Las Vegas brings to mind dazzling lights, dirty secrets and guilt-free indulgence. All this of course, comes with a price tag. Or so it seems. Believe it or not, there are a number of things to do in Las Vegas which cost absolutely nothing. That’s right. Travel Las Vegas and spend zero dollars!
I spent a day and a half sightseeing Las Vegas, and didn’t spend a single dime. The only things I spent my money on were complete necessities:
• Airfare: Before compiling your list of things to do in Las Vegas, don’t blow a fortune on plane tickets. Low-cost carriers like Spirit Airlines are cheap, but they do come with stringent baggage rules. I am a committed budget traveler, which means that I did not have any check-in or carry-on baggage. I packed all that I needed in my free personal bag. The roundtrip fare with Spirit Airlines cost me only $200.
• Hotel lodging: There are a number of reasons I chose to stay in the Stratosphere. It’s super close to The Strip, the room rates are pretty decent, parking is free, and guests get free entrance to the observation tower (which also happens to be one of the top things to do in Las Vegas). Word of advice though. The lines are long EVERYWHERE, from the check-in counter and tower entrance, to ordering pizza at Nunzio’s Pizzeria.
• Food: Nothing fancy. Just your regular pizza, Starbucks and Chipotle.
• Public Transport/ Taxi (optional): All your things to do in Las Vegas can easily be accomplished without a car. You can either walk it or use public transport. Cabs should be reserved as a last-minute desperate option only.
• Car Rental (optional): I was heading toward the South Rim of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas. Hence why I rented a car. But like I said before, your list of things to do in Las Vegas does not require the assistance of a car. It is more a hassle anyway given the crazy rush on The Strip. If you do rent a car, bear in mind that MGM and its associated chain hotels have started charging parking fees. However, there are still a number of free parking garages along/ near the Strip. As for myself, I parked in The Flamingo.
1. Iconic Neon Signs
While staring at neon lights isn’t exactly on anyone’s list of things to do in Las Vegas, it’s hard to miss the giant billboards. The array of dazzling lights constitute the signature look of The Strip, and are some of the most photographed in America.
2. Circus Circus
Catching a free acrobat performance should definitely be on your list of things to do in Las Vegas. Circus Circus is a hotel that has the largest permanent big top in the world. It features carnival games, as well as circus shows that run every half hour.
3. Fountains of Bellagio
Water choreography is synchronized with music and lights in the 8 acre man made lake. However, if you have seen the Dubai Fountains, you may find the Fountains of Bellagio lacklustre in comparison. Timings are:
- 3pm – 8pm: every 30 minutes
- 8pm – midnight: every 15 minutes
Note: If you step inside the Bellagio, the conservatory celebrates seasonal flowers, trees and plants. A plethora of smells and colors!
4. Palazzo Fountains
Another choreographed water routine, the Palazzo Fountains run performances continually throughout the day. Between the Palazzo Fountains and the Fountains of Bellagio, I would recommend putting the latter on your list of things to do in Las Vegas.
Note: If you choose to stroll inside The Palazzo, don’t forget to check out the Atrium. It features lavish man made landscapes that include exotic flower gardens, a domed skylight and a waterfall.
5. The Venetian
Home to the world’s largest casino, The Venetian is most famous for its imitation of St. Mark’s square and the artificial canals of Venice. Visitors can also experience Venice’s gondola rides, but they don’t come cheap. Rides cost $36 per person. (Gondola rides most definitely did not feature on my budget-friendly list of things to do in Las Vegas).
6. Art at the City Center
I would not recommend explicitly allocating time for this, as there are a number of things to do in Las Vegas. The artwork is only something to see if you happen to be strolling in the City Center. Some examples of art installations include:
- Glacia: Two pillars of carved ice
- Halo: Running through without getting wet
- Shards of Color: Neon recessed shapes
- Lumia: Fountains of ribbons and colors
7. Caesar Forum Shops
The Caesar Forum Shops are one of the more popular things to do in Las Vegas. People come here to admire the interior architecture that closely imitates the Colosseum. There is also a 50,000 gallon aquarium, which is completely free to check out and great entertainment for the kids.
Another freebie is The Fall of Atlantis performance. Complete with fire, water and giant talking statues, the show always draws huge crowds of adults and children alike. Expect the place to be packed. Shows run every half hour from 11am to 10pm.
8. The Mirage
If you haven’t had the opportunity of watching a volcano in action, now is your chance. The Mirage offers two shows everyday where spectators can watch volcanoes “spewing lava”. Flames shoot up more than 12 feet into the air, and it’s quite a sight. The tongues of red and bright yellow against the Nevada night sky. Timings are 8pm and 9pm, and the shows run 10 minutes long.
9. Swarovski Starburst at Grand Bazaar
Complete with 900 crystals and 1800 LEDs, this bedazzling landmark drops 55 feet from its orbit above the Grand Bazaar Shops for showtime. Timings are 8:55pm and 11:55pm, and the light show lasts 10 minutes. If the Mirage and the Swarovski Starburst both feature on your list of things to do in Las Vegas, it’s best to catch the Mirage shows at either 8 or 9pm, and the Swarovski Starbust at 11:55pm. (That is if you don’t want to be running up and down The Strip).
