My idea of gambling is ordering Dim Sum, so Las Vegas has never been a big draw for me from a slots/cards/roulette point of view. But when I found myself there for a business trip (read ‘boondoggle’) a few years ago, I decided to make the most of what this crazy city offers in the form of FREE entertainment. Here’s my list of 10 free things to do in Vegas that won’t cost a nickel (you can save that for the slots if you are so inclined).
1. Watch the Fountain Show at Bellagio
The Bellagio waterworks are famous and well worth the spectacle whether you see them day or night. Depending on the day of the week, they put on a helluva performance every 15 or 30 minutes.
However, if you’re looking for something on much smaller scale and want to throw in a little shopping while you’re at it, check out the funnel ‘tornado’ water fountains in the Crystal shopping complex on the Strip. Not as grand for sure, but you won’t have to get wet to walk between them.
2. See Mirage’s Volcano Erupt
Water becomes fire in this spectacular display of pyrotechnics, all happening mere feet away from you as you stroll by the hotel on the strip. http://www.mirage.com/attractions/volcano.aspx
3. Listen to The Fall of Atlantis Talking Statues at Caesar’s Palace
Is it cheesy when you hear them recount the mythology of ancient times? Absolutely. But c’mon, this is Vegas.
4. Visit the Butterfly Conservatory at Bellagio
And if the real flowers and water fountain ‘archway’ don’t impress you, check out the lobby for the 2000 glass sculptures of transparent blooms by artist Dale Chihuly, known as the Fiori di Como. Stunning. More photos here.
5. Stroll the Piazza in the Venetian
This ‘open air’ piazza has been done really, really well, with lighting and architectural facades so good you’ll feel like you really are in the old-world square at twilight with a dusky sky overhead. Tromp l’oeil at its best.
6. Go to a Circus at Circus Circus
Circus Circus has the largest permanent circus in the world, and it’s absolutely free. We’re all kids inside, and Vegas will bring that out in all of us, so while you’re indulging yourself, this circus will entertain and cost WAY less than those Soleil folks you’ve heard so much about.?
7. Experience Old-school Vegas with Concerts and More at Fremont Street.
The Freemont Experience offers all kinds of entertainment beyond just the older casinos, including free concerts, a light show overhead called Viva Vision and more. Plus if you’re into the old neon signs from the mob days of old, they are here on display, also for free.
8. Tour the Wildlife habitat at the Flamingo
Why not go see the namesake birds (at least the casino is staying true to the theme) and enjoy a little peace and quiet in this mini-sanctuary which might be a nice break from the chaos of the casino.
9. Take a Photo at the Las Vegas Sign
Go on, take that obligatory selfie! You know you want to. After all, the word ‘selfie’ made it into the Oxford Dictionary as the Word of the Year for 2014. And both the sign and selfies are oh-so-Vegas. All you’ve got left to shoot is the Little White Chapel, and your Vegas photo album will be complete!
10. See the New Year’s Fireworks
If you’re planning on being in Vegas for New Years, the fireworks displays are definitely something to see: end-to-end, the Strip lights up on New Years, living up to the ‘adult Disneyland’ comparison. Even if you’re off the strip, the display is visible for miles and it’s fun to watch even if you’re not on the Strip itself. And it’s absolutely free.
TIP: If you want to be in a club or casino for the stroke of midnight, it’s wise to book into one of the hotels there and go hours early to your destination, because access becomes restricted to hotel guests at many of the casinos, and you might get locked out if you’re not where you need to be early enough. Also, parking is a nightmare and driving is impossible because of road closures.
I think everyone should go to Vegas at least once in their lives, whether they are a gambler or not. It is a spectacle all its own, and provides a free show (of every kind imaginable!) and one you won’t find anywhere else. And with these 10 free things to do in Vegas, there’s obviously plenty of ways for non-gamblers to keep busy – while their friends may be losing their shirts!
TIP: Not everything in Las Vegas is free of course, but flight and hotel package deals to Vegas are plentiful. (Just note that depending on where you live, many of the more affordable packages keep their costs down by flying you home on a redeye return flight. Then again, you’ve just been to Vegas, so what’s another night without sleep?)
Jane Canapini is a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada and the North American Travel Journalists Association. She established GrownupTravels.com in 2014 to share information and tips based on personal experience so her readers could get the most out of their travels.