Our two weeks in Las Vegas left me with a wealth of travel tips, but this two-part post is for the budget conscious (or newly budget conscious, just in case you find yourself in Vegas and out of luck!). A visit to Sin City can be hugely expensive or surprisingly cheap, depending on how well you plan ahead and how you want to spend your time. The Strip certainly isn't just for gamblers and there are lots of inexpensive, family-friendly options as well. Here are a few sinfully inexpensive favorites:
Welcome to Las Vegas Sign: No visit to Vegas would be complete without a photo in front of this iconic sign. Located on the Strip just south of Mandalay Bay, the sign has been gracing photos and drawing crowds since 1959. It's a small drive from the usual Vegas attractions, but a new parking area makes visiting easy at any time of day, provided there aren't too many tour buses.
Rainstorm and Fountain Show at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood: An entire plaza in this shopping center transforms into a sudden rainstorm, complete with lightning, thunder, and dense fog. Shows begin at the top of each hour from 10am-11pm, Monday-Thursday, and every half hour from 10am-11pm, Friday-Sunday. Also in the Miracle Mile is an impressive fountain show.
Fountains at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino: Even if you've never seen the 'new' Ocean's 11, you've probably heard of the famous Bellagio fountain - it's a Vegas institution and one of the most impressive free attractions on the strip. More than 1000 powerful jets of water rise up to 245 feet in the air, set to a variety of epic musical numbers, from classical music to showtunes. Matt was excited to catch a show set to the theme from one of his favorite films, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. On weekdays, shows are every 30 minutes from 3-8pm, and every 15 minutes from 8pm-midnight. Weekend displays begin at noon.
CBS Television City at the MGM: Ever wanted to be part of a TV test audience? Well, now you can. The sign-up booth is located by the MGM pool and you can take part in several showings throughout the day. Screenings run about every half hour, from 10am-8:30pm, and usually last about an hour. When Matt and I participated, they handed out a packet of coupons for various spots on the Strip (think discounted ice cream, hot dogs, pretzels, etc.). We didn't really use them, but the experience itself was interesting and fun. Top Tip: For an even more rewarding experience, check out the TestAmerica center in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood - some tests pay cash!
World's Largest Chocolate Fountain at the Jean-Philippe Patisserie in the Bellagio: Of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention the best food-themed free attraction. This remarkable chocolate fountain circulates more than 2,100 pounds of molten dark, milk and white chocolate at a rate of more than 120 quarts per minutes. The rough, aquamarine glass fountain stands more than 27-feet tall and it really is impressive to watch the chocolate stream over the edge. It may have been my imagination, but I thought I could actually smell the chocolate as well. Mmmmmm!
Volcano at the Mirage: Originally unveiled in 1989, this was Vegas' first free attraction on the Strip. It's since been renovated and provides a pretty impressive display of pyrotechnics, set to rousing, 'tribal' music. Matt and I watched from the curb across the street and were surprised that we could still feel the heat (at one point, the volcano shoots fireballs 12 feet into the air!) at that distance. Shows are very hour, on the hour from 8pm-midnight.
Well, that's a lot of free fun for one post! Though there may not be such a thing as 'too much' fun, there is such a thing as a too-lengthy post - catch the rest of my wallet-friendly, Las Vegas tips in What Happens in Vegas, Part II.