Las Vegas On a Budget
Las Vegas have been changing in past years and becoming more family oriented. You can find a lot of wholesome fun for the whole family. A lot of those activities and attractions are free or inexpensive, but expect to pay a premium for major attractions.
This article is dedicated to finding free or inexpensive fun.
Free or almost free fun
It is hard to believe that you can have fun in Vegas without spending a lot of money, but it is very possible. Here you will find a partial list of the places that offer free or inexpensive entertainment. This is going to be a live list. Please feel free to use the comments area – or start your own post – to propose new places or provide additional information.
Walking down the strip
Just start walking from your hotel on the strip and go in any direction. You will be amazed at the sights and sounds. As you walk you will pass the major resorts on both sides of the road. I am starting from Mandalay Bay because it is the southernmost end of the Strip, but you can start from any location.
Mandalay Bay: If you are staying at this resort then you will have access to the pool, beach, wave pool and lazy river. It is like a mini water park inside the hotel. If you are not staying, then walk through the hotel towards Shark Reef. You can view the water features from the hallway. Shark reef is another good place to visit with the family, but expect to pay $18 for adults and $12 for children. There is a tunnel connecting Mandalay Bay and Luxor. You can use it to go to your next stop if you prefer to stay indoors. You will encounter a lot of shops and restaurants along the way. The Burger Bar is one of the best burger places in town, but it is on the expensive side of scale.
Luxor: Enjoy the view of the glass pyramid and the sphinx from outside and check out the smaller Egyptian pyramids and buildings inside. Gaze up at the interior of the pyramid where each floor of guest rooms is hanging over the floor underneath it. Don’t forget to try the slanted elevators. They have to climb sideways along the corners of the pyramid. Take the free monorail that connects Luxor to Mandalay Bay and Excalibur.
Excalibur: Admire this medieval castle from outside and keep going – unless you have kids who are dying to go to the Arcade. Lots off video games and midway games for all ages. Excalibur is also home to one of the biggest food courts on the Strip.
New York New York: See a replica of the New York skyline from the street and walk on the Brooklyn Bridge. If you like to experience more of the Big Apple, go inside and walk the streets. If you feel like a thrill, go on the rollercoaster that whips around the hotel. This ride costs $14 per person.
City Center and Aria Hotel: This is one of the newest additions to the strip. It is a collection of hotels and shopping malls with a connecting monorail between them. Start by enjoying the colorful dancing fountains (Lumia) at the main entrance then walk in and look up to view a scale replica of the Colorado River made of recycled silver suspends above the reception desk. Everywhere you walk you can admire the modernistic style and décor. You can also view many statues and art pieces throughout the property. Inside the shopping mall witness the magic of self-sculpting ice columns and other crystal art.
Bellagio: As you walk past the Bellagio you will notice a very large lake and lots of people waiting impatiently. Make sure to wait a bit until the next showing of the dancing waters show. It runs every 15 minutes or every ½ an hour depending on time of day. Every show is set to a different song or a classical piece. You can watch the show from the street level or you can walk up towards the hotel entrance and watch it from the top of the lake. Both views are amazing. Once you get your fill of dancing fountains head inside to admire the Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. You can get to this fascinating display of greens and flowers through the main lobby. The exhibit changes based on the season.
Tip: If you stay at Planet Hollywood, ask for a room overlooking the Bellagio. Whenever you are relaxing in your room you will enjoy the free show across the street.
Caesar’s Palace: Although this is one of the older resorts, it is still an important stop on your walking tour. If you love Roman style and Roman history then you will enjoy gazing at the architecture, statues and fountains. In the Forum Shops you can also enjoy a free show called Fall of Atlantis and a huge Aquarium right next to it.
Tip: if you are already getting tired from all the walking, you can grab a seat at the outdoors café at Caesar’s Palace
Mirage: The Mirage is famous for its Volcano show right on the Strip. The showings start at 7 PM but you will enjoy it better when it is dark outside. With loud explosions, fire and waterfalls you will feel you are witnessing a real volcanic eruption. Hidden inside the hotel you will also find one of the popular family attractions. It is the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. This exhibit is not free, but it is not too expensive. You will pay $20 for adults and $15 for children.
Treasure Island: As you walk past TI on the Strip you will see a large pirate ship. This is the location of a very good free show called The Sirens of TI. It is a nightly show that tells the story of Sirens trying to lure a band of pirates into their cave. The show may not be appropriate for young children.
Tip: The viewing area for this show gets filled up very quickly so get there early to guarantee a spot.
Fashion Show Mall: If you enjoy shopping, this is a newly renovated mall with a futuristic looking entrance. The main entrance looks like a spaceship. Inside you can enjoy free fashion shows – if you are interested.
Wynn Las Vegas: Across the street from the Fashion Show Mall you will find one of the newest resorts in Las Vegas. After admiring the distinctive design of the 2 main buildings from afar, use the pedestrian bridge to cross Las Vegas Boulevard and walk through fountains and waterfalls to get inside Wynn hotel. Once you get inside head to “Lake of Dreams”. This is huge manmade lake with a very large waterfall, rock formations, pine trees and mountains. Every ½ hour from 6 PM to midnight, the lake is transformed into a mystical water and light show. The show is free, but you can order some drinks while you are watching. Along the way to the show you will encounter a colorful indoor garden with hanging plants and flower arrangements. A very popular spot for pictures.
The Venetian: Across the Sands Street from Wynn, you can spot another grand resort. After admiring the grandiose styles of Venice from outside, walk in from any entrance and head to the Grand Canal Shops. The shops themselves are interesting – if you like shopping, but the main attractions are the canals and Saint Mark’s Square. The Canals have real Gondolas with real gondoliers. You can take a ride through the Canals, but it will cost you around $19 per person. At St. Mark’s square you can enjoy free operatic singers and mime shows. Don’t forget to treat yourself to excellent Italian Gelato (Ice Cream). If you are hungry, you will find several fine dining restaurants right at the square. Also at the square you can find “Madame Tussaud's Interactive Wax Museum”. The tickets are $24 adults and $15 children (online advance tickets). The Venetian is also known for it is excellent food court.
