Las Vegas on the Cheap and Cheesy

| March 18, 2020 1:29 am PDT
Las Vegas on the Cheap and Cheesy

There’s plenty about Las Vegas that’s cheap or even free. And lord knows that Vegas is home to more cheese than Wisconsin—nay, France—has ever seen.

But have you ever tried “doing” Vegas cheap and cheesy at the same time?

It can be done. Here’s how to enjoy Las Vegas on a budget.

Where to Sleep

You can stay in Las Vegas for less than forty bucks a night, and you don’t have to sit through a four-hour time-share pitch to do it. Now, you can toss room service and the concierge right out the window. But you need a place to sleep off your buffalo addiction, and these places all fill that bill.

Plus, they each have a certain cheese factor that figures in. You can never get enough cheese.

Besides, you really weren’t going to sleep in your car, were you?

The Yellow Penthouse

Don’t let the name fool you. Your room will not be a penthouse. What it will be is clean, comfortable, and affordable (try $29).

It’s in a quiet neighborhood, and the staff is competent and courteous. I’ve paid more and gotten less — and so have you.

The Downtowner

A short walk from Fremont Street downtown, this place is clean and—well, it’s clean. And for an advertised $19 a night, you’re lucky the room is clean. But they have free wi-fi, and each room has a flat screen television.

It’s not exactly Prisoner of Zenda-level spartan. But it’ll do.

The Rita Suites

In the shadow of Wynn Encore, the Rita Suites is a relatively modern-looking building with rooms for as little as $32.

It’s about two blocks from the Convention Center. But don’t be fooled — these are Vegas blocks; stay hydrated.

Convention Center Condos

Speaking of which, this hotel’s name suggests it’s much closer to the Las Vegas Convention Center than actually it is. It’s a bit over a mile away! But if you can get past that little bit of marketing deception, they have a pool, wi-fi, and something called a “shared kitchen.” Not sure what that is, but let’s go with it.

Priceline says they have rooms available “from $15,” but I wouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet. Except me, of course.

Circus Circus Hotel, Casino & Theme Park

Didn’t expect to see a major resort casino on this list, did you? Well, they belong on this list, not only because you can get a room there for as little as $25 a night, but you don’t have to give up the resort-casino experience to get it.

More importantly, while Circus Circus didn’t invent cheese, they are certainly skilled artisans in the area.

You’ll get room service (if you can afford it), wi-fi, pools, and maybe even some trapeze artists performing above your head while you double down on those tens. Just remember: Everything costs money.

That $25 you spent on the room last night will get lost in the barrage of tips, meals, etc. that you’ll inevitably end up having at the hotel. That’s simply because it’s surface-of-the-sun hot outside, and everything is a mile away apart on this section of the Strip. But you go right ahead and walk. I’m sure it’ll add a healthy glow to your sunburn.

Where and What to Eat

Alas, the days of the 99-cent shrimp cocktail are long gone, with the exception of the occasional advertising gimmick used to draw you into various casinos or to get you to sign-up for a rewards card. Sometimes you only get it when ordered with an entrée at certain restaurants.

No, those 99-cent shrimp cocktails are extinct, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some other really good food without spending more than a couple of bucks.

The real trick is finding a place that sells cheap food and also has that “cheese factor” we all know and love.

Oh, sure, there’s fast-food franchises everywhere, and those invariably fit my dual criteria of being both cheap and cheesy. But you don’t come to Vegas to eat at a place you can find even in a mall food court.

Incidentally, I’m omitting the many buffets available in Vegas. Turns out the ones that are cheap aren’t good, and the ones that are good aren’t cheap. Go figure.

Plus, they all lack sufficient quantities of that factor du fromage we’re all looking for.

Tacos El Gordo (three locations)

Go here for a two-dollar taco al pastor—and to see the immense cone-shaped hunk of pork they shave tasty bits off of to make each taco. Cheap? You bet. Cheesy? Well, the better word might be odd.

There’s a Taco El Gordo near the Wynn Encore, one on Charleston Avenue a few blocks off Fremont Street downtown, and one in North Las Vegas on Losee Road just off I-15.

Dirt Dogs (two locations)

You want a hotdog smothered in cheese and topped with bacon? I bet you do now. The delightfully named Dirt Dogs is a street vendor situated in front of Bally’s on the Strip. On the expensive side of cheap, the tab will run less than twelve bucks. The “house dog” is $6.75, and you can even with a side order of fried Oreos. Yes, I said fried Oreos. So trust me, you won’t be hungry for a while.

While the street-vendor version of Dirt Dogs is in front of Bally’s, the other is inside a strip mall on Rainbow Boulevard. It’s not within walking distance of anything, but if you’re up for the hike, it’s about two miles northwest of South Point Casino.

Food Trucks (everywhere except where you want them to be)

There are a couple of food trucks that wander the streets of Vegas looking for—I don’t know—free parking? One such mobile meal is My Favorite Things Meat Company, which specializes in fried chicken and barbecued everything.

You gotta love a place that promises on its website, “We’re legit!” We’ll be the judge of that, buddy.

Krazy Buffet (two locations)

You know the one word I tend not to associate with food? “Krazy.” I reserve that word for killer klowns and ex-girlfriends. But perhaps that just shows what a provincial lout I am.

Lunch is less than nine bucks per person, and dinner is about $12 per. Did I mention it’s all you can eat? Krazy Buffet has a location in Summerlin on Sahara Avenue, and another on Rainbow Boulevard south of Sunset Station Casino.

