82 free things to see & do in Las Vegas
(also see my separate page about cheap thrills)
Last update: September 2021
Spectacles & Selfie Opportunities
On the strip
- Welcome to Las Vegas sign. Take your picture at an iconic monument, a Vegas landmark since 1959. It's in the median on Las Vegas Blvd. (the Strip), 3/4 of a mile South of Mandalay Bay. In 2008 the county finally opened parking lot in the median, then in 2015 added a signalized crossing, so tourists no longer have to risk death by running across Las Vegas Blvd. to get under the sign. Here's the Wikipedia article on the welcome sign. 5200 S. Las Vegas Blvd. Take the Deuce bus straight there.
- Worst mass shooting site. It's macabre, but a lot of people want to see it: On Oct. 1, 2017, a man busted out the window of his 32nd-floor room at the Mandalay Bay and shot people at a nearby outdoor concert, killing 58 of them, making it the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. You can't tell which room he was in from the ground, but you can still look at the building and contemplate the gravity of the event. (more)
- Rooftop bar, Skyfall Lounge at Delano (one of the hotel towers at Mandalay Bay). See the Vegas skyline from above, spectacular at night. Admission is free, though I imagine you'll be expected to order drinks if you want to stay for a while.
- Walk of Stars. This is Vegas' version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The sidewalk on the entire west side of the strip has stars placed in it, honoring various people (mostly entertainers) important to Vegas history.
- Pyramid. The building itself is a big black pyramid (sadly adorned with advertising these days). At night it shoots a super-bright light beam into the sky. MGM Resorts claims that it's "arguably the brightest light beam on earth on and on a clear night is said to be visible all the way from L.A.!"
- Sphinx. In the front there's a huge replica of the Sphinx from Egypt. It's 101 feet high and two stories taller than the original.
- Atrium. Inside, the
rooms are all on the perimeter of the pyramid, with the center
being a huge open-air atrium, and looking down from the aisle on
any upper floor is quite a sight.
- Diagonal Elevators. To get there, the hotel elevators travel diagonally along the inside edge of the pyramid.
- Medieval Castle. The Excalibur's architecture is a throwback to the time of King Arthur.
- MGM Lion. The bronze lion outside the MGM Grand is 45 feet tall, weighs 50 tons, and is the largest bronze sculpture in the country.
- Manhattan Skyline. The exterior of the New York New York casino features a NYC skyline, including an impressively large replica of the Statue of Liberty. You can also walk a replica Brooklyn Bridge. Incidentally, "Manhattan Skyline" is the best track on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
- Naughty Sushi. NYNY has a combination Chinese + Sushi restaurant inexplicably called "Chin Chin", because that's the child's word for "penis" in Japanese (e.g., "peepee"). The more you know.
- Hello Kitty mural. At the Hello Kitty Café in "The Park", between NY NY and Park MGM.
- Bliss Dance sculpture. Towering 40 feet high, the sculpture, which debuted at Burning Man, "celebrates the strength of a woman". At "The Park", between NY NY and Park MGM.
- Giant Coke Bottle. Towering four stories high, it adorns the outside of a shopping center. Across the street from Park MGM.
- World of Coca-Cola. More store than museum, but they do have a few artifacts, and you can snap a selfie with the polar bear. (more)
- Cosmopolitan lobby. In the lobby: "Eight 15-foot digital columns and a panel spanning the length of the front desk continuously display a curated library of digital art, transforming the space into an immersive living narrative that incorporates elegant, fantastical and often poetic interpretations of life's travels."
- Cosmopolitan, elsewhere. "Hundreds of contemporary art works by both established and emerging artists from all over the world can be found throughout The Cosmopolitan. Designed to inspire discovery, the collection includes large-scale paintings, photography, mixed media works, sculptures, murals and more. Artists featured include Maya Hayuk, Marilyn Minter, Rosemarie Fiore, Alex Da Corte, Jonathan Borofsky, Nicola Lopez, Siobham Liddell, Sylvia Hommert and many others." There's also an Art-o-Mat vending machine, that vends small pieces of art.
- Chandelier lounge. Spanning two stories, there's probably not a more impressive chandelier installation anywhere.
- Robots making drinks. A bar called Tipsy Robot (in Planet Hollywood's Miracle Mile mall) has robotic arms preparing drinks. You can watch them go at it without ordering anything.