Bally’s Las Vegas: Sandwiched between Venetian and Paris you will find this older hotel and casino with a great Light, Water & Sound show on the strip. The show plays every 20 minutes after dusk.
Paris Las Vegas: Walk across the Flamingo Rd. and cross from Italy to France. This is where you will find the "Arc de Triomphe" and the "Eiffel Tower". You can take an elevator ride to the top of the tower where you can also enjoy a meal at the restaurant. Other Paris landmarks are The Louvre museum, The Paris Opera House and Alexander III Bridge. If you like Buffets, “Le Village Buffet” is a good choice for breakfast.
Planet Hollywood: Across the street from Paris (through Paris rd) you will walk into the Glamor of Hollywood. If you enter from the side entrances, you will end up at the Miracle Mile shops. It is a long stretch of shops and restaurants with comfortable seats and couches along the way. Close to the entrance you will find column with greetings in many world languages. This hotel used to be called Aladdin so some areas still retain a desert kingdom atmosphere complete with a desert rain storm. It starts with fog and a few sprinkles and ends with thunder, lightning and pouring rain. The Rain Storm is a free show. You can also find a free Fountain Show with colors and sounds. The Miracle mile shops are also home to Spice Market buffet and V the variety show. The buffet is very good with foods from many regions of the world. More about V show later.
Hawaiian Marketplace and Showcase Mall: Between Planet Hollywood and MGM Grand you will pass a long stretch of shops, bars and street performers. This is a good place to shop for souvenirs – mainly for convenience not price. This shopping center is also home to Tix4Tonight where you can buy discounted show tickets. If you are in the market for tickets expect to wait in long lines. Along the same stretch of the Strip you can find: Tamba Indian Cuisine; Harley Davidson Cafe; Fat Burger; Hard Rock Cafe; Denny's; Outback Steakhouse; and a food court.
MGM Grand: At night the various hotel towers shine with distinctive green and emerald colors. You can also see a lot of water features and a huge lion statue. Nothing much to see on the inside. They used to have a good lion habitat, but it recently closed down permanently.
Tropicana: It is one of the oldest casinos on the strip, but it was recently renovated and expanded. You can enjoy a free Bird Show in the Tropics Lounge. And to end your walking tour, you can have dinner at the inexpensive buffet.
A skip and hop away
There is still a lot of free or cheap fun to be had in Las Vegas, but you will need to drive there or take public transportation.
Circus Circus: On the north side of the Strip, this casino is famous for its free circus acts and a very large arcade. It also has its own Theme Park called Adventure Dome. The prices are very reasonable for a theme park. Expect to pay $28 for adults and $17 for children for all day rides.
Stratosphere: The Stratosphere tower is the tallest observation tower in the US. Once you get to the top you can see stunning views of Las Vegas and the mountains. Tickets to the top are $18 for adults. At the top you can also find a few restaurants, including the rotating Top of the World, and a few thrill rides. The rides are more thrilling than other theme parks because you are already a thousand feet above Las Vegas before you start your adventure.
Fremont Street: A few older casinos reside along this street – some of them like the Golden Nugget were renovated. The whole street is pedestrian only and is covered with 12.5 Million lights that transform the canopy into a giant display screen. Every half hour a new show starts with lights, music and action. Don’t forget to visit the Golden Nugget casino to view the large golden nugget on display. Also the buffet is very good and reasonably priced. Along with the great free light show, the street is full of vendors, performers and activities. You can catch a ride on a Zip Line or, if you are visiting in winter, you can go ice skating. The slot machines at the small casinos on Freemont are known to payout more than average.
Sam’s Town: This hotel and casino is not far from the Strip. You can stroll through Mystic Falls Park for free or you can catch a movie at the Cinemas or a game of bowling.
Red Rock Canyon: One of my favorite places to visit in Las Vegas. Pay the parking fee of $7 and enjoy nature like you’ve never seen. It lives up to its name with amazing red rock formations, canyons and mountains. Lots of rocks to climb and trails to hike. Some rocks everyone can climb and others need professional climbers. If you just like to relax, there are a few picnic areas around the park. This place is not recommended in hot weather. There is no shade anywhere and it can get extremely hot in this desert park.
Hoover Dam: Technically this is not part of Las Vegas, but it is close enough for a quick detour. The dam was built in the 1930’s but still stands as a great modern marvel. From one side you can see the huge arch concrete dam and from the other you can view the lake it created. If you can take the short or long tours through the dam - very informative and awe inspiring. The long tour takes you through the inside passages of the dam and costs $30. Up until very recently, people crossing between Nevada and Arizona had to drive on the dam - which created huge traffic jams. Recently a new bypass bridge was opened for traffic which relieved traffic and provided a new stunning view of the dam. From the height of the bridge you can really appreciate the size of the dam – especially when you compare it to people and car passing over the dam. The road over the dam dead ends with a parking lot. It does not continue on to Arizona as it used to.
Lake Mead: The lake was formed by Hoover Dam and it is considered the largest water reservoir in the US. It covers around a 100 miles in length and has close to 550 miles of shorelines. Many water activities to choose from: boating; jet skiing, water skiing, cruises, fishing, camping and hiking. You can bring your own equipment or rent at one of the rental outfits on the marinas. The best way to enjoy the lake is to rent a boat and go exploring the many canyons and coves along the shoreline. If you prefer to relax and let some else do the piloting, then take a cruise.