There's an old joke about Las Vegas being called "Lost Wages." Whether it's high-roller suites or pricey meals at fine-dining restaurants, Las Vegas can sometimes feel like a playground for the filthy rich.
But Sin City doesn't just have to be for the upper crust. There are plenty of ways to enjoy everything the city has to offer – from a rowdy piano bar to a stroll through Vegas' bright, vintage past – without spending a single cent. These are our favorite things to do for free in Las Vegas.
Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens
Changing with the seasons, Bellagio’s conservatory displays ostentatious floral arrangements, installed by crane through a soaring 50ft-high ceiling. The effect is unnatural, but that doesn't stop crowds from gawking, and the aroma of fresh blooms is enchanting.
Peek around the periphery of the conservatory for classic paintings re-created with buds and flowers instead of oil paints.
Flamingo Wildlife Habitat
The perfect spot for families with kids, the wildlife habitat is just steps away from the hubbub on the Strip. Over a dozen acres of pools, gardens, waterfalls and waterways are filled with swans, exotic birds and ornamental koi (carp). Here, Chilean flamingos and African penguins wander around, and palm trees and jungle plants flourish in the middle of the desert.
Welcome to Las Vegas Sign
In a city famous for neon signs, one reigns supreme: the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada" sign, facing north and straddling Las Vegas Blvd just south of Mandalay Bay, the unofficial beginning of the Strip. Designed by Betty Willis at the end of the "Fabulous Fifties," this sign is a classic photo op and a reminder of Vegas' past. Only southbound traffic can enter the parking lot, greeted by its flip-side reminder to "Drive Carefully" and "Come Back Soon." There is typically a bit of a wait for those looking to get a photograph under the iconic sign, but the line moves quickly.
Fountains of Bellagio
With a backdrop of Tuscan-style architecture, the Bellagio’s faux Lake Como and dancing fountains are the antitheses of the Mojave Desert – although the resort does use reclaimed water. The fountain show’s recorded soundtrack varies, so cross your fingers that it will be Italian opera or ol’ Blue Eyes crooning "Luck Be a Lady," instead of top 40.
Fremont Street Experience
A five-block pedestrian entertainment strip, between Main St and N Las Vegas Blvd, topped by an arched steel canopy and filled with computer-controlled lights, the Fremont Street Experience was the catalyst for Downtown's rejuvenation. Every evening, the canopy turns into a 1375ft-long video screen showering revelers with dazzling light-and-sound shows powered by 600,000 watts and over 49 million LEDs.
Don't Tell Mama
There's no cover charge at this friendly Fremont East piano bar that's a hit with locals, who crowd the place on weekends to hear their favorite "singing bartenders" belting out requests. Free-flowing (but not free) cocktails keep the scene thumping into the wee hours. It only takes reservations if you plan to arrive before 9pm.
The Neon Museum's Public Art
One of Las Vegas' best museums, the Neon Museum isn't completely free (guided tours of the Neon Boneyard start at $20), but the museum is responsible for an equally spectacular display of refurbished signs that line Las Vegas Blvd N as vintage public art. Download the free walking tour to spot Sin City classics like Benny Binion's Horseshoe that once illuminated Fremont St, or the Hacienda Horse and Rider that once hung over the Strip. Be sure to be on the premises at dusk to really witness the signs light up to really witness the beauty of the museum.
Poker lessons at MGM Grand
Owned by the eponymous Hollywood studio, the Grand liberally borrows Hollywood themes. Flashing LED screens and computerized fountains add extra theatrics to the 100,000lb, 45ft-tall bronze lion statue at the casino's entrance. It's free to wander around the sights, but the real draw is the free poker lessons that take place every day at 10:30am and 6pm. Arrive early, because they fill up fast.
When the Mirage’s trademark artificial volcano erupts with a roar out of a 3-acre lagoon, it inevitably brings traffic on the Strip to a screeching halt. Be on the lookout for wisps of smoke escaping from the top, signaling that the fiery Polynesian-style inferno, with a soundtrack by a Grateful Dead drummer and an Indian tabla musician, is about to begin.
Aria Fine Art Collection
Fifteen large-scale art installations, contemporary sculptures and abstract paintings by some of the world's top artists add a dab of substance to the glitzy Aria Campus. Key works include Maya Lin's 84ft-long reclaimed-silver cast of the Colorado River overhanging the front desk, Tony Cragg's stainless-steel towers and a giant LED installation by Jenny Holzer.
Also look for works by Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Tatsuo Miyajima, Nancy Rubins and Isa Genzken. Pick up a brochure from the nearest Aria concierge, or download it from the website.
Grand Canal Shoppes
Don't be surprised to find Hollywood celebrities inside this high-design shopping mall. Anchored by the three-story department store Barneys New York, the Palazzo's shops are dazzling. Bauman Rare Books carries rare, signed editions and antiquarian titles. If you can resist the temptation to go home with a rare Shakespeare (for a cool $12,000), the experience of perusing literary history is free.
Say hi to the giant praying mantis art installation as you enter this outdoor complex built from decommissioned shipping containers and streel-framed cubes. Inside are mostly indie boutiques, bars, restaurants, galleries and even a pole-dancing studio.
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