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Visit Las Vegas

Updated on December 15, 2015

I'm one of the owners of Circle City Bicycles in Indianapolis, and each year I travel to Las Vegas in September for Interbike. Interbike is a bicycle trade show where manufacturers show their latest and greatest products. I thought I would write a short article with tips about visiting Las Vegas for folks who are visiting for the first time.

Travel

Las Vegas is far from Indianapolis, so we always fly out there. I always fly Southwest. They have several nonstop options each day. Sometimes other airlines have cheaper fares, but if you take any bags along, bag fees will wipe out any savings. It seems like I generally find the best rates about three months before my trip.

Once you get there, most of the big hotels are located on Las Vegas Boulevard,universally referred to as "The Strip". After landing at McCarran Airport, There are several shuttle services that will take you to the strip or downtown. Costs are $7 one-way or $13 round-trip to the strip, and a little more to downtown.

After you make it to your hotel on the strip, there are options for traveling up and down the strip. Buses are cheap, but they make so many stops, it takes quite a while to get there if you are going very far. There is also the monorail that runs north & south just east of the strip. A single ride ticket is $5 and there are also 1-5 day pass options. Mandalay Bay, Luxor and Excalibur hotels are next to each other and owned by the same company. They have a tram that runs back & forth between them. Interbike was held at Mandalay Bay and we stayed at the Excalibur, so we used the tram each day. Some of the other hotels have shuttles that run between their different properties. Of course you can always take a taxi, but they're not cheap. Also, there is a $3 charge if you use your credit card, and they don't always tell you about the charge.

Las Vegas Strip
Las Vegas Strip

Hotels

If you are going to a trade show or convention, be sure to check and see if they have any special deals with hotels. Through Interbike we were able to get rooms at Excalibur for $50 on Monday night, and $60 per night for Tuesday through Thursday. Room rates skyrocket on Friday and Saturday, so we always fly back on Friday afternoon. A room that is $50 during the week might be in the $100 - $200 range on the weekend. December and January are slow times for Las Vegas, so you can get cheap room rates then.

Be sure to get one of the loyalty cards at your hotel. Use that when you buy meals or gamble. They might send you some offers for discounted rooms or entertainment in the following months to entice you into coming back. Sometimes they also offer discounts for your friends.

Food

Food is expensive in Las Vegas. Before you go, I recommend that you check out the restaurants at the hotel where you are staying and adjacent hotels. Be sure to check out the prices on the menus. I noticed that the even the ones rated "$$" were a little pricey for me. Your cheapest options are usually the food courts. There was one at Excalibur and one at Luxor that we visited on our trip. We never ate there, but searching online I saw that people recommended the Sports Book Bar & Grill in Mandalay Bay.

Harrah's and its affiliated hotels offers a 24-hour buffet pass for $45. Since it's for 24 hours, you can get 4 meals out of it if you work it right. Just eat dinner a little later the first night, then the next day you can have breakfast lunch & dinner. Just make sure you get to the cashier before the 24 hours runs out on the second day.

There a few places that offer good deals. When Interbike was held at the Sands Exposition Center, we usually took advantage of the $15 prime rib dinner special at Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon. It's now undergoing renovations and will reopen under a new name. I imagine when it reopens the $15 prime rib dinner will be gone. When we left town, I noticed that Hooters, which isn't far from Excalibur, was promoting their $10 prime rib special, so we'll probably try that next year. There are also places that advertise late night specials.

Entertainment

There are plenty of entertainment choices in Las Vegas, but like the food, they aren't cheap. Luxor and Excalibur offer you two shows for $75, which we took advantage of a few years ago. We saw the Tournament of Kings and Carrot Top. Tournament of Kings was interesting - It featured knights competing in contests. Carrot Top was hilarious. A couple years ago we got a coupon for discounted tickets to see "Defending the Caveman", which is a very funny one-man play.

This year we went to see Gallagher. I didn't know he was even in Las Vegas, but I saw that he was playing at Tropicana in some promotional magazine that we got. I called up the Tropicana box office and found out that tickets were $61 apiece, which was more than I was willing to pay. There are several places in Las Vegas that offer discounted show tickets. I called up one named Tix4Tonight and was able to get two tickets for $75. You do have to do some work. I had to go buy the coupon, then go to the Tropicana box office at least an hour before the performance to exchange the coupons for tickets. It was worth it though. They don't get a lot of people for shows during the week, so we got seats very close to the stage. We were a little concerned that we might get splattered when Gallagher did his his famous Sledge-a-matic routine. It turned out that he doesn't do that any more, since he is 70 years old and has had 4 heart attacks (including one while he was performing). He was absolutely hilarious. I'm glad we got a chance to see him. I consider him a legend. When I first started going out to Las Vegas for Interbike, George Carlin performed there. I regret not going to see him.

My wife & I with Gallagher at the Laugh Factory
My wife & I with Gallagher at the Laugh Factory

Free Things to Do

If your luck is bad at the slot machines, you may start looking for free things to do. There are a couple that you shouldn't miss. Number one is the fountains at the Bellagio. They do fountain performances to music every 15 minutes during the evening. Still images don't do them justice, so check out this video. The second one is the volcano at the Mirage, which occurs hourly in the evening. Here is a video of it erupting.

For more free things to do, be sure to visit the website Free Things to Do in Las Vegas.

The volcano at the Mirage
The volcano at the Mirage | Source

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