Las Vegas’s 10 Best Free Family Activities

The Aquarium at Silverton Casino

In recent years, Las Vegas has shied away from its Sin City reputation and opened its velvet ropes to more family-friendly fare. Bring the kids along to one of America’s top tourist destinations as you explore the very best the city has to offer in the daytime hours. From mega-aquariums to world-class arcade halls to an active volcano, these 10 free activities are perfect diversions for families looking to add some affordable fun to their next getaway.

By Zachary Laks

MGM Resorts International

The Mirage Hotel Volcano

Erupting on the half hour every night since 1989, The Mirage Hotel Volcano is a spectacle of fire and water, visible from Las Vegas Boulevard. Having had a $25 million overhaul in 2008, the new volcano brings an intense fury to The Strip. Crowds gather for each eruption of the fiery mountain as it sends fireballs 12 feet into the air alongside waterfalls bursting with water. Stake out a space close to the railing to feel the radiating heat from the flames and get the best view of the dozens of cannons that pummel water and flames in every direction.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Las Vegas Travel Guide

Flamingo Las Vegas

Flamingo Wildlife Habitat

A rare and fine collection of birds, fish and, of course, flamingos, populate the Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo Las Vegas. Covering 15 acres of the hotel’s centrally located complex, the tropical flora and waterfalls create a serene setting for its exotic inhabitants. The flock of Chilean flamingos stand tall in the pond as colorful koi and goldfish swim about. It’s hard to miss the resident parrots that radiate with verve; try your best to get one of them to repeat a word or a phrase for a guaranteed laugh.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Las Vegas Travel Guide

pinballhall.org

Pinball Hall of Fame

A true gamer’s paradise, the Pinball Hall of Fame is home to the world's largest collection of pinball machines. Games from the '50s through present day populate this large amusement hall. Established as a non-profit organization, the Pinball Hall of Fame has dedicated 10,000 square feet to the flippers that keep the steel balls in play. Look for rare favorites, such as “The Pinball Circus,” which is a vertical pinball game, and the original Star Wars pinball machine. At a rate of 25 to 50 cents per game, your family will be able to win big without putting your wallet through the wringer.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Las Vegas Travel Guide

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Ethel’s Chocolates Factory Tour

Ethel's Chocolates, the beloved confectionary that produces some of Nevada's favorite chocolates, opens its doors daily to visitors looking to get a behind-the-scenes peek at their sole factory. Only 15 minutes outside of Vegas, in Henderson, the chocolatier makes a wide array of milk and dark chocolate morsels. With a bag of chocolates (and a cold pack) in tow, check out the three-acre cactus sanctuary where 300 types of cacti line the pathways. Flowers bloom atop the cacti in the month of May, and come November and December, 600,000 lights adorn the prickly plants for a true desert winter wonderland.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Las Vegas Travel Guide

Brian Doben

The Aquarium at Silverton Casino

An oasis in the desert, the 117,000-gallon Mermaid Aquarium at Silverton Casino is a modern marvel. A quick 5 miles from the main Vegas strip, the massive aquarium and its 4,000 exotic fish preside over the hotel casino’s lobby. Sit on one of the benches surrounding the tank to watch the vibrantly colored fish swim among the heralded tiger sharks and stingrays. Come most afternoons, mermaids descend into the tank to dazzle guests with playful moves and friendly waves. Each mermaid is able to stay underwater for 15 minutes via a specialized breathing port.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Las Vegas Travel Guide

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Fremont Street Experience

Old Vegas comes to life each night with the vibrant lights of the Fremont Street Experience. Harkening back to the Golden Era of affordable buffets, $1.50 shrimp cocktails, and weathered lounge singers holding court, Fremont Street is a five-block entertainment district that fuses the best of the classic Vegas scene with modern flourishes. A 24-hour destination, Fremont Street is a hub of entertainment and gaming covered by a pavilion that forms the canvas for its nightly, hourly light show, Viva Vision, which illuminates the street in vibrant LED lights and images. For the best view of the light show, the daring can zip-line through the streets.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Las Vegas Travel Guide

Courtesy of CBS Television City Research Center

CBS Television City Research Center

Assert your tastemaker status as you get to call the shots at the CBS Television City Research Center. Built exclusively for the MGM Grand, this research facility offers unique opportunities to view new and in-development TV shows and give your feedback in real-time. Providing guests with devices that allow you to track your interest in the program, this cutting-edge market center sheds light on the shrouded world of television research and development. Revel in the opportunity to voice your opinion straight to TV executives and impact change through the airwaves.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Las Vegas Travel Guide

MGM Resorts International

Circus Circus Midway

Step right up—to the midway! The three-ring spectacle expands beyond the tent at the interactive playground at Circus Circus. In the center of the midway is the world’s largest permanent circus, a daily, fully-operating array of incredible feats of human agility and bravura. Acts such as flying trapeze troupes, hand balancers, jugglers, and hula hoop masters take the stage for this free show every 30 minutes throughout the day. With 28 classic carnival games, such as the dime toss, Chicken in a Pot, and camel races lining the midway, compete to take home one of the loveable plush animals.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Las Vegas Travel Guide

Courtesy of M&M's World

M&M’s World

For visitors with a sweet tooth, check out M&M’s World, a four-story emporium dedicated to the classic chocolate candies. Sure, the first three floors are a dedicated shopping haven with floor-to-ceiling souvenirs, but the real gem of this store is the great NASCAR exhibit on the top floor. The official NASCAR M&M Toyota racecar is on display, amidst special NASCAR-themed memorabilia as well as the quintessential M&M apparel and gifts. Make your way to the one-of-a-kind personalization station, where it’s your chance to write a special message on the candy, as long as fits the space. Make a pit-stop at the interactive 3-D film, I Left My M in Vegas, a 10-minute candy adventure through Vegas.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Las Vegas Travel Guide

The Auto Collections

The Auto Collections Car Display

The world’s largest classic car collection, The Auto Collections Car Display, brings 250 rare automobiles together under one roof. Race cars, presidential cars, prototypes, and one-of-a-kind roadsters show the very best of four-wheeled style. Favorites among the collection include a 1963 Lincoln Convertible used to chauffeur President Kennedy, Johnny Carson’s 1939 Chrysler Royal Sedan, and a 1936 BMW 319 Cabriolet. Add to that an impressive array of vintage cars for sale, including a 1923 fire truck and a 1962 MG A 1600 MKII Deluxe Roadster. If you win big, these fine cars can be yours with your grand jackpot winnings.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Las Vegas Travel Guide