6. Bellying up to the (soda) bar
The deal: An assortment of Coca-Cola products from around the globe, as featured at the World of Coca-Cola on the Strip. For $7, you can drink your way through 16 beverages, from the sweet (a watermelon drink from China) to the bitter (an Italian aperitif — nonalcoholic, of course — called Beverly).
Worth it? It’s true that you can drink for free while taking your chances at the casino tables. But this is much more fun — and much more educational. The sampler is not only a great value; the store is also one of the few truly kid-friendly places on the Strip.
7. Celine Dion — on the cheap
The deal: How’d you like to partake of Vegas’ No. 1 entertainer for absolutely nothing? No, it’s not a scam. It’s the famous Fountains of Bellagio. During the evening, the waters move in sync with the music — a new song comes over the speakers every 15 minutes. On one of our many stops, we caught Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On (you know, the Titanic song). So, now we can say we heard the Canadian songstress in Vegas, without paying a cent.
Worth it? This is one of those rare instances in life where all the hype is justified. The fountains at the Bellagio qualify as one of the modern marvels of the world. The show is breathtaking (and different for every song — our favorite was the display that accompanied the Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman duet Time to Say Goodbye). But while you’re at the Bellagio, it’s also worth checking out the garden display inside the hotel, which is free as well.
8. Fun for a fistful of quarters
The deal: Who knew that Vegas was home to the Pinball Hall of Fame? Sure enough, it is. Admission is free, but bring those quarters if you want to play the machines.
Worth it? If you’re a pinball obsessive, this place is Nirvana. There are dozens of machines from the past 100 years, all in terrific working order and all playable for a quarter or two. There’s no limit to what you can play, but after $10, your fingers will probably start to ache. For those less interested in this uniquely American pastime, the thrills may not be as great, but this is still an affordable diversion from the Strip.
9. All-you-can eat lobster and caviar
The deal: An only-in-Vegas spread of unlimited caviar and lobster tails, plus other fancy fare, from French Champagne to made-to-order crepes. It’s there to be had — for $85 — at the Bally’s Sterling Brunch (offered only on Sundays).
Worth it? Some make the case that the $85 spread is a bargain, since you can pretty much hit the got-what-you-paid-for mark with one bottle of Champagne, a couple of lobster tails and a spoonful of caviar. But we’re not buying it, largely because the quality wasn’t there: The tails were tough, the caviar was the inexpensive domestic variety and the rest of the offerings weren’t all that remarkable (the sushi and dessert stations proved to be huge disappointments). Plus, the setting feels tired. It’s basically an old steakhouse that’s converted into a buffet every Sunday — and the service can be a little brusque (especially the lady doling out the caviar). In a town with many terrific (and terrifically priced) buffets — our favorite was the one at The Cosmopolitan — this is certainly no value.
10: The cheapo shrimp cocktail
The deal: Ah, yes, the 99-cent shrimp cocktail — a legendary staple of the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino in downtown Vegas. Except it’s now $2.99. That’s inflation for you.
Worth it? A $2.99 shrimp cocktail is still a relative bargain. But we were expecting big, fat shrimp, not a bunch of baby ones. Combine that with the fact that you have to order the cocktail through the hotel’s coffee shop — not exactly a hip and happening place — and the deal doesn’t feel like it’s worth the fuss. We’d rather put those same three bucks into a slot machine and hope for a bigger payout.