Nearly every business traveler has been to Las Vegas at least once, if not many times. Whether you love it or loathe it, there’s one thing that Las Vegas is really good at: extracting money from our wallets! Whether it’s an expensive hotel room or taxi ride from the airport, a $20 cocktail or a $50 steak — not to mention a big loss at Blackjack — the place is pricey!
But did you know that there also are plenty of things to do on a trip to Vegas that cost next to nothing? Yes, there are some things in Vegas that are free—or very inexpensive. For those who’d like to get away from the craziness of The Strip, many of the freebies are just a short drive away.
National Car Rental partnered me with lifestyle blogger, Instagram personality and long time Vegas local, Ashley Diana, to pick out the best of the bunch—and transport us there with some of her outstanding photos. National is currently running their popular One Two Free promotion that gives Emerald Club members a free rental day with every two qualifying rentals through January 31, 2017.
Here are Ashley’s recommendations:
Commune with nature at Mount Charleston, the highest peak in the state of Nevada with an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet. It’s the most prominent mountain on the horizon when looking out your hotel window to the northwest of the city. During winter months, it’s usually white with snow. Ashley recommends a nice long walk among the aspen trees on the hiking trails that surround the peak—a perfect place to get away from it all. She recommends renting a car for the 45-minute drive, adding, “Make sure to stop at the Mt. Charleston restaurant lodge for a cozy beverage while overlooking the surrounding mountains and valley. It may be hot in Las Vegas, but pack a jacket for this trip as the temperature cools down substantially at this elevation.”
Built during the Great Depression, the famous Hoover Dam is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Desert Southwest. Located on the border between Nevada and Arizona, it now attracts over 1 million visitors per year — most of them venturing out from Las Vegas. While many visitors pay big bucks for tours of the site, Ashley recommends renting a car in Las Vegas for the 30-minute drive and checking it out on your own. There is plenty of free parking, but lots can fill up fast. Try to get there early in the morning to find a space and avoid the crowds, especially during popular spring break or summer seasons. The dramatic drive across the dam is free. And if you’ve “been there and done that,” you may want to consider going back to see the elegant new Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge that spans 900 feet over the Colorado River as it exits the dam. Opened in 2010, it’s the widest concrete arch in the Western Hemisphere—and it’s free to drive across, too!
Red Rock Canyon, located on the western edge of the Las Vegas Valley, is one of the most popular day trip getaways from Las Vegas—but it’s not free, and it’s frequently crowded. Just as good (and free) is nearby Calico Basin/Red Springs, where you can get away from it all and hike among scenic red hills, white cliffs and clusters of cottonwood trees and other plants fed by spring water. This is a perfect option for those who left sturdy shoes at home because there’s a half-mile wooden boardwalk that’s easy to walk on. Ashley adds, “You can walk on the boardwalk or on the free hiking trails that venture back into the limestone mountain. There are covered picnic areas, so feel free to take a lunch and enjoy the weather.”
4-Seven Magic Mountains
Do you like it when art is free? Then look no further than Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains exhibit located out in the middle of nowhere about 10 miles south of The Strip. This unusual exhibition is comprised of seven stacks of boulders that rise some 30 feet from the barren Mojave Desert floor. What really makes the mountains magic, though, is that each boulder is painted a bright neon color. This spectacle opened in May 2016 and is free to the public. There is no public transportation to the site, so the best way to get there is by car. Ashley told us, “There is not a location address to the art installation, but by following the signs southbound on 1-15, it is an easy drive and you are sure not to miss this profound venue. Also, don’t wear your most expensive shoes; this is a very dusty location and it is very much in the desert!”
These days, most of the action in Las Vegas happens on The Strip, a four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard where you’ll find all the spectacular new hotels like the Cosmopolitan or Nobu, the fantastic (and also free) dancing fountains of the Bellagio and just about everything else that makes Vegas Vegas. But prior to the rise of The Strip, the center of the action in Las Vegas was on Fremont Street near downtown. After a period of decline and decay, downtown Las Vegas and Fremont Street have come back to life, thanks to a massive renewal program that includes the construction of a canopy and the removal of automobile traffic. What was once a racy, neon-lit strip is now a pleasant pedestrian mall called the Fremont Street Experience. Free outdoor concerts are also held periodically on three stages under the canopy. “Prepare to enjoy lots of free festivities and to feast your eyes upon the glittering lights of Fremont,” Ashley says, adding, “Whether it’s the light show, the free concerts, or the eccentric street performers, your evening at the Fremont Street Experience will be anything but dull!”
Okay, since this post is about Vegas, you are lucky… we’re adding on one more to our list of five things to do in Las Vegas>>
6-Behind the scenes at Cirque du Soleil’s KA
You may have enjoyed the lavish wonder of a Cirque du Soleil performance before and wondered to yourself, “How’d they do that?” Well, now you can learn all about the mechanics, engineering and magic behind the $165 million production of KÀ at the MGM Grand during one of its open houses. These relatively unknown, free tours, take place at 11 and 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and on Saturdays at 12 noon and 12:30 p.m when guests get an inside look at the impressive work, inspiration and state-of-the-art technology used in the production. “Check ahead of time with the hotel concierge to make sure there are no blackout dates, and be sure to get in line early, as the tours fill up fast,” Ashley advises.
What’s your favorite free thing to do in Las Vegas? Please leave your comments below.
This post is sponsored by National Car Rental.