17 Best Free Things to Do in Las Vegas

USA, Nevada, Las Vegas, Strip, fountain, hotels and Eiffel Tower at blue hour
Westend61 / Getty Images

Vegas locals often talk about the phenomenon in which ordinarily fiscally conservative people get so mesmerized by the blinking lights and the glut of luxury goods on the Las Vegas Strip, they throw caution to the wind and start lighting dollar bills on fire. This is, of course, the idea. The more exciting the sights, the more you’ll spend. If you plan correctly, though, Vegas can be one of the best places to visit for budget travelers. Decide in advance where to scrimp and where to splurge, and fill your days with some of the many free things the city has to offer.

01 of 17

Go Under the Sea With Live Mermaids

The Aquarium At Silverton Casino Hotel
WireImage / Getty Images
Address
3333 Blue Diamond Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89139, USA
Phone +1 702-263-7777

You likely didn't come to the desert expecting to find mermaids, but that's exactly what you'll find at the Silverton Hotel. The off-Strip hotel houses an aquarium-sized fish tank that holds sharks, stingrays, and all kinds of tropical fish, but it's the mermaid show that really sets this attraction apart. Live "mermaids" swim in the tank and interact with guests, which isn't just fun but also supports a good cause by raising awareness for the Save Our Beach Foundation. Other aquarium highlights include daily meal times—for the animals, not the mermaids—when trainers come in for feedings.

02 of 17

Spend First Friday at the Arts Factory

Arts Factory Las Vegas
Ethan Miller / Getty Images
Address
107 E Charleston Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89104, USA
Phone +1 702-383-3133

You can only spend so much time gambling and drinking at pool parties, so break up your weekend by heading to the avant-garde Arts Factory in Downtown Las Vegas. You can visit this off-the-beaten-track destination anytime, but it's especially worthwhile on the first Friday of each month for the arts and culture festival. The streets, shops, and bars fill up with live musicians, local artists, food trucks, and more for one of the least touristy social events in all of Las Vegas.

03 of 17

Experience the Runway of a Real Fashion Show

Fashion Show Mall Las Vegas
George Rose / Getty Images
Address
3200 Las Vegas Blvd S Ste. 600, Las Vegas, NV 89109, USA
Phone +1 702-784-7000

You don't need to fly to Paris or Milan to see a real fashion runway. Just head to the Fashion Show Mall at the north end of the Strip where you can see models strut down the catwalk for free. The best part is that while the event feels like a high-end fashion show, the clothes aren't actually haute couture but rather much more accessible brands you can find right inside the mall. So after you see a model working the runway in an outfit that catches your eye, you can pick up the same one and wear it just as well.

04 of 17

Take a Sweet Detour to the M&M's Store

M&Ms world store
Spencer Platt / Getty Images
Address
3785 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109, USA
Phone +1 702-740-2504

The larger-than-life M&M's Worlds are iconic parts of major tourist centers like Times Square in New York or Leicester Square in London, but the Las Vegas store is the original. Taste and buy M&M's of every color, size, and filling at this four-level store dedicated solely to the timeless tiny chocolates; you can even personalize your own candies for a unique souvenir. Whether you have a major sweet tooth or are simply attracted to the Instagrammable backdrops, this is one of the most fun stores you can visit on the Strip.

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05 of 17

Get Hypnotized by the Fountains

Bellagio Fountain Show at Night

TripSavvy / Elliot Jonch Garcia

Address
3600 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109, USA
Phone +1 702-693-7111

Until someone tops this nightly show, which is unlikely to happen in your lifetime, the Bellagio Fountains will be the most dramatic free public entertainment to enjoy on the Strip. The nearly nine-acre show lake involves 1,200 sprayers and shooters that send jets of water up to 460 feet in the air, swaying and dancing to the music of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Lady Gaga, Cher, Andrea Bocelli, and many more in a catalog of 35 permanent shows. The people-watching is almost as fun as the fountains in good weather.

