Living in Las Vegas it’s not uncommon to get the following phone call, “Hey, I’m in town last minute, what should I see while I’m here?”
Often times, unplanned trips mean little cash flow. Over the years I’ve spent hundreds of hours walking the Strip with friends visiting for the first time, and this list is 21 of the best things you can do for zero money.
Be sure to pack your hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, plenty of water, and a few snacks, as this walk will take you most of the day. You’ll cover about 5 miles from start to finish and you’ll walk the Strip from the far north end to the far south end.
1. Bonanza Gift Shop
You’ll start at the intersection of Sahara and Las Vegas Blvd at Bonanza Gift Shop. This store opened in 1980, and claims to be “The World’s Largest Gift Shop”. They have kitch for miles and their neon sign out front is the perfect photo op.
2. 3-D Video Animations at SLS
The SLS is the former site of the Sahara casino and is one of the newer and trendier properties along the Strip. Take a walk towards Center Bar where you can see rotating 3-D animations of legs, faces, and rubber duckies on the LED video screen that hangs overhead.
3. Circus Acts at Circus Circus
Upon entering the property make your way to the Carnival Midway to enjoy free entertainment. Performances start at 11am, and you’re likely to see trapeze artists, clowns, jugglers, and acrobatics.
4. Photo Op at The Peppermill
The Peppermill is an Establishment with a capital ‘E’ here in Vegas. You’ll want to get your picture outside of this 1970’s era classic restaurant where films like Casino & Showgirls both shot scenes. Bonus: If you do decide to spend a few bucks and eat here, many times a staff photographer takes pictures during your meal and sends you home with a physical souvenir copy at no charge.
5. Jeff Koons’ Popeye at The Wynn
As you head south, your next stop will be The Wynn. Follow signage to the Le Reve theatre and outside is a sculpture of Popeye by world-renowned artist Jeff Koons. On your way out of the property make sure to view Preston Bailey’s floral creations of a carousel and a hot air balloon in the Wynn’s atrium.
6. Gondoliers at The Venetian
Travel to Venice at The Venetian’s outdoor plaza area and head inside to enjoy a stroll through the Grand Canal Shoppes. You’ll see gondoliers singing to their passengers as they float the waters and throughout the shops professional performers create ‘streetmosphere’ in the form of living statues, opera singers, and dancers.
7. Sigfried and Roy Statue at The Mirage
The Mirage made headlines in the late 1980’s for it’s nightly volcano eruptions out front, which continues today, but you’ll want to make sure to pay your tribute to the very Vegas celebrity magicians of Siegfried and Roy at their bronze likenesses out front between the Treasure Island and The Mirage. You should also go inside to see the Mirage’s atrium and watch the fish swim in their 20,000-gallon saltwater aquarium behind the check in desk.
8. Fall of Atlantis at the Forum Shops at Ceasars Palace
You can’t leave Vegas without a visit to Caesars. Wind through the gardens, fountains, and statues out front of this 50 year old property and head inside to your right to enter The Forum Shops. Walk under the painted color-changing sky to the rear end of the Forum Shops to watch animatronic statues come to life, every hour on the hour starting at 11am, complete with water and fire to tell the story of the Fall of Atlantis.
9. Linq Promenade
Cross Las Vegas Blvd just north of Flamingo to the Linq Promenade. Here you can walk down tree lined cobblestone streets with a head on view of the most recent addition to the Vegas skyline, the Highroller, a 550 foot tall slow revolving ferris wheel.
10. The Wildlife Habitat at The Flamingo
Enter The Flamingo directly from the Linq Promenade (just look for the two tall fiberglass Flamingos) and follow signage to the outdoor garden area that serves as a habitat for the casino’s namesake bird, the flamingo. You’ll also get to view turtles, ducks, koi, and two recently rescued pelicans.
11. Bellagio’s Fountains and Conservatory
Outside the Bellagio, fountains dance to pop hits as well as Sinatra standards starting weekdays at 3pm, Saturdays at 12pm, and Sundays at 11am. After watching the waters shoot up as high as 460 feet, step inside to see the Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical gardens which feature seasonal flowers, plants, and a 50ft tall glass ceiling. It’s one of the few places indoors on The Strip that offers natural lighting.
12. Streets of Paris
You’ve already been to Venice today, so why not stop by Paris as well. Outside the casino you can view the half-scale recreation of the Eiffel Tower and a two-thirds sized Arc de Triomphe, venture inside to see a tiffany-style glass dome within their shopping area and be on the look out for hand-painted parisian street style signage throughout the property.
13. Lobby Digital Experience at The Cosmopolitan
After you enter The Cosmo and pass by their signature purple lit chandelier, make your way to view the eight 15 foot tall columns in their lobby that play award winning digital narratives and showcase digital artists. Upstairs you can peruse their permanent art collection which includes contemporary artworks by artists such as David LaChapelle, as well as vintage photographs highlighting Vegas’ past in the exhibition The Golden Age of Glam.
14. Tram ride from City Center to Monte Carlo
Since you’ve been walking for a few hours now, sit down and enjoy a free ride. After you view some of the public artworks here such as Nancy Robin’s Big Edge, Henry Moore’s Reclining Connected Forms, and Maya Lin’s Silver River, get on the Aria Express tram and ride it south to the Monte Carlo.
15. Bliss Dance at The Park
Wander the paths that run through desert landscaping and concrete fountains between the Monte Carlo and the New York, New York and sit down to enjoy the sunny weather on one of their many outdoor benches. You will see Burning Man artist Marco Cochrane’s sculpture, Bliss Dance, which portrays a 50 foot tall woman showing off her dance moves.
16. Brooklyn Bridge at New York, New York
When leaving The Park, turn right and walk over The Brooklyn Bridge at the New York, New York. While you walk you’ll likely hear live music from local musicians, and you can also see the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty.
17. Lion Statue at MGM Grand
Weighing in at 50 tons, this lion is the largest bronze statue in the United States and sits just outside of the MGM Grand. If you didn’t already want to stop by the MGM to see this, you may be convinced when you find out that it was here Sid Casars’ final onscreen performance was shot for Vegas Vacation.
18. Sky Beam at Luxor
By this point in the day it may be starting to get dark out and you’ll want to see the world’s strongest beam of light, the Luxor Sky Beam. If it’s still light outside, your time at Luxor can be spent inside watching the unique incline elevators travel sideways up the pyramid walls.
19. Lenin Statue at Mandalay Bay
You’ll walk past palm trees and waterfalls on your way inside to the casino and look for signage for the Red Square restaurant. Outside of this dining area you’ll see a headless statue of Lenin, complete with bird droppings on his shoulders. You can meander through the tropically scented property to view more waterfalls and when you head back outside, cross the street so you’re on the east side of Las Vegas Blvd in preparation for your next stop.
20. Little Church of the West
This chapel, made of California Redwood, is on the National Register of Historic Places and has hosted weddings for over 70 years. It was originally part of The Last Frontier, and has moved locations several times over the past few decades. Pop Culture Bonus: It’s also where Elvis and Ann-Margret were married in the film Viva Las Vegas.
21. The Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign
One of the most photographed and famous signs in the world, you can now get in line for your final freebie, a picture with the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, which serves as a love letter to the city from designer Betty Willis. When she created it in the late 1950’s, she decided not to copyright the sign, leaving it in public domain for all to enjoy.
Now that you’ve seen the Strip from start to finish without spending a dime, be sure to treat yourself to a ride back to your hotel and enjoy an evening splurging at one of Vegas’ iconic buffets.