Free & Cheap: Vegas

Here are 5 of the best ways to pass the time in Vegas without spending a dime.
By: Chris Walsh

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So, you blew your entire vacation budget playing blackjack two hours after arriving in Las Vegas and still have another two days left in the city.

No worries; your luck has returned. Vegas is home to plenty of free things to do or see, and you don't even have to try that hard to find them, as hotels and casinos compete aggressively with each other to offer the biggest, baddest -- and loudest -- free attractions.

Walking the Strip alone is an eye-popping experience, complete with simulated pirate battles, erupting volcanoes and dancing fountains. Step inside the casino hotels and you can experience everything from a lion habitat to an aquarium. And don't forget the city's downtown, which has spent millions of dollars in recent years to create a hopping entertainment district.

Some of it may be a little cheesy, but hey, this is Vegas. Plus, how can you complain if it's free?

Here are five of the best ways to pass the time in Vegas without spending a dime.

Fountains of Bellagio
One word sums up this visual treat: Wow. You probably haven't ever said that about fountains before, but you will after seeing these geysers at the Bellagio resort and casino, which now lead the list of must-see Vegas attractions.

The fountains feature 1,200 nozzles spouting water up to 240 feet high in magical, choreographed performances set to lights and classic songs such as 'Singin' in the Rain.' Shows run every 15 to 30 minutes from early afternoon until midnight. While at the hotel, visit its conservatory and botanical gardens, filled with plants, flowers and trees, some towering as high as 40 feet.

MGM Grand Hotel's Lion Habitat 
Who would've thought the closest you can get to the king of the jungle without working at a zoo is in a casino on the Strip?

The MGM Grand Hotel's popular lion attraction allows visitors to get up close and personal with the beasts, which are separated from the public by just 1.5 inches of glass. There's even a glass tunnel where you can view the lions walking directly above.

The lions really are not as fierce as you'd expect, as they sleep for up to 20 hours a day.

If they're snoozing when you arrive, wait a bit. Trainers often enter the habitat to rile up the lions with balls, toys and hunks of meat thrown near ' or sometimes even on ' the glass walls.

Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino
Yeah, we know, the Luxor doesn't really make you feel like you're in Egypt, and the Imperial Palace definitely doesn't transport you to the Orient.

But then there's the Venetian, which succeeds remarkably well in re-creating the ambiance of the famous Italian city it's modeled after: Venice.

Strolling through the resort, you'll encounter canals, wandering accordion players, top-notch restaurants, opera singers and, best of all, gondolas.

The Venetian has enough eye ' and ear ' candy to keep you busy for at least an hour or so, and you won't have to reach into your wallet. Get lost wandering around the massive, art-adorned hotel or stroll through the main shopping area, which features live music and street performers.

Finish your visit by grabbing a drink or an ice cream and watching the gondolas float leisurely through the canals.

Downtown Las Vegas
If you can scrape up enough money for a short cab ride, spend the better part of the night mooching off the free attractions in the city's downtown neighborhood.

First, take a self-guided tour of the outdoor Neon Museum, which proudly displays some of the garish, glitzy neon signs of yore that gave Vegas its glamorous reputation.

Next, head to the Freemont Street Experience, an entertainment and gaming complex, where you can gaze up in awe at a massive 90-foot-high screen displaying video, art and images set to adrenaline-pumping music. The complex runs through the heart of downtown's entertainment area, where you can window-shop, check out more casinos, and watch street performers and other live entertainment: all for free.

If it's the first Friday of the month head to the arts district, where you can visit the city's numerous galleries, watch live street performances and view outdoor art in a festive environment.

Imperial Palace Auto Collection
You don't have to be a gear head to enjoy the massive showcase of automobiles at the Auto Collection's Imperial Palace.

In addition to antique, classic and muscle cars, you'll find automobiles that belonged to famous personalities such as Mussolini, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis. You can even see the 1939 Chrysler Royal Sedan that Johnny Carson drove to his high-school senior prom.

More than 200 vehicles are on display at any given time, and automobiles are rotated in and out frequently.

Other collection highlights include movie cars, Indy 500 race cars, historic cars, concept cars and rally cars. Also on display are some of the world's fastest and most expensive autos ' one valued at $4 million ' made by the likes of Bugatti, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz.

And if by chance you hit a large jackpot in the casinos, venture back here, as almost every car is for sale.

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