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Las Vegas

Cheap (and free) tricks

A bunch of fun stuff to do and acquire for the right price—little to nothing

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Cheap: Watching a boxing match at the Plaza for $10. Not so cheap: plastic surgery to repair that broken nose.
Photo: Travis Jackson

THE FREE SAMPLES AT COSTCO

What’s that—you’ve never tried mangosteen juice? Or the latest in beef-jerky technology? Well, grab that Costco card out of your wallet and let the free buffet begin. On any given day, you’re sure to find at least enough free food/drink stations to make a trip worthwhile, from mixed nuts and cranberry juice to chili and three-bean salad. The only downside? Odds are you’ll probably still end up spending money in here, since temptation abounds. Multiple locations.

THE BUNKHOUSE

It’s usually only $5 to get in the doors, and after that you are guaranteed to have a memorable evening. It’s not high-end by any means, but that’s most of its charm, and in addition to cheap drinks, you’re sure to catch some of the best local bands around. 124 S. 11th St., 384-4536. For more information, click here.

ACOUSTIC STRIP AT THE HOUSE OF BLUES COURTYARD

Local bands aren’t a common sight along the Strip … at least, they weren’t before the House of Blues instituted its free-to-the-public Acoustic Strip Thursday nights inside the Courtyard. In the interest of full disclosure, we’ll mention that Las Vegas Weekly happens to sponsor the event, but really, even if we didn’t, we’d be happy to pass along word of quality live music in a decent-sounding venue. Did we mention it’s free? Inside Mandalay Bay, 632-7600. Click here for the upcoming House of Blues concert schedule.

FIRST FRIDAY

Two of the best bucks you can spend in Vegas gets you into the street-fair portion of the monthly art gathering; meanwhile, other elements—the Arts Factory, galleries on Main Street—are free. Rub elbows with the Valley’s emerging artists and hear live music. firstfriday-lasvegas.org.

FREE CUPCAKES!

On February 10, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Retro Bakery will offer each customer a free cupcake to celebrate its first anniversary. 7785 N. Durango Drive, Suite 130, 586-3729.

SHOW UP AT AN ART GALLERY OPENING

Hey, they’re open to the public, and they often have something involving either wine or cheese—or sometimes magically both!

THE MOVIES IN THE REDBOX KIOSKS AT THE GROCERY STORE ARE $1.61 EACH

BOULDER BLUES SERIES

Every Thursday night at 8 p.m. Boulder Station offers free blues from national touring acts. Here are some selected names that blues aficionados will be pleased to hear and see for free in upcoming weeks: Rod Piazza, January 29; Roy Rogers, February 5; Guitar Shorty, February 19; Coco Montoya, February 26; Walter Trout, March 12. In the Railhead saloon, Boulder Station, 432-7777.

SALON AND SPA SERVICES AT AVEDA INSTITUTE

Haircuts and highlights can easily hit hundreds of dollars at some of Las Vegas’ high-end salons. Save your cash and put your head in the hands of cosmetology students at the Aveda Institute, where haircuts performed under a teacher’s watchful eye will only run you $15. Other salon and spa services are also offered at deep discounts. 4856 S. Eastern Ave., 459-2900. avedalasvegas.com.

WATCH A BOXING MATCH AT THE PLAZA FOR $10

SATURDAY WINE TASTINGS AT MARCHE BACCHUS

If you think good wine doesn’t fit into your post-economic collapse budget, here’s some good news: It’s actually free. Every Saturday in Summerlin, French bistro and wine market Marche Bacchus serves up specially selected wines at a free tasting. While there’s no pressure to buy, you may be tempted to take home a bottle with you. The taste is gratis; the bottle, not so much. 2620 Regatta Drive, # 106, 804-8008. marchebacchus.com. For more information, click here.

CROWN AND ANCHOR

You’re going out. You don’t want to dance. You don’t want to sip pomegranate mint martinis or fight hordes of tourists or drop $20 getting in the door. You just want beer paired with some classic bar distractions: pool, darts, foosball and fried food. Local British pub Crown & Anchor offers all four for less than you would pay for a matinee movie. C&A’s addictive chicken fingers clock in as the most expensive at $6.75, with pool coming in next at a whopping 50 cents. Darts and foosball are free, making this bar a recession-friendly place to get sloshed. (As long as there isn’t an important soccer game on—that ups the bill to $10.) 1350 E. Tropicana Ave., 739-8676. 4755 Spring Mountain Road, 876-4733. crownandanchorlv.com.

