Monday, August 31, 2009

Taking the bus in Vegas - a frugal gambler's guide to the Las Vegas bus system

If you don't feel comfortable getting around Las Vegas solely by monorail or taxicab, and you're not entirely sure that renting a car is right for you, remember that there's yet another, less expensive mode of transportation available to you: the local bus system.

My friend Dewey recently added a terrific blog post that's all about taking the bus in Las Vegas. This blog entry has a lot of great tips for frugal Vegas visitors, and he will continue to update the post from time to time as he gathers more information on the Las Vegas bus system. It's not just about the routes and the ins and outs of taking the bus, but also contains information on things like senior discounts and bus passes. There's lots of information there for anyone who might be interested.

I asked if he would allow me to link to the post so that you may all share in his vast wisdom and money-saving ideas through a quick and easy link, and he was happy to share.

Dewey doesn't take cabs in Vegas, and he doesn't rent cars, either; he uses the local bus system to get everywhere during his extensive Vegas visits when he's not using his feet, and he has a lot of insight into the system and how to make the most of it on a trip. He has used the bus system to get from point A to point B for a poker session at another hotel and has also moved from hotel to hotel with his luggage, too.

Now, you may not stick completely to one mode of transportation on any given Vegas visit, but you certainly have another option in the Las Vegas bus system. If you think that taking the bus is something you might like to do to save some money on your Vegas trip, check out Dewey's bus blog and see if it's right for you.

Thanks again, Dewey, for letting me link to your post!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Grand Lux Cafe at The Venetian - restaurant review

Anyone who's visited their local Cheesecake Factory restaurant knows that the portions at these restaurants are HUGE. Well, Grand Lux Cafe is a sister property of The Cheesecake Factory, and they currently have two locations in Las Vegas: one at Palazzo, and one at The Venetian.

In March, my mother, my cousin and I decided to share a couple of dishes at the Grand Lux Cafe at The Venetian as a small meal, and I think it was definitely a good idea to share. While we were hungry, we weren't starving, and we didn't want to stuff ourselves because we were planning on having a regular meal later in the day.

We had a hard time choosing which dishes to share because so many of them either sounded absolutely too good to pass up or one of us didn't like one or more of the ingredients in the dish. We finally decided to share two appetizers as our meal: Fried Calamari, which includes rock shrimp and vegetables in a tempura batter and is served with two dipping sauces, and Cheese Steak Spring Rolls, which also comes two sauces: a cheese dipping sauce and a traditional spring roll sauce.

The waiter brought us plenty of extra plates to share the appetizers and dipping sauces, and he even brought us extra dipping sauces when we ran out (we really enjoyed those sauces!). One of the sauces that came with the Fried Calamari was a little on the spicy side but really good, and we drank a lot of tea with our meal. The only thing I can think of that would have improved the Fried Calamari dish would be fewer fried onions and more fried zucchini. I liked the fried onions, but felt there were more fried onions than any other vegetable. The Cheese Steak Spring Rolls were absolutely delicious, and I wouldn't change a thing about this dish at all.

The portions divided between three people were much more manageable, and we were able to clean our plates and not waste a thing. I hate wasting food at any time, but I also do not take leftovers from restaurants in Las Vegas because I don't like storing them or carrying them around, so this worked out for us.

Two appetizers and three teas came to a grand total of $24 before tip, which is not a bad price for a meal for three. We're definitely looking forward to going back to try some more of the dishes we were admiring on this visit.
The restaurant is open 24/7 for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a full bar is available for any "adult beverages" you may want to enjoy with your meal.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give the Grand Lux Cafe an 8. The price, the location, the food, and the service were all really good, and I'm looking forward to visiting again.

Here's a link to the menu:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tix4Tonite - great deals on meals and shows for less than full price

Tix4Tonite is a Las Vegas-based business that offers discounts on shows and restaurants in the Las Vegas area.

The name reflects the type of services offered: discounted show tickets and dining
coupons available for same day purchase only. The offerings change on a day-to-day basis depending on what's available for individual shows and which restaurants are participating in the discount offers, but many of the offerings are currently available every day, such as the Titanic and Bodies exhibits at Luxor Hotel & Casino and the comedy show at The Tropicana Hotel & Casino.

