I know, I know—what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But if you’re not careful, it could be the contents of your wallet, savings account, and retirement fund that stay in Vegas, too.
The Top 13 Free Things to Do in Las Vegas
While hotels come cheap in Las Vegas, the attractions and shows do not. That’s why you should supplement your trips to the Las Vegas casinos, roller coasters, Cirque du Soleil shows, and other expensive endeavors with these free attractions. Here are 13 fun, free things to do in Las Vegas on your next trip.
Bellagio Fountains and Conservatory & Botanical Garden
The Bellagio fountains pop up in just about every Las Vegas movie ever made, including the iconic ending to Ocean’s Eleven. Create your own crime caper or rom-com ending and catch the Fountains of Bellagio in action; the free show plays every 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the time of day, and watching it is one of the best free things to do in Las Vegas.
Thrillingly synced to pop and classical music, hundreds of separate fountains and water features shoot up into the air with the Italianate hotel facade as their stunning backdrop. When you’ve had your fountain fill, take a leisurely stroll through Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Garden, where horticulturalists maintain an ever-changing array of florals, gazebos, bridges, and ponds.
The gardens are also free for visitors and provide a nice respite from the relentless desert sun.
Fremont Street Experience
Equal parts mall, concert venue, and light show, the Fremont Street Experience takes everything that Las Vegas is known for (glitter, lights, and gambling) and rolls it into one five-block area. The main attraction here is a barrel vault canopy aglow with 12.5 million LED lights that lead pedestrians to vintage casinos such as the Golden Nugget and the Four Queens. Guests can also enjoy free concerts from hard-rocking headliners all summer long.
Art at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
And you thought Las Vegas had no culture. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has amassed one of the most exclusive art collections in the country, providing a highbrow break from the Strip’s bare skin and penny slots.
You’ll find fascinating installations throughout The Cosmopolitan’s public spaces, including the lobby, the stairwells, and even the parking garage.
CBS Television City Research Center at MGM Grand
You might not be a network exec, but you can still have your voice heard. At the CBS Television City Research Center at MGM Grand, you can sample brand-new TV shows and opine on potential pilots during the hour-long screenings. It’s one of the best free things to do in Las Vegas.
Head into one of the studios to sample program offerings by CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, and other Viacom-owned channels. Register your opinion on a test monitor and consider yourself part of television history before returning to your regularly scheduled vacation.
Circus Acts at Circus Circus Las Vegas
Looking for free shows in Las Vegas? The whole family will approve of the circus acts at Circus Circus. This special spot on the Strip has long entertained guests with its Carnival Midway and countless circus acts. In fact, the resort contains the largest permanent circus in the world.
A rotating cast of jugglers, acrobats, aerialists, and roller-skating stuntmen delights kids of every age (and the cash-strapped parents toting their new carnival prizes). Cap off the entertainment with a rousing show from Circus Circus’ resident clowns on the Midway’s main stage. Let the fact that all this entertainment is free assuage any lingering clown phobia.
Downtown Container Park
A giant mechanical praying mantis welcomes visitors into this open-air park made from repurposed shipping containers. Here you’ll find shops, restaurants, bars, and a stage for free live music performances. Kids can enjoy The Treehouse, a play area with a slide and building blocks, up until 9:00 p.m. each day (when the park becomes adults only).
Wildlife Habitat at Flamingo Las Vegas
You’ll likely encounter a variety of colorful creatures on the Las Vegas Strip, from partying bachelorettes with anatomically correct lollipops to celebrities on their baddest behavior. Catch a glimpse of a different kind of flamboyance at Flamingo Las Vegas, with its habitat chock-full of the pink-hued birds.
A flock (actually called a flamboyance) of Chilean flamingos is on view at the free exhibit, which also features an array of swans, ducks, koi fish, and turtles who live among the foliage and waterfalls. The habitat is located next to the pool area and is one of the great free things to do in Las Vegas for hotel guests and non-guests alike.
Volcano at The Mirage
Well, this spot has really blown up. With a soundtrack by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Indian table drummer Zakir Hussain, the heart-pounding audio/visual attraction at the Polynesian-themed Mirage spews fire into the air beginning at 8:00 p.m. every night, making it one of the most memorable free shows in Las Vegas.
The smoke that the volcano spouts more than 100 feet above the water is actually perfumed with a pleasant pina colada scent (to cover up the odor of natural gas). The spectacle rivals the well-known fountains at Bellagio, another free Las Vegas attraction, just a half-mile up the Strip.
Pinball Hall of Fame
This nonprofit please-touch museum is actually the world’s largest pinball-machine collection. In 10,000 square feet of space, you’ll find an assortment of more than 200 pinball machines and arcade games from a half-century of gaming history. And every game is playable, from a 1992 Super Mario Bros. machine to the wooden 1947 Heavy Hitter.
Admission is free, although the games are coin-operated (25 or 50 cents per play). Just arm yourself with the knowledge that all excess revenue goes to charity. Who knew doing good could feel like such good old-fashioned fun?
Aquarium at Silverton Hotel and Casino
The only sting here is from jellyfish. Consistently ranked one of the top free things to do in Las Vegas, the massive saltwater aquarium at the Silverton Hotel and Casino will transport you from the parched desert to a vast tropical oasis. Around 117,000 gallons of saltwater house thousands of fish, sharks, stingrays, and reef plants. Interactive feeding demonstrations and a mermaid show round out the offerings.
Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign
A selfie with this famous sign is a must-have for your Instagram feed, and it won’t cost you a dime. Located at 5100 S. Las Vegas Boulevard, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign has marked the beginning of the Strip since 1959.
Ethel M. Chocolates
Located in nearby Henderson is one of the Vegas area’s most delicious attractions: Ethel M. Chocolates, where you can enjoy free samples, stroll through a botanical garden filled with cacti, and take a complimentary self-guided tour through the factory to see how the staff prepares pecan brittle, caramels, and other tasty treats.
First Friday in the Arts District
On the first Friday evening of every month, from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., the Arts District of downtown Las Vegas opens its streets for wallet- and family-friendly fun. Find a variety of artists and vendors hawking their wares, plus live music, activities for kids, and a fleet of food trucks for peckish revelers. Each month’s event features a different theme.
What to Wear in Vegas
Women’s Fancy Outfit for a Nice Dinner
Men’s Semi-Casual Outfit for Dinner on a Vacation
Women’s Business Casual Outfit for Travel with Carry-On
Men’s Amazon-Based Work Casual Summer Outfit
Women’s Casual Summer Dress Outfit from Nordstrom
Men’s Chill Outfit for Walking on a Trip
Swimsuit/Casual Women’s Outfit for a Cruise
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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2013. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Sarah Schlichter contributed to this story.