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 a 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.
You'll find all things creative at The Arts Factory in downtown Vegas's 18b Arts District, and everyone's welcome. Open for over three decades, this hub for performance artists, photographers, graphic designers, painters, architects, and other crafters offers workshops and unique gifts. In addition to grub and some well-known stores, there are galleries and studios, and the public can access most of the spaces during First Friday. Look out for the fab Gallery to Go vending machines and the Love Las Vegas wall.
Are you a Coke fan? If you answer in the affirmative, you're not alone. Coca-Cola is the most consumed soda globally, and merch might be exactly what you didn't know you need. The Coca-Cola store on the Las Vegas strip lets you try some international flavors at its second-floor fountain too. But if you're not keen on cold and fizzy non-alcoholic beverages, you might be a fan of cheesy but fun photos next to the world's most giant Coke bottle.
The Lake of Dreams Show at the Wynn Las Vegas resort usually runs every half an hour in the evenings until 23:30. It's a dazzling five-minute spectacle with some wow moments for adults and kids alike. There's music, puppetry, and holographs, and the waterfall and pine trees make for a lush background. Dine on the patio or take in the views from the terrace.
Caesars Entertainment opened the Linq Promenade in 2013, and it's been a highlight on the Las Vegas Strip ever since. Pedestrians don't have to pay a cent, but if the idea of riding the world's second-tallest Ferris wheel excites you, you might want to carry some dough. There's an ice bar, a comedy club, a zipline, and loads of food establishments to suit every taste.
Around 20 minutes away from the Las Vegas Strip, Mystic Falls Park at Sam's Town offers another free attraction you don't want to miss. A 10-minute laser and fountain production conjures up the wild west, complete with wolves and eagles. In general, you can expect a Sunset Stampede show every two hours from 14:00 until 22:00. And be sure to look for the daily complimentary shuttle service schedule to and from the Strip.
Located in Downtown Las Vegas, the Fremont Street Experience is a pedestrian mall located five blocks east of Fremont Street. The experience is topped by an enormous 1,375-foot-long canopy-style television screen, known as the Viva Vision, that displays an hourly light show each evening. While on Fremont Street, check out the old casinos such as the Golden Nugget and Four Queens, and if you're looking for somewhere inexpensive to grab a bite while you're here, be sure to pay a visit to the Heart Attack Grill.
Displayed at the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino on Fremont Street, the Hand of Faith is the largest-known golden nugget in existence and the second-largest ever discovered. It's valued at over $1 million and is on view for all to see just past the hotel's lobby. The nugget was found by a man named Kevin Hillier, who discovered it while searching for treasures with a metal detector in Wedderburn, Australia.
If you like candy, the M&M's World Store located on the Las Vegas Strip is a must-see while you're in the city. This 28,000-square-foot, four-level shop is an iconic part of Vegas that's exciting to explore, even if you're not planning to spend money. While you're here, check out the replica of Kyle Busch's NASCAR race car and the massive rainbow of M&Ms on the World's Biggest Candy Wall.
Streetmosphere is located inside the Venetian Hotel & Casino. While it's technically a shopping center, there's plenty to do and see here without spending money. Streetmosphere gives you a taste of Italy without having to leave the United States. Walk along the canal, watch the gondolas go by, or walk through the mall to check out live music, mimes, and the occasional magic show.
The Park features a variety of shops and restaurants if you've got money to burn, but for a totally free experience, stop by and wander this outdoor community that features live performances and amazing views of the Las Vegas Strip. While you're here, check out the Bliss Dance Sculpture (not that you'll be able to miss it). This 40-foot sculpture by artist Marco Cochrane features a woman dancing among flowers, and in true Las Vegas fashion, it's lit head-to-toe in neon lights.
With shows happening all week long, the volcano at the Mirage is akin to the Bellagio Fountains. Head to this hotel to experience the volcano's fiery eruptions and light shows, complete with an epic rock-and-roll soundtrack. While you're at the Mirage, be sure to head inside and find the lobby, where there's a 20,000-gallon aquarium loaded with vibrant tropical fish behind the check-in desk.