It's easy to blow through money in Sin City, but if you know where to look there are plenty of free and cheap activities, shows, and sites to see. From swimming with sharks to watching pilot episodes of potential TV shows, take along this list of 25 things to do in Las Vegas on your next visit.
25 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Vegas
The Conservatory and Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio is home to flowers, trees, and exotic plants from around the world. The 120-person staff works throughout the year to design, build, and maintain the display, which is seasonally themed and changes five times throughout the year. Catch a free daily musical performance from 4:30pm to 6:30pm in the South Garden area.
The Flamingo's Wildlife Habitat is a refreshing escape from the surrounding neon lights and noise. The habitat is home to a variety of exotic birds and ducks, including, of course, the famous pink flamingo, as well as turtles, Koi fish, and yellow catfish.
Outside the Bellagio, the famous fountains "perform" choreographed shows every 30 minutes during the day and every 15 minutes at night. Watch as water shoots more than 450 feet into the air to the tune of Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, and more.
Take a picture with the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign. It's a popular attraction -- there's even a parking lot next to it -- and is a symbol of the city known far and wide. The large Vegas Vic and Sassy Sally neon signs on Fremont Street offer another free, iconic photo op.
It's free to sit and watch sharks, stingrays, and thousands of fish swim by inside the aquarium at the Silverton. Come during a fish feeding at 1:30pm or 4:30pm to see the most activity. Keep an eye out for the "mermaids" who make frequent appearances and wave to the crowds.
The Circus Circus hotel entertains guests and visitors with free circus shows. Acrobats, trapeze artists, roller skating duos, foot jugglers, and other performers from around the world take to the stage every half hour from 11am to midnight.
Many casinos will gladly give you a free tutorial on how to play the games. It's in their interest to get you playing, but it's also wise to make sure you know all the rules and consider the odds before doubling down.
Inside the Linq, the 8,500-square-foot Polaroid Fotobar and Museum is part print shop and part museum. The museum on the second floor is home to old Polaroid equipment and a photography exhibit. On the first floor you can print and frame pictures off your phone or Facebook and Instagram accounts. Prints start at $1 each, but there is a minimum order of six.
A short 15-minute drive from the Strip, the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory offers free self-guided tours where you can watch the chocolatiers prepare delectable sweets and later dip into the free samples in the gift shop. Next door, the Botanical Cactus Garden has one of the largest collections of cacti and succulents in the world.
The 11-minute animatronic Fall of Atlantis show located in the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace starts on the hour, every hour, from 11am to 11pm. This is not a "must-see" attraction, according to reviews on Trip Advisor, but is free and worth checking out if you're near the shops or have young children in tow.
Every half hour from 7pm to 11pm, the volcano at the Mirage hotel rumbles and explodes, spewing smoke and fireballs high into the air. The newly revamped volcano show includes taller explosions and an accompanying soundtrack.
Slot machines are an inexpensive way to partake in one of Las Vegas's biggest draws -- gambling. Change things up by heading to the second floor at the D Las Vegas casino to play on old-school machines. At Binion's Gambling Hall and Four Queens casino you can take a free pull for a chance to win $2,500. Many casinos also start you off with a few dollars' worth of play on the house.
Cups and decks of cards are popular Las Vegas souvenirs, especially because they're free if you know whom and where to ask. Some pit bosses give away decks of used playing cards. If you're gambling ask for a cup to hold your chips while moving between tables.
The 10,000-square-foot pinball museum is the largest of its kind. Home to machines from the 1950s through the 1990s, the entire collection is owed by a man name Tim Arnold. The Pinball Hall of Fame is a nonprofit that passes earnings on to nondenominational charities. If you want to test your skills as a pinball wizard, games cost 25 to 50 cents each, depending on the age the machine.
The CBS Television City Research Center inside the MGM Grand is a site where companies test new TV shows and consumer products. Visitors get to watch unaired pilots, try out new electronics (everything from a thermostat to an iPhone), and share feedback with the company. On Trip Advisor, visitors report the experience to be entertaining, at the least, unless they really didn't like the show. Some were invited to participate in a round-table discussion and were paid for their time, but most just receive coupons for local shops.
Fremont Street is worth wandering down just because, but the light show is an added draw. The pedestrian mall is covered by a 1,500-by-90-foot screen with 12.5 million LED lamps. Starting at dusk the free Viva Vision light show runs every hour on the hour and is set to popular tracks by Heart, Bon Jovi, The Who, and more.
Binion's Gambling Hall isn't as well-known as some of the other casinos, but it's worth stopping by for a free souvenir photo taken of you standing behind $1,000,000. The pyramid of cash is well protected and housed in a thick plastic cover (nice try). If you've ever wondered just how much money fits into a briefcase, this is sure to give you some idea.
The shop featured in the TV show "Pawn Stars," the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, is open and ready for business. Arrive early to avoid lines and don't expect the show's stars to be there, but it's still an interesting stop if you're a fan of the show or have something to sell.
The one-hour Barnyard Buddies tour at Anderson Dairy walks visitors through the entire production process. Not as glitzy as other Vegas attractions, although there are still animatronics and lights, this tour is intended for younger children although teenagers and adults may enjoy it as well. Free ice cream is handed out at the end.
If you need a break from the overwhelming stimulus of the Strip, Marjorie Barrick Museum at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas houses visual arts exhibits from international artists and UNLV students. Entrance is free, although there is a suggested donation of $5 for adults and $2 for children and seniors.
The Sunset Stampede at Sam's Town is less crowded than some of the other free shows but no less entertaining. The Western pioneer-themed show runs about 15 minutes and is filled with animatronic animals, lasers, fog, music, and water features. Catch it every two hours on the hour, from 2pm to 10pm. Former visitors recommend the later times since the lasers are best seen when it's dark outside.
The world's largest chocolate fountain at 27 feet is another Bellagio attraction and worth a quick peek if you're in the area. The flowing chocolate can be mesmerizing, but don't try to take a dip -- the fountain is enclosed in glass.
A pool is always a welcome relief from the hot Las Vegas sun. The pool at the Golden Nugget has waterfalls plus something a little extra -- a 200,000-gallon shark tank smack in the middle. Drinks, food, and cabanas can be expensive, but if you just want to take a dip and swim next to sharks and giant fish, this is a fun and free destination. There's also a 30-foot waterslide that goes "through" the tank. While you're at the Golden Nugget be sure to also check out the actual golden nugget -- the largest of its kind on display.