- Eiffel Tower. The Paris casino features a 1/3-scale Eiffel Tower. Go up the elevator to the observation deck for $16 or so.
- Water Fountains. Amazing choreographed water fountains, set to popular music, right in front of the Bellagio hotel. The Las Vegas Sun says it cost $40 million to build. Shows begin at Noon on the weekends and 3:00pm M-F, running every half hour until 8:00pm, and then every 15 minutes through midnight.
- Ceiling Glass Sculpture. See the $10 million, 2100 square foot ceiling glass sculpture, featuring 2000 hand-blown glass blossoms that weigh about 40,000 pounds, supported by a 10,000-pound steel armature, all by renowned artist Dale Chihuly. Every day it takes 27 person-hours to clean.
- Conservatory. The 14,000 square foot conservatory garden is a dazzling mix of plants, architecture, and lights, which changes with the season. Readers tell me it's the #1 must-see in Vegas.
- Site of Ocean's 11. Much of the Ocean's Eleven movie was filmed here, including the final scene in front of the fountains.
- Chocolate Fountain. Certified by Guinness World Records, it circulates two tons of chocolate per minute and is 27 feet tall. (Know that most of the world's chocolate is produced with child labor, and much of that slave child labor. (WaPo) Your editor buys only Fair Trade chocolate.)
- Site of Tupak Shakur shooting. The famous rapper was shot to death in 1996 near the Strip, and there's a makeshift memorial in the form of a telephone pole covered in graffiti by fans. From the southeast corner of the Strip and Flamingo Rd. (i.e., Bally's), walk east about 1/3 of a mile (about 7 minutes). The pole is right before Koval Ln. Interestingly, Google Street View shows a fan taking a picture of the memorial pole.
- The outside grounds contain replicas of famous Roman sculptures.
- Between Caesars and the Mirage is a replica of the Trevi Fountain.
- The casino itself was modeled after the Pantheon.
- Outside the Forum Shops is a huge video marquee that displays dazzling graphics.
- At the end of the Forum Shops there are large Roman statues that come to life and tell a story, kind of like a mini play. The acoustics are horrible and it's hard to make out the dialogue, and one of the statues looks like Keanu Reeves startled by headlights, but hey, it's free. Every hour on the hour, for a 7-minute show.
- Flamingo Wildlife Habitat. See colorful Chilean flamingos, Ring Teal ducks, Sacred Ibis, pelicans, swans, ducks, koi fish, and turtles. Open dawn to dusk, pelican feedings at 8:30am & 2pm. (more)
- Big Elvis show at Harrah's. Popular 40-minute show starring Pete Vallee, who reportedly weighed 960 pounds before slipping down to a mere 450. He's one of the few people to be honored on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars. Shows run three times in the afternoons, in the Harrahs piano bar. (more...)
- Mirage Volcano & Rainforest. The volcano is outside and fires up at 8, 9, and 10pm. Inside the hotel's front entrance there's a rainforest with 60-foot tall palm trees under a 100-foot high dome, where, according to the Mirage, "Six full-time gardeners spend over 240 hours each week to maintain the more than 100 different types of plants." (more)
- Venetian Canals. The Venetian Casino features canals out front. For a fee you can ride in a gondola and the gondolier will sing to you. (A 10%+ tip is customary.)
- Venetian Lobby. Some of the most breathtaking architecture on the strip. See photo.
- Palazzo waterfall. A magnificent two-story waterfall, right outside the entrance to the Grand Canal Shoppes.
- Pirate Ship. The Treasure Island casino features a much-photographed replica pirate ship outside in a lake. (The pirate battle shows closed in 2013, though.)
- Runway fashion shows. In the Fashion Show Mall on weekends, every hour from noon to 5pm, near Saks Fifth Avenue/Nordstrom. (more)
- Wynn lobby and casino. The marble walkway and dazzling indoor garden is some of the most over-the-top excess you'll see in Vegas. The very definition of luxury casino.
- Resorts World. The newest hotel/casino on the Strip is also the most expensive ever constructed: $4.3 billion. At that price, it's no wonder that there's all kinds of amazing art throughout, both paintings and sculptures.