There are currently six locations around the Las Vegas area:
Fashion Show Mall (at the Strip entrance outside of Neiman Marcus)
Hawaiian Marketplace (at Polo Towers, across from City Center)
North Strip next to Riviera Hotel & Casino
Downtown at 4 Queens Hotel (Fremont Street side)
Showcase Mall (at the base of the giant Coke bottle)
Bill's Casino (corner of Las Vegas Blvd and Flamingo Rd)

The lists for each day's discounts are posted at each outlet at 9:30 a.m. The locations open at 10:00 a.m., and a line usually starts to form at the more popular locations outside the Fashion Show Mall and Bill's Casino shortly after 9:00 a.m.

On my recent trip, I purchased a half price ticket for the Titanic exhibit at Luxor from the Hawaiian Marketplace location. I walked up at 11:00 a.m. with only one person in front of me and purchased my $30 ticket for $13.75 because I also had a $2 discount coupon from their website's "COUPON" tab. They gave me a receipt and a VIP pass along with another $2 coupon to use the next day to bypass the line, but I was leaving and was unable to use either of them. I took my receipt to the Titanic box office and exchanged it for my real ticket before entering the exhibit. Quick and easy.

They also offer "Standby Golf", which has discounted greens fees for select tee times at various Las Vegas area golf courses. A link on their website shows the kinds of options available for this new service if you're interested.

It was a very positive experience. They have employees with a paper copy of the current listings standing by the line to help you with any questions before you even get up to the window to make your selection. They also suggest alternate shows, dining options, and show/dining times if you're schedule is flexible.

This sort of option may not be the best thing for people who like to plan out their entire trip before they leave, but if you're willing to go with one of several options you'll likely find something to fit your budget and schedule.

VIP passes and gift cards are also available online.

A link to the Tix4Tonite website:

Mon Ami Gabi restaurant at Paris - breakfast review

On my most recent trip to Vegas, I was able to try the newly added breakfast menu at Mon Ami Gabi restaurant in the Paris Hotel & Casino. If you've read any of my other posts about Paris and MAG, you already know that it's one of my favorite spots to eat and people-watch in Vegas. In my opinion, the food is very good, the ambiance is great, the view from the patio is spectacular, and the whole experience is one that I thoroughly enjoy every time I visit.

I was able to enjoy my breakfast with two friends from the LV4E message board, MikeZona and Doris. We sat at a patio table along the front railing with a great view of the Las Vegas Strip and the Bellagio Hotel and fountains.

We had a 9:30 a.m. reservation, and we were able to walk up and be seated immediately. The day would top out at 105 later on, but the morning was very enjoyable from our seats. The sun rises behind Paris, so you're not immediately thrust into sunlight and heat, and a breakfast on the patio is very doable well into the hot summer months.

The recently added breakfast menu included many things I wanted to try, but I finally settled on the Blueberry French toast. The order included two over sized pieces of thick blueberry-infused french toast that were also covered in fresh blueberries and whipped cream. It was absolutely delicious, and I was unable to finish the entire meal.

Doris ordered the Mushroom Omelet, and she enjoyed it but was also unable to finish because of its very large size. Mike had the Strawberry Waffle, which was covered with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. He said it was delicious but he was also unable to finish his breakfast. It seems the breakfast offerings are every bit as huge as the dinners, so think about ordering and sharing with friends when you go.

We were offered mimosas and other fruity drinks to accompany our breakfast, but we declined and opted for coffee with cream, instead.

We sat for quite awhile, talking and enjoying each other's company, and we were never rushed to finish up and leave. We even asked our waiter take photos of us, which he did happily.

There are so many things on the breakfast menu that I'd like to try, I'm going to have to return several times with at least one other person so that I can try them all.

I'd like to tell you what the meal for the three of us cost, but I can't; Mike and Doris picked up the tab as a treat to me - thanks again, you two, for being so sweet to me. I can't wait until we get together again.

Once again, I rate my dining experience at Mon Ami Gabi as a 9.5 on a scale of 1 to 10, but the company was certainly a solid 10 on this visit.

Breakfast is served from 7:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. daily. In addition, brunch is served during lunch hours on Saturdays and Sundays and includes select items from the breakfast menu in addition to the complete lunch menu that is available every day of the week.

