Las Vegas on the Cheap ~ Family Vacation to Vegas on a Budget

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We had a great time on our family vacation to Las Vegas. It was a quick getaway — just two days. Here’s how to enjoy Las Vegas on the cheap. Whether you have a day or a week to spend in Las Vegas, you will find lots to do that’s free.

The entertainment here is endless. You can walk down the 4.2 mile Las Vegas Strip, awash in all the activity around you, day or night. The people-watching alone is worth it. You will see everyone here — doing their own thing — enjoying this unique place.

As you walk down the Strip, you will be awed by the massive hotel structures and signage — all larger than life — all trying to attract attention in this 24/7 wonderland. Much of the fun here is taking in your surroundings.

The stellar hotels all have something to draw you in. Many have aquariums, lavish gardens, and live animals. Each has a theme — there’s Paris, Caesar’s Palace, The Mirage, The Luxor, Bellagio, and so many more — all showcasing their exhibitions in big ways.

And the shows! There are so many shows in Las Vegas. Even if you think you don’t like shows, you will likely find something that appeals to you. There are afternoon shows as well as shows early evening and later into the night.

Did you say shopping? There is everything here, including high-end retailers. No matter how much you can spend, there’s truly something for everyone in Vegas.

List of free things to do in Las Vegas

This is the list I wish I had before going to Las Vegas. All of these are kid-friendly things to do. Adults will enjoy them as well. And who doesn’t like free?!

Planning where you will be on the Strip is key for you to maximize your time and minimize your walking.

Remember, the Las Vegas Strip is 4.2 miles long, so plan to see what you can when you are in that section. You may not have the time nor energy to backtrack later.

We will start at the South end of the Strip and proceed to the North end of the Strip.

Free things to do starting on the south end of the Strip

Welcome to Las Vegas sign

This is the iconic sign. What’s great is there is some free parking here. If this is important for you to see, go early before the lines get really long.

Luxor Hotel

My kids studied Egypt in school so we enjoyed walking around seeing the Egyptian statues, hieroglyphics, etc.

New York – New York

Explore Hershey’s Chocolate World. Here’s the place to experience all of Hershey’s brands along with their characters in this renowned candy emporium. You will enjoy walking around, seeing their merchandise as well as their wall of candy. Even if you don’t buy any candy — but who could resist even a piece? — you will enjoy seeing all things Hershey.

M&M's World Las Vegas
M&M’s World Las Vegas

M&M World

Next to MGM Grand, is the famous M&M World. Here you will find four floors of shopping, colorful displays, and of course, candy. There is a massive M&M wall where you can try (buy) every flavor and see every color of M&M.

There is a free movie on the third floor and a race car on the fourth, so be sure to visit all the floors. Also on the third floor is the Welcome to Las Vegas sign — M&M’s style — complete with M&M’s characters. It’s a great photo opportunity whether or not you see the “official” sign and probably a lot more fun for kids.

The giant M&M’s character statues make for a bold and bright shopping experience.

Coca Cola Bear Coke Las vegas
Coca Cola Bear Coke Las Vegas

The Coca-Cola Store

Like going to Hershey World and M&M World, you can choose whether you want to buy anything here. The Coca-Cola Store is another worldwide brand which makes it fun to see. We are used to buying their products on a shelf, not walking into an entire world with their products displayed floor-to-ceiling.

This store spans two floors. On the first floor, you can take free photos (with your own camera) with the Coca-Cola polar bear. In addition to merchandise, they have a tasting area (for a fee) on the second floor. Or you can buy a Coke at the counter. Be sure to take a picture outside by the giant Coca-Cola bottle.

Paris Las Vegas

The Paris boasts a massive Eiffel Tower outside. You may want to just stand across the street for a picture.

Miracle Mile Shops

Inside the Miracle Mile Shops mall is an amazing free show. Beginning at 11am and running every hour Monday – Thursday, you can enjoy their Rainstorm Show. It runs every half hour Friday – Sunday.

Bellagio Hotel and Casino 

Fountains at Bellagio

Every half hour until 8pm you can enjoy the incredible fountain show at Bellagio. Prepare to be awed by the dancing water, music, and lights. Get there a little early to enjoy it from the railing, though there is a huge area with plenty of places no matter where you stand. After 8pm, the fountains run every 15 minutes until midnight.