06 of 17

Cower Under an Active Urban Volcano

Mirage Volcano Eruptiond

TripSavvy / Elliot Jonch Garcia

Address
3400 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109, USA
Phone +1 702-791-7111

The volcano in front of the Mirage has been erupting several nights for more than 20 years—an impressive track record for any volcano. It spews fire and “lava” into the air, and you can even feel the heat from the eruption from the lagoon area. Realistic? Not really, but it’s one of the most theatrical and fun sights on the Strip. Plus: Can Mount Aetna claim a custom soundtrack created by Mickey Hart of Grateful Dead? We didn’t think so.

07 of 17

Take in the Newest Waterworks

Wynn Las Vegas lake
Doubble Troubble / Getty Images
Address
3131 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109, USA
Phone +1 702-770-7000

The three-acre Lake of Dreams, which sits below a 90-foot waterfall in Wynn Las Vegas, stuns with short bursts of light, visual effects, animatronics, and music beginning at dusk each night. And it's recently undergone a $14 million upgrade, updating the favorite, animatronic singing frog; introducing a trio of fabulous singing tropical birds; and reimagining David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” with an astronaut, floating towards her space capsule over the lake. You can see the multimedia experience free of charge simply by taking the curving escalators down and walking out onto the patio.

08 of 17

Bask In Sunlit Atriums

Bellagio Conservatory

TripSavvy / Elliot Jonch Garcia

Address
3600 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109, USA
Phone +1 702-693-7111

The Art Nouveau-style, sunlit Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden transforms five times per year (for each season plus Chinese New Year), with fresh flowers, animatronic tigers, lamps, woodland creatures, and lanterns bobbing from the 50-foot-high glass ceiling. The 120 horticulturalists who care for this wonderland never install the same vignette twice, and its more than 10,000 flowers are switched out every two weeks.

Although Bellagio has the most famous of the atria, it’s certainly not the only one. The atrium at Palazzo, which has a two-floor waterfall and seasonal flowers, has one of the best selfie opportunities on the Strip. Artist Laura Kimpton installed her ruby red “LOVE” sculpture that stands 12 feet tall and spans 36 feet across. It’s a stunning, sunlit ode-to-joy close to the entrance of the Grand Canal Shoppes

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09 of 17

Go to The Park

The park in downtown las vegas

TripSavvy / Elliot Jonch Garcia

Address
The Park Vegas, 3782 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109, USA
Phone +1 702-740-6969

For years, visitors who wanted outdoor time were limited to the north-south walk along Las Vegas Blvd. The Park Vegas, right across from Park MGM’s entrance, is a six-acre dining and entertainment district and the first walkable green space on the Las Vegas Strip. You can wander its outdoor restaurants for sushi, Belgian waffles, and beer. There’s plenty of activity in The Park, which leads right up to T-Mobile Arena. Don’t miss Bliss Dance, the 40-foot-tall statue of a dancing woman that presides over the park and lights up at night.

10 of 17

Check Out Not-So-Secret Art

WALLWORKS

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas / Flickr

Wander the 67-acre CityCenter campus to see Vegas' incredible public art collection, including 15 works by artists such as Nancy Rubin, Claes Oldernburg, and Coosje van Bruggen. Inside Crystals, CityCenter's high-end mall, light artist James Turrell has installed Shards of Color—four recessed geometric shapes lit in neon.

Meanwhile, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas houses some of the best free art around. There are the so-called Wallworks—murals by artists like Kenny Scharf and Shepard Fairey—on the concrete walls of the parking garage, as well as the eight light columns at check-in, which display constantly changing videos.

11 of 17

Visit a Dual Chocolate Factory and Botanical Cactus Garden

Ethel M. Chocolates Botanical Cactus Garden

Ray Yu / Flickr

Address
2 Cactus Garden Dr, Henderson, NV 89014, USA
Phone +1 800-438-4356

Taking a free, self-guided tour of one of the largest botanical cactus gardens in the world while also eating chocolate might not be an equation everyone would naturally reach, but it works. Local favorite Ethel M Chocolates operates just such a fabulous garden; you can take a factory tour after strolling around more than 300 species of cacti and succulents, most of which are native to the Southwest. The gardens are especially a sight to see come November, when more than a half-million holiday lights are strung on the cacti and stay up until New Year’s Day.

