Despite the fact that Vegas is known for gambling, the city and surrounding area have so much more to offer. I wanted to try and highlight some of the must see activities as well as some off the beaten path ideas that you might not have otherwise considered.
Las Vegas has an almost unlimited supply of choices when it comes to shows and attractions. They range from completely free all the way up to astronomical, depending on your budget. There is definitely something for everyone. If your time and budget allows, I'd recommend trying a little bit of everything.
Free Vegas Activities
Vegas offers a suprising number of completely free attractions and activities, many of which are must see! Definitely be sure to take advantage of everything Vegas has to offer.
The Fountains of Bellagio - No trip is complete without a trip to check out the fountains. They are choreographed to music and look especially cool at night, it is just absolutely amazing how powerful they are. They typically go off every 30 minutes on the hour throughout the day and then every 15 minutes from 7pm to midnight, but it depends on the time of year as well. They cycle through several different songs, so you could see multiple unique shows on any given day/night.
Conservatory and Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio Hotel - Since you're already at the Bellagio checking out the fountains, be sure to stop in afterwards and check out the botanical gardens. They change the display to match the season.
Freemont Street - Take a bus/cab ride down to old school Vegas! Check out the huge overhead video screens that run the length of Freemont Street, wander around old Vegas landmark hotel/casinos like the Golden Nugget and you can now even Zipline right down Freemont street with the light show overhead!
Sirens of Treasure Island - This runs several times right along the strip at the Treasure Island Resort throughout the evening starting at 7pm and it is another must see freebie. Be sure to get there early as the crowds gather around 30 minutes before show time.
While you're down that way, be sure to check out the outdoor volcano at the Mirage. It erupts every 15 minutes between 7pm and midnight.
Take a stroll through the Grand Canal Shoppes in the Venetian resort and feel as if you're strolling along the canals in Venice Italy, complete with gondola rides!
M&M World - 4 floors of everything chocolate and M&M specific. Very neat place for kids and adults alike!
Atlantis Water Show - Forum Shops at Caesars Palace
This show features animatronic statues acting out the story of the fall of Atlantis. Fountains, lasers, fire, steam and sound effects add to the excitement of the action. This high tech production is one of the most popular free shows in Las Vegas. The show takes place next to the Cheesecake Factory in the Roman Great Hall and starts at 10am and runs every hour on the hour until 11pm or midnight.
Rock and Roll Memoriabilia at the Hard Rock Casino
If you are walking through Planet Hollywood at the top of the hour, you'll experience a quick thunder and lighning storm as you walk through the Miracle Mile shops.
If you have some extra time, you can take a quick trip off the strip to check out the Gold and Silver Pawn shop. This is the pawn shop shown on the TV show Pawn Stars. From what I understand there is usually a long line unless you get there early, so you have to be a fan of the show to make it worth while.
If you're a big fan of Vintage Pinball machines, you might also want to check out the Pinball Hall of Fame.
Not So Free Vegas Activities
There are a TON of shows you can see, way too many to list. From headliner concerts, to Magicians, to several of the amazing acrobatic shows of the Cirque Du Soleil. And of course there is the unique show combining percussion with colorful visuals and humor, The Blue Man Group.
The Mirage hotel has a Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, where you can come face to face with white lions, white tigers, panthers, leopards, and a family of Bottlenose Dolphin
In addition to the shows, there are a few excursions I highly recommend considering. One is the Hoover Dam. If you go there it's traditional to take the Dam Tour! Another excursion many recommend is a trip to Red Rock Canyon. Lots of beautiful red rock formations and it is only about a 20 minute drive.
Maverick Helicopter Tour of the Grand Canyon
If you have the time, $ and desire, I highly recommend trying a Maverick Helicopter Tour of the Grand Canyon. It is one of those once in a lifetime, bucket list items that you will remember for the rest of your life! Neither one of us are a big fan of heights and my wife is not a huge fan of flying and it was no problem at all.
We did the Canyon Dream combo air/land tour of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and it was amazing! That moment when you first go from being over land to being over the Grand Canyon is absolutely breathtaking. Pictures do not even begin to describe what an amazing experience it really is.
Maverick also does helicopter tours that take you right into the base of the Grand Canyon for a picnic lunch/champagne toast and others that take you white water rafting, day/night tours of the Vegas strip, etc. There are so many options, it's just a matter of picking one that meets your desire and budget.
Safety is obviously the most important concern when doing something like this and Maverick has a stellar safety record and consistently amazing reviews from customers on all the review sites. They are very professional, friendly and everything went off without a hitch. Be sure to check out all the different tours Maverick offers and I would highly recommend booking as far in advance as possible, as they do sell out.
Special Vegas Insider Tip
The Bellagio Hotel is very centrally located in the heart of the strip and I would highly recommend staying there if it fits within your budget. You can typically find unadvertised discounts on the Bellagio and other Vegas hotels online.
One quick tip when you arrive at whatever hotel you choose is to try the $20 trick. It is quite common/acceptable in Vegas to tip the front desk clerk when checking in and to ask them if they have any "complimentary upgrades" available. If they are able to provide an upgrade, they will in most cases as long as they are not fully booked. Be friendly and nice about it and give them the $20 bill when you show them your ID and credit card.
I can confirm that this works especially well at the Bellagio, as both myself and a relative received a "complementary upgrade" from the standard room to a fountain view room in the Spa tower as shown below. Your mileage may vary, but it's certainly worth a shot!
I hope this article provides you with some ideas that you might not have thought about when considering a trip to Vegas. As you can see, there is so much more to do in Vegas than gambling. Be sure to get out there and experience all that Vegas has to offer. And don't forget to bring a nice comfortable pair of sneakers, a nice digital camera and some chapstick! It is a desert after all and you'll thank me later.