Few things give people a thrill like getting something for free. There are lots of free things to do in Vegas, if you know where to look. Since we do, I was challenged to see how many free attractions I could visit in one day. There was hunger, blisters and sunburns but by Vegas, I crawled through the trenches on the Strip so you don’t have to. Here’s what I was able to scratch off the list:
8:38 a.m. There are already three huge tour buses at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. Somehow I thought the drunken revelers would still be tucked under carefully stuffed duvets, but I completely underestimated the number of people with families who are not hung over. It was about a 10 minute wait in line before it was my turn for a photo opp (not bad considering the line). There was also a weird dude with a Las Vegas shirt on offering to take pictures and sounding super official. The last time I checked, there are no welcome sign employees so hand your camera over at your own risk. Do yourself a favor and jump on the selfie stick bandwagon.
9:27 a.m. I passed a homeless man on the sky-bridge. Yes, Vegas does have panhandlers. You’ll usually spot these folks on the pedestrian bridges that cross the Strip. They are not to be confused with the costumed characters posing for pictures and tips and the card flickers / slappers who hand out all the “Girls Direct To You” ads to every passerby.
9:32 a.m. I’m greeted by a giant jelly bean Statue of Liberty at Hershey’s Chocolate World. She’s one of three candy-concocted statues I want photos of in New York-New York. The newest work of sugary art is another Lady Liberty made from Twizzlers. There’s also a chocolate Statue of Liberty that reminds me of a hollow Easter Bunny. I’m also struck by the amount of candy that Hershey makes. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of chocolate, but there are Jolly Rancher dispensers, Bubble Yum pillows and Twizzler T-shirts. I make my way around the candy bar (It’s stocked with cupcakes, chocolate-covered strawberries and Rice Krispies Treats, and all kinds of other drool worthy goodies.) to get a closer look at the merchandise. There are Hershey headphones (in milk-chocolate color) and S’more candles. Everybody needs a Hershey’s chocolate bar with the Las Vegas Strip on the label so I bought one and split.
9:46 a.m. Nature calls, ya’ll. That large coffee didn’t do me any favors so I crossed the casino floor to the awesome Art Deco decorated facilities. These are some of my favorite restrooms on the Strip. I grabbed a yogurt from Starbucks on my way out and rode with Elmo in the elevator. He wasn’t much of a talker.
9:54 a.m. I’ve made it to the M&M’s World, four floors of interactive fun. They call out hourly specials on merchandise like shot glasses, robes, luggage and golf club covers. There’s a 3D movie theater that starts at 10:20 a.m. and plays throughout the day. I watched “I Lost My M in Vegas,” a 10 minute 3D movie where Red loses his ‘M’ at a roulette table and Yellow goes on an adventure with him to get it back. If you love the commercials, you’re actually going to enjoy this. There are plenty of photo opps so take advantage of them.
10:50 a.m. CBS Television City is at the back of the MGM property so it’s quite a trek. Luckily, I made it just in time for the 11:00 a.m. showing (shows are every 30 minutes). This isn’t a traditional Vegas attraction. They gather research from boob-tubers across the country. Your group is taken to a room where you watch a TV series pilot and decide if you like it or not. The show isn’t on the air yet but they still want to know what you think as an “average viewer.” Mine was actually pretty funny and starred Jane Lynch. Seriously, you can’t really go wrong when she’s on the show. After the segment you fill out a survey and tell yourself your opinion really does matter.
11:53 a.m. I’m hungry, but I’m going to try and squeeze in one more attraction before lunch. By the time I walk back through the MGM, find my car, drive to and find a spot in the Flamingo parking garage, you will have been able to walk there.
12:23 p.m. The Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo is a surprisingly lush courtyard with waterfalls, palm trees and lagoons that lead to an expansive pool. It can also be brutally hot so let’s all take a moment to thank the guy who invented mist systems. There are pink flamingos, exotic ducks, pelicans, turtles, the biggest Koi fish I’ve ever seen and who knows what else. They also let you try on a couple of the exotic parrots for photos. You’ll have six to choose from and the picture will set you back $25.
12:45 p.m. It’s on to the food court at Caesars to grab a slice of pie (that’s pizza for those of you not in the know) from DiFara’s and plug my phone in.
2:00 p.m. In any other instance I’d stop for a frosty beverage, but I’m working so you’ll have to drink one for me. If you don’t have kids, order a cold drink and watch the Fall of Atlantis show from the little patio at Fat Tuesday instead of smooshing in shoulder to shoulder like I did. If you’re a fan of the awesomely bad Kung Fu movies where the voices and mouths don’t match up, this is right up your alley. It’s a free show, and there are some cool features like fireballs, sound waves and a 20-foot winged dragon, but there are a few hokey ones too. But let’s be honest, you don’t see that every day, especially in a shopping mall.
2:42 p.m. Ah the beloved Bellagio Conservatory. It’ll take about a half hour to walk to but it’s worth it. You’ll rarely meet someone who doesn’t visit the conservatory while they’re on vacation in Vegas, and there’s a reason why. If “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” met “Finding Nemo” and gave birth to “The Little Mermaid,” it would look a lot like the summer exhibit. Jellyfish and kelp wiggle from the ceiling, there’s a seashell-clad mermaid and a huge coral reef. When the summer is over, they’ll have used more than 10,000 potted flowers in the display. At night, it’s lit by LED’s.
3:15 p.m. When I came out of the Bellagio’s main entrance, I turned right to take the moving walkway to the Cosmopolitan. It’s a nice place to hide from the sun, rest your feet and take a few cool shots of the Eiffel Tower across the street. When you come down the escalator, the side entrance to the Cosmopolitan is to your right.