Bellagio Chihuly ceiling
Bellagio Chihuly ceiling

Chihuly ceiling

We watched the fountain show and then proceeded to the main hotel entrance. Located right across from the front lobby service desk is the famed Chihuly ceiling. This is a very popular attraction at Bellagio. They estimate between 15,000 – 20,000 people come in to view the ceiling and the Bellagio Conservatory each day.

While it was crowded when we were there, it wasn’t terrible. We were able to take the time to see what we wanted. The Chihuly ceiling spans over 2,100 square feet.

From there you can see and walk over to the Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. They change it for the seasons. You will see plants and decorations everywhere you turn.

Caesars Palace

Inside the Caesars Forum Shops is another free thing to do in Las Vegas.

Fall of Atlantis show

They have a show about the story of Atlantis. It’s called Fall of Atlantis. The first show is at 11am. Shows are on the hour until 10pm or 11pm (Friday – Sunday). This free show will wow young ones. It incorporates water, fire, and talking 9-foot statues.

Saltwater Aquarium at Caesars

In addition, there is a 50,000 gallon saltwater aquarium you will want to see. It’s free to view it. It boasts over 100 species of marine life, including sharks, and tropical puffers. You can plan to view it during one of their feeding times which will make it even more exciting. They also offer aquarium tours (for a fee).

The Mirage Hotel

Volcano Show is free

As you continue your way down the Strip, be sure to check out the Mirage’s free Volcano show at 8pm and 9pm. The volcano erupts just twice a day during the week. They add a third show on the weekends.

Note, in the past, the volcano show ran every half hour. Seeing the volcano show should be on your top list of free things to do in Las Vegas. We saw it years earlier and were stunned at how great it was. Kids young and old will be mesmerized seeing the volcano eruption and the fire.

Saltwater aquarium at The Mirage

Inside The Mirage, there is more free entertainment. There is a 20,000 gallon saltwater aquarium at The Mirage. It’s behind the front desk. It contains a magnificent coral reef housing 450 fish. Over 80 species are represented here, including angelfish and pufferfish.

Tropical rainforest at The Mirage

Inside the front entrance of the hotel is a tropical paradise you can enjoy. Here you will see waterfalls and lagoons, as well as orchids and many types of plants. Take some time to meander through this space.

Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel

Check out the free outdoor animal habitat at the Flamingo Hotel. The Flamingo Wildlife Habitat is where you can see a flock of Chilean flamingos, and other birds such as parrots, waterfalls, ducks, swans. There are fish and turtles as well in this lush habitat that includes waterfalls.

It’s open from 8am – dusk. They also have two live pelican feedings per day you might be lucky enough to see.

The Venetian

Visit The Venetian for their free show, Streetmosphere. This performance is at the Venetian’s St. Mark’s Square in the Grand Canal Shoppes. Streetmosphere will entertain you with opera singers, jugglers, performers, and stilt walkers.

Depending on the time you are there, they have other performances as well. There are also living statues on display throughout the day. Like all the hotels you visit in Vegas, you will feel like you are there — in this case, in Venice with the art and culture.

Circus Circus

If you make it to this far north on the Strip, be sure to check out the free circus show at Circus Circus. This Las Vegas hotel boasts the world’s largest permanent circus. Check the times they perform. When we were there, they were scheduled to be on the center stage of Carnival Midway starting at 11:30am daily.

Kids and adults will enjoy the circus acts and performers. There are trapeze acts, clowns, jugglers, a contortionist, and more.

Roaming around the Strip is free

We were out walking around the Strip during the day and into the early evening. It was completely appropriate for kids. It wasn’t rowdy and the people seemed like us — tourists out and about, trying to see everything famous in Las Vegas.

Be sure to enjoy viewing all the design features at the hotels. They are wonders to behold. What was really fun about each of these stops is that the hotels have a lot of built-in fun. They want you to stick around and roam. It was part of the experience. Even walking in and out of stores is fun.

Family vacation to Las Vegas on the cheap

We stayed off the Strip inexpensively at the Hampton Inn Tropicana. They have a nominal fee for parking but their free breakfast makes up for it. It was a quick Lyft ride to the south end of the Strip where we started our sightseeing. Taking a car service back from midway on the Strip to the Hampton Inn was also inexpensive.