- Circus Acts. In the Circus Circus Midway, every hour from 11:30am to 10:30pm (M-Th), to 11:30pm (F/Sun), and to 12:30pm (Sat). Way better than you'd expect for a free show. (more)
- Flair Bartenders. Bartenders make drinks with showmanship. At Circus Circus' Vince Neil's Party, and also at Palazzo's Fusion Mixology, Flamingo's Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville, Harrahs' Carnival Court, Linq's Catalyst, Bally's Fuel Bar, Rio's Voodoo Lounge.
- Magic Tricks. The staff at Houdini's Magic Shop are always doing tricks in the store. Besides Circus Circus, also at New York New York, Planet Hollywood, and the Venetian. (more)
- Strat tower. It's the iconic tower of the Las Vegas skyline, and the largest tower west of the Mississippi. For a fee you can take the elevator to the observation deck, where there are scary rides, but you can view from the ground for free.
- Watch the Sky Jumpers. For about $120, you can strap into a harness at the top of the tower and jump off, where the cables will slow you down as you approach the ground. From the sidewalk you can watch the people jumping off and screaming.
- Sharknado 4 scene location. The taxi area was featured prominently in the movie Sharknado 4. So were the rides at the top of the tower, but tower admission isn't free.
- City of Las Vegas arches. Most of the Vegas strip technically isn't in Las Vegas, it's in the city of Paradise, NV (even though the strip casinos go by Las Vegas, NV for postal addresses). Las Vegas proper starts around the Strat, and in 2020 the City built some colorful neon arches across Las Vegas Blvd. to welcome visitors to the city.
- Movie scene locations. Lots of movies have been shot all over Vegas, mostly on the Strip. Las Vegas Jaunt has a nice list of which movies scenes were filmed where (item #43).
- Showgirls sign. Twenty-six-foot tall showgirls adorn a sign that lights up. A four-minute walk from the arches (above).
- Pawn Stars pawn shop. Visit the real pawn shop from the TV show. Parking is free, admission is free, photos are allowed, and at least one of the stars is usually around. For $100 you can get a guaranteed meet-and-greet with the stars.
- Witness an Elvis wedding. There are a number of wedding chapels between the Strip and downtown, and most couples are happy to have an audience. Some couples opt for a traditional wedding, but there are also themed weddings like Elvis, Dracula, 50s/60s, Disco, Gangster, Star Trek, Pirate, and a gazillion others.
- Quirky shops and a rotating array of large outdoor art pieces, including the fire-spewing mantis, which merits its own entry (below).
- Fire-spewing praying mantis sculpture. Straight outta Burning Man, this huge metallic sculpture menaces the Downtown Container Park, shooting flames from its antennae six stories high. Dude. Oh, and it wouldn't be complete without the 4000-watt sound system. Operates Thursday through Saturday nights. While you're at the Container Park, check out the big treehouse with the 33' tall slide (more)
- Heart Attack Grill. See the infamous restaurant that's proud of killing its own customers. Employing a hospital theme, patients don hospital gowns and a wristband before ordering from waitstaff dressed like doctors and nurses. Menu items include the Quadruple Bypass Burger (in the Guinness Book of Records for being 9982 calories), the 1/2 lb. Coronary Dog, Flatliner Fries (cooked in lard), butterfat milkshakes (served with a pat of butter), wine served in an IV drip bag, and jello shots served from a giant syringe. There are candy cigarettes for children. Anyone who finishes the Quadruple Bypass Burger gets wheeled to the exit in a wheelchair. At least one customer has died while eating there, another collapsed into unconsciousness and had to be hospitalized, their first spokesman (575 lbs.) died at age 29, and their second spokesman (and daily eater at the establishment) died of a heart attack at the bus stop outside. Customers over 350 lbs. eat free. There's a screed on the door railing against the fact that local law requires them to be non-smoking. (more from Mashed, Vegas Food & Fun) (At the corner of Fremont and Las Vegas Blvd.; map)
- Witness a wedding at Denny's. This one seems downright depressing, but the downtown Denny's actually has a wedding chapel, and most couples are happy to have an audience. (Side note, the $199 wedding package includes two Grand Slam breakfasts, redeemable on the couple's next visit.)