3: 47 p.m. On my way in, I stopped at the Bond Bar to get water. It cost me $11 for two bottles. Just so you know, the beers are the same price. We say go for the beer. Lucky Cat is in the middle of a sleek, white room with a minimalistic design. The Japanese-inspired maneki-neko cat represents good luck and good fortune. So I touched his colossal paw and waited for my future to be revealed. Instead of an ethereal revelation, I got $10 in free slot play. Which would have been cool for somebody who actually gambled, but it was a little disappointing for me. Oh well, time to go. If you stick around longer, the P3 Studio is a free art gallery that opens on Wednesdays and Thursday at 5 p.m. or Friday through Sunday at 6 p.m.
4:26 p.m. I crossed in front of the Bellagio Fountains and stopped to watch the 4:30 p.m. show. Yeah, it’s a little better at night but it’s still pretty impressive during the day and we’re on a time crunch, remember? This is when I realized SWASS (swamp-ass) is a very real thing in the 111-degree Vegas heat. The duration of the show is about five minutes and included fog and a classical score of music I’ve heard but would never be able to name. Here’s a fun fact, the lake is 8.5-acres with 17,000 gallons of water and 1,214 jets that shoot higher than a 24-story building. Beat that.
5:16 p.m. It’s a long walk to the Venetian. About a mile in the blistering heat, so make sure you’ve got plenty of water. Normally I don’t advocate buying things off random strangers on the sidewalk, but in this case I’ll just leave this info right here: People stand outside the hotels selling ice-cold bottled water for a buck. You can pay $11 for two bottles in a hotel like I did or pay $2 on the street, the choice is yours. Just know, no one regulates the guys selling it on the street.
5:27 p.m. I’m already thinking about where to get my next meal, but since I’m on a mission I’m going to skip a restaurant and eat at the food court in the Venetian. I stopped at Café Pan and spent $12 on a pretty decent Greek salad and plugged my phone in. If you’re not in a hurry (and not broke), spring for dinner at one of the restaurants on St. Mark’s Square and enjoy the live music. If you are, grab a gelato and a seat on the bench.
6:30 p.m. The Venetian Trio plays traditional Italian music from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Streetmosphere. A Spanish guitar player, a violinist and a vocalist make up the group and they’re incredibly talented so throw a couple bucks on the stage if you’ve got it. Sorry Dean, there’s no big pizza pie in this amore.
7:01 p.m. I wanted to stay longer but I can’t (We’re on a schedule folks!), so I took the rest of my gelato to go and made the short walk to see the Palazzo’s Waterfall Atrium. It took two years to design the 9-foot-tall topiary women dressed in traditional Venetian Carnival costumes. Their gowns are hand-made from tens of thousands of real flowers the hotel had shipped in from South America. Kinda makes me wish I’d paid more attention in that high school drafting class.
7:23 p.m. The Venetian is a super picture-worthy hotel so I stopped for a gazillion sunset shots of the outdoor lights and lagoon. Remember that free attraction with the smokin’ hot dancers and pyrotechnics? We all do. Unfortunately, the Siren show at Treasure Island is no more, but it’s on the way to our next stop. You can still take pictures of the empty ship, but there are no half-naked dancers and swashbuckling awesomeness to be had anymore.
7:50 p.m. I see you, Mirage volcano. With your lush green plants and palm trees, that soothing waterfall and real ducks in your pond. It’s a pretty place, really. At 8:00 p.m. the waterfall slows to a trickle and sounds of crickets and frogs are piped in. That’s also about the same time people start climbing over each other to take pictures. When the volcano and flame throwers explode, you can literally feel the fire’s heat on your face. It was 111 degrees (literally), and suddenly I was ready to give up my front-row spot. This one’s not just for the kids, guys. I enjoyed the show a lot more than I thought I would, even if it’s a little less than 10 minutes long.
8:46 p.m. It should only take you about a half hour to walk to the Grand Bazaar Shops in front of Bally’s. I drove, so it took me about 45 with traffic. Instead of standing directly below the Swarovski Starburst for the 9:00 p.m. show, I chose a spot on one of the sky-bridges to take pictures. I’m glad I did because the rooftops also have LED lights and are part of the show. You wouldn’t know this unless you did your homework, but the starburst is 4,000 pounds of hand-cut crystals and 1,800 points of LED light. The show is choreographed to sync with music from around the globe.
I’m not gonna lie guys, I’m beat. And I’ve got a good feeling you are too. If I was more athletically inclined or driven by controlled substances, I probably would’ve been able to make the last two on my list. But alas, I’m a weeny:
10:45 p.m. The Circus Acts at Circus Circus feature crazy talented peeps who really did run away to the circus. The aerial strap show has huge silk panels suspended from the ceiling and a performer hanging, climbing and twirling from it. The schedule changes each week but with as frequent as the acts are, you can just about go anytime and still see someone awesome. They start at 11 a.m. and go until midnight (until 1:15 a.m. on Saturdays). If you’re coming from the Starburst, do yourself a favor and catch a cab or a bus.
11:15 p.m. If only I had the energy to dance my face off, the Fremont Street Experience would be the icing on the cake. There’s live music or a DJ nightly and it’s the perfect place to act a fool without anybody really noticing. Your awkward dance moves won’t hold a candle to all the other shenanigans taking place (get ready to see some really interesting costumed characters). Vegas help you if it’s the weekend, you won’t make it back to your room until the sun comes up. If that’s the case, stop for a hangover helping breakfast at the Peppermill.
Alright guys, I’m still tallying the blisters on my feet but I lasted 12 hours and 42 minutes before I totally wimped out and called it quits at Grand Bazaar Shops. My final count was 13 attractions in just under 13 hours. If I was the bionic woman, I would have made it to all 15 attractions in roughly 15 hours. How many can you do?
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