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Published: 2005/10/13

The Vegoose Variations: Frugal Vegas

With Vegoose looming later his month, we asked a number of our readers to contribute their thoughts on how to spend their non-festival hours. Two perspectives soon emerged, and we are running one article with suggestions on “Living Large in Vegas” and this one which offers some frugal alternatives.

Greg Jacobs offers the following

Food Choices:

All You Can Eat Buffets (Every casino in town)

Ah, the glory of eating as much food as you possibly can for only $6.95. Some buffets even serve prime rib or steak. Which brings me to my next point: Beware of buffets located near pet hospitals.

The Longhorn Casino

If the ham were any cheaper, it’d be Spam. The Chicken Fried Steak was once considered a weapon of mass destruction. If you eat here, you are required by law and by science to have an antacid for dessert. Come here if your appetite is huge, your stomach is steel and your pockets are thin.

Roberto’s Taco Shop (Various Locations)

The greatest thing about Roberto’s Taco Shop is that they are cheap, open 24 hours a day and scattered throughout the Las Vegas valley. The food is average and slightly addicting. Bring your appetites and wet wipes.

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shops (Various Locations)

When Capriotti’s designed their sandwiches, it is safe to assume that their goal was to bring Jersey to Vegas. The Capastrami, the Bobbie, and the Slaw Be Jo are without a doubt the best of cheap eats in Las Vegas.


Valley of Fire (1 hour from Vegas)

If you are into the great outdoors then the Valley of Fire is your place to camp. The scenery is much like what one would expect on Mars. Wait, they don’t have coyotes on Mars.

Sam’s Town

If Bonnaroo was held in a casino, it would have been held at Sam’s Town. It’s twice the rednecks, six times the whisky and half of the humidity. This place is rumored to be the missing tooth capital of Nevada. Cheap everythinguse your imagination boys.

Ellis Island

How can you argue with dollar drinks, a full casino, a pizza stand and a karaoke bar that caters to Elvis impersonators? Maybe it’s because this place smells much like Ellis Island.


Lake Mead

It’s only about 45 minutes out of town and it’s the largest manmade lake in America. There are a few rules to go by if you venture to the lake. Rule One: Don’t drink the water. (Unless you like blood in your stool) Rule Two: It’s okay to play with the buried mobsters, but please put them back when you are finished for the day. Rule Three: Carp + Explosives = Large fine from park rangers.

Walking the Strip

Since you CAN walk around Vegas with an opened container of any liquor you chose, walking the Las Vegas strip is a guaranteed night of fun. Please avoid the temptation to swim in the Bellagio fountain, especially if you don’t wear floaties.


Ellis Island (near the Strip)

I know I already mentioned this place once, but c’mon. Did I mention Chinese Elvis impersonators and five dollar black jack? This is not a gamble. This is a sure bet.

The Joker’s Wild (Sunset Road and Boulder Highway)

Bet your shirt here and you might end up topless. However, you would still be the best dressed person in the entire casino. One of the few Vegas spots that boast 75 year old women and 75 cent craps.

Gas Stations and Grocery Stores

It is true that every store in Vegas seems to have a form of gambling. You might be able to hit a Royal Flush using only your leftover change from Roberto’s Taco Shop. Most people are unaware that the supermarkets will even comp you bushel of bok choy and some Mentos if you play more than $9.95 on a machine.


Bourbon Street:

No, not the one in New Orleans, but an actual casino with $1 beers, $1 shrimp cocktails and crab cocktails (keep in mind when eating marine-fare, this is the desert).

Glitter Gulch:

The Fremont Street experience: This is cheap because it’s free. There is a free lightshow, a variety of bands that would never play at Vegoose, Bonnaroo, or any other venue outside of the Fremont Experience.

Main Street Station Brew Pub:

Good beer, cheap eats and everything is at reasonable prices.

Jeff F

For the best off the Strip party check out Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Along with the great party scene in the casino, you have the Joint which is hosting shows for Vegoose. Then to make this location even more efficient – the Thomas & Mack Center is right across the street from the Hard Rock, which is hosting Widespread. If you get the chance and time check out Red Rock National Park 20 minutes west of the strip. Amazing terrain with an eagle eye view of the biggest little city on earth.

