By Cecil Scaglione
Las Vegas NV— You don’t have to mortgage your mansion to enjoy this glittering gotham in the Nevada sand.
There are more than enough free diversions, including winning money with a free bet, to keep you enthralled and entertained during a visit here. As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus
noted, the only thing permanent is change, so some of freebies listed below may no longer exist, take a look around and you’ll find their replacements.
This hub of around-the-clock flashing lights is without a doubt one of the best and brightest spots for just plain people-watching. They come in more shapes and sizes than you imagined. In attire
that ranges from down-home to out-of-this-world. And much of their behavior should, as the television ads say, be left here.
You can make vicarious visits to New York’s Statue of Liberty, Paris’ Eiffel Tower, Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell, and Venice’s St. Mark’s Square and Rialto Bridge.
Downtown, at the northern end of world-renowned Las Vegas Avenue better known as The Strip, is the Fremont Street Experience. Featured is a four-times-a-night computerized sight-and-sound
show overhead on “The Biggest Screen on the Planet,” the $70 million canopy enclosing a half dozen downtown blocks.
You can also experience climate changes as you stroll along the hot desert air of the street through the gusts of cool pumped out by the never-closed casinos. And catch a handful of “gambling” beads, the same kind Mardi Gras celebrants corral and collar in New Orleans and that cost you a couple of bucks or more in the drugstores and novelty shops along The Strip.
All the while, you can watch femmes in frilly white skirts get their ears pierced at a sidewalk boutique or a butt-crack-jeaned macho man gripping a yard-long neon-colored daiquiri while
getting his other hand tattooed.
A $1.50 bus-ride will get you to another free show at the Stratosphere planted at the north end of this renowned street of sex and excess. While it takes a $10 elevator ride to get to the outdoor
observation deck, the view from 90 stories up is free but worth a lot more.
And you don’t have to spend any money to shake and shock yourself on the “biggest thrill in Las Vegas” the Big Shot carnival ride that drops you a couple of hundred feet down the tower that
tops this 1,149-foot building.
Just witnessing this and two other groin-grabbing gut-wrenching rides is enough to make you giddy. Some spectators get wobbly knees just watching screaming passengers swing dizzily in the desert air hundreds of feet above the shimmering streets below.
Back at ground level, it’s a short hike to the monorail that, for $5, takes you to the MGM Grand, where you can walk across the boulevard to New York New York and over the Tropicana Avenue bridge to Excalibur to catch a free tram connecting it with Luxor and Mandalay Bay, which anchors the south end of this megaplex.
Then choose whether to meander or monorail your way back, catching free sights and sounds in the art shows and exhibits in the lobbies of the various hotel casinos with such mind-massaging
names as Bellagio, Casino Royale, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Monte Carlo, Paris, and Treasure Island.
Before leaving the Excalibur, visit its sports book and ask about the horse-handicapping contest. If you’re lucky and it’s on that day, ask which race at which race course you’re betting on and get
an entry form. Fill in the numbers of the horses you expect to win each race.
A friend who knows nothing about horse racing won $290 on her first and only try by picking almost all the winners in a race that day at Hollywood Park. And the bet cost her nothing.
If you do choose to linger and wager some of your money on the horses (or any of the sports events covered), ask for free drink tickets so you can relax a bit before heading for the free attractions in this Disneyland for adults.
Stop by Aureole in Mandalay Bay and you might catch a glimpse of the “wine fairies” in this upscale restaurant. You can peer through outsized portholes in the front wall to watch as servers
are winched up and down a glassed-in four-story wine tower to fetch special orders from among the 9,500 bottles in its inventory.
There’s also the Memorabilia Museum in Mandalay Bay that has sports and Presidential mementos available for show and for sale. You might see the shot of Cassius Clay’s memorable heavyweight-boxing victory over Sonny Liston, along with Beatle stuff, and an Abe Lincoln- signed military appointment with its $30,000 price tag.
At Circus Circus a few minutes away, you can gaze at glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts rolling along their assembly line.
Farther along the Strip are the white tigers padding around their enclosure at the Mirage, singing gondoliers cruising in the canals at the Venetian, Dealertainers at the Imperial Palace who
impersonate entertainers and break out in song between deals, and never-ending dancing-fountain show in front of the Bellagio.
About Cecil Scaglione: Cecil is a former San Diego Union-Tribune writer and for a number of years has been a world traveler, writer and currently a syndicated columnist.