Las Vegas Best bet for bargain seekers

Five years ago, a good day for Meital Grantz went like this: Sell $10,000 worth of glitzy women’s wear (Chloe, Stella, Missoni) at her boutique on the Las Vegas Strip, Talulah G. Then, a group dinner at Le Cirque or Circo, both in the five-star Bellagio, followed by wild times at Light (with its European-style bottle service), with everyone eventually winding up at a friend’s pad for yet more after-hours revelry.

“Money was not an issue at all,” said the 34-year-old Ms. Grantz, sounding a little incredulous at the extravagance of the past.

Times, as they say, have changed. No other city in America has been hit by the economic crisis quite as dramatically as Las Vegas, where more than two decades of outsize boom have turned into a big-time bust. Unemployment hit 7.9 percent in November, and Clark County’s foreclosure rate is one of the nation’s highest.

Sin City’s lucky streak, it seems, has gone sour.

But for frugal travelers, Las Vegas is, suddenly, a sure bet. The city now has some 141,000 hotel rooms, and occupancy rates are down 15 percent, according to Dr. R. Keith Scher, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. So hotels at all ends of the price spectrum are offering outrageous deals.

“You can stay at the Trump that was just built here for 99 bucks now,” said Anthony Curtis, the founder of, a booking site that tracks deals (and offers further discounts to its members, who pay $37 a year). “You can stay at Wynn Las Vegas for well under $200.”

Similar five-star hotels in New York or Los Angeles, he added, might cost four times that.

At the low end, he said, are downtown hotels like the newly renovated El Cortez, where rooms were going for as little as $14 a night. Even rental-car companies are getting into the spirit, he said, with some cars going for $8.95 a day on

The jaw-dropping bargains extend to restaurants as well, with culinary hotspots like L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Craftsteak serving multicourse tasting menus (langoustine fritters, diver scallops) for $75.

At happy hour, Red Square, in the Mandalay Bay, is throwing in a free ounce of caviar (with the fixings) with two martinis. Granted, those drinks will run you $13 or $14 a pop which could buy you two $6.99 steak-and-beer dinners at the Ellis Island Casino and Brewery but still, how often do you get free caviar?

Need a show to go with your dinner? Cirque du Soleil is now discounting tickets for the first time ever, according to Jack Kenn, the vice president and general manager of the troupe’s Las Vegas shows.

“As we get deeper into this debacle,” he said, “we’re finding that we have to open up more seats.” Which means as much as 50 percent off on extravaganzas like Ka if you book a package through

These frantic price cuts, welcome as they seem, can also be a bit worrying. After all, is a half-empty, half-price, down-on-its-luck Vegas still fun?

Worry not, said Abby Tegnelia, a former editor in chief of 944 Vegas, a party magazine.

“The last huge party I went to was definitely a little bit scaled down,” Ms. Tegnelia said, referring to a recent outing to the nightclub Tao. “Definitely more vodka, less champagne, because the vodka lasts longer.

“But it was the most fun that I’ve ever had. It’s almost like they’re making up for it you know, everyone was dancing, huge groups of people, everyone was really excited, all the best V.I.P. tables are flooded with people who enjoy going out again.”

More fun, fewer crowds and for less money? Sounds like everybody wins. (Just don’t tell the house.)