October 22, 2010

Vegas for Cheap

Posted in Look tagged , , , , , at 11:32 am by onetinyacorn

Vegas has re-invented itself as a luxury destination, which is unfortunate for those of us without luxury budgets. Nevertheless, I found quite a few inexpensive options for the intrepid traveler:


  • There are a handful of motels and hostels in the area between the Strip and Downtown Las Vegas, easily accessible by taking the Deuce (bus line). Rates seemed to average $30 a night, plus tax. Hostels can be a fun way to meet other travelers—as long as you don’t mind sharing a room with other people. Some hostels will also offer private rooms for a bit more money—ask about those if you’re worried.

This area is cheaper because it’s not in a “good area,” but we never saw or heard of any problems for the three nights that we    were there. Be cautious, though. Also: the bus lines run pretty infrequently at night, so it would take us 2-3 hours to get to our hostel from a venue just a little ways off the Strip. This allowed for plenty of high-quality people-watching, but if that’s not your cup of tea, consider staying on the Strip.

  • I’ve never been fussy about hotels, since I’m only there long enough to sleep and shower. If you’re not like me, you can find some really good deals on hotel rooms at Travelzoo, Travelocity, and the like. Travelzoo sent me some offers for nice hotel rooms on the strip for as little as $40. Often they’ll include free vouchers for buffets and the like, so inquire about that.


  • From the airport, the city’s 109 and 108 buses run into town. Currently, a 24-hour pass is $7 (for both on- and off-Strip buses), and a 3-day pass is $20. You can buy passes for anything more than a 24-hour one at some bus stops and locations around town; ask your friendly bus driver where some locations are. We hopped on the 108, jumped off when we spied an In-N-Out Burger, then continued to walk towards Flamingo St., past the beautiful UNLV campus. At Flamingo, you can take the 202 to the heart of the Strip. Just hop off when you see the spectacle (you’ll be near Caesar’s Palace). RTC is your friend.

Food and Drink

Good food is something that I’m willing to splurge on. If you’re not, your best bet is to get off the Strip, a land of $9 hot dogs and $12 bottles of domestic beers.

  • In-N-Out Burger. This had been thoroughly hyped-up by my friends before my arrival. I found my burger (Double Double with grilled onions) to be of higher-quality than standard fast food restaurants, but at a lower price.
  • Residential neighborhoods. For part of our time, we stayed with locals who had a bounty of normally-priced restaurants at their disposal.
  • Buffets can be a good deal. We went to an excellent one (Le Village Buffet at Paris), had a leisurely brunch, and were scarcely hungry for the rest of the day.
  • Casinos give out free drinks, but only as long as you are gambling, and they tend to be more attentive to the high-rollers for obvious reasons. Don’t forget to tip your waitress. Cheaper drinks can be found along Fremont Street.
  • Those margaritas that everyone sells along the Strip are for suckers.


  • Casinos that give out free credits usually advertise that fact in front of their building. I have no qualms about gambling with their money, and just stopped when I ran out. You get a Player’s Club Card—almost every casino will have one—with the credits on there. I’m told that the catch is that they send you mail to the address that’s listed on the driver’s license or photo ID that you show them, but my ID still has an old address on it, so I can’t verify that. I didn’t win any money with the free points, but my husband won $100 with one.
  • Fremont Street, again, is a cheaper place. As is Slots-A-Fun. We went to Western Hotel, which had hardwood floors, grizzled-looking locals, $2 cocktails from the bar, and really cheap blackjack. It was a fun, low-key change from the artificial world of the Strip.

Fun and Games

  • Looking at the spectacle is free, and a must-do. I loved the conservatory at the Bellagio, the fake Parisian streets at Paris, the ship at Treasure Island, and all of the crazy artifices. Embrace the ridiculousness.
  • You can find booths that sell very reduced-rate tickets for shows and buffets. For the shows, you’ll have to buy a day or two in advance. They had Cirque du Soleil tickets at 80% off!
  • Before we left, a friend told us that you can’t tell the difference between the prostitutes and the tourists in Las Vegas. I thought that she was joking, but a Saturday night proved otherwise. While waiting for a bus, we spent a good bit of time people-watching and playing “Tourist or Hooker?” Hint: hookers don’t walk around with 3-foot margaritas strapped to their bodies.
  • The Fremont Street Experience is fun. You get to see old neon signs, a light show, and some amazing artists out and about.

October 26, 2009

Roadtrip: Final Leg

Posted in Look tagged , , at 8:33 pm by onetinyacorn

Mount Rushmore is one of those ubiquities in American culture that I was not too keen on visiting, but it was right there, and my mom wanted to visit. The one aspect that I was interested in was its inclusion in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, but it’s not mentioned within the park itself. I did have to visit the dining room, and of course it’s totally different now. The U.S. government promised these lands to the Native Americans, then carved the faces of 4 U.S. presidents into that same land, using rocks that Native Americans find sacred. That encapsulates U.S. history pretty well, I think.

What really shocked me was that I had never heard of or seen pictures of Crazy Horse Monument until this trip. Really? The world’s largest mountain carving, just a few miles from Mount Rushmore, and I’ve remained unaware of it for 30 years? It’s an interesting story: they refuse to accept any funding from the government for the project, so it is funded entirely by donations and profits from admissions and concessions.

September 28, 2009

Roadtrip, Part 2

Posted in Look tagged , , , , , , at 10:36 pm by onetinyacorn

We followed the Mississippi River towards Minneapolis, and stopped at the sculpture garden outside of the Walker Art Center. My favorite work was Dan Graham’s Two-way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth (fourth image): depending on which side you were looking at, you could see other viewers, a reflection of yourself, or a combination of the two in varying levels of translucence. Aside from being a technical marvel, I loved what I perceived to be the commentary on surveillance and self-absorption inherent in the work. Later, I ate the most amazing portobello mushrooms with toasted goat cheese and balsamic vinegar reduction…mmm….

We continued on to Pipestone National Monument, with a lovely walk around the area where Native Americans still quarry for the stone that they use to make pipes. There are offerings of tobacco tied to trees, gorgeous prarie grass, and gorgeous pinkish-red stone walls jutting towards the sky.

September 24, 2009

Roadtrip, Part 1

Posted in Look tagged , , , , at 8:50 pm by onetinyacorn

In the crapshoot that is the family to whom you’ve been assigned, I got really lucky. Everyone in my family is very interesting, talented, and artistic. So I was really looking forward to a 10-day roadtrip with my mom, from Ohio to Wyoming. We set out in her teardrop trailer, which is a super-cushy way to camp for this tent-and-an-outhouse girl. We crossed Lake Michigan on a giant steamship, visited Madison, Minnesota, Pipestone, the Corn Palace, Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, the Badlands, Wall Drug, and Deadwood.

What’s that? You want photos? Very well:

Madison was beautiful; my favorite part was waiting at a red light on my bike, and at least four other bicyclists queued up behind me. It’s the sort of bike traffic that I’ve never experienced before, outside of races I used to participate in.

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