Not renting a car in Las Vegas to save money

If you are flying into Vegas, the Hampton Inn is a quick Lyft or Uber ride away from McCarran International Airport. You will pay far less on Ubers than you will renting a car in Las Vegas. So fly in, and don’t rent a car.

If you’ve never used Lyft or Uber, set up an account before you go, and familiarize yourself with the app and the service. Doing so will make it stress-free when you arrive.

We loved being in warm weather and the fabulous hotel pool. This truly was a vacation in itself! While we didn’t do any gambling or late-night galavanting, we had a sightseeing-packed day and were exhausted at night.

Eating cheaply in Las Vegas

And the eating! We aren’t big restaurant people at home, but in Las Vegas, it’s hard not to be. While there are still the famed buffets, there are fewer of them than in previous years.

Each hotel seems to have an upscale restaurant with a renowned chef from a reality show or somewhere. Then there are the tried and true favorites like Hard Rock Cafe and other iconic restaurant chains.

We took advantage of our location at the Hampton Inn. Nearby — walkable but there is a lot of traffic — is In-N-Out Burger. It’s a healthier fast-food chain and very affordable for families.

Cheap activities off the Strip

Another family fun activity that’s inexpensive is just off the Strip. Adults and kids will love spending time at the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. It’s a great place for kids to use some of their money as well.

Pinball Hall of Fame

It’s on Tropicana Ave, approximately 2.7 miles from the Strip, and east of the McCarran International Airport. It’s about 10 minutes by car from the Strip so if you take a Lyft or an Uber, it’s reasonable. There is free parking if you drive there.

Las Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame
Las Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame

This is a pinball lover’s dream! There are hundreds of pinball machines lined in rows in a 10,000 square foot building. It’s a bit dark but you will get used to it. This enables you to enjoy the lights and features on the machines you play.

You will be sure to find some childhood favorites. We enjoyed seeing Scooby Doo, the Flintstones, Kiss, AC/DC, Motley Crue, and more. There are pinball machines from the 1950s as well as up through the 1990s.

You can use the change machine onsite, and they also take credit cards. There are cups for you to keep your quarters in. We loved how most all of the pinball machines had a note taped on them with how many quarters it took to play and how many balls you get. That was helpful for my kids to decide which to play.

It’s super fun for adults and kids. There isn’t gambling here. We also liked that there aren’t redemption tickets or anything. You play until you lose your last ball, and then pay more to play again. (The prize is you get to play on these awesome vintage machines!)

You can make this a quick stop or stay for hours. It just depends how much you want to spend. We gave our kids $10 each, while the adults spent $5 – $10 each. We were there over an hour enjoying playing and looking around. You will likely see college students there as this is close to the University of Las Vegas.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Another wonderful and cheap spot off the Strip is Red Rock Canyon. It’s 18.5 miles from the Strip and took us just under 25 minutes to get there. This park in Clark County, Nevada. It’s open from 6am – 5pm daily, making it doable even in the summer months.

The price to enter is based on the vehicle. Depending on other areas you may visit, you can choose to buy a park pass. We used our America the Beautiful Annual Pass which let us in for free.  We only had time to do the 13 mile scenic drive. Note, it’s on a one-way only road.

There is also a Visitor’s Center and amazing hiking here for all levels of difficulty.

International Pinball Museum Las Vegas
International Pinball Museum Las Vegas

Las Vegas on the cheap

What’s really amazing about a vacation in Las Vegas is you can spend a lot or not spend a lot and you will still have fun. There are a lot of free things to do in Las Vegas. So much of the fun is wandering around, popping into the hotels and shops. It’s truly a remarkable spectacle but at the same time, very well-organized and maintained so that you feel safe and carefree.

Las Vegas Oasis – Behold the Mindfulness

Enjoy strolling along the Strip, looking up at all the larger-than-life signage and stellar hotels. You can walk in most all of them to explore even if you aren’t staying there.

There’s people watching, shopping, all of the various shows, eating, and gambling. Visitors to Vegas will certainly find something to entertain them on a budget and at all price points.