Las Vegas

37 Things You Can Do for Free in Las Vegas

What to do when the slots are through with you.

Photo courtesy of Circus Circus

Did you put all your savings into GameStop and AMC stock? Buy Bitcoin at the wrong time? There are plenty of reasons to be short on cash right now, but here's the good news: there's a lot of stuff to do in Las Vegas that won't cost you a dime. A few familiar free attractions (like the million-dollar cash exhibit at Binions and the Fall of Atlantis animatronic show at the Forum Shops) remain on hiatus after closing during the pandemic. Others are back in full swing. Just remember—while social-distancing restrictions are dropping by the day, you may still be asked to wear a mask on occasion. So bring one along just in case. Ultimately, the best plan is to be vaccinated when out and about. Be prepared and be safe while saving a few bucks on all the free stuff to do around town.

Grand Canal Shoppes
Photo courtesy of Grand Canal Shoppes

Make a wish with augmented reality

Take on a new sense of optimism with a visit to the Wishing Tree inside the Grand Canal Shoppes (on the second floor of the Venetian's Palazzo tower). Modeled after an Italian olive tree, the 20-foot-tall art installation is decorated with gold leaves and glass birds nesting within the branches. Scan a posted QR code to unlock an Instagram filter, allowing you to record a personalized wish, hit a button, and watch it swoosh into the branches on screen. 

glowing mantis
Photo courtesy of Downtown Container Park

See a praying mantis shoot fireballs at the Container Park

There are perks to visiting the Downtown Container Park after sundown. After going into hibernation during the pandemic, the outdoor shopping plaza's oversized praying mantis mascot is back in action near the front entrance. The 40-foot-long motorized insect likes to shoot fireballs from its antennae, often in sync to music. 

Spend an afternoon at the circus

If you don't have the money for a Cirque ticket, here's the next best thing. Free circus performances are back with a full schedule at Circus Circus. Shows at the Midway happen every hour Saturday and Sunday starting at 12:30 pm, Mondays starting at 1:30 pm, and Tuesday–Friday starting at 3:30 pm. Come by and see clowns, jugglers, aerialists, and more. The Flying Poemas, a trapeze act from Argentina, provide the biggest thrills.

first friday
First Friday | Photo by Craig Tanaka

Tap into your artistic side at First Friday

The artsy block party known as First Friday takes place, as the name suggests, on the first Friday of every month. After going digital during much of the pandemic, the event is welcoming visitors back in person with limited capacity. It helps to RSVP in advance. First Friday is the perfect opportunity to get familiar with the Downtown Arts District while enjoying a beer garden, art exhibits, music, and food. 
 

Howl at the moon at Mystic Falls

It's a few miles east of the Strip, but locals love Mystic Falls, an indoor park at the Sam's Town casino with a wild west mountain theme. Walk among the trees and you'll hear the sounds of birds chirping, wolves howling, and a rolling waterfall underneath a towering atrium. After going quiet for most of last year, laser and light shows resume on June 1, taking place every-other-hour between 2 pm and 10 pm.

bingo
Photo courtesy of Playstudios

Light up your Instagram feed with casino-themed art

It seems only natural for art and commerce to collide in Las Vegas, where Playstudios is recruiting local artists to design installations inspired by its MyVegas Bingo mobile game. The commissioned works, collectively known as Lucky Numbers, are oversized 200-pound bingo balls that make for convenient selfie stations. See for yourself at the front entrance of Mandalay Bay, near the volcano at the Mirage, under the Brooklyn Bridge at New York-New York, in the lobby of the Excalibur, and next to the check-in desks at the MGM Grand. 

Paris Las Vegas
Photo courtesy of Paris Las Vegas

Watch the lights of Paris sparkle

The 541-foot tall Eiffel Tower replica at the Paris casino is more than just 5,000 tons of twisted steel. The exterior hosts a colorful show of twinkling lights every 30 minutes between dusk and midnight. The timing unofficially coordinates with the Bellagio fountain shows across the street, creating a lively and vibrant visual in the mid-Strip skyline. 
 

