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Free and family-friendly Las Vegas

The famous Las Vegas street marker at night
The famous Las Vegas street marker at night
Christabelle Kolafa

A city notorious for where extravagant gambling, risqué entertainment and drunken bad decisions happen, Las Vegas has been dubbed as Sin City and is hardly on the top of the list of family holiday destinations. That being said, it also would be a shame for anyone, even kids, to miss out on such a vibrant city pulsing with curiosities, history and rich subcultures waiting to be discovered. In reality, Las Vegas has everything for the young and the old, the city slicker and the nature lover and the very rich and the very cheap. So, avoid the tourist traps and find on this list free family-friendly attractions, from the most obvious to the very unexpected, anyone can enjoy in America's City of Lights.

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign. The iconic street marker is situated at the southern end of The Strip – about half a mile from Mandalay Bay. The sign is worth the visit because aside from getting a chance to pose in front of this well-known 25-foot-tall retro artwork, it is also a great piece of Americana designed by Betty Willis who is also known for creating the signs of Moulin Rouge Hotel, Buxom Motel Blue Angel and Stardust Casino.

The Strip. Whether viewing it from the hilly periphery of the valley or from the balcony or window of a hotel room to just walking along it, the dazzling view of Las Vegas Boulevard is always free and always a sight to behold.

Fremont Street. After enjoying Las Vegas' most famous street, take a side trip to its second most famous and its first paved street in the city, Fremont Street. The westernmost part of the historic street is lined with older casinos with bright neon lights and is where you can also view Viva Vision shows on the bright LED display canopy of the Fremont Street Experience.

Bellagio's Fountains. A trip to the entertainment capital wouldn't be complete without catching a show performed by large amounts of water shooting 400 feet up in the air, dancing in an eight-acre manmade lake illuminated by thousands of lights and choreographed gracefully to music. This is the immensity of the water show of the Fountains of Bellagio and this is why it should not be missed, especially since the show takes place every 15 minutes in the afternoon until 8 pm and and then, every 30 minutes from 8 pm until midnight.

Bellagio's Lobby, Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Inside the hotel, tourists can go to the lobby to appreciate Dale Chihuly's hand-blown glass sculpture cum chandelier by looking up to the lobby's 18-foot high ceiling. After taking in the large colourful masterpiece, guests can proceed to view the beautiful seasonal display of plants, flowers and trees at the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Mirage's Volcano. Right in front of Mirage, holidaymakers can catch an exciting display of water and fire explosions set to amazing sound effects with its unique front yard feature. The hotel's Volcano erupts every 7 pm and then every hour after that until 11 pm.

Mirage's Aquarium and Atrium. Behind the hotel's front desk, guests are greeted by a 20,000-gallon saltwater tank, that stands 8 feet high, extends 53 feet in length and is six feet in thickness, holding a brightly coloured artificial coral reef inhabited by thousands of ocean specimens. And then, in the main area next to the concierge desk, guests can find the domed-ceiling atrium that houses tropical palms and exotic flowers interspersed with lagoons and waterfalls.

Silverton Hotel's Aquarium. Both the young and the young-at-heart can enjoy the colourful tropical fish, stingrays, sharks and mermaids (yes, mermaids) in the hotel's 117,000-gallon reef aquarium. Interactive feeding shows with the resident marine biologist happen everyday from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm. Live mermaid swims are scheduled on Thursdays from 2:15 pm to 8:45 pm , Fridays and Saturdays from 2:15 pm to 9:45 pm and Sunday from 11:30 am to 6:45 pm. Two 500-gallon jellyfish aquariums are also onsite.

Wildlife Habitat at Flamingo. Tucked in the property's 15-acre verdant grounds is the Wildlife Habitat, one of the more tranquil locations where travellers can take a breather from Las Vegas' busy downtown. A lush environment with sparkling waterfalls and trickling streams, it is home to Chilean flamingos, Ring Teal ducks, African Sacred Ibis, swans, hummingbirds and two rescued brown pelicans. Apart from the exotic birds, tourists can also find koi fish and turtles swimming in the waters of the habitat.

Caesars Palace's Fall of Atlantis Show and Aquarium. Families can visit Caesars Forum Shops to watch animatronic statues on the fountain at the Roman Great Hall come to life to reenact the Fall of Atlantis. After the show, they can check out what's behind the fountain -- a 50,000-gallon saltwater aquarium that holds hundreds of species of sea flora and fauna.

Sam's Town's Mystic Falls Park. Tourists can take a walk in the tree-dotted indoor park of Sam's Town Hotel. The centrepiece of this enclosed green space is a mountain with waterfalls. This feature comes alive at 2 pm, 4 pm, 6 pm, 8 pm and 10 pm daily with the Sunset Stampede Laser Light and Water Show.

The Venetian's Streetmosphere. A stroll along The Venetian's charming Grand Canal Shoppes can be an entertaining experience as classically trained actors, singers and musicians give onlookers a slice of Italy with small performances at St. Mark's Square. The living statues scattered throughout the Grand Canal Shoppes are also worth a see.

Circus Circus' Circus Acts. Amid the bustle of arcade games at the property's Carnival Midway, world class performers impress audiences with a free show daily starting at 11:30 am.

M&M's World. Lovers of the round colourful chocolate candies can have a blast at M&M's four-storey specialty store that carries every M&M-related product anyone can imagine.

Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Cactus Garden. Visitors can discover how Ethel M Chocolates (M&M’s, Snickers, Dove and Twix, to name a few) are made by taking a free self-guided tour at the factory and then, they can explore the botanical garden that boasts a collection of 300 species of cacti -- one of Nevada's largest collections.

Calico Basin. Instead of paying to enter Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area to take a drive around its scenic loop, nature lovers can hike at Calico Basin, the free area of Red Rock Canyon. The trail is easy enough for kids to trek and the beautiful red rock formations can still be appreciated at this part of the park.

Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Otherwise known as the Hoover Dam Bypass, this arch bridge spans across the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada. What is so great about it is that parking is free and you get the best view of the the Hoover Dam – two things you can't have when you are on the Hoover Dam.

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