Las Vegas is well known for some of its more expensive attractions: its gambling culture, but also its pricey hotels, restaurants, and live shows. However, if you’re travelling to Vegas on a budget, don’t despair. There are free and fun activities that you can add to your itinerary, and as an added bonus, they’ll take you off the beaten path where you can explore some of Vegas’s hidden gems. Here are seven exciting free things to do in Las Vegas.
1. Walk the Fremont Street Experience
When you think of Vegas, you probably think of the Strip, but in the early days of the city, all the action was located in downtown Las Vegas, in the northern part of the city. One of the central parts of downtown is the Fremont Street Experience, a vibrant pedestrian mall known for its extravagant light shows. Even if you don’t go into any of the casinos or shops, there’s still plenty of glitz and glamour to enjoy just by walking around. They host free concerts throughout the year, plus you’ll enjoy the Viva Vision light show, running on the hour on the world’s second-largest video screen. If you do have some cash to hand you can ride the SlotZilla zip line for a pretty spectacular view of the light show.
2. Watch the Bellagio Fountain Show
Even if you’ve never been to Vegas before, you’ve probably seen pictures of the Bellagio’s iconic fountains. One of the best free attractions in the city is watching the fountain show, which takes place every 15 to 30 minutes throughout the day and night. Watching the water is incredibly calming, and the entire show is choreographed to music. This is an excellent family-friendly attraction that adults and children alike will enjoy—just make sure to stake out a spot well before the show starts so you can see everything. If you have a little more time, head inside and check out the Bellagio’s conservatory and botanical gardens as well. It’s simultaneously elegant and kitschy, and a great place for a photo.
3. Drive out to Seven Magic Mountains
A short drive south of Las Vegas, out in the desert, there is a collection of brightly coloured rocks. This is an art installation by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, called Seven Magic Mountains. When you want a breather from the hustle-and-bustle of Vegas, take a ride out here and experience the dramatic colours and landscape. Be sure to take your camera to capture the drama of the installation against the surrounding desert.
4. Watch a show at Circus Circus
Although many of Vegas’s most notable shows are very expensive, you can get a taste of the magic with a free performance at Circus Circus.
Performances happen every half hour, starting at 11:30am. You’ll find trapeze artists, acrobats, clowns, and much more. The high flying show is fun and is a great way to take a break between casinos or bars. Circus Circus is also one of the most family-friendly resorts on the Strip, and if your kids are getting restless you can take them to the Adventuredome to let off some steam. Although the rides cost money, you may be able to get a good deal if you book in advance.
5. Stroll the Grand Canal Shoppes
The Venetian is one of the most iconic resorts in Vegas. Don’t miss a stroll through the Grand Canal Shoppes, which are designed to recreate the architecture and atmosphere of Venice. Even if you don’t buy anything, the spectacle will be more than enough to keep you entertained. You can even take a (paid) gondola ride around the mall, and there are Venetian themed street performers in a recreation of St. Mark’s Square. It’s as close as you can get to Venice without actually going there. After you’ve explored the mall, be sure to head in the direction of the Palazzo, where you’ll find the atrium waterfall between the two resorts. It’s the perfect place for a photo and maybe even a kiss if you’re with your significant other.
6. Tour the Ethel M Chocolate Factory
If you have a car, take a drive out to Henderson to tour this unique chocolate factory, which was founded by Forrest Mars Sr. after he retired from Mars. Tours are free, and you’ll get to see all of the chocolate-making in action. Outside, you can stroll through the on-site botanical cactus garden, which features hundreds of cactus species within four acres. If you are willing to spend some money, you can attend a chocolate tasting session or purchase some gourmet chocolate to take home as a souvenir.
7. Watch TV at CBS Television City Research Center
CBS Television City Research Center is located inside the MGM Grand. Here you can watch unaired pilot episodes for new shows that CBS is considering putting on the air—which means you may get to see the next big hit before everyone else does. You also have the chance to help with testing new commercials and even sometimes the testing of fun new products like gaming systems and smartphones. You’ll take a short touchscreen survey afterwards, and you’ll get a goodie bag of merchandise from popular CBS shows as a reward. If you’re a pop culture junkie, this is a unique experience that you shouldn’t miss out on.
Finally: Things to remember when travelling to the USA
Remember when travelling to the USA that you’ll need to fill in a type of tourist visa called an ESTA online before you go. Make sure you do it at least three days in advance to give it time to be approved. Also, medical costs in the USA are very high if you have an accident or are taken ill, so take out our Go2 Travel Insurance cover to protect yourself. Have a great trip!