10. The Luxor Beam
The Luxor is the ninth largest hotel in the world and has a 4 star rating for sustainability. But all these statistics are lost on visitors who come to this part of The Strip every evening. The Luxor Beam is one of the top free things to do in Las Vegas. At 42.3 billion candela, the Luxor Beam is the strongest ray of light in the world, similar to an apocalyptic beam from an alien spaceship. It is not something to miss!
11. The LINQ
On a day out at this promenade, smell freshly baked chocolates, laugh at parrot mimicry, take selfies with expensive cars or watch street artists at work. If you are not afraid of heights, you can even hop onto the High Roller, the world’s tallest Ferris Wheel.
Note: Walking the LINQ is free; riding the High Roller is not. 🙂
12. New York-New York
If traveling to the Big Apple has long been on your bucket list, you can catch all the landmarks on The Strip in one place. New York-New York should be on your list of things to do in Las Vegas, if you want to experience Manhattan’s iconic skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge. Don’t forget to check out Hershey’s Chocolate World, where you can find a 800 pound replica of the Statue of Liberty carved from Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. Lady Liberty never looked so good!
13. The Stratosphere
At 1,149 feet the observation tower of The Stratosphere is the largest free standing deck in the world. Entrance is free for hotel guests (like me!). The panoramic views of the Nevada landscape, Las Vegas city and The Strip makes The Stratosphere easily one of the top 5 things to do in Las Vegas. Nights are the best time to see the dazzling lights against the dark skies, but the lines will be super long.
Another foreign destination too difficult to fit into your travel goals? Welcome to Las Vegas’s very own Paris. Iconic landmarks include the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. Seulement á Vegas!
Note: Paris happens to be on everyone’s list of things to do in Las Vegas and is a favorite spot for photo enthusiasts. Good luck snatching a selfie!
15. Flamingo’s Wildlife Habitat
A great place for an afternoon stroll is the Flamingo’s Wildlife Habitat. The space is a green, serene refuge for those seeking a respite from the chaos of The Strip. Watch out for the Chilean flamingos, black swans, koi japanese fish, and the albino catfish.
Note: The Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino also provides free parking. If you have rented a car, then it would be wise to include The Flamingo on your list of things to do in Las Vegas…. if only for the parking!
16. Mandalay Bay
Aside from the lush foliage and garden waterfalls, the Mandalay Bay’s prime attraction is its shark reef. If you are traveling with young children, the Mandalay Bay aquarium should rank high on your things to do in Las Vegas. Weighing more than 1,00,000 gallons, this is one of the largest aquariums in America. While walking through the richly decorated interiors of Mandalay Bay is free to all, the shark reef charges $25 for adults and $19 for children aged 4 to 12.
17. Horticulture at The Wynn
The indoor art installation at The Wynn is a riot of colors, complete with extensive floral arrangements and horticultural creations. In the evening, visitors can enjoy fine dining at the Lake of Dreams, a 40 foot waterfall surrounded by greenery and brought to life with light shows.
18. Fremont Street Experience
• Viva Vision
The pedestrian mall occupies five blocks of western Fremont Street and consists of more than 12 million LEDS. Walking under this massive illuminated stretch at night is one of the top things to do in Las Vegas. There are free stage shows, street performers, and if you’re feeling a bit lucky, free slots at casinos Binions and 4 Queens.
This 12 storey slot machine features two 37 foot tall showgirls, and offers two levels of ziplining through Fremont Street under the Viva Vision canopy. Zooming above everyone’s heads has to be one of the most fun things to do in Las Vegas.
• Vegas Vic & Vicky
Don’t forget to say hello to Las Vegas’ most famous couple. In 1995, during the construction of the Fremont Street Experience, Vegas Vic and Vicky were officially married by a local pastor. Strange but true, and only in Vegas!
19. Golden Nugget
A 30 minute walk from Fremont Street lies the Golden Nugget Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. The hotel gets its name from its two prized possessions, and is a must-see on your things to do in Las Vegas.
- Robin’s Nugget: Originally the largest gold nugget in the world, it weighs 5.9 kilograms.
- Hand of Faith: Discovered by Kevin Hillier in Victoria, Australia, this fine quality gold nugget is currently the largest in the world. The dimensions are 47cm x 20xm x 9cm, and weighs around 27.2 kilograms. In 1980, it was bought for $1 million by the Golden Nugget Casino.
20. The Hoover Dam
Last, but definitely not the least is the Hoover Dam. Named in honor of the 31st President of the United States, Herbert Clark Hoover, this National Historic Landmark should be at the very top of your list of things to do in Las Vegas.
Formerly known as Boulder Dam, the Hoover Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the state border between Arizona and Nevada. Lake Mead is the largest reservoir of water by volume in the United States.
While there are tours on offer, you can see the dam for free if you take US-93 to NV-172. There is plenty of free parking as you drive up the slope. Public toilets and water fountains are also available.