The list of things to do in Las Vegas that aren’t gambling or drinking gets shorter every year. There’s no more pirate show at Treasure Island, the lion habitat at MGM Grand is long gone (and that’s probably for the best!), and the corporatization of so many Vegas properties means the loss leader buffets and bargain shrimp cocktails are getting as hard to find as a $5 3-to-2 blackjack table that stays on Soft 17.
But that doesn’t mean you’re simply conscripted to $20 drinks or continuous runs to the ATM. There are a ton of things to do in Vegas that can be cheap, free, and often delicious. Here’s a list of a few of our favorites.
Hike Red Rock
If you’ve got a national parks pass it’s free, otherwise $15 per car. But it’s very much worth the trip out if the weather is good, and you can see all the trails here.
And while you’re out west, check out the oversized outdoor mall that is Downtown Summerlin, or go ice skating at City National Arena, the practice rink for the Vegas Golden Knights. If that seems like a lot of activity head to Red Rock Casino, which has all the bells and whistles of most 5-star Strip properties but caters to locals and thus has much less expensive dining and drinking options. Plus a movie theatre and bowling alley too.
The Front Yard at Ellis Island
There are a billion good local joints in Las Vegas, but for the most part, unless you have a car or a driver it can be a real pain to get to them. We’ll ride for the happy hours at Herbs and Rye and Golden Tiki anytime, and Honey Salt too if we’re journeying a bit further away.
But Ellis Island is close enough you could actually walk to it from Center Strip (though we don’t recommend it). Cheap beer, great food, and a really nice patio sports bar in The Front Yard that’s attached to a dive casino. Don’t judge until you actually get inside. Also, $10 craps and blackjack usually, and the other restaurants inside have famously cheap deals such as the $10 steak special.
Bellagio Botanical Gardens and the Fountain Show
I am a broken human full of cynicism, but these two things put me in a Vegas mood with startling alacrity. And if you don’t like the song they played, come back in a half-hour and they’ll do something else. The pedestrian bridge between Bellagio and Cosmo, walking towards The B, gives a low-key unobstructed view that’s terrific.
Also, a spot outside at Bellagio Prime or on the window at the Mayfair Club makes this even better if you’re willing to be rather spendy with dinner.
One of Vegas’s best bargains moved across from the Luxor a couple of years ago, and $5 will last you hours in here. It’s just massive and fun. The slot machines might not take coins anymore, but everything in here will gladly eat your quarters.
Cheap gambling and food at Downtown Grand
$2 for a hot dog and a PBR, $5 craps, $1 blackjack... it’s like the old days! Also, it’s a nice property and worth the two-block wander from the Fremont Street Experience. It’s also surrounded by some terrific local restaurants. Don’t miss Pizza Rock is what we’re saying.
Play some cheap table games at the Tropicana before they shut it down
The last property on the Las Vegas Strip that dates to the 1950s will be shut down on April 2, as the Oakland A’s are (theoretically, at least) moving there as part of a teardown and rebuild on the 30+ acre lot. The stained glass ceiling over the table games pit was an iconic symbol of Sin City at a different time, so go see it before the corporate monolith that owns the joint does something awful that destroys the history of what was a special place.
Here are the best ways to gamble at the Trop, and you’re going to need as low a house edge as possible. Because you’re not making it back to use any comps you earn there.
This article can also be found in our Ultimate Guide to Super Bowl 58, presented by Frank’s Red Hot.