Explore the Pioneer Trail

So much Las Vegas history is overlooked, but hiding in plain sight. The Pioneer Trail is a self-guided driving tour of 16 historic sites northwest of the Strip, beginning with the Springs Preserve and ending with Biltmore Village. The experience also provides a rare look into the often underrepresented history of Black culture in Las Vegas, including the Harrison Boarding House (where entertainers of color stayed when segregated from Strip hotel rooms) and the site of the short-lived Moulin Rouge, which became the first integrated casino in 1955.   
 

Get a look at the world's largest hunk of Gold

The largest gold nugget currently in existence was once an exhibit at (appropriately enough) the Golden Nugget in Downtown Las Vegas. However, if you want to see the Hand of Faith these days, take a quick road trip to the Golden Nugget in Laughlin, where all 61 pounds of it are on display in the lobby.   

Watch fish swim at one of three aquariums

The free mermaid shows remain on hiatus at the Silverton casino, but you can still check out the 40,000-gallon aquarium at the adjacent Bass Pro Shops, along with a waterfall, trout stream, and fun outdoorsy design. On the Strip, the Forum Shops at Caesars have their own 50,000-gallon aquarium near the Cheesecake Factory and Nike shop. Not to be outdone, the Mirage has a 20,000-gallon tank that's a little smaller, but makes an even bolder impression as part of the decor in the hotel lobby. No matter which one you visit, expect to be greeted with a wide array of tropical fish.   
 

Visit the Boulder Dam Museum

The Hoover Dam may not be open for tours at the moment, but you can still visit the Boulder Dam Museum. (And yes, Boulder Dam was the official name before it was changed to honor the president who brought us the Great Depression.) The free attraction is on the first floor of the Boulder Dam Hotel, a historic structure built in 1933 while the dam was under construction. The museum not only documents the engineering behind the modern marvel, but also the danger and struggles faced by the workers who built it under the hot Nevada sun.  
 

Go back in time at the Golden Gate casino

After opening in 1906, the Golden Gate still stands as the oldest operating casino resort in Las Vegas. Check out some of the history with an artifact display in the lobby that includes 113-year-old gaming ledgers, an authentic model of the first telephone in Vegas, and Prohibition-era whiskey bottles discovered in the walls during construction.  

Fremont Street
Fremont Street Experience | Photo courtesy of Black Raven Films

Watch a giant TV screen on Fremont Street

The main attraction of Downtown Las Vegas is the Fremont Street Experience, a five-block pedestrian mall surrounded by neon lights and marquees. Most of it sits underneath a 1,400-foot-long canopy outfitted with the world's largest LED screen. Dubbed Viva Vision, it recently underwent a $32-million upgrade, utilizing more than 16 million pixels for ultra high-def imagery and trippy 3D-like effects. Themed video shows take place throughout the night, usually on the hour. Fremont Street is also welcoming back live music on June 1.

Walk the Las Vegas Strip

The stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard between Russell and Sahara is commonly known as the Strip. It's more than four miles of hotels, casinos, overpriced gift shops, and everything else you expect Las Vegas to be. From the giant sphinx in front of the Luxor to the half-size replica of the Eiffel Tower at Paris, you've got plenty of selfie ops to round out a Vegas vacation. 

Bellagio
Photo courtesy of Bellagio

Marvel at the Fountains of Bellagio

As far as iconic Vegas images go, it's hard to beat the Fountains of Bellagio. Gather around the massive lake in front of the resort and watch as more than 1,200 nozzles shoot water straight into the air with the help of 4,500 lights. Each show is set to music with songs by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Andrea Bocelli, and Celine Dion providing the soundtrack. Shows are usually every half hour in the afternoon and every 15 minutes at night, but could be cancelled at any time due to high winds.

The Mirage
Photo courtesy of The Mirage

Feel the heat of an erupting volcano at the Mirage

Before you even step foot inside the Mirage, check out the explosive volcano show out front. The elaborate display produces a lava simulation (with fireballs for good measure) set to music created by Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead and Indian musician Zakir Hussain. The finale includes an eruption 60 feet into the air that's so intense, you'll feel the heat from inside your taxi on Las Vegas Boulevard. Shows are on the hour between 8 pm and 11 pm nightly.  

St. Mark's Square
Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist

Step into old-world Italy at St. Mark's Square

St. Mark's Square is a centralized social hub in the heart of the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian. It's modeled after the Renaissance era of Venice, complete with street performers, passing gondola rides, and as much historic architecture as you can manage in a shopping mall. If you actually want to spend a few bucks and grab a bite to eat, you've got a choice of three Italian restaurants: Brera Osteria, Canaletto, and Mercato della Pescheria.  

Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, Las Vegas
Photo by Bryan Hainer

See where Pawn Stars is filmed

The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop is the setting for the Pawn Stars reality show, which runs (virtually nonstop) on the History Channel. Check it out for yourself and browse the unusual and often historic artifacts for sale. Just know there's often a line to enter and no guarantee you'll see anyone you recognize from TV.

Bellagio conservatory
Photo courtesy of Bellagio

Stop and smell the roses at the Bellagio

The Conservatory and Botanical Gardens has free floral exhibits that change with the season (and Chinese New Year), covering nearly 14,000 square feet underneath a 50-foot-high atrium. The intricate designs, featuring tens of thousands of flowers, are planned a full year in advance. It's also one of the most photographed places on the Strip. Admission has been staggered since the onset of the pandemic to limit crowds. You may have a short wait before being allowed to enter.
 

Tour a chocolate factory

The Ethel M Chocolate Factory in Henderson has free self-guided tours, where you watch candy being made from a long viewing window. Stick around and explore the four-acre Botanical Cactus Garden outside. It has more than 300 species of plants and is especially colorful when decorated for the winter holidays. 

Visit a museum dedicated to cannabis at Acres

Legal weed is a thing in Nevada now, and it feels like Vegas is overloaded with dispensaries. Acres stands out from the crowd with its own museum dedicated to the history of cannabis, including a terpene station, vintage High times magazine covers, and a World War II-era parachute made from hemp.

Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist

Stare death in the face with Bonnie and Clyde's car at Whiskey Pete's

Check out the vehicle affectionately known as the "Bonnie and Clyde Death Car" at Whiskey Pete's just outside Vegas in Primm. The bullet-riddled 1934 Ford Deluxe in which the gangster duo met their demise is proudly on display in the casino. As the signs around it are eager to point out, yes this is the real thing. Whiskey Pete's also happens to be a welcome bathroom break while driving between Las Vegas and Los Angeles
 

Fall in love at the Waterfall Atrium

Take a break from the action with a photo op at the Waterfall Atrium. You'll find it in the blurred lines of where the main Venetian hotel tower connects with the Palazzo tower. Between a two-story waterfall, the word "LOVE" spelled in 12-foot-tall ruby red steel letters, and more than a few seasonal decorations hanging around, it's one of the best places on the Strip to snap a selfie.

Walk among the flowers at the Wynn Resort

The lobby of the Wynn Hotel is loaded with trees, plants, and elaborate colorful floral installations that include a 20-foot-tall hot air balloon and a 16-foot-wide carousel. It's not a destination as much as something to enjoy while on your way to somewhere else.  
 

Browse the shops in Antique Alley downtown

Even if you don't buy anything, browsing the shops in Antique Alley provides plenty of entertainment. Wander around the Downtown Arts District and you'll come across a few kitschy, Vegas-related knick knacks, and maybe even an authentic piece of history (like old coffee mugs from long-gone casino diners). Detour to the Arts Factory and explore contemporary art galleries with no admission charge.

The Flamingo, Las Vegas
Photo courtesy of The Flamingo

Get your nature on at the Flamingo

The four-acre outdoor Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo is a tranquil escape from the chaos of the Strip. The collection of ponds and waterfalls is home to all sorts of exotic creatures, including birds, turtles, koi fish, and at least eight Chilean flamingos.  
 

Surf the web without losing your connection

All MGM Resorts properties have free Wi-Fi access throughout public indoor and outdoor spaces. And that's for everyone, not just hotel guests. If you walk directly from one of the company's hotels to another (from the Excalibur to the Luxor, for example), you won't even lose your connection. That means you're free to post selfies to Instagram all day long without interruption.

Downsize to the Wynn's fountain show

From the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sands Avenue, you'll quickly spot a fountain show with lights and music in front of the Wynn. It's a whole lot smaller than what you'll see at the Bellagio, but it's a nice break from trekking down the Strip and the performances run nonstop. The scenery also includes two waterfalls and large pine trees. The Lake of Dreams inside the Wynn is technically free too, but it's really a bucket-list dining experience best enjoyed with a dinner reservation. 

Watch (or avoid) the street performers

Just like Hollywood Boulevard and Times Square, Las Vegas is overrun by street performers, either on the Strip or Fremont Street. Some have talent (like a handful of musicians, dancers, and magicians) while others just stand around in cheap-looking costumes. The entertainment is free to watch, but if you pose for a photo with one of them, a tip is expected.

Rest your feet with a tram ride on the Strip

If that long walk down the Strip gets to be too much, there are three free pedestrian trains to make the journey go by a little easier. One operates between Mandalay Bay and Excalibur, another travels between the Bellagio and Aria, and a third shuttles between Treasure Island and the Mirage. No charge. Just hop on board. Don't confuse any of these with the Las Vegas Monorail on the east side of the Strip, which begins at $5 per ride. 

The Cosmopolitan
Photo courtesy of The Cosmopolitan

Go on a Strip art crawl

One of the great things about the CityCenter complex is all the art on display. Wander in and out of galleries by Richard MacDonald and Elena Bulatova before heading over to the Aria where fine art installations are scattered throughout the resort. The neighboring Cosmopolitan has a self-guided art tour of its own, led by Rose, the hotel's own chatbot concierge. Between oversize shoe sculptures in the lobby, digital pillars in the lobby, and murals in the parking garage, the art often mixes tech and pop culture with an exceptional degree of ingenuity. 
 

Watch TV -- and complain about it

CBS Television City at the MGM Grand is a full research facility where you can watch an unaired pilot that's being considered by the network for an upcoming season. Give your feedback with the fate of future programming in your hands. You can also take part in surveys and focus groups about television, internet, and music streaming habits. You'll be handed some vouchers and a bag of free stuff at the end. Sometimes you'll even get paid cash.

Stay dry during an indoor rain shower

You could say it's a . . . miracle. The sprawling Miracle Mile Shops, which wrap around the Planet Hollywood resort, have an indoor rainstorm with shows every hour during the week and every half hour on weekends. The combination of water, lights, music, and fog is an unexpectedly fun way to break up the monotony of a shopping trip. Try not to get wet. 
 

Park for free on the Strip

The only good thing about last year's economic downturn was the return of free parking on the Strip. However, rates are slowly beginning to creep back into place at casino garages. Here's the latest rundown: MGM Resort properties are charging, but give locals the first three hours for free. Caesars Entertainment properties give locals unlimited free parking and charge everybody else. The Venetian, Palazzo, Wynn, Encore, Cosmopolitan, Tropicana, Strat, Sahara, and Treasure Island have free parking garages for all. Period. Most Downtown garages are continuing to charge, but rates are pretty low and most casinos validate anyway.

Seven Magic Mountains
Photo by Mark Damon, courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau

Feel the magic of a surreal art display in the desert

If you're speeding down Interstate 15 south of Vegas and you see some giant rainbow-colored rocks out in the middle of the desert, you're not hallucinating. That's a 25-foot-tall art installation known as Seven Magic Mountains. So take the next exit and doubleback for a color-filled photo session. 
 

Pay respects to your favorite OG at the Flamingo

The Flamingo pays tribute to the mobster who built the resort, Bugsy Siegel, with an outdoor memorial. Although he was shot dead in Beverly Hills, some swear Siegel's ghost still haunts the property. The hotel recently honored their old boss in another way, by naming the new Bugsy & Meyer's steakhouse after him and cohort Meyer Lansky. 

Las Vegas sign
Photo courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau

Snap a photo at you-know-where

You may be out of cash, but you still have a phone. So head just beyond the south end of the Strip to the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign and have your photo snapped in front of the iconic landmark. There may be an Elvis impersonator or some dude in a Big Bird costume offering to take the shot on your behalf or even pose with you. But that means handing out a tip and suddenly, it's not free anymore, is it?

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Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than seven years. His work has also appeared in Travel + Leisure, Trivago Magazine, Sophisticated Living, Modern Luxury, Leafly, Las Vegas Magazine, and other publications. He's covering the tip. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.
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