What About Cheesy Entertainment?

You are so very much in luck. Cheesy entertainment is everywhere in Vegas. The trick, though, is finding cheesy entertainment that is also cheap. I know. It’s always something, isn’t it.

Fret no more, my friends. There’s plenty of cheap and cheesy entertainment to be had in Vegas if you know where to look. Or if you have a new, best buddy who knows where to look. Let me be that guy.

The Spazmatics (South Point Hotel and Casino)

This ‘80s pop music band performs regularly at South Point, and its five-to-ten-dollar ticket price fits my cheap criteria to a veritable “T.”

But cheese? Well, that depends on how you view the ‘80s. Now, every decade has its cheesy moments, but the ‘80s seemed to consist entirely of such moments. Sure, the ‘60s had bell bottoms, and the ‘70s had leisure suits, but the ‘80s had hair.

Sweet mother of god, did they have hair.

And what was up with that whole “pushing your suit jacket sleeves halfway up your arm” thing?

The cheese factor is somewhat more subtle. Did I mention that the Spazmatics show has a dance floor? And on that dance floor are—guess what—people who think the fashions and hair of the ‘80s might just make a surprise comeback if they just dance hard enough. Or badly enough.

 You can enjoy this all while wearing clothes and hair that even your krazy Uncle Albert with the Elvis sideburns and gold chains would shake his bald head at in complete disgust.

By the way, the band itself is great. They kind of look like the love children of Devo and the Revenge of the Nerds (although that’s sort of redundant, now that I think about it). To fully enjoy the cheese of the dancers, you must dress the part, and use copious amounts of Aqua Net to fit in. If you’re bald, well, old-man overbite your way to the stars!

Wallworks (Cosmopolitan)

Cheap? You want cheap? How about free? That cheap enough for you?

The Cosmpolitan has a number of art exhibits that are free to the public, but Wallworks is our focus here. Hope you like graffiti, because that’s what Wallworks is all about.

Street Mimes (outside the Paris Hotel & Casino)

Yes, street mimes are everywhere. Even Vegas. Mimes are walking cheese factories, so they’re good by me for this list, anyway. Are they cheap? Yeah, mime performances are always free (as they should be) but giving a few dollars won’t hurt.

But you be you. Enjoy the mimes!

Fremont Street Experience

Nothing screams cheese better than a five-block-long ceiling of lights that displays digital jets flying, fireworks blasting, music you haven’t heard since the radio in your dad’s Buick broke.

Joking aside, the Fremont Street Experience is free and is, in fact, enjoyable even if you don’t care for the music. It regularly stops all foot traffic on Fremont Street, and it takes an awful lot to get gamblers to pause in their pursuit of the elusive jackpot. So, if there’s one thing you need to remember about the Fremont Street Experience, it’s that you’ll likely experience sensory overload.

Welcome to Vegas Sign (southern end of the Strip)

You can’t really prove you’ve been to Vegas (short of showing your depleted bank balance, anyway) unless you take a selfie of yourself and your honey in front of the iconic Welcome to Vegas sign.

They even have free parking unlike the casino resorts just past the sign.

Big Elvis (Harrah’s)

Elvis is to Vegas what cheese is to macaroni—they are both improved by the acquaintance. And you can see Big Elvis perform for free at the Piano Bar inside Harrah’s Casino. Impersonator Pete Vallee does three shows every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the week. And he knows what he’s doing—he’s been performing as Big Elvis in Las Vegas since 1997. That’s 141 years–to a hound-dog, anyway.

And make no mistake, Big Elvis is BIG. Even though Vallee has lost some weight in the last few years, he’s still a very, very large man. But his renditions of all the Elvis classics are as good as you’ll find anywhere.

Cheesy? I said this was Elvis, right? So, the “cheese” is understood. And cheap? Sure, you’ll get some dirty looks if you don’t buy a drink while you’re watching the show, but that’s a very low price to pay to see one of Vegas’s immortals impersonate another of Vegas’s immortals.

Are you lonely tonight? Not with Big Elvis in town!

Puppetry of the Penis (Jewel Box Theater, Erotic Heritage Museum)

You read that right.

For a mere $26 you can watch two naked men arrange their respective, um, “junks” into various shapes. Yes, this is actually a thing. Created by two Aussies, Puppetry of the Penis has actually presented shows in more than 35 countries, and now presents their five-nights-a-week show in Las Vegas.

In fact, an HBO special featured the act which has been performed for the likes of Elton John, Hugh Grant and Naomi Campbell if their website is to be believed.

Fun for the whole family—provided every member of your family members are at least 18 years of age. But even if you don’t see this show with your mom and dad, this is bucket list-level cheap and cheesy entertainment.

Even Cheesy Memories Are Priceless

I hope I’ve shown you several venues you can visit without breaking the bank but still get your fill of the cheesy goodness. That is the true heart of Vegas. By my calculations, you could do the vast majority of the above with less than a hundred bucks in your pocket.

Best of all, you don’t have to sleep in your car. That’s always a win.

J.W. Paine

J.W. Paine is one of the most experienced writers at He's written for television and the printed media, and is a published novelist (as Tom Elliott).

Paine loves writing about Las Vegas nearly as much he loves living here. An experienced gambler, he's especially familiar with poker, blackjack, and slots.

More Posts by J.W. Contact J.W.