Losing it in Vegas

Las Vegas Boulevard

Las Vegas is the last spot this thriftygirl ever planned to visit.  Gambling is just plain silly.  Casinos wouldn’t be raking in billions of dollars every year if the punters were the winners.  Plus I suck at cards.

But stagette parties beckon – and with the first of my university mates getting married – this was one event not to be missed. 

Luckily the trip itself was relatively cheap: only $750 CDN from Toronto to Vegas and three nights at the posh Bellagio Hotel, featured in Ocean’s 11 and home of the dancing fountains.

Bellagio Hotel and Casino

If you must do Vegas on the cheap – give it a miss.   On a road trip through the States my parents spent a night in the strip’s only campground and had a miserable time.  This is a city of pure excess where money is your ticket to fun. 

To my surprise, I fell in lust with the city I’d loved to hate.  It’s Disneyworld for adults: you can tuck into five star cuisine from around the world, get pampered in lush spas, shop (or gawk) at designer boutiques and hang out at nightclubs frequented by Bruce Willis to Paris Hilton. 

Sporting a freshly broken heart, Vegas offered the perfect occassion to ditch the thrifty bit and indulge in a killer outfit, bang up meal and occassional mojito by the pool.  

Bellagio swimming pool

Without trying we managed to pinch some pennies at night.  The trick? Go with a group of stunning girlfriends.  On our big night out we donned matching tanks and headed for Pure – the nightclub in Ceasar’s Palace where Lindsay Lohan will soon be celebrating her 21st birthday in high style.  Ladies don’t have to pay the $30 cover, but gents are out of luck.

stagette hotel bellagio

Complete with pure white decor and a swanky rooftop patio, the club was impressive but the VIP zoning got on my nerves.  Nearly three quarters was cordoned off for VIPs.  In Vegas a VIP constitutes anyone willing to pony up the cash for $400 – $500 bottles of liquor.  This buys a table heavily guarded by a bouncer.  But stop spending and the VIP status is swiftly relinquished.

After sipping our $10 vodka sodas for an hour, a 20-something from Miami invited us to his VIP room downstairs.  It had everything you could ask for: flowing liquor, its own washroom and guys who were too busy hitting on the girls already in there to bother us.  Preferring the cooler rooftop location, we used the VIP room for refills and bathroom breaks and spent most of the night outside.

 Pure nightclub Ceasar’s Palace Las Vegas  rooftop pure nightclub las vegas

Night two was slightly more random.  After a nice meal and some late night shopping we decided to soak up the atmosphere on the strip.  Las Vegas’ seedy underbelly was revealed by Mexican men and women sporting extra large T-shirts that read: “HOT GIRLS DIRECT TO YOUR ROOM NOW.”  In a city where captialist indulgence rules anything can be bought.

Outside Planet Hollywood a well heeled gent approached and introduced himself as Eric, the manager of the hotel’s nightclub.  He offered us a VIP booth, a complimentary bottle of whatever we wanted and a ride in a stretch Hummer when we got tired of the club.  This was the quickest decision my eight girlfriends and I ever made.

Soon we were dancing on our own pole on top of a private table, with our waitress pouring us vodka sodas and mixing us shots.  It was too good to be true!

And for a reason.  The waitress began pouring us ridiculously strong drinks and then mixed us a round of shots.  Within 45 minutes the bottle was finished and a drinks list was quickly presented.  We thought we might spring for a $100 bottle, seeing as we were having such a grand time.  But the price was $375 and our negotiating tactics only brought them down to $200.  We resisted the pressure and walked – to the stretch hummer of course. 

A smiling Erik happily packed us in but only if we were willing to go to a “good” male strip club with a $10 cover charge.  Being on a stagette weekend, it would be rude not to, so we hopped in.  The rather ugly, white beast of a Hummer drove to the far end of the strip where hotels turned to seedy motels and pulled into a packed parking lot. 

“Admission is thirty dollars and the male section closes in a half an hour,” drawled a haggered blonde cashier.  Despite pissing off the limo driver, we insisted on leaving. 

I recalled the tuk tuk drivers in Thailand who offer you a free ride to view “real” gems and jewlery in Bangkok’s factories.

Luckily the driver managed to find another large party emerging from the strip club and we agreed to share the ride back.  The group was on a stag and doe trip from Ohio, the bride’s brother informed us.  He was clutching a bottle of vodka with the pouring top still attached, “Do you think I’d leave this in the club?” he asked incredulously, “it was 500 bucks!”  He told us the engaged couple flew 28 people to Vegas to celebrate and had blown $7000 at dinner that night and lost a large chunk of cash in the casinos.  They tipped the driver with a thick roll of bills, subsidising our measly $30.

I suddenly felt much better about my $200 “splurge” on a new outfit and my decision not to gamble a penny.  In Vegas thriftyness is relative.

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Filed under thrifty, travel

4 responses to “Losing it in Vegas

  1. WOW! That story brought back some fond memories. I live in Vegas, and I spent a few years as a Limo Driver at The Palms and a little time at The Rio.
    Sounds like one of 1000 Bachelorette parties that I have driven on any given week end.
    You are right, The Strip is not for budgets, but a group of women can manage to get a few freebies.

    You got the free Limo ride because Drivers get a kick back from the club per passenger. That is normal. So you kinda of screwed that guy out of $80, but, they were not up front with you, and I never agreed with that kind of hustling, however it is the only way some of these guys can make any money because there are just sooo many Limos on the strip these days.
    The fact that you still tipped him showed some class and I would have appreciated that if I were still driving.
    The strip club was Olympic Gardens.
    They close at 3:30 or 4am.
    Sounds like you still managed to have a great time, and come up on a few free drinks. Good for you.
    Don’t be so down on our city. It has never made any bones about, “You must come out here with cash, that is why we have it here:)”
    There is a lot more to having a good time in Las Vegas, but I guess it comes with experience.
    Looked like a lot of fun.

  2. Thanks for your insights into the Vegas lifestyle. I am not at all down on your city. As I wrote, I was prepared for dissapointment because I thought Vegas wouldn’t be my style, but I found it fascinating, fabulous and fun to visit.

    I’m not sure how life would be for a resident like you though – interesting to say the least! Enjoy.

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  4. Hi Crystal! I’m the Community Manager of Ruba.com. We’re building a website to highlight some of the most interesting places travelers around the world have discovered. We’ve read hundreds of blogs about Las Vegas and we think that this post is awesome! We’d love to highlight excerpts from your blog (assuming it’s OK with you of course) and to discuss other ways of tapping into your expertise if you are interested. I’m at erin[at]ruba.com.
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