“I didn’t want to go.” These were the words I uttered to my sister and best friend as we hastily planned the trip to Las Vegas. The original plan was to go to California for the holidays and tentatively drive down to Las Vegas to do some sightseeing. However, the plan took an unexpected turn. But, as I reminisce over the serendipity that was my vacation experience, I am grateful I visited Las Vegas despite my previous misgivings. I should title this ‘Free Things To Do in Vegas’, especially if you decide to go on a modest budget as we did.
These are some of my favorite places and memories:
The Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign
Can you visit Las Vegas and not participate in this ritual? I think not!
This wonderfully internally lit sign has flashing bulbs outside its perimeters. The flashiness salutes both the tourists and locals. