40 Free Things You Can Do in Las Vegas

Blew all your vacation funds on gambling? Don’t worry, there’s still plenty to do in Sin City.

Between the stock market, inflation, and whatever's happening with Bitcoin these days, it's not an easy time to have your finances in order. Fortunately, for all the big ticket items in Vegas (like bottle service, big dinners, and Adele tickets you'll never use), there are plenty of other activities that don't cost a dime. Some of those attractions were shut down or operating in a limited capacity during the pandemic, but most are back open (with the million-dollar photo exhibit at Binion's a notable exception). So save a few bucks and check out all the cool things to do for free in Las Vegas.

The Pinball Hall of Fame is one of the museums that make Las Vegas wonderfully weird. It moved into a new, larger Strip location in 2021 and now houses vintage pinball machines (and the occasional arcade game) in an expansive 25,000-square-foot space. It's the largest collection of its kind in the world, drawing heavily on the '60, '70s, and '80s classic eras of pinball. Admission is free, but every machine can be played for 25 or 50 cents. And since the museum is a nonprofit, every coin collected goes directly to charity.

Forum Shops at Caesars
Photo courtesy of Forum Shops at Caesars

After going dark during the pandemic, the "Fall of Atlantis" is back. The animatronic show plays on the hour from noon to 8 pm (Friday-Tuesday) at the Forum Shops at Caesars. The quality falls somewhere between what you’d find at Chuck E. Cheese and Disney’s Hall of Presidents, but the combination of flames, fountains, and a giant winged dragon are enough to liven up any shopping trip.

Tickets to see a Golden Knights game at the T-Mobile Arena aren't cheap, but here's the next best thing—you can see the team practice for free at City National Arena in Summerlin. The schedule isn't highly publicized, but players generally take the ice between 9 am and 11 am. Check the Golden Knights Twitter account for practice announcements. Otherwise, you can splurge a few bucks and take part in an open skate yourself and grab lunch at MacKenzie River Pizza.

The Shelby Heritage Center celebrates the legacy of Carroll Shelby and the race cars he helped design, including the iconic AC Cobra and special-edition Mustangs. Guests are welcome any time during regular hours to take a free self-guided tour (or pay for a guided one) to see more than 30 high-performance muscle cars on display and get an up-close look at the production facility next door.

Silverton Casino
Silverton Casino

The 117,000-gallon aquarium at the Silverton casino is loaded with thousands of tropical fish as well as a few stingrays and sharks. Interactive mermaid performances run throughout the day Thursday-Sunday. You can also toss a few questions to a marine biologist during regular feedings.

Grand Canal Shoppes
Photo courtesy of Grand Canal Shoppes

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

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.

Don't have the money for a Cirque ticket? No problem. Circus Circus has a full schedule of big-top performances at the Midway every hour starting at 11:30 am Friday-Sunday and 1:30 pm Monday-Thursday. Come by and see clowns, jugglers, aerialists, and more. The Flying Poemas, a trapeze act from Argentina, provide the biggest thrills.

The artsy block party known as First Friday takes place, as the name suggests, on the first Friday evening of every month in the Downtown Arts District. Each edition follows a specific theme with featured artists, gallery exhibits, and live music. There's also a beer garden and at least a dozen food trucks.

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. Laser and light shows take place every other hour from 6-10 pm on weekdays and 4-10 pm on weekends.

Paris Las Vegas
Photo courtesy of Paris Las Vegas

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.

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.

The Hand of Faith, the largest gold nugget currently in existence, weighs 61 pounds and is on display at (appropriately enough) the Golden Nugget in Downtown Las Vegas. You'll also see a replica of it a hundred miles away in the lobby of the Golden Nugget in Laughlin.

Watch fish swim at one of three aquariums

Check out the 40,000-gallon aquarium at Bass Pro Shops (next to the Silverton), 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.

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.

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

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 utilizes 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. The Fremont Street Experience also hosts Downtown Rocks, a free concert series by national acts throughout summer and fall.

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 High Roller wheel at The LINQ and all the neon lights in between, you have plenty of backdrops for snapping an Instagram-worthy photo.

Photo courtesy 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

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. See it while you can. The Mirage will soon be replaced by a Hard Rock property and the volcano isn't likely to stay.

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

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

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

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.

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 or the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day.

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

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.

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 wing. 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.

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.

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

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.

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. 

ARIA Resort & Casino

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. 

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.

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

Back in the good old days, parking was free on the Strip. A few years ago, some casino garages started charging, but policies have fluctuated during the pandemic. Here's the latest rundown: Most MGM Resorts properties, Caesars Entertainment properties, and the Cosmopolitan charge but give locals the first three hours for free. The Venetian, Palazzo, Wynn, Encore, Tropicana, Strat, Sahara, Circus Circus, and Treasure Island have free parking garages for all. Most Downtown garages are continuing to charge, but rates are usually pretty low and most casinos validate anyway. Always check in advance for the latest policies.

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

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.

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 eight 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.