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Do Vegas - without spending a fortune

/ Source: The Associated Press

It's a sure bet you're going to spend some money if you visit Las Vegas, even if you steer clear of the gambling. But in a city known for its temptations, you can save a dollar here and there and still have a good time.

For freely given advice on thrift in Vegas, start with BigEmpire.com, a site that proudly offers dozens of tips for "living low on the hog," as the authors put it. Suggestions run the gamut, from decent buffets and other cheap eats, to free eats (if you dare), to cheap hotels that offer clean $35 rooms and surly gamblers. Free stuff abounds as well, if you're in the market for key chains and coffee mugs.

Much more mainstream is VegasFreebie.com, a site that sorts free attractions by locations and category. Check out the photos of the Sunset Stampede at Sam's Town Hotel and Casino, a free animatronic, laser light and water show with a pioneer theme.

The site also lists hotels with free lounges, including the storied Tropicana, built in 1957, which has two free shows and a 24-hour lounge with a 15-foot TV screen.

The site Vegas4Locals.com has an extensive list of free things to do, including some dueling pianos; exotic bird shows and magic shows; and a family-friendly medieval show at the Excalibur Hotel, and live German music at the Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas. Like the other sites, it also includes directions to the volcano at the Mirage, a famed Las Vegas spectacle.

EBay is a good place to look for last-minute Las Vegas deals too, with vacation packages, lodging, and tickets to shows, some of them affordable.

Free attractions also lie outside the city. Fifteen minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, Ethel's Chocolate Lounge offers tours of its candy factory and of its four-acre botanical cactus garden, which it says is the largest in Nevada. Go to their website for directions and photos of chocolates and cacti.

Just 30 miles from Las Vegas is the Hoover Dam, where the Bureau of Reclamation runs tours for close to a million visitors each year. They cost $11 for adults, $9 for seniors, and $6 for kids over the age of 6; younger kids are free. You'll find Hoover Dam Tour Company also offers tours, from Las Vegas, by bus, helicopter, plane, or van (hint: for budget travel, take the bus).

Farther afield is the Grand Canyon. At Las Vegas Grand canyon Tours you'll find information on trips to, around, in, and above the canyon starting at $89 for a bus trip with breakfast and lunch.

Just like other major cities around the world, the city of sin has some hostel-type places for young backpackers who don't mind sharing a room. Click here for pictures of its dormitory accommodations, which come with pool, kitchen, and free Sunday-night barbecue.