Everyone knows you can lose your wallet, your savings and your shirt in Las Vegas. You can experience some of the most expensive shopping and dining in the country and live it up in a penthouse suite more beautiful than some castles. So, it may surprise you to find out that there's a whole lot you can do for free. Beyond some free drinks and wandering around the mazes of casinos for days in a stupor, you can spend your entire vacation doing things that don't cost a dime if you like.
1. Harrahs Piano Bar, Big Elvis
You cannot go to Las Vegas and avoid Elvis. Not only is it probably physically impossible, but it also misses the larger than life spirit of the city. Elvis wasn't from Vegas, but he embodied it's sparkle and soul perfectly. The only thing bigger than Elvis in Vegas is Big Elvis (Pete Vallee). One of the longest running and most entertaining free shows in Vegas is absolutely not to be missed. Check the showtime and go see Big Elvis sing the hits.
2. The Pinball Hall of Fame
You probably didn't know there was such a thing as the Pinball Hall of Fame. There's a Handball Hall of Fame too, in case you were wondering, but that's down in Tucson. There are so many amazing old games collected here you could stare for hours. Entry is free, but you do have to pay to play. For .25 to .50 cents a pop, this place is so close to free we decided to round it up and count it anyway. It gets even better though because the Pinball Museum and Pinball Hall of Fame are not for profit. Once the bills are paid, they donate everything else to the Salvation Army. For literal pennies, you can do a good deed and see the most extensive collection of pinball machines from the 1950s to the 1980s all in one incredibly cool location (Across from the Liberace Museum, which is not free and we heard it was closed now anyhow)
3. CBS Television City Research Center
Do you ever sit at home watching TV and think someone else needs to be choosing the programming? If so, this is the stop for you. If you're in Vegas, why not sit in on a focus group and finally have a say. It's not as glitzy and glamorous as hitting the casino floor with a showgirl on your arm, but it just might make your life more pleasant the rest of the year. Plus it costs you nothing other than your time and you might get to preview something your friends don't even know is coming out. That seems like a fair trade to us.
4. The Cosmopolitan Art
Wander through a huge and ever-changing collection of artworks. Whether you want the traditional art museum experience or something more modern like the digital art display, you can get your culture in living color. One of the best things about The Cosmopolitan is that it will never be the same twice, so visit every time you're in town to get the most out of it.
5. Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum
The first pilot to land a plane in Las Vegas was Randall Henderson, back in 1920. He landed a borrowed Curtis JN-4 “Jenny” on May 7th and traveling to Las Vegas has never been the same. A vast number of visitors pass through McCarran International every day. If you plan to book a flight for your next trip, then consider making time to see the museum when you touch down. It's packed with intriguing pieces of aviation history.
6. The Shelby Heritage Center
Sadly the Auto Collection at LINQ is no more, but we're pleased to report that you can still get your classic car fix in Vegas even if there's no auto show going on. Unlike most, even on this list, the Shelby Heritage Center doesn't even charge for parking. They do however have a fantastic gift shop and guided tours. You can watch the staff at work from the other side of a massive glass window if you prefer. The work on vehicles other than just the Shelby, and you can hang out as long as they're open if you want to do so.
7. Coral or Mermaids
Take your pick or see them both. We suggest starting with the Coral Reef Aquarium at the Mirage. The soothing water and stunning array of colors is a nice change from the frenetic pace of the rest of Las Vegas. We saved the best for last. The Aquarium at the Silverton Mermaid Show was voted the best free attraction in Las Vegas. Make sure to catch these swimming beauties when you need to cool off from the desert heat. If you ever wanted to see a "real" mermaid, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Take your kids if you have any, they will be able to parlay those vacation pics into show-and-tell fodder for the next decade.
8. Take a Walking Tour
With so many amazing walking destinations, it's hard to pick just one. So we narrowed it down to two just for you. Stroll Streetmosphere at the Venetian and then see the Fremont Street Experience Viva Vision Light Show. First, you'll see live street performers, from stilt walkers to opera singers and beyond. Later, when the sun goes down, you can check out the stunning digitally generated light show as well, all without spending a dime.
9. Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Garden
Another oasis amid the chaos of the Las Vegas strip. Take some time out to relax among the gorgeous display of flora. Quite literally, this is the place to stop and smell the flowers. Enjoy a more natural scenery and let yourself unwind for a while before you throw yourself back into the tumultuous crowds and grand spectacles. You'll feel refreshed, and you will have gotten to see one of the underappreciated wonders of Las Vegas in the process.