Ryan G

There are so many ways to experience Las Vegas. From camping to luxury hotels. It all depends on ones price range. For moderate hotels avoid the strip at all costs. Even if you can find a good rate everything else costs money. I would recommend Wild Wild West which is on Tropicana. It is right down the road from The Orleans (SCI late night) and easy to cross Las Vegas Blvd to get towards the actual festival. Rates are cheap and it is a head friendly environment. They had a Jerry Garcia Birthday party that was a blast.

For eats go I recommend all-you-can eat sushi. Many places across town that offer all the raw food for a reasonalble price(about $25 a person). Alot of them serve late so a bite between the fest and a late night is not out of the question.

Andrew J

What to do in Las Vegas, where to stay, where to eat, where to play and so on?? First, pick a place to stay. Depending on your affordability, if you can’t spend much consider Circus Circus and the old downtown area such as Golden Nuggets, Four Queens, and Binion’s Horseshoe. The Golden Nuggets is the nicest of the affordable hotels. The Fremont Street Experience is a cool place to walk through at night (Fremont Street is the first street ever in Las Vegas and it is part of the downtown Las Vegas). If you want a decent hotel experience, Flamingo is OK, the Las Vegas Hilton is nice, Luxor is fine, Bally’s and Aladdin Hotels looks nice. You can’t go wrong on these hotels.


I went to the the 3 day Phish run in April 2004, with a Jen Hartswick and 2 moe. after shows. A tremendous amount of music in a 4 day period including flights to and from Pittsburgh. The first thing I noticed that was easy for show goers (in case you don't take the Vegoose shuttle) is to find some people going to the show outside of your hotel and buck up for a limo. It averaged out to be about $10 bucks a piece and we were able to get in front of all the tourist families waiting in line for a taxi. I had never ridden in a limo before that trip, and we got one each night to Thomas Mack. (even a sweet yellow H2 Hummer) Another way around to save some of the soles of your feet for dancing is to figure out the free shuttles as soon as possible. There are a bunch in the newer side of the strip but it took us a few days to figure it out. The Bally's buffet is very decent and only $10 for breakfast and $20 for dinner. I only needed to eat once a day and that saved some cash. Get some new insoles for your shoes because Vegas is a concrete jungle plus dancing!! I'm not going 5 star hotel this time because I was only in my room maybe 7 hours out of the 4 days I was there. Another money saver. Hope this helps a little and I look forward to seeing you all at the music!!!!!

Micah M.

Imperial palace is always a good place to stay. one of the cheapest places to stay and it is in the middle of everything. across from Cesar's palace. really not the most fancy, but for the price you can't beat it.

A good place for cheap drinks is Casino Royal. They have dollar beers all of the time.


The Nevada State Museum & Historical Society (in Lorenzi Park) will have a new living history exhibit in October called "The 24 Hour Show" which will feature interactive displays for tourists and locals alike about what it means to live and work in Las Vegas. The price of admission is $4, $3 for seniors, and free for children under 12. The museum is open daily from 9 to 5, excepting holidays.

Henry D.

I haven't been out to Vegas since the Grateful Dead shows in 1993, but back then I found a wonderful way to stay on the cheap.

A short drive east out of town will take you to the Lake Mead Wildlife Management Area – Mead is a huge meandering lake in the middle of the beautiful desert. As it was pitch black, it was a little difficult to follow the narrow dirt roads. So, we had to be careful not to run over any hippies. There were no campsites – just wide spots in the roads where you could pull in. So, you had to be careful not to sleep in the road! The weird part is, that the place is like, only 50 miles or so from Area 51. And we saw strange lights, folks… I GUESS you can blame it on Owsley…. But we saw strange lights…. But cheerfully, no close encounters; except for some more weirdness. As I said, it was pitch black and as far as we knew, we hade the place we decided to stop and park to ourselves. We were sitting on the van and talking when out of the dark comes a voice "Goodman, is that you?" We had somehow parked right next to a car load of kids we knew from Florida! The next morning it was weird to wake up and see that there were lots of cars and vans around us. It was so dark, we never saw anyone. Later, we took baths in the lake, as did most of the nieghbors. A communal 60's style skinny dip following a night of awesome Dead music and an Area 51 campout made it all a trip to remember. And to think, if we hadn't blown all of our dough on the Blackjack tables at Circus Circus our first night in town, it never would have happened! p.s. the truth is out there… (couldn't resist) ;-)

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