Most major cities around the world have their iconic sights: buildings or structures that visitors feel they must see - New York has the Empire State Building, San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge, L.A. has the famous Hollywood sign, London has Big Ben, and so forth, but the Las Vegas Strip and the Downtown area sometimes called “Old Vegas,” have so many iconic attractions, many visitors might find it difficult to see them all in one trip!

Here are just a few of the fantastic sights you can see only in Las Vegas!

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DSCF2853Originally conceived as a beautiful, quiet space where guests and tourists alike could find respite from the noise of the casino, the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is one of the best free attractions on the Las Vegas Strip.

Located just steps beyond the Bellagio’s registration area, the Botanical Gardens are meticulously planned displays which feature live flowers, trees, shrubs and plants, all arranged in whimsical, scenic tableaus.  The theme changes 5 times a year, in accordance to holidays and seasons.  The  three story conservatory features a lovely glass ceiling high overhead, somewhat reminiscent of an old fashioned greenhouse.  This allows for plenty of natural light during the day.  At night, an array of state-of-the-art theatrical lights illuminate and enhance the displays, making them all the more beautiful.

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IMG 6763Deep inside the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, in a rotunda near the Cheesecake Factory, you’ll find a large fountain and aquarium.  The fountain is lit with beautiful, multi-colored lights and is a lovely place to sit and people watch during a busy day of shopping.  But every hour on the hour, starting at 10 am, shoppers and sightseers alike are treated to a free spectacle - The Fall Of Atlantis!

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DSCF2641When the Mirage Casino Hotel opened back in 1989, the erupting volcano in the lagoon out front, was one of the first free spectacles on the Las Vegas Strip.  Even today, this iconic attraction is one of the most popular shows in town!  Large crowds still gather to watch this display of water, light, sound and most of all, FIRE, and if you’re a first-time visitor to Vegas, it’s definitely a must-see!

Designed by WET, the same firm which created The Fountains of Bellagio, the Mirage volcano has undergone two renovations; one in 1996, the other in 2008.  The mechanism that makes up the volcano is basically a large fountain, enhanced with lights, smoke and large fireballs, some of which can shoot higher than 12 feet in the air.  Oh, and I’ve heard that to mask the smell of the natural gas that creates that fire, the scent of pina colada is added to the gas stream!

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IMG 2321Downtown Vegas. Old Vegas. The stretch of Fremont Street known as Glitter Gulch, with the Plaza Hotel on one end, and the Neonopolis Mall at the other, has seen a huge resurgence in the last 15 years or so.

By 1992, most of the business in Las Vegas had shifted to the Strip and many tourists had forgotten about Downtown Las Vegas. A $70 million investment helped transform the area and reverse its decline in popularity. In 1994, Fremont Street was closed to traffic and became a pedestrian mall. Soon after, these 5 city blocks were covered with a huge vaulted LED canopy which stretches from Main Street to 4th Street - the length of 5 football fields. This canopy, known as Viva Vision, using 12.5 million LED lamps, is capable of creating dynamic animated light shows, accompanied by fantastic and varied music coming from 220 speakers suspended within the canopy. The shows began bringing the crowds back to Fremont Street.

Read more: The Fremont Street Experience

Bell-Strat 006Of all the free shows available on the Strip, I’d be willing to bet that The Fountains of Bellagio is the most well known. As many times as I’ve been to Las Vegas, the Bellagio fountain show never fails to move, impress and entertain me. Always gorgeous, never boring, I’ve seen people clear across Las Vegas Boulevard drop whatever they’re doing to sprint across 8 lanes of traffic, just to catch the show.

Set in the 8.5 acre lake in front of the Bellagio Casino Hotel, the fountains are made up from over 1,200 nozzles and more than 4,500 lights. They were created by a design firm called WET, and the system used for programming the fountain’s movements is known as “Virtual Wet”. There are four different types of nozzles used to create a variety of effects - some have a spherical range of motion, while others are used to shoot the water upwards; often as high as 460 feet in the air. The finales of many of the shows are usually accompanied by a loud bang, caused by the compressed air which allows the Super Shooters and the Extreme Shooters to launch the water to it’s amazing heights.

The fountain shows are choreographed to a variety of music, including Celine Dion’s signature song “My Heart Will Go On”, Sinatra’s rendition of “Luck Be A Lady”, “God Bless The U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood, Aaron Copeland’s “Hoe-Down”, and of course Elvis Presley singing “Viva Las Vegas”.

Read more: The Fountains of Bellagio