10. Death By Chocolate
You'll either be happy or sick if you visit Ethel M, the M&Ms World, and Hersheys Chocolate World all in one day. It might be worth the pain to get such a sweet experience. Taste chocolates, take tours and even see a movie starring the famous M&Ms characters. If you think you can handle it, then you're sure to go home with plenty of delicious stories to tell.
11. Hit the Strip
You don't need a fancy plan to see some of the most dynamic free shows in town. All you have to do is take a walk. The Mirage Volcano blows it's top several times a night, and it's luminous. Likewise, the Bellagio Fountains put on an equally elemental light show with their geyser-like action. Las Vegas is so full of fun you can stumble on it by accident. All you need is an adventurous spirit and a half decent pair of sensible walking shoes.
12. Visit the Downtown Container Park
If you ever felt the driving need to see a massive mantis sculpture breathe fire, then we have good news. Of course, the mantis isn't the only sculpture or oddity at the Downtown Container Park. You can peruse the free art or go window shopping. The unexpected and delightful abound in Las Vegas if you're willing to forego the time you might otherwise spend paying out the nose and go looking off the beaten paths.
13. Tropical Rainforest Inside the Mirage
The Bellagio isn't the only botanical wonder in Las Vegas. The Mirage sports an authentic rainforest with over 300 orchids and tons of other exotic plant life. When the crowds make you feel a little hemmed in, you can undoubtedly get a breath of fresh air around all these plants. It's like taking a mini vacation inside your vacation.
14. Fall of Atlantis Show in Caesars Palace
If you're in the mood for a fantasy based animatronic experience worthy of Disneyland, look no further than Caesars Palace. The mythical experience pairs well with the mermaids if you want a wholly fictional trip filled with wonders and kid-friendly beauty. The truth is, Las Vegas is practically a fairy tale anyhow, so you might as well have an experience that shows it.
15. Flamingo’s Wildlife Habitat
If you want to combine the natural feel of the botanical exhibits with the iconic neon pink of Las Vegas and see one of the oldest places in town that has been in continuous operation then see the Flamingos Wildlife Habitat. The flamboyant birds are as much a part of Vegas as Elvis and showgirls, but they aren't standing there alone. Tranquil lagoons with koi fish and plenty of other mild-mannered and tourist-friendly wildlife are available on this adventure.
16. Get Out of Town and See Some Natural Wonders
Not all that glitters is gold and casino lights. Some of the best spots 'in' Las Vegas are a little way outside the city. You can check out the radiant views at the Valley Of Fire State Park. For a different perspective, you could hike Red Rock Canyon State Park instead and take a look at the unusual geographical wonders. Or have a 'dam' good time taking a tour out to Hoover Dam. The view of the water is worth a second look.
17. Sunset Stampede Laser Light and Water Show at Sam’s Town
The Atrium at Sam's Town Hotel & Gambling Hall is ten stories tall, which gives the waterfall immense proportions. The animatronic animals do several full shows a day set to a backdrop of music from the Indianapolis Philharmonic Orchestra. If you were hoping for a sense of the wild west on your trip to the Nevada desert, then Sam's Town can grant your wish.
18. Lawn Games at Gold Spike
Another hidden gem in this city full of treasures is the Backyard at the Gold Spike. Family fun abounds with oversized games for all ages. If you prefer the adult version of the fun, then you'll need to come back after dark. For a special treat try out the Roller Skating by Down & Derby. Women get their skate rentals free, but the guys will have to pay a token $10, which gets them a $10 voucher for the bar, so it comes out even.
9. City Center’s Fine Art Collection
When you think about Las Vegas, the kitsch probably comes to mind before you ever consider the fine art. Still, you may want to schedule in some time for the incredible collection of fine art at City Center. When it comes to peaceful and beautiful settings, we're sure you've noticed by now that there are a surprising number of them stashed away inside the more prominent hotels. We think the hotel designers enjoy a little calm among the paintings as much as the rest of us.
20. Circus Acts at Circus Circus
No list of the extraordinary free entertainments in Las Vegas could be complete without including the circus. All you have to do to see the show is walk in the doors at Circus Circus. The big top extravaganza goes on many times each day. Arial acrobatics worthy of Ringling Brothers are on tap, and naturally, you can take the whole family to see it.
We could plan a whole vacation around the free entertainment in Las Vegas. In fact, we might do just that. The most significant difficulty with that idea isn't finding what to do; it's narrowing it down enough to fit it all in. It might help to pick a theme, just go see the art, or only pick interactive activities you can get your hands on. There are several options for using this list. If you plan to stay a while maybe you can work your way through the complete collection.
Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith