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How I lived it up in Vegas without breaking the bank

Amelia Rayno, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Travel News

On the strip, there are deals to be found, as well, though usually only within the context of the typically exorbitant prices -- a large Starbucks coffee, for example, comes close to $7. But during happy hour (times vary), many of the strip's high-profile restaurants slash prices by as much as half.

Still, even when taking advantage of the deals at the Cosmopolitan's Momofuku, my meager meal of lamb ribs, a side of smashed cucumbers and a glass of sake came to $37 before tip.

I was in search of the perfect Vegas souvenir -- and with shops lining the sidewalks by the dozen, I had ample opportunity.

But I wasn't on the megamall-like strip, where mass-produced trinkets and clothes from high-end chains can cost a fortune. I had ambled back to Main Street in the Arts District. There, an impressive array of vintage and antique stores create a community.

Had it been a taste of Vegas glam I was craving, sparkly clutches, gold-rimmed barware and luxurious fur wraps tempted at many stops. And as for classic Sin City kitsch, there was plenty of that, too, in the form of retro postcards, gambling relics, Vegas-themed teacups, salt and pepper shakers and fuzzy dice.

On a Saturday night, I took in the nearly sold-out Criss Angel show at the Luxor -- nabbing a $100 ticket for just $67 after signing up for MGM's free membership club. I used the savings on a glass of sparkling wine (which was poured close to the rim as if it was a beer) and a box of peanut M&M's to enjoy while the headliner cut women in two and sent doves flying into the rafters.

After jetting from one side of town to another, eating, drinking and reveling in Vegas culture, I was in need of a little rest and relaxation. I'd planned to lounge at the Bellagio's ornate pool area all afternoon -- travelers can get a taste of the elegant establishment without coughing up the hefty price of a night's stay by reserving a chair for $20 on weekdays.

But when it started raining, I pivoted. I received a full refund for my Bellagio reservation and then I had an idea. I had heard that the Groupon app was rife with Vegas deals, and I found one that was the perfect calming replacement for a missed day at the pool.

Jackpot: a spa day at the Flamingo hotel that let me live the luxe life for half the price. For a service normally valued at more than $200, I paid a mere $112.

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Two hours later, I was lounging on a warm massage table with scents of lavender lingering in the air and the promise of a foot-bath treatment and use of the spa's extensive facilities -- a eucalyptus steam room, sauna and hot and cold tubs, among them.

In four jam-packed days, I'd indulged in every thrill, satiated every craving and pampered myself in royal fashion.

And yet, I still had money to spare.

Perhaps it was time to gamble? After all, they do deliver free drinks, another win.

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