THE VIDEO LOOP AT FRANKIE’S TIKI ROOM

Frankie’s Tiki Room entertains cover-free with delightfully kitschy décor (love those blowfish lamps), a video loop that jumps from retro porn to surf porn to Polynesian randomness and knock-you-on-your-ass tropical cocktails that run $8 and taste like vacation. 1712 W. Charleston Blvd., 385-3110. frankiestikiroom.com.

Dude, where’s my free fun? My weekend of penny-pinching

By Aaron Thompson

Capitalism sucks. That’s surely what the decapitated statue of V.I. Lenin must have been thinking when I paused before him last weekend, but hey, Vlad, at least you have a job—greeter at a Mandalay Bay vodka bar—while I’m newly unemployed. Since I now have to get my kicks on the cheap, I set out last weekend to find fun while not opening my wallet.

Luckily, the Strip welcomes the cheapskate: lion lairs, pirate shows, volcano eruptions, dancing fountains. Lenin’s decapitated statue and a pair of ceramic breasts in Mandalay Bay are the apex of cheap, easy and strangely Freudian entertainment. Next, at the Sunset Road parking lot adjacent to the McCarran runway I sat for a while, watching the planes and thinking about how nice it would be to jet away from these econo-tarded times. A text tip and a drive to a North Las Vegas junkyard party proved to be a great way to celebrate cheapness: free beer, free smokes and free entertainment (some guy who was literally burning almonds to stay warm).

I was hung over and hungry the next day, so I headed to a grocery store, where Sunday means free samples. Wasn’t that filling, but it was enough to keep me going. A stop at the Springs Preserve to walk off the hangover at the free garden and trail walk was in order. With miles of free trails, walking in the footsteps of early man is a great way to appreciate unemployment. Hungry again, I went to Lorenzi Park to try to catch a fish. Once there I remembered I can’t fish, but a Nicaraguan named Alex, standing over a grill and a heap of meats, welcomed me over. He gave me a taco, but before I could get comfortable a scary, large woman yelled at Alex while making a gun out of her hands. I got the hint and bailed. I debated catching a free movie at the Clark County Library, but unemployment proved tiring, and I needed a nap. I’d packed a lot into a weekend.

I still don’t have a job, but when you’re keeping busy and your belly is full of free carne asada, unemployment seems a little easier to take—at least until I need to eat again. Maybe I’ll have learned to fish by then.

WALK THROUGH THE BASS PRO SHOPS AND ENJOY THE FISHING DEMONSTRATION

I wish I was more the outdoorsy type. The size and scope of this behemoth inspires some serious environmental envy. Luckily there’s enough here to take me out of my suburban complacency, if only for an afternoon. I may not be able to fish for bass, but I can certainly watch a pro show me how to do so in a so-large-it’s-ridiculous tank every hour. And I may never bag a boar with a bow and arrow, but I’m hell on a paper target at the archery range. And I may never pilot a boat on Lake Mead, but it sure is fun to pretend, no matter how mature you may think you are. Too bad there’s just too much stuff in here to really focus your attention in one area for long. This is what Costco would look like if Grizzly Adams had designed it. Inside the Silverton, 730-5200. –Ken Miller

FREE MOVIES AT THE LIBRARY

The Clark County Library hosts two weekly Tuesday series that offer a variety of interesting mainstream and independent films: Tuesday Afternoon at the Bijou, at 1 p.m., features vintage Hollywood films, both classic and obscure; and the NOTBAD Film Series, at 7 p.m., showcases art and independent movies, including a number of recent releases. Upcoming series include Bijou’s look at African-Americans in early Hollywood and NOTBAD’s collection of movies that spawned TV shows. 1401 E. Flamingo Road, 507-3400.

CHEAP BOWLING

Nothing takes the mind off of your dire financial situation like knocking the crap out of things—may we suggest bowling? It’s already under $5 a game in many places, and $1 or $1.50 nights are plentiful around the Valley. The Orleans offers $1 bowling after midnight on weekdays until 8 a.m., while Santa Fe Station offers $1.50 games Sunday through Thursday.

JOIN A BOOK CLUB

PEOPLE-WATCH ON FREMONT STREET

The tableau of tourists sucking beer through straws connected to plastic footballs never disappoints.

So cheap it's almost free: 25 cent pinball at the Pinball Hall of Fame.

So cheap it's almost free: 25 cent pinball at the Pinball Hall of Fame.

