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Strip Attractions feature: Cheap and Cheerful

Free shows keep the tourists entertained all year round

by H. Scot Krause


Las Vegas attracts some 40 million visitors every year and seeing the sights and free attractions are still some of the “best bets” anywhere in the world. While “old Vegas” and the lure of cheap buffets is disappearing, since the mid 90’s, the grandeur of the attractions is the new lure that entices guests to visit the city and enjoy its splendor—much of it for FREE!

In no particular order, we start at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, one of the largest premier megaresorts on the Strip. From the outside, Bellagio’s world-famous fountains entertain guests with a dazzling water and light show that combines opera, classical and whimsical music with carefully choreographed movements.

Strip Attractions

Once inside, just beyond Bellagio’s gracious lobby, which in itself is another sight to behold with sculptures and marble galore, lies the Conservatory & Botanical

Gardens, a kaleidoscope for your senses. Each season these magnificent gardens take on an entirely new look, abounding in fragrance, texture and color. Row upon row of exotic plants and flowers weave a glorious tapestry displaying the unique highlights of every season and holiday. The display is open 24 hours a day.

With its amazing columns and pillars, just strolling the grounds at Caesars Palace is an awesome sight, but the Forum Shops at Caesars and its shows are a huge attraction. The Fall of Atlantis fountain show features animatronic figures fighting for control of Atlantis in this exciting production. An amazing salt water aquarium comprises the show’s platform and you can watch as a diver feeds the tropical puffers, flounder, sharks and the rest of the aquarium’s inhabitants at various times each day.

On the west end of the mall is the Festival Fountain show where visitors are entertained by the Greek gods Bacchus, Venus, Apollo and Plutus in animatronic form, holding the audience spellbound with a fantastic laser, water and light show.

Crowding in on the wooden planks at the front entrance of TI (Treasure Island), sightseers are treated to the free Sirens of TI show nightly. The outdoor spectacle is a 17th century clash between a group of beautiful, tempting sirens and a band of renegade pirates. With their mesmerizing and powerful song, the Sirens lure the pirates to their cove, stir up a tempest strong enough to sink a ship, and transform Sirens’ Cove into a

21st century party. Experience music, dance, excitement and seduction with free nightly performances at 7 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

Every 15 minutes, starting around 8 p.m. (depending on the time of year) to midnight, the earth shakes and flames shoot into the night sky spewing smoke and fire 100 feet above the waters below, transforming a tranquil waterfall into spectacular streams of molten lava. The volcano at The Mirage has been a Las Vegas signature attraction since the resort opened in 1989, mesmerizing spectators with it thunderous, fiery display. The volcano, situated on three water-covered acres, is 54 feet high and circulates 119,000 gallons of water per minute. The show may be cancelled during times of high winds or inclement weather.

Bringing the kids? Or just feel like a kid again yourself? How about free high wire and live circus acts all for free? Billed as the “World’s Largest Permanent Circus” a variety of world renowned live circus acts perform every half hour from 11 a.m. to midnight on the carnival midway at Circus Circus Hotel and Casino.

The Auto Collections at the Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino is the world’s largest and finest selection of antique, classic, muscle and special interest automobiles on display. Additionally, all vehicles (unless otherwise noted) are for sale. The collection is located on the fifth floor of the self-parking garage and is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. While technically the attraction is not free (general admission is $6.95 for adults and $5.95 for seniors) it is a great low-cost bargain and there are usually 2-for-1 or discount coupons found in many of the tourist publications around town.

Be part of the free “Piano Bar” show at Harrah’s Las Vegas nightly. Keyboarding extraordinaires battle it out for the best-played piano music as judged by you, the audience. It’s always a good time atmosphere. And just outside the doors of the lounge is Harrah’s Carnival Court featuring entertainment and some of the world’s finest flair bartenders. Masterful mixologists create colorful and potent concoctions while they entertain the thirsty crowds. Other flair bartenders can be seen at the Ghost Bar at The Palms Hotel & Casino, Kahunaville at TI, Studio 54 at the MGM Grand and the Voodoo Lounge at the Rio Hotel & Casino.

The aquarium in the lobby of the Mandalay Bay Hotel is a sight to behold. The 12,200-gallon saltwater tank is a preview to what can be seen in the 1 million gallon Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay exhibit located near the South convention center.

The Lion Habitat at MGM Grand Hotel Casino is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and admission is complimentary. To honor the lion and help safeguard its preservation for future generations, MGM Grand Hotel and Casino has created a one-of-a-kind Lion Habitat as a showcase for public education and appreciation for this majestic creature of nature.

Complementing the lions, the open-air home of magician’s Siegfried & Roy’s Royal White Tigers is available for public viewing throughout the day and evening at The Mirage Casino Hotel. Siegfried & Roy have dedicated their lives to preserving these rare animals, and their efforts have helped save them from total extinction. The Tiger Habitat contains many features designed to enhance the comfort of the animals and provide spectacular viewing for guests. The open-air environment features a swimming pool with fountains and simulated mountain terrain for the tigers’ enjoyment and the public’s entertainment.

Just off the Strip, west on Flamingo Road, the Rio Suite Hotel and Casino offers a very popular free attraction with its Masquerade Show in the Sky. Experience the excitement of Brazil’s Carnivale and see one of Las Vegas’ best totally free shows!

The Show in the Sky performs seven times daily in the Rio’s Masquerade Village, featuring state-of-the-art floats that suspend from the ceiling and parade above the casino floor. The show evokes the electrifying and colorful atmosphere of Carnivale as performers clad in exotic masks and brilliant costumes entertain with exciting music and dance. For a nominal fee, audience members may take part in the parade by riding floats and wearing costumes unique to each parade. The shows are appropriate for all ages and everyone has fun trying to catch beads tossed out by the entertainers into the crowds.

The Rio also features one-of-a-kind “BevErtainment”, a concept that combines Las Vegas’ most recognizable icons, the cocktail server and the entertainer.

Glamorous entertainers traverse the casino floor not only taking drink orders, but also periodically pausing to grace strategically-placed stages for 90-second live performances. Some sing, some dance—they have their own styles and abilities; yet they all have one thing in common: they serve beverages swiftly, and with a smile.

Downtown’s biggest attraction is the Fremont Street Experience boasting five blocks of light and sound show thrills in the heart of Las Vegas. Called “Viva Vision,” it’s the biggest big screen on the planet, 90 feet overhead, blasting state-of-the-art light and sound shows every night.

H. Scot Krause is a freelance writer, gaming industry analyst and researcher, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. Scot reports, researches,

and specializes in writing about casino games, events, attractions and promotions. He is a former entertainment director and a twelve-year resident of Las Vegas. His work is regularly featured in Gaming Today, Casino Player, Poker Player and Casino Enterprise Management magazines. Questions or comments for Scot may be addressed to\

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