Times may be tough, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time in Las Vegas. The city is home to plenty of entertaining things that won’t leave a dent in your wallet and even several free attractions that everyone in the family will enjoy. To get you started, we’ve created a list of 20 things (in no particular order) you can do for less than $20 apiece, so hit the ATM and then hit the Las Vegas Strip for some guilt-free fun.
1. Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay ($16.95 for adults, $10.95 for kids 12 and under)
With more than 1,200 species of marine life including sharks, exotic fresh and saltwater fish, a 300-pound sea turtle and a Komodo dragon, Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay is an educational and entertaining experience.
2. “Jubilee!” Backstage tour, Bally’s ($15, $10 with a “Jubilee!” ticket)
Uncover the secrets of the Las Vegas showgirl at the “Jubilee!” backstage tour. A cast member from the show leads the tour, which includes an up-close and personal look at the production’s famous Bob Mackie costumes and headdresses weighing as much as 35 pounds.
3. Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at Mirage ($15 for adults, $10 for children 4 -12)
The Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat is the brainchild of legendary magicians Siegfried & Roy. For years the duo has worked to help save endangered animals, primarily white tigers and lions. They can be seen at this attraction along with panthers, leopards and dolphins.
4. Gondola ride at The Venetian ($16 per person, children 2 and under are free)
Float lazily through the canals of The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian as a gondolier serenades you in Italian and you’ll feel just like you’re in Venice. Indoor and outdoor rides are available. Be sure to kiss under the bridges for good luck.
5. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area ($5 per car)
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, just 15 miles west of Las Vegas, is a paradise for hikers, bikers and rock climbers. The area features amazing views, towering red cliffs and abundant wildlife.
6. Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art ($15 for visitors age 13 and older, children 12 and under are free)
The gallery presents world-class exhibitions of art and objects drawn from internationally known museums and private collections.
7. Steak and Shrimp Special at Mr. Lucky’s 24/7 at the Hard Rock Hotel ($7.77)
Who says you can’t still get a bargain meal in Vegas? The special includes steak, three grilled shrimp, salad, garlic mashed potatoes and a roll. It’s not on the menu — you’ll have to ask your server.
8. Aquarium at the Silverton (free)
Throughout the afternoon and evenings Thursday through Sunday, women dressed as mermaids join the 4,000 tropical fish, including three species of stingrays and three species of sharks, in the 117,000-gallon, curved acrylic tank, for a 15-minute show.
9. The Auto Collections at Imperial Palace ($8.95 for adults, $5 for children 4-12)
The Auto Collections is home to a rotating display of more than 300 classic cars including racing cars, muscle cars, touring roadsters and many others.
10. The Roller Coaster at New York — New York ($14)
The NY-NY roller coaster features cars that look like New York taxicabs, although this ride is slightly more harrowing. The coaster begins with a steep hill and the intensity continues with loops, corkscrews and speeds of up to 67 miles per hour.
11. Bonanza Gifts, 2440 S. Las Vegas Blvd. ($2.99)
If you need a souvenir to bring to the folks back at home, Bonanza Gifts, known as the World’s Largest Gift Shop, offers fabulous trinkets like a dice bracelet, a welcome to Las Vegas magnet or keychain for $2.99 each.
12. Stratosphere Tower ($13.95 for adults, $10 for kids 4-12)
For unparalleled views of Las Vegas, take a ride to the top of the Stratosphere Tower. The structure offers a 360-view of the city and an outdoor observation deck located 869 feet above the ground.
13. Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd. ($18.95 for adults, $10.95 for kids age 5-17)
The Springs Preserve, a 180-acre cultural and historical attraction on the site of natural springs that dried up in 1962, features exhibits, gardens, a children’s play area and a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. Learn about the history of the Las Vegas Valley and ways to maintain a sustainable lifestyle in the desert.
14. Shrimp cocktail at the Golden Gate’s San Francisco Shrimp Bar & Deli, 1 Fremont Street ($1.99)
In 1959, the Golden Gate hotel started serving its famous shrimp cocktails and you can still get one at a price that’s reminiscent of the ’50s. The shrimp are accented with homemade sauce, lemon wedges and saltine crackers.
15. Fountains at Bellagio & Bellagio Conservatory (Free)
The elegant and beautiful fountains of Bellagio dance in time to choreographed musical routines, with water from more than 1,200 nozzles shooting as high as 460 feet. Inside the hotel, the 13,573-square-foot Bellagio Conservatory is also free.
16. Show in the Sky at the Rio (Free)
The Show in the Sky features sexy dancing and singing by performers circling on floats high above the Rio’s casino floor. Performances are on the hour from 7 p.m. – midnight and for $12.95 you can don a costume and ride on one of the floats. You might even catch some free beads!
17. Sirens of TI at Treasure Island (Free)
The action-packed 18-minute show features sizzling dance moves, acrobatics, sword fights, dazzling pyrotechnics and even a sinking ship – and you don’t have to pay a penny to watch.
18. World’s Largest Permanent Circus at Circus Circus (Free)
The acts of the World’s Largest Permanent Circus delight patrons by performing death-defying stunts every half-hour between 11 a.m. and midnight. Acts include jugglers, unicyclists, trapeze artists and acrobats.
19. Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo (Free)
Stroll past waterfalls and lagoons through the lush grounds of the Flamingo and see exotic birds like Chinese pheasants, Mandarin ducks and of course, flamingoes. The habitat also houses koi fish, swans, catfish and more.
20. Drinks at The Plaza ($2.50)
If the economy makes you want to take a stiff drink, head downtown to The Plaza for $2.50 well drinks. While you’re hanging out downtown, be sure to check out the free Viva Vision light show at the Fremont Street Experience.