Gambling, stag and hen parties, weddings, pure curiosity…whatever you’re in Las Vegas for, there’s plenty to spend your money on. And spend it you will, with a smile on your face.
However, you needn’t be dropping dollars 24-7 and if you have gambled away your last dime, there's still plenty to see in Sin City that won’t cost a red cent. Here are just a few of our favourite free spots:
Here Come The Jets
The Bellagio fountains are among the world’s most wow-inducing water features, though that term doesn’t exactly do them justice. The amount of science (and money) behind the display is quite astonishing, but you needn’t understand how it's done to enjoy this dazzling dance of light and music.
Though the fountains go off every 30 minutes in the afternoon, the splendour isn’t really revealed in full until after dark. A room at the hotel may afford you an aerial view, but you can still hardly miss the jets (they reach a height of 460 ft /140m) from the street. Our top tip though is to grab a drink at the Fontana bar for the full front-row experience.
Nature vs Neon
If you do happen to pass by a little earlier, the Bellagio’s other free attraction, the Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, is great for whiling away an hour-or so. The seasonal colours and vibrant natural beauty offer a great contrast to the night’s neon, but the giant bugs, spades and trowels let you know you’re still in Vegas. Kew Gardens this ain’t.
Ring of Fire
Less dangerous and a lot easier to pronounce than Eyjafjallajökull, the Volcano at The Mirage is still able to stop traffic, the pedestrian kind anyway. A Strip staple since 1989, the swanky hotel’s big draw recently underwent a redesign by Bellagio fountain team WET, to the tune of $25 million. Bigger, better and louder, the choreographed fire dance now features music by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, who actually studied the science of volcanoes as research for their composition. A true spectacle, it’s perhaps the most awe-inspiring on the Strip.
City of Lights
If somehow you haven’t quite had your fix of lights on The Strip, the Fremont Street Experience downtown is the other big draw. Here where the city “began” – first hotel, first paved street - you can celebrate vintage Vegas in futuristic fashion, for free. The four block-long mall’s “Viva Vision” canopy is the biggest big screen in the world with 12.5 million LEDs. Current audiovisual evening extravaganzas include tributes to Queen, KISS and The Doors. Just try to get a good leaning spot if you want to avoid a stiff neck; it’s difficult looking at slots and blackjack tables when your head’s stuck at a 70-degree upwards angle.
FSE’s two stages also have concerts and/or DJs virtually every night and this summer is a 70s spectacular with free concerts from Sweet, Gloria Gaynor, Jefferson Starship and others.
Roar of The Wild
A nice daytime distraction – though it’s often difficult to tell day from night in this town – is a visit to the Lion Habitat at the MGM Grand. With Leo’s famous roaring greeting at the start of every MGM film etched into collective memory, the hotel would simply have to have a real lion, especially in Vegas. Up to six lions (descendants of Leo) are brought in every day by handler Keith Evans who shares a home with them at his ranch outside the city. The habitat’s see-through tunnel enables plenty of close-up big cat action.
Floods and (more) Fire
Vegas has made enough myths of its own over the years, but it also knows how to put a spin on the ancient tales. The Fall of Atlantis show at Caesars Palace Forum Shops is an every-hour-on-the-hour animatronic display telling the story of the destruction of the underwater metropolis.
Every bit as captivating as the fire, fury and floods is the 50,000-gallon aquarium behind the fountain where it takes place. Try and catch the show at 1PM or 5PM, for a chance to see feeding time for the sharks, puffer fish and other exotic inhabitants.
If you crave still more ancient gods in animatronic action, the more sedate Festival Fountain show at the other end of the complex, has Bacchus, Venus, Apollo and Pluto in conversation.
For more on how to make the most of your Las Vegas adventure, check out our post The Best Side Trips from Las Vegas.
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About the author: andrewAndrew Bowman
Andrew is an occasional contributor to the Virgin Atlantic blog. He lived in the Japanese countryside for two years until he could no longer resist the pull of London's galleries, pubs and clubs. He likes to pretend he can speak Japanese and also sometimes writes about music.