come up with a good sign which is worth a dollar to me to get a picture of.  Yesterday I got one which said, "Ninjas killed my father.  Need $ for kung-fu lessons."  Of course I had to break it to him that ninjas are Japanese and Kung-Fu is Chinese.

Many of the performers don't actually live here, they just come in to do a little work and then go back home.  Others do live here, but don't do their gig for very long.  So what I'm getting at is that you never know who you're gonna see -- it's a constantly changing cast of characters -- literally.


Know of any other cheap thrills?  Let me know!

Thrills should cost $3 or less, and be available on the Strip or downtown.



Also see our separate pages about about free attractions and paid attractions.

Last Update:  August 2011 


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Gambling problem?
Call the 800-522-4700 hotline, and read this.

Also, know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.