PLAY A 1957 PINBALL MACHINE AT THE PINBALL HALL OF FAME FOR 25 CENTS

Set far back in a strip mall on the northwest corner of Pecos and Tropicana, where it shares a parking lot with the $3 Tropicana Cinemas, is the Pinball Hall of Fame. Tim Arnold, a ponytailed sort who wears big glasses that usually sit crooked across his face, is the manager and curator of the nonprofit museum/arcade. At last count, Arnold says, he has donated more than $500,000 to the Salvation Army in the three years the museum has been open to the public. All he pays for are the rent and electric bill. Earlier this week, he led me to a fully operational 1957 Gottlieb Ace-High machine and slipped a quarter into the slot, and I attempted to score the 1,000 points needed for a free game. But the first of five balls got stuck in between two bumpers, and when I instinctively gave the old girl a hip bump, she went “Tilt.” One hundred thirty-seven points doesn’t get it done, but I still had a pocketful of quarters and more than 200 machines to choose from. 3330 E. Tropicana Ave. pinballmuseum.org. –John Katsilometes

CHURCH BARBECUES FOR FOOD

Yeah, it’s kind of bad to take advantage of people’s good spirits, but Jesus never had a mortgage. Numerous churches host new-member barbecues monthly or even semi-monthly, and offer a great chance to meet some new friends and eat some good food. Who knows, maybe you’ll have an epiphany about more than the food.

THE ETHEL M CHOCOLATE FACTORY TOUR: ALSO FREE

And it ends with a free piece of chocolate. 2 Cactus Drive, 458-8864.

I LOST MY M IN VEGAS AT M&M’s WORLD

It’s a free movie in 3D, starring M&M’s TV-commercial icons Red and Yellow, featuring plenty of puns, plus silly “4D” elements like air whooshing past you, and somebody in a big M&M costume. And then it’s followed by a free packet of candy. Clearly the best value on the Strip. 3785 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 736-7611.

Cheap chic Cynthia DesGrange knows a thing or two about being frugal socially

By Stacy J. Willis

Cynthia DesGrange says her friends voted her “most likely to use a coupon,” which makes her the go-to girl for financial advice. So she started a club: Frugal Vegas, whose motto is “Cheap is good, free is better!”

“Then I thought, it could be so much better than a coupon club,” says DesGrange, a graphic designer. “It could be so much cooler than that.”

So it’s become a social thing.

Her site on Meetup.com says: “We focus on having fun with as little money as possible, and getting the most out of what we’ve got. We share our best tips through the message board, sort of our own locals-version of the Tightwad Gazette.

The group—currently numbering 27—had its first shindig last week: They went thrift-store shopping. DesGrange and her frugal friends made their way down Charleston, hopping in and out of secondhand stores, looking for a deal.

“We did find an amazing vintage sun dress,” she says, “but then we found a giant blood stain on it. It traumatized one of [my friends] who had never been thrift-store shopping.”

Otherwise, so far so good.

DesGrange has all kinds of inside scoops on shopping—“Did you know Goodwill has a lot of Target’s clearance merchandise?”—and is willing to share:

1. Check out wisebread.com for great deals.

2. Join houseseats.com or showtickets4locals.com for a one-time subscription fee, and get free tickets to local shows.

3. Restaurant.com has discount gift certificates for local restaurants.

4. Hook up with the other Frugal Vegas members at meetup.com/FrugalVegas.

OBSERVE THE ART OF MIME AT PARIS LAS VEGAS

Where mime is not money is on the promenade that connects Bally’s and Paris. Mimes are almost universally loathed, yes, but this particular, feather-wielding mime is mesmerizing. One gag: He pulls apart a couple who are holding hands and walks hand-in-hand with either the man or woman for several steps before being discovered, at which time his isn’t the only white face. He also uses the feather to tickle faces; unwitting pedestrians flick at the feather as if batting at a fly. We once watched this guy for 45 minutes, and he is hysterical.

$3 MOVIES AT TROPICANA CINEMAS

The renovated discount theater features second-run movies generally before they hit DVD but after they’ve left local multiplexes. The occasional indie gem (Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In played last week) mixes with typical box-office champs. Last we checked it was STILL showing Four Christmases, Transporter 3, Bolt and Quantum of Solace. The staff is also proud that the concessions offer “real” hot dogs. We’ll let them have that. 3330 East Tropicana Ave., 450-3737.

PROTEST SOMETHING!

Picket, organize a rally, send out mass e-mails.

GARAGE SALES

WHITE CROSS DRUGS

A Las Vegas tradition since the last depression—well, at least since the ’60s—White Cross Drugs is a cab-driver and night-shift-worker haunt that’s a treasure chest of good, cheap stuff in a charmingly sketchy atmosphere. You can buy anything from mouthwash to ski hats for a pittance, and then take a seat on a red vinyl stool at 24-hour Fountain Grill for cheapish salisbury steaks or meatloaf and malts. Old-school charm, old-fashioned deals, run-down neighborhood aura: a great place to while away the recession. 1700 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 380-3111.

