Gambling, weddings, stag and hen parties, pure curiosity: whatever you’re in Las Vegas for, there’s plenty to spend your money on. However, you needn’t be dropping dollars 24/7 and if you’ve gambled away your last dime, there’s still much to see in Sin City that won’t cost a red cent. Here are just a few of our favourite free spots:
Here come the jets
The Bellagio fountains are among the world’s most wow-inducing water features, though that term doesn’t exactly do them justice. The amount of science (and money) behind the display is quite astonishing, but you needn’t understand how it’s done to enjoy this dazzling dance of light and music.
Though the fountains go off every 30 minutes in the afternoon, the splendour isn’t really revealed in full until after dark. A room at the hotel may afford you an aerial view, but you can still hardly miss the jets (they reach a height of 460 ft /140m) from the street. Our top tip though is to grab a drink at Hyde Bellagio for the full front-row experience.
Nature vs neon
If you do happen to pass by a little earlier, the Bellagio’s other free attraction, the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden is great for whiling away an hour or so. The seasonal colours and vibrant natural beauty offer a great contrast to the night’s neon, but the giant animated roosters let you know you’re still in Vegas. Kew Gardens this ain’t.
Ring of fire
Less dangerous and a lot easier to pronounce than Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull, the Volcano at The Mirage is still able to stop traffic – the pedestrian kind anyway. A Strip staple since 1989, the swanky hotel’s big draw underwent a redesign by Bellagio fountain team WET in recent years, to the tune of $25 million. Bigger, better and louder, the choreographed fire dance features music by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, who actually studied the science of volcanoes as research for their composition. A true spectacle, it’s perhaps the most awe-inspiring sight on the Strip.
City of lights
If somehow you haven’t quite had your fix of lights on The Strip, the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown is the other big draw. Here’s where the city “began” – first hotel, first paved street – and you can celebrate vintage Vegas in futuristic fashion for free. The four-block-long mall’s Viva Vision canopy is one of the biggest big screens in the world with 12.5 million LEDs. Current audiovisual evening extravaganzas include tributes to Heart, The Who, Bon Jovi and The Doors. Just try to get a good leaning spot if you want to avoid a stiff neck; it’s difficult looking at slots and blackjack tables when your head’s stuck at a 70-degree upwards angle.
Floods and (more) fire
Vegas has made enough myths of its own over the years, but it also knows how to put a spin on the ancient tales. The Fall of Atlantis show at Caesars Palace Forum Shops is an every-hour-on-the-hour animatronic display telling the story of the destruction of the underwater metropolis, with the help of a 20-foot winged dragon and added heat and sound waves. If you crave still more ancient gods in animatronic action, the more sedate Festival Fountain show at the other end of the complex, has Bacchus, Venus, Apollo and Pluto in conversation.
Bellagio Fountains © iStock: HaoZhu