Breakfast menu is available here:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Link: Las Vegas Advisor's Visitor's Guide

My friend 2Westie over at LV4E added a great link to the Las Vegas Advisor's Vistor Guide on the LV4E site yesterday, and I thought I'd add a copy of the link here, too.

If you're interested in doing something new or different but don't know where to start looking, check out the different categories and you might just possibly find some great freebies and deals while planning your next Vegas trip.

Lots of good stuff there: Everything from Exhibits and Freebies to Convention and Special Event info. Hope it helps you find what you'd like to do on your next trip!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Taxicab "Long Haul" Form - link

Here's a Vegas definition for you that's important to know if you take a taxi anywhere in Las Vegas:

"Long-hauling" - (verb) - The act of taking a longer or out-of-the-way route to arrive at a predetermined destination.

If you read a lot of information about Las Vegas and the taxicab service there, you may have heard this term used before. When a taxicab driver takes you on a route that is out-of-the-way or takes a route that you specifically asked them NOT to take, you can report the driver to the Las Vegas Taxicab Authority on their 'Long Route Voluntary Witness Statement' form. 

Updated 6/29/12: Here's a link to the form from their new website:  Long haul form

Just click on "Complaints" in the navigation bar, and then select the "Long Route Voluntary Witness Statement".  I have a printed out copy that I keep in my carry-on bag and have used it once.
The LVTA is committed to keeping cab drivers honest and providing taxicab customers with a way to get some satisfaction if they feel that they've been taken advantage of.

The best thing to do BEFORE you use this form is to make an attempt to talk with the taxicab driver when you are en route to your destination:

1) Explain that you want to take the shortest route possible, or the route that takes the shortest amount of time.

2) If you are familiar with Las Vegas, give the drive specific instructions on what route you'd like to take (for example, taking Paradise to Flamingo to Koval in order to get to Harrah's instead of going down the Strip).

A cab driver may suggest another route to you; however, as a customer, you have a right to ask them to take a specific route. If they refuse to take the route you ask them to, you can get the driver's name and taxicab # from the front seat where their license is displayed and report them to the LVTA.

Personally, it would take a lot for me to feel I needed to use this form; however, it's nice to know that I can tell them I feel I'm being taken advantage of. My first course of action would be to tell the driver that I am aware that they are taking a longer route so that they can either explain why they took the route or offer to correct it by getting back on track or let me pay less than the fare that is displayed.

Cab drivers who may read this might not feel this is fair, but I have done this before and I don't feel bad about letting the driver know that I'm not happy with the service I'm receiving. They certainly can't expect a tip from me if I feel I'm being taken advantage of, and most cab drivers are concerned that they will be reported to the LVTA and lose their jobs. I certainly don't want anyone to lose their job, but I DO want them to provide me - and everyone else - with good, honest service and to be fair in the process.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Slot Machines - old school vs. new graphics and bonus rounds - watch that max bet!

Slot machines are a really big gambling draw for Las Vegas. More than 60% of the Vegas gaming revenue comes from these types of machines. Not bad for a "diversion" originally created to keep the wives of the big-time gamblers busy!

These days there are so many different types of slot machines to play that they can easily confuse you, and the maximum bets can vary so much that you could lose half your bankroll without even realizing you've spent it.

The "original", or "old school" slot machines are the three-reel versions: 3 spinning reels that land on different symbols and pay off based on two or three matched symbols, or a combination paired with various WILD symbols that can increase your winnings depending on the type of machine you're playing. Many people prefer these machines because they know that they will most likely only bet two or three coins maximum for each spin; for a quarter machine that will be only a 50-cent or 75-cent bet for each spin, and the jackpot payouts can be pretty good for these machines. Some good "old school" machines include Blazing 7's, Haywire, and Red White and Blue 7's.

In the mid-90's, a different version of these machines was introduced: the penny machines. These machines allowed players to wager a penny or nickel per line from one line up to the 7- or 9-line maximum, and up to 5 credits per line. So, you could bet anywhere from 1 penny to 45 cents for each spin (or 5 cents to $2.25 for nickel machines), and probably make your money last a little longer. One of my favorites is Denver Duck - it has an Indiana Jones-type theme with a video bonus round that can be played on the top part of the machine separate from the main reels of play.

