The 7 Best Free Things to Do in Las Vegas And 7 Bonus Things to Do that Don’t Cost Much Money
When I was a younger man, my wife and I hit hard times. We decided to move to Denton, TX because it was the best place in the state to be poor. You can find more free entertaining and educational experiences there than just about anywhere else in the state.
But had we lived in Nevada or had family there, we would have tried to live near Las Vegas. It’s the best place in the country to find free things to do. In fact, the free things to do in Vegas are bigger and better than anywhere else in the world. Many of which don’t involve trying to win at gambling (believe it or not).
Here’s a list of the 7 best free things to do in Las Vegas
1. The Pinball Hall of Fame
Tim Arnold’s Pinball Hall of Fame has been open since November 2009, and it’s located at 1610 E. Tropicana. You’ll find 10,000 square feet of pinball machines there. It’s free to look at them, but if you can spare a couple of quarters, you can even play some of the games.
The museum is run by a nonprofit, and you’ll find pinball machines from the 1950s through the 1990s. The heyday of the pinball machine era was from 1960 to 1980, so most of the games are from that era. Even the oldest machines have been restored to a point where they look brand-new.
2. The Changing of the Seasons at the Bellagio Conservatory
The Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Garden is one of the most beautiful sights to see in Las Vegas, and it’s not written about nearly as often as many of the other sites. The displays there vary according to the season, as follows:
- Chinese New Year
The conservatory is over 14,000 square of feet of beautiful plants and flowers, 90% of which are recycled. One last tip:
3. The Fremont Street Experience
The Fremont Street Experience is a pedestrian mall, but what’s really cool about it is the free light show in the canopy above the street there. This is an absolute must for anyone visiting Vegas for the first time. The video screen is located 90 feet above the street. It’s 1500 feet long and 90 feet wide. They call it Viva Vision.
The light shows vary, but the video screen has over 12.5 LED lights. The music that accompanies the light show comes from a 550,000 watt, concert-quality sound system. The shows last 6 minutes and happen at the top of every hour from dusk until midnight or 1am, depending on the season.
4. The Mirage Volcano
The first time the Mirage Volcano erupted was in 1989, and the legend is that traffic on the Strip came to a complete standstill because of the lava and flames that were shooting into the sky. (Of course, the lava wasn’t real.) It’s still one of the most fun attractions in the city, and it’s still free.
Like many Vegas attractions, the Mirage Volcano comes with its own soundtrack. The Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart and Indian tabla star Zakir Hussain wrote this one. You can watch the eruption at 8pm and 9pm any night of the week. On Friday and Saturday night, there’s an additional show at 10pm.
5. Playing Penny Slots
I’m cheating a little bit with this one, because it’s not free. But for a dollar, you can get 100 spins on a penny slot machine. Just make sure that the slots game you choose doesn’t require a minimum bet on a minimum number of lines.
How much action on a penny slot machine can you get for just a dollar?
If you assume 600 spins per hour, then you’re looking at 100 spins for a dollar, or 1/6 of an hour. That’s 10 minutes of entertainment. But that’s assuming you lose on every spin. In reality, you’ll win part of the time, so you might be able to play for an hour before going broke.
6. The Fountains at Bellagio
The Fountains at Bellagio are a water ballet. I’d pay money to see it. It’s that good. It is the quintessential Vegas Strip experience.
The music varies based on which show you’re seeing, but they mix in classical music, opera, pop, and Broadway show tunes. The ballet happens every half hour in the afternoon/ early evenings. From 8pm to midnight it happens every 15 minutes. You can see it from any of several places on the Strip.
7. The Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign
The Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign is probably the oldest thing to do on this list. It was erected in 1959, and if you’ve seen or read anything about Las Vegas, you’ve seen a picture of it. The thing to do is take a camera with you and take a picture of yourself and/or your traveling companions in front of it.
This will make for a great souvenir by itself, but it’s even more fun if you can afford to convert it into a coffee mug, a refrigerator magnet, or a postcard.
7 Cheap Things to Do in Las Vegas
And in case you have a little bit of money, here are some cool things to do in Las Vegas that are cheap:
1. The Arts Factory
The Arts Factory is the center of the 18b Las Vegas Arts District. It’s in a 50-year-old commercial warehouse building with traditional bowstring truss architecture. It’s located near downtown, near Charleston Boulevard and Main Street.
You’ll find work from artists in a wide range of styles and media, from contemporary to traditional. They also offer drawing classes and frequent fund raisers. It’s also a popular venue for concerts and poetry readings.
Parking is free. There’s a gift shop and bistro on site, too.
2. Eating at Made L.V.
Made L.V. is an American tavern that’s popular with Las Vegas locals. They have drink specials all day on Mondays and Thursdays. Their burger plates cost less than $15, which is an excellent value. But their desserts are pricey at $7 each.
They also have brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
3. Emergency Arts
Emergency Arts is another art collective located in downtown Las Vegas. It’s housed in a former medical complex, and home to one of the hippest coffeehouses in the city. The art on display ranges from traditional to cutting-edge. Local artists rent studios here, too, so you’ll never know what you’re going to see there.
4. The Smith Center for the Performing Arts
The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is a world-class venue for all kinds of shows. Some of the fall shows that are coming up as I write this include Ringo Starr and His All Star Band, Deepak Chopra, and Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. This might be the most expensive thing on the list, but some of the shows are surprisingly affordable. The venue itself might be the real start of any show there, though.
5. Retro Vegas
Retro Vegas features vintage art and furniture from the middle of the last century. No matter what kind of budget you have, you’ll be able to find a unique souvenir to take home from here. Repeated visits are a good idea, too, as they change things up all the time.
They’re located in the Arts District and have been serving the public there since 2008. There’s a store within a store there, too, selling vintage clothing—the Red Kat.
6. Eating at The Peppermill Restaurant and Lounge
The Peppermill Restaurant and Lounge is a classic Vegas restaurant located right off the Strip. They consistently win “Best of Vegas” awards. Most of the meals are in the $15 to $20 range, but if you’re on a real budget, try the biscuits and gravy for less than $10. The menu is surprisingly extensive, too—lots of options for breakfast and lunch.
7. First Friday Las Vegas Street Fair
The First Friday Las Vegas Street Fair is an art festival held on the first Friday of each month. They mostly feature art for sale and food vendors, but it’s an event that you can attend with a lot of locals without having to spend a lot of money. This particular event doesn’t make a lot of the tourist lists, so you can feel a little bit smug about having the inside track on this one, too.
Las Vegas is known for having lots of affordable entertainment and dining options. I’ve listed my 7 favorite free things to do there and provided a list of 7 bonus cheap things to do there. Leave a comment with suggestions from your own experience. What do you think are the best free (and cheap) things are to do in Las Vegas?