So this is what happened:
Hubby's cousin came over to Vegas last Friday from LA (one of many cousins, in fact his family FaceBook group has over 450 members!). She had some comps she had to use at a casino and ended up booking two free suites at the Rio but she had no one to use one of the suites so she talked us into staying there for the weekend. I didn't really want to "travel" across town just to stay in a hotel because I was pretty comfy in our little condo but hubby said it would be like a vacation (as if we need another vacation) so we packed up our weekend bags and headed out. Here's the financial rundown on our Las Vegas vacation:
- A nice suite at the Rio for two nights (free thanks to the cousin)
- Breakfast on day one at the Rio (free from the cousin that hubby hadn't seen in over 40 years. Also it was expensive as I guess the casino thinks they have a captive audience and can charge outlandish prices)
- Went to the Bellagio so I could take some pictures of their conservatory (see photo above; free), went to check out the Aria, a newish casino we hadn't visited before, then went to the M Resort, another place we hadn't visited before (and we each got a free t shirt for signing up for their player's club card).
- Deciding to do touristy thing, we waited in a rather long line at Serendipity Restaurant at Caesar's Palace because I had heard good things about their frozen hot chocolate (notice how at the bottom of the article is says they got a Guinness World Record for most expensive dessert? I didn't know that and when we found out one small cup of this concoction cost $10(!) we promptly left without buying anything...I might be on "vacation" but I am not going to spend that much money on a small dessert!).
- We ate lunch across from the Rio at the Gold Coast's Ping Pang Pong Chinese Restaurant (which is amazingly good and was free because we used hubby's casino comps).
- We then went to the Freemont Experience downtown and walked around. We skipped the ziplines as it was pretty expensive (around $20 to send each of us flying above the crowd on Freemont Street...plus hubby hates heights). Still wanting an interesting dessert, we went to the Heart Attack Grill (aptly named when you see the menu) and I got a chocolate milkshake (made out of butter cream instead of milk; cost $6 including tip. It was super rich and they made you put on a hospital gown in order to go into the restaurant but it was a typically touristy thing to do). Note that if you weigh over 350 pounds you get to eat free at this restaurant; note too that I'm sure they won't pay your hospital bills if you do indeed end up with a heart attack while scarfing down their burger monstrosities. We also found a 99 cent shrimp cocktail at one of the small casinos on Freemont Street; I had though these were all but gone in this day and age but one place in Las Vegas still has them (at the Lanai Express).
- We gambled a bit at the Fitzgerald Casino and I ended up winning $50 on Pai Gow so thus far our vacation is actually more than paying for itself!
- Towards the end of the evening we went back out to Freemont and joined in on some impromptu dancing (there are a few stage areas on this street where DJs set up their music and play for the crowd and the crowd joins in and dances). We love dancing (this was free).
- With all that walking we headed back to the room early, watched the Miss America Pageant on TV (which was actually being shown live from down the street) and promptly fell asleep!
- The next day hubby went to play poker and my friends and I headed over to the Broadacres Swap Meet. This is a huge outdoor swap meet where you can literally find anything you are looking for--from beds and kitchen sinks to food and clothing and shampoo. It cost $1.50 to get in but they do have live bands all day which were great to listen to. We were trying to think of what kind of business we could have at the swap meet but then decided that none of us want to be working outside in the summer in Las Vegas.
- My friends and I had a late lunch at Ellis Island which offers a great steak dinner special for only $7.95 (it comes with salad, rolls, steak, potato, vegetables, and a beer or root beer which is made on the premises...yum!).
- In the evening the hubby and I walked around the Rio just to see what was going on (they have a free circus-themed show to watch) then ended up eating there for dinner (in their Chinese restaurant which is really quite expensive but we figured that driving somewhere and tipping would cost about the same).
tl;dr Las Vegas can be pricey and intimidating but there are still plenty of things to do for free or cheap that will keep you entertained. For more ideas, check out these free things to do in Las Vegas.