In the late 90's, a new version of slot machines started popping up in Vegas: the video slots. In the vein of the 7- or 9-line machines, you could bet anywhere from a penny per spin up to the maximum for that particular machine. Because the new machines now had a video screen for their "spinning wheels", the slot machine companies were able to add a few more bells and whistles and more lines to play. Then it wasn't just the number of reels that could increase, but the number of lines, as well. You could be playing a machine that had 5 reels and a total of 15, 25, 50, or even 100 lines, and accidentally hitting the "MAX BET" button would mean that you were wagering $5.00 per spin on a penny machine! These machines include Lucky Lemmings (50 lines), Lobstermania (9-15 lines), My Rich Uncle (25 lines), and Stinking Rich (100 lines) to name just a few.

Over the past few years, some of the newer slot machines have started to include more extravagant bonus rounds. These are the machines that suck a lot of us slot players in, because the chance to play extra free games, get free spins and points, see all kinds of cool graphics, and listen to catchy music and sound effects coming from the slot machines AND our seat chairs is quite addicting. In addition, some of the games have chairs that vibrate depending on what type of bonus round you are playing, so it's a 4-D experience. These types of slots include Gold Fish (my favorite), Star Wars, Star Trek, and Wizard of Oz. There are several versions of each of the Star Wars, Star Trek, and Wizard of Oz machines; some have more exciting - and easier to reach - bonus rounds than others.

Some of the newest bonus slot machines allow you to play your game and share in bonus rounds as a group. Any person playing a machine in a particular group can trigger the bonus round with their machine, and all the people who are actively playing will also receive some portion of bonus for their play, as well. But be careful; some of these machines are 5-cent machines and require you to play a certain number of lines or credits before you can get the full bonus each time. An example of these types of games are the Monopoly Community slots and the eBay Community slots.

Regardless of what type of machine you decide to play, remember to check and make sure you're playing the denomination you were intending to when you sat down. Some machines now have the ability to change between denominations, so you can play 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents or 25 cents per line on the same machine. Checking the "HELP" and "MENU" screens before beginning to play a new game is advisable to make sure you know what you're doing (sort of - I still don't know what I'm doing on some of them, but I continue to play them, anyway).

The only real bit of advice I have for any slot machine play is this: no matter what type of slot machine you like and decide to play, make sure that you play the maximum number of lines you can, but you don't have to play the max bet to hit some really nice payouts. You should just maximize your chances of hitting winning combinations for that machine.

Good luck and have fun out there!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

M Resort - photos and a review of the M buffet (on LV4E) by NMchop

Our friend in Vegas, NMchop, added a bunch of photos of his day out at the new M resort. The photos include some of his wins, the casino, and some fantastic photos and a mini-review of the M resort buffet. Here's the link to check it out:

This place is DEFINITELY going to be on my future "to do" list! What a beautiful place! And the buffet is affordable, too - $14 for lunch. Go at 3:30 and stay for the dinner change over at 4:00 p.m. to take advantage of the dinner options, too. (A waitress even suggested this, so you know it's got to be good!)

Edited to add: New photos of the buffet selections - YUM!

Just so you know, this buffet includes beer and wine in the price, and that's a great deal. These days it's rare to find a Vegas buffet that includes alcoholic beverages in their price for each meal.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Our LV4E friend heads back to Vegas on a wing and a prayer...

Well, it looks like our LV4E friend NMchop is back in Vegas again, and just shy of three weeks after the last one!

Yes, he just left Vegas on July 12th after a total of 18 days. I said his last trip was him just "flying by the seat of his pants" - staying at various hotels on offers he had received and hopping from place to place as long as his bankroll held out.

He booked this trip prior to the last one and just never cancelled it; kind of a "wait and see" trip to look forward to with some friends. He would've had to cancel it with 72 hours advance notice to avoid paying a penalty, but he decided to let it ride and booked a last minute seat on a Southwest flight using one of his free ticket vouchers so he could meet up with his friends as he had originally planned.

It looks like it'll be another interesting story as he reports back to us with his day-to-day activities.

Here's a link to his new day-by-day, blow-by-blow trip report:
and day two:
and day three - with a show:
and day four - with a review of the new M resort and its buffet:
and day five:
day six:
the end of day six with some great hits: