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’) I decided to make the most of what this crazy city offers in the form of FREE entertainment. I always take advantage of these different freebies when I’m travelling down to Vegas with my wife, children and pets. Yes, you heard that right – my pets come along for the journey too. Make good use of the Vegas pet friendly hotels on offer and you’ll be fine.
Here’s my list of 11 things to do that won’t cost a nickel (save that for the slots if you are so inclined):
1. Fountains of 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. Mirage’s Volcano. 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. 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. Butterfly conservatory and gardens 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. 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. The Circus at Circus Circus, the largest permanent circus in the world, and it’s free starting daily at 11 am. 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. Old-school Vegas with the Galleria show at Fremont Street. Plus if you’re into the old neon signs from the mob days of old, they are here on display, also for free.
8. Wildlife habitat at the Flamingo. Why not go see the namesake birds – at least they are staying true to the theme and a little peace and quiet in this mini-sanctuary might be a nice break from the chaos of the casino.
9. 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 it’s oh-so-Vegas. All you’ve got left is the Little White Chapel, and your photo album will be complete!
10. The Jean Phlippe Patisserie at Aria for the cakes – these fantasy confections are sugary works of art and a feast for the eyes, even if you don’t buy anything. (And you don’t have to worry about the calories if you’re just looking.)
11. New Year’s Fireworks displays. 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. Here’s a tip, though – 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.
TIP: Not everything is free of course, but flight and hotel package deals to Vegas are plentiful – but depending on where you live, be prepared to return home on the redeye as many packages keep their costs down by flying you out on the last flight home. Then again – you’ve just been to Vegas, so what’s another night without sleep?