- Viva Vision. A massive overhead canopy is the world's largest video screen, over four football fields long, and filled with nearly 50 million LED lights. At night it comes to life, showing amazing animations choreographed to popular music. In the early 90s the megaresorts that had been appearing on the strip were sucking up tourist attention and nearly put the downtown casinos out of business, so the downtown casinos banded together to finance a spectacle to lure visitors to the downtown area. Before settling on the video screen, ideas such as a system of canals were floated (no pun intended) (okay, maybe a little). An upgrade to the resolution in 2004 (which I witnessed) took the video quality from cheesy to damn impressive, and it was upgraded again in 2019, quadrupling the resolution and making it seven times brighter. It's easy to find: just go to Fremont Street and look up. If you're on the Strip just hop on the Deuce bus which goes straight to Fremont. Note, the screen is often mistakenly called the "Fremont Street Experience"; technically, the FSE is the big pedestrian mall where the screen is located, and the screen itself is called Viva Vision. Shows are every hour on the hour, from 6:00 pm until 2:00 am. (Visit the official website.)
- Music concerts. On three different stages nightly. (more)
- Blarney Stone at The D. This is not the Blarney Stone, but rather a Blarney stone, from Blarney Castle in Cork, Ireland.
- Real One Million Dollars. Take your picture with a display of one million dollars in cash. At Binion's, downtown. (more)
- Vegas Vickie. The iconic neon sign which first appeared on Fremont Street in 1980, now graces the lobby at the Circa casino/hotel.
- Largest indoor bar in Nevada. The Mega Bar at Circa spans 165 feet.
- World's Largest indoor TV screen. Circa casino has the largest sportsbook in the world, which features an incredible three-story, 78 million pixel TV screen.
- Studio 71 at Plaza. A room next to the casino with an over-the-top, sparkly+neon disco theme. See Vital Vegas' video if you don't mind spoiling the surprise.
- Antiques. See a number of antiques and curiosities. (more)
- Berlin Wall. A 10-foot chunk of the infamous Berlin Wall is inexplicably installed in the men's bathroom.
- Area 15. Massive, freaky, indoor entertainment and art complex. Hard to describe. Admission is free, but most of the interesting bits cost money. See my Things to Do in Vegas page for sample offerings and prices.
- Mermaids at Silverton. The 117,000-gallon aquarium features thousands of tropical fish, along with mermaids swimming among them. These aren't actors dressed as mermaids, these are real mermaids, since mermaids are a totally real thing. [Editor's note: No, they're not.]
- Mystic Falls Park. Stroll through the large indoor park featuring real trees ten stories high, and animatronic animals.
- Sunset Stampede. Chronicles the Western pioneer experience with music, dancing water, and a laser light show. Shows at 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10pm daily, 5111 Boulder Highway. (more)
- Seven Magic Mountains. Art installation in the desert, featuring several columns of brightly-colored rocks stacked on top of each other. About half an hour drive south of the Strip. (more)
- Wheel of Misfortune. Another larger-than-life desert art installation, about a 30-minute drive from the strip.
- Free gambling lessons. Many casinos offer them, and despite their conflict of interest, they're generally pretty accurate, not steering you towards the worst bets and strategies. See the list at Las Vegas Jaunt (item #44).
- Free slot pulls. Downtown, the Four Queens and Binion's each give you one free spin on a slot machine, with the chance to win up to $2500. I won a hat!
- CBS Television City. See and rate TV pilots before they hit television. There's often compensation and prizes. Inside the MGM Grand. (more...)
- Collect the "Girls to Your Room" cards. Poorly-paid workers ("porn slappers") hand out advertising cards on the Strip for "Girls to Your Room", featuring scantily-clad models (who are not the ones who show up if you call). Lots of people collect these cards for fun, trying to see how many different cards they can amass. The porn slappers move around, but generally work south- to mid-strip, on the east side.
- Convention Center Loop, aka Elon Musk's Tunnel. Runs from one side of the convention center to the other. Free for convention-goers, but I don't think they check credentials. It's trippy and it's worth riding for the experience. (more...)
- Downtown Loop bus. It runs between the Strat (north Strip) and Circa (downtown casino area), stopping at the Pawn Stars pawn shop along the way, as well as some other places. Who knows why the City is so generous with this bus. Runs 11am-6pm Sun-Thu, and 3-10pm Fri/Sat. (see route map)
- Mandalay Bay Tram. This free tram starts at Mandalay Bay, with stops at Luxor and Excalibur.
- Aria Express Tram. Three stations: Park MGM, Aria/Cosmo, and Bellagio.
- Mirage/TI Tram. Runs every 5 minutes between Mirage and Treasure Island, with the trip taking 90 seconds.
Between the Strip and Downtown
Downtown (west to east)
Free things to DO (not just see)