12 of 17

Indulge in Shopping Mall Animatronics

Trevi Fountain at Cesars Palace
jgareri / Getty Images
Address
3500 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109, USA
Phone +1 702-893-4800

Special effects, animatronic talking Roman statues, pyrotechnics: Vegas takes its free shopping mall entertainment seriously. “The Fall of Atlantis,” a wacky-but-dramatic show featuring costumed actors and a 20-foot winged dragon acting out a family saga set in the mythical kingdom of Atlantis, plays every hour inside the Forum Shops at Caesars. Nearby, the 50,000-gallon aquarium teeming with more than 300 varieties of tropical fish demonstrates Vegas’ fascination with all things aquatic. Enjoy it: 80 percent of the Strip’s water is returned to the source in Lake Mead. 

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13 of 17

See Flamingos (Not) in the Wild

Chilean Flamingoes

britta heise / Flickr

Address
3555 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109, USA
Phone +1 702-733-3349

A lush, tropical garden right in the middle of the Strip holds a flock of Chilean flamingos, as well as two rescued pelicans, Ring Teal ducks, and Sacred Ibis. The Wildlife Habitat at Flamingo Las Vegas is a surprise to visitors (and sometimes to locals, who forget how relaxing it is). You can feed the fish in the koi pond; admire turtles, ducks, and swans; and generally take a break from the controlled chaos of the Strip. Get here through the LINQ Promenade, the road that leads to the High Roller Observation Wheel; the habitat is close to the Promenade entrance of the hotel.

14 of 17

Take a Picture with That Sign

Man and woman taking selfie in front of Vegas sign
JohnnyGreig / Getty Images
Address
5100 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89119, USA

On the south end of the Strip, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign is a perennial favorite, iconic partly because the sign’s image belongs to the public domain and can be reproduced by anyone. The once difficult-to-reach sign (it's on a perilous meridian surrounded by zipping traffic) is now solar powered, with plenty of convenient, free parking. 

15 of 17

Play in a Pile of Shipping Containers

Shops at the container park

TripSavvy / Elliot Jonch Garcia

Address
707 E Fremont St, Las Vegas, NV 89101, USA
Phone +1 702-359-9982

The Downtown Container Park is an open-air shopping and entertainment district made entirely of shipping containers and is located on historic Fremont Street. Look for the 40-foot-tall, metal praying mantis at the entrance, which shoots six-story-high flames from its antennae beginning at sundown. Inside, you’ll find a giant treehouse for kids as well as funky retail shops and restaurants. 

16 of 17

Walk the Hoover Dam

View from the Hoover Dam of the downstream Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which spans the Colorado River between Nevada and Arizona
Eisenlohr / Getty Images
Address
Nevada 89005, USA
Phone +1 702-494-2517

Not afraid of heights? Spend a day at Hoover Dam and Boulder City. Although parking costs money (except on the Arizona side of the dam, where you’ll find free parking), a walk across Hoover Dam’s Bypass Bridge is free and offers unmatched views of the dam, as long as you don’t mind hovering 880 feet above the Colorado River. Officially named the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, the 1,905-foot-long bridge is the world’s tallest concrete arch span and the second highest bridge in the United States. Stairs and ramps lead to the bridge; along the way, there are signs detailing information about the bridge and the men it's named after.

Continue to 17 of 17 below.
17 of 17

Journey to Seven Magic Mountains

Seven Magic Mountains

TripSavvy / Elliot Jonch Garcia

Address
S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89054, USA
Phone +1 775-329-3333

Anyone arriving to or leaving Las Vegas via I-15 can see the massive, 30-foot-high neon-painted limestone totems that are Seven Magic Mountains. The hoodoo-like structures are reminiscent of natural rock formations found in the Southwest and have become one of the most popular free attractions in the Vegas area. Designed by artist Ugo Rondinone, they took several years to plan in the Jean Dry Lake bed and were originally only supposed to be on display until 2018. Due to their popularity, the land grant has been renewed so visitors can continue to visit these peculiar formations.

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The 17 Best Free Things to Do in Las Vegas