Magazine article Techniques

What to Do in Las Vegas Absolutely Free

Magazine article Techniques

What to Do in Las Vegas Absolutely Free

Article excerpt

Las Vegas is an attractive convention city. The convention center is a first-rate facility. There are plenty of rooms for convention goers. December weather usually is pleasant. And after each day of sessions on integrated curriculum, quality program standards and the latest research on student enrollment in articulated tech prep programs there sure is plenty to do on the town.

No mistake about it, gambling, or "gaming," as some refer to it, is still the life force of Las Vegas. The casinos are the primary feature of every hotel. They're sprawling. Slots, blackjack, roulette, craps, wheel of fortune, more slots. And keno, in the casino or at your dinner table. Plus cavernous sports book parlors where players sit at little carrels, like those in a university library, and study their picks for races and ball games happening all over the world and seen in real time on huge video screens that ring the room.

The action is around the clock. The ding-a-ling, clank-clank-clank of the slot machines is a pervasive background sound. Periodically alarm bells and flashing red lights call attention to slots players who've hit a jackpot.

It costs to play these games. Big-time money at the baccarat table. Bills with pictures of the best-known presidents at other tables. And at the other end of the spectrum, Vegas casinos still have nickel slot machines - whole rows of them, where you can have an evening of fun with just $10 worth of nickels.

Flashy shows and superstar entertainers are another part of the Vegas equation. Names like Liza Minnelli, Penn & Teller, Diana Ross, Natalie Cole, David Copperfield, Barbara Mandrell, Rodney Dangerfield and Keel & The Gang are commonplace on the neon billboards all along the Las Vegas Strip. And shows like An Evening at La Cage, Viva Las Vegas, Cirque du Soleil, Best of the Folies Bergere and EFX are staples at the big showplace hotels. In December, however, there may not be as many acts in lights, as this is when many shows close for re-tooling and holiday breaks.

What is on in December doesn't come cheaply. Prices for major shows are $65 or more a ticket. The tab for the next tier of shows starts at about $20. Add the cost of drinks and snacks in the showroom.

But beyond the casinos and headline shows, there is a world of free entertainment and spectacle in Las Vegas. All it takes to enjoy it is shoe leather and stamina. Many hotels on the famous Strip offer free outdoor shows you can watch from the sidewalk in front of the hotels and other well-marked vantage points.

The Strip stretches three and a half level miles, from the Sahara to the Luxor. And the major hotels along the Strip are no more than five or six minutes from one another on foot, door to door. You could walk to four or five, then catch a cab back to your own hotel. Cab fares are moderate, and distances you'll travel here are relatively short.

Most of these shows are brief and repeated hourly:

Watch pirates and sailing ships battling - and sinking! - amid fire and mayhem at the Treasure Island hotel; a volcano spewing fiery lava into the night sky at the Mirage; New York in miniature, complete with a water-squirting harbor tug boat, the Statue of Liberty and a Coney Island roller coaster winding in and out and over the Manhattan skyline at New York, New York; a nightly battle between a dragon and a wizard in the moat of a hotel that looks like a castle made of cake frosting (the Excalibur).

Those are just the teasers. There's more free stuff inside, just past the casinos.

In the Mirage you can visit a tropical garden habitat to see dolphins cavorting in a pool and watch white tigers playing (or probably sleeping) between stage appearances with Siegfried and Roy. …

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