Bright lights, fun, games, big shows. It's hard not to find something to make a vacation visit enjoyable in Las Vegas.
And with the economy cutting into attendance these days, the resorts and casinos are working a little harder to keep people coming, making it easier to find package deals and lower rates that will stretch your travel budget. Just remember, like the song says: You gotta shop around.
Start out by getting acquainted with the city at the official tourism Web site - http://www.visitlasvegas.com/ - which offers to tell you all about places to stay and play. And they display "Special Offers" right up front, linking you to a page where you can search by date and section of the city. Back on the main page, click on "Play" to search schedules of shows (Jay Leno is at the Mirage, two dates only, in late March, and Bette Midler is at Caesars Palace in late March and early April). You can also check out sports events. "Play" also gets you to a searchable directory of all the casinos in town.
Know exactly what hotel you want? Try Las Vegas Tourism -http://www.lasvegastourism.com/ - and just click directly on the name. And look for their "Hotel Specials" link to sample rates from the low end on up.
Scout out weekly deals and promotions at Vegas.com -http://www.vegas.com/deals/ - and shop around in the lists of deals for 50 percent off, or 30-to-40 percent off, along with dining upgrades. Go back up to the upper left corner and click on "Home" to find the sections of info on tours, spas, golf and nightlife. Clicking on "Vegas Guide" will take you to sections including "The Bargain Hunter" for more suggestions on everything from food to free entertainment.
There are a few things you should know when you're bargain-hunting. Try Going to Vegas - http://www.goingtovegas.com/ - and go to "Tips" for hints under "Good Hotels for ..." For Example, rates are higher on weekends. And they say the best bit of advice is to take along comfortable shoes; there's a lot of ground to cover, both outside and inside the casinos.
Next, head to the Las Vegas offerings from About.com -http://govegas.about.com/ - and check out "Spend Less in Las Vegas," including tips for finding flights and hotels, a "Cheap Guide to Las Vegas" and free attractions. Back toward the top left corner of the main page, look for "First Time Visitor" for suggestions on fine dining, nonstop partying and family vacations. Be sure to scan the rest of the main page for information on things to see and do, including "Best of Vegas." There's a Top 9 Tips section - http://tinyurl.com/azk76v - with some more moneysaving ideas and a tip to stock up on sunscreen.
Some people don't care to gamble all day and all night. Things to Do in Las Vegas - http://lasvegasusa.org/ - has suggestions for extra-casino activities, like go-kart racing, tours to the Grand Canyon (by air and ground), or even just walking by the Bellagio to watch the fountains. When you need food to keep up your energy, browse the "Best Buffets in Las Vegas" list.
For inventive, once-in-a-lifetime imagery, it's hard to beat the Las Vegas shows of Cirque du Soleil - http://tinyurl.com/62p7gm -in their custom-built theaters. If you have any doubt whether you want to see one of these shows, sit back and watch the short videos.
With so many hotels, casinos and attractions clamoring for your time and money, it helps to have some unbiased reviews from fellow travelers. Sample opinions and photos at Virtual Tourist -http://tinyurl.com/68shg - including helpful comments on local customs, tourist traps and "Warnings or Dangers." Visitors also have written suggestions on off-the-beaten-path things to see and do, and on shopping. Browse through more unpaid reviews and photos at TripAdvisor - http://tinyurl.com/dvj8m - where some people also post their videos.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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