WANDER BOULDER CITY

$4.93 FOR A CHEESEBURGER, FRIES AND COKE AT IN-N-OUT

Thank you, Jesus.

Free or cheap: Hiking one of Las Vegas' scenic trails.

Free or cheap: Hiking one of Las Vegas' scenic trails.

HIKE!

Suggested destinations from Branch Whitney of hikinglasvegas.com: In the Lake Mead area: Gold Strike Hot Springs; Anniversary Narrows (“100-foot-high walls; only 6 feet wide in places”); Liberty Bell Arch (“nice view of the Colorado River”). In Red Rock Canyon: Fern Canyon (“lots of water and ferns growing in the canyon”); Lost Creek Waterfall (“very easy”).

THE BELLAGIO CONSERVATORY: FREE

NEVADA STATE MUSEUM

While we await the fate of the delayed new Nevada State Museum at the Springs Preserve, we still have the inexpensive and entertaining current model, in a low-slung Spanish-style building in Lorenzi Park. Tickets are $4. The current display is—what did you expect?—art of showgirls! 700 Twin Lakes Drive, 486-5205.

SPRINGS PRESERVE TRAILS

The ORIGEN Experience at the Springs Preserve is a fine museum and worth its admission price. But you can experience most of what the Springs Preserve offers—an easily accessible escape from the urban headaches of life in the Valley, and a connection to the natural world beyond (and before) the Strip—by strolling the free trails and gardens. 333. S. Valley View Blvd., 228-7433.

SOUTHERN NEVADA ZOOLOGICAL-BOTANICAL PARK

Didn’t know we had a zoo? Well, it’s stuffed with lions and tigers, reptiles, eagles, chimpanzees and many more species. Best of all, it’s only $8 ($6 for kids and seniors). 1775 N. Rancho Drive, 647-4685.

Cheap: Shrimp cocktail and margaritas at the Skyline Casino for a buck each.

Cheap: Shrimp cocktail and margaritas at the Skyline Casino for a buck each.

SHRIMP COCKTAIL AND MARGARITAS AT THE SKYLINE CASINO—$1 APIECE

Eight quarters. That’s all it costs to eat and drink at the bar at the Skyline Casino on Boulder Highway. And we’re not talking water and pretzels. For a buck apiece, this old-school joint offers up sizeable shrimp cocktails and surprisingly strong frozen margaritas, 24 hours a day. Yeah, we hear you doubting the wisdom of eating shrimp in a place that probably hasn’t been refurbished since the Ford administration, but seriously, these puppies are plump and tasty, and only get better the farther down that margarita cup you go. 1741 N. Boulder Highway, 565-9116.

RIDE THE MONORAIL FROM THE SAHARA TO MGM GRAND FOR A BUCK

Nevada residents can purchase a one-way ticket for just $1 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Sahara and MGM Grand monorail stations. Only cash is accepted, and two tickets per person is the limit, but this is an 80 percent savings off the regular monorail ticket price, which is $5, one way. Party.

SATURDAY EVENING AT THE STIRLING CLUB LOUNGE

The key is to know someone who is a member, or a resident, but if you can do that, the Saturday night shows at the truly Old Vegas haunt never disappoint. Kelly Clinton and her band of hepcats are often joined by Vegas performers just finishing their own shows. Her hubby, Clint Holmes, is a frequent guest, and Frankie Scinta, Leigh Zimmerman (late of The Producers, where she played Ulla), the Las Vegas Tenors and cast members of Menopause the Musical have joined the fray. Even lounge legend Phyllis McGuire often takes in the show from the audience. 2827 Paradise Road, 732-9700.

BARRICK LECTURE SERIES

The lectures at Ham Hall are free (pick up tickets at the UNLV Performing Arts Center box office) and presented two or three times each year. The most recent featured E.J. Dionne, J.C. Watts and Gloria Borger discussing what Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office might look like.

COLLECT ADULT-THEMED PAMPHLETS HANDED OUT BY EAGER ENTREPRENEURS ON THE STRIP

They’re great stocking stuffers, and they are actually free unless you buy into the advertised services.

CATCH A FABULOUS BAKER BOY

Phil Baker, half of the real-life Fabulous Baker Boys, plays piano at Salvatore’s Italian Steakhouse. The chairs around the piano are for sitting, and the glass jar atop is for tips—and he’s worth a good tune and an even better story. At the Suncoast, 9090 Alta Drive, 636-7111.

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