63 free things to see & do in Las Vegas
(also see my separate page about cheap thrills)
Last update: July 2021
On the strip
- Bellagio 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.
- Caesar's moving statues. At the end of the Forum Shops there are large Roman statues that come to tell 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.
- Big Elvis show. 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...)
- Lounge shows. Many of the casinos have free lounge shows with really good bands. These bands are good enough that you'd pay money to see them elsewhere, but in Vegas it's free. (more)
- 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)
- Runway fashion shows. In the Fashion Show Mall on weekends, every hour from noon to 5pm, near Saks Fifth Avenue/Nordstrom. (more)
- Flair Bartenders. At Circus Circus' Vince Neil's Party, Palazzo's Fusion Mixology, Flamingo's Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville, Harrahs' Carnival Court, Linq's Catalyst, Bally's Fuel Bar, Rio's Voodoo Lounge.
Pirate show at Treasure Island.It closed in 2013. :(
- Fremont Street Experience (FSE). Downtown, there's a massive overhead canopy, and at night it comes to life, showing amazing animations choreographed to popular music. The canopy is essentially the world's largest computer monitor, over five football fields long, and filled with over 12.5 million computer-controlled LED lights which faithfully reproduce video and animation. It came about because the downtown casinos banded together to finance a spectacle to draw people away from the strip, after the big megaresort casinos that started appearing on the strip in the 90s nearly put downtown out of business. Before settling on the FSE, 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. 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. Shows are every hour on the hour, from sunset until midnight. (Visit the official website.)
- Music concerts. On three different stages nightly. (more)
- Sunset Stampede at Sam's Town. 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)
- 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.
Spectacles & Photo-ops
On the strip
These are listed from South to North for those doing a self-guided walking or public bus tour.
- 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.
- 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. See the Vegas skyline from above, spectacular at night. Admission is free, though I imagine you'll be expected to order drinks.
- Pyramid, Sphinx, Diagonal Elevators, and Atrium. The Luxor has four things you might want to see: The building itself is a big black pyramid (sadly adorned with advertising these days), and at night it shoots a super-bright light into the sky. In the front there's a large replica of the Sphinx from Egypt. 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. 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.
- New York City 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.
- 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. In the building with the giant Coke bottle. (more)
- Cosmopolitan art. 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." 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.
- Cosmopolitan 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.
Crazy Girls sculpture. (Removed 6/15/21.) This bronze sculpture was cast from molds of seven actual performers in the long-running topless lip-sync show. The sculpture is of their backsides, and amusingly, their butts are shiny from all the tourists rubbing them for, what, good luck? Outside Planet Hollywood. (more)
- Eiffel Tower. The Paris casino features a 1/3-scale Eiffel Tower. Go up the elevator to the observation deck for $16 or so.
- Bellagio chandelier & conservatory. See the $10 million, 2100 square foot chandelier 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. And check out the 14,000 square foot conservatory garden, a dazzling mix of plants, architecture, and lights, which changes with the season.
- Caesars Palace. The outside grounds contain replicas of famous Roman sculptures, and there's the casino itself, which was modeled after the Pantheon. Also check out the free show of moving statues at the end of their shopping mall. (See near the top of this page for 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.
- 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)
- 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)
- Mirage Dolphin "Habitat". Controversial because at least a dozen of the Mirage dolphins have died, the conditions are reportedly very poor, and captivity itself is considered cruel.
- 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 are a thing of the past, though.)
- 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 and architecture throughout.
- Magic Tricks. The staff at Houdini's Magic Shop are always doing tricks in the store. Various locations including Circus Circus, New York New York, Planet Hollywood, and the Venetian. (more)
- The Mutha-F**king Tower! The Strat is the iconic tower of the Las Vegas skyline, and the largest one 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, including watching people do the Sky Jump where they literally jump off the tower, guided by cables which slow them down when they get to the ground. The rides at the top and the taxi area at ground level were featured prominently in the movie Sharknado 4.
- 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).
Between the Strip and Downtown
- 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.
- Downtown Container Park. Features 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)
- 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.)
- 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)
- World's Largest TV screen. Circa casino has the largest sportsbook in the world, which features an incredible three-story TV display.
- 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 at Main Street Station. See a number of antiques and curiosities. (more)
- Berlin Wall at Main Street Station. A 10-foot chunk of the infamous Berlin Wall is inexplicably installed in the men's bathroom.
- 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 Guiness 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)
- 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 at Sam's Town. Stroll through the large indoor park featuring real trees ten stories high, and animatronic animals.
- 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.
Other free things
- Free gambling lessons. Many casinos offer them. 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...)
- Vegas4Locals has a huge list of free things to see and do