Las Vegas

Top 5 free things to do in Vegas

Wander the Strip and visit the mega-hotels

The Las Vegas Strip.
You can spend hours exploring the Vegas Strip. — Dennis Begin photo

Las Vegas is famous for its entertaining mega shows, from the acrobats of Cirque Du Soleil and the magic of Criss Angel to the musical talents of Celine Dion and Shania Twain. These spectacular stage productions come with a high price for admission. Las Vegas, however, has a great deal of free entertainment and all you need to do is show up. 

1.  Fremont Street

Fremont Street is one of the original streets in Vegas and offered hotels and illegal gambling as early as 1905. The area around Fremont Street or East Fremont still has many of the 1950s and 60s style motels, which were originally called motor hotels or auto courts. Many of the early large casinos are still operating, including the Fremont Hotel and the Golden Nugget. The street initially became famous in the 1950s because of its unique neon signs. The Neon Museum and Boneyard with its 150 signs can be toured for a charge, but the neon signs in the Downtown Gallery, like Cowboy Vegas Vic, are viewed for free. Fremont Street was renovated in 2006 and is now called the Fremont Experience. A canopy erected over the street provides for a unique walking experience and the backdrop for a $70 million nighttime light show backed by 540,000 watts of music. All free.

2. Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall

On Boulder Highway there are a series of RV parks, all located a short drive from the Las Vegas Strip. Sam’s Town is one of the best full-service RV parks and presents a free show inside the on-site hotel. The show, called Mystic Falls Park, is held throughout the day and is made up of an impressive laser light show. Your attention is first drawn to the bear, mountain lion, eagles, owls and other animals. The animatronics are very lifelike, especially the bear. The water show coordinates music with smoke and a laser light show using the waterfalls as a backdrop. The music and laser show depicts several themes from Western to American patriotism.  All free. 

3. Mirage Hotel volcano

Every hour on the hour in the evening, a volcano erupts in front of the Mirage Hotel on the Strip.  The erupting volcano sends a 40-foot flame into the night sky. The lighting system simulates flowing lava. As a spectator, it feels as if you are in the middle of a volcano and you can even feel the heat of the fireball. The pond is surrounded by Polynesian waterfalls, lagoons and a grotto landscape, and the entire show is set to music.  

After the show, check out the lobby of the Mirage, with its 20,000-gallon saltwater aquarium filled with colourful tropical fish. The atrium has a 100-foot dome with towering palm trees, lagoons and waterfall. It appears as if you are in the midst of a tropical rainforest.   

Other hotels offer free spectacles as well, such as the Bellagio with its 1,000 dancing fountains of light and music. Inside the opulent hotel is a conservatory and botanical gardens and the Fiori de Como Chandeliers. All free.

4. Treasure Island and Resort

Every evening in front of the Treasure Island Hotel, a nightclub-style show erupts between two sailing vessels on Sirens Cove. The show is called The Sirens of T.I. The original show, entitled Buccaneer Bay, portrayed a pirate ship sinking the Britannia, a ship of the British Royal Navy.  That would never have happened! The two ships are still there and the pirate ship even sinks before your eyes, but the show is now filled with singing, dancing, special audio-visual effects, pirates and, of course, beautiful women strutting their stuff. All free. 

Just noticed that the T.I. Sirens girls are featured in this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Nice photos, but I still like the original pirate show.

5. The Gold and Silver Pawn Shop

This is not your ordinary pawn shop selling used stereo equipment and construction tools. This pawn shop is the site of the No. 1 reality TV show Pawn Stars. Located close to Fremont Street on Las Vegas Boulevard, this is a real, operating pawn shop. There will probably be a queue to get in, but the wait is worth it. The stars of the show are three generations of the Harrison family and Austin (Chumlee) Russell. Rick Harrison, one of the main characters, is very knowledgeable about the history of countless items. These stars of the show are real people and not actors on a TV set.
The pawn shop carries a wide variety of collectable items. These include Olympic gold medals, Super Bowl rings, expensive jewelry, Civil War guns, rock star posters, books, uniforms, Persian rugs, jukeboxes and works of art by well known American artists. Bigger items such as cars and motorbikes may be found in the back storage room. You are more than welcome to pawn or sell your collectables or to buy from a myriad of treasures. If you are lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the stars. All free.  

Parting advice

It is not necessary to break the bank to enjoy Vegas. Check with every hotel and casino to find what is offered for free. Besides, it is enjoyable just to wander the hotel lobbies and the four miles of the Strip. Be sure to spend an evening viewing the dazzling display of lights along the Strip. Remember: all free.

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