With great shows to see, fine dining to enjoy, and an abundance of gaming tables, it's easy to think of Las Vegas as an expensive destination. But there's plenty to see and do without getting your wallet out, so Las Vegas doesn't need to be the City of Lost Wages. Entertainment abounds in the city and many of the casinos have free displays and shows to tempt gamblers through their doors. Getting away from the Strip broadens your options and there's a lot to see away from the bright lights of the casinos. Travelers can also venture out into the desert to see beautiful vistas and the region's biodiversity.
A selfie with Las Vegas' most recognizable attraction is the perfect souvenir of your trip to Sin City. The Welcome to Las Vegas sign is free to visit, though it can be busy so you may have to wait for your photo op. There's a parking lot nearby and a pedestrian bridge crosses Las Vegas Boulevard so visitors arrive safely. Another city icon worth a visit is the Lucky Cat at the Cosmopolitan. Touch the silver paw of this 9-foot cat for a fortune that may include a valuable prize.
The Las Vegas Strip is the only place in the world where you can go from ancient Egypt to modern New York in one 4-mile stretch of road. Walking the length of the Strip allows you to take in all the grandeur of Las Vegas. It's been designed with pedestrians in mind and there are footbridges everywhere so you don't need to cross the road. Keep an eye out for the regular water show at the Fountains of Bellagio. In the evenings you can also see The Volcano erupt at The Mirage.
The California Hotel & Casino is home to the Ethel M Chocolates Gift Shop, but chocolate lovers may want to take the 15-minute drive to the Ethel M Factory for a free tour. The factory also boasts the largest cactus garden in the Southwestern U.S., with over three acres of botanical cacti for visitors to stroll amidst after shopping for some tasty sweets.
It's possible to get in touch with nature without ever leaving the Strip. The Flamingo Hotel's Wildlife Habitat is a quiet oasis that's home to koi fish, turtles, birds, and a flock of Chilean Flamingos. If you need a new profile pic, get your photo taken with one of the habitat's parrots. The Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is another pocket of green in Las Vegas. The garden features fragrant flowers and plants across 14,000 square feet have special displays to match the season.
There are street art and galleries galore for art lovers to enjoy in Las Vegas. The Downtown Art Murals have 30 artworks to enjoy, including the first 100% solar-powered mural in the world. About 10 miles south of the Strip are the neon totems of Seven Magic Mountains displayed against the backdrop of the desert. Fine art can be found at City Hall's two public galleries, and the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art features contemporary work and cultural items from the American Southwest.
The beautiful Bellagio hotel features a soaring water fountain show out front daily. You can walk up and view the iconic, soaring fountains as they move to music and lights every 30 minutes from 3 pm to 7 pm on weekdays and every 15 minutes from 7 pm to midnight. On weekends and holidays, the fountain show is on display every 30 minutes from noon to 7 pm and every 15 minutes from 7 pm to midnight.
Although shopping is not a free activity, the malls in Las Vegas aim to entertain you as you shop. The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace can watch Atlantis fall in an animatronics spectacular that occurs hourly. Fashionistas can check out a live runway show at the Fashion Show Mall, while Miracle Mile has an indoor rainstorm and fountain display. If you're looking for variety, the Grand Canal Shoppes has something called Streetmsophere that features roving entertainers performing shows throughout the day.
Located in Downtown Las Vegas, this outdoor shopping center features various shops and restaurants housed in shipping containers and metal cubes. Stroll the shops, people watch, and grab some local fare while visiting this open-air venue.
Although it's easy to forget in the extravagance of the Strip, Las Vegas is a desert city and the landscape has its own beauty to explore. Red Rock Canyon is just 30 minutes from Las Vegas and has a range of hikes to suit all levels of ability. If you'd prefer to see a man-made wonder, the Hoover Dam is also close to the city. The Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is free to walk across and offers spectacular views of the Dam and Lake Mead.
Art lovers will want to visit the colorful Seven Magic Mountains art installation by acclaimed Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. Located just a 30-minute drive from the Strip, the large-scale, site-specific desert artwork is made up of seven towers of colorful, stacked boulders, each standing more than 30-feet high. Located in the Ivanpah Valley, the quick day trip offers visitors not only art but also breathtaking views of the desert backdrop and surrounding mountain ranges.
There's no need to pay to see a spectacular show in Las Vegas. The most popular free performance is the circus at Circus Circus. It's the largest permanent circus in the world and you can see acrobats, aerialists, and jugglers perform high above the casino floor. The Silverton Hotel Aquarium has more than 160 species of fish to spot in the water, but the real pleasure is watching the mermaid show. Performers twirl and dance through the 117,000 gallons of water and regularly interact with guests.
If you'd like to try your hand at gambling, but don't know what's blackjack and what's bust, you might be interested in lessons. Many of the big casinos run free table games lessons to introduce novices to the games. You can learn the rules, strategies, and etiquette of a range of games, including poker, roulette, and craps. Instructors are happy to answer any questions and some participants get the chance to play a few no-stakes hands.
Fremont Street Experience is six blocks of Glitter Gulch that have been closed to traffic and turned into a pedestrian mall. The world's largest video screen, Viva Vision, forms a canopy above shoppers' heads and the screen displays a spectacular light show that is a must-see while in Vegas. Performers and live shows also entertain people for free as they shop. While downtown you can also visit Binion's and have your photo taken with a million dollars cash.
CBS Television City at the MGM Grand gives Las Vegas visitors the chance to share their opinions about the future of television. It's a full research facility that shows viewers new pilots from CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon. Opinions are shared through a touchpad and participants often receive a bag of goodies at the end of testing. Even if the show is boring, the insight into the way the television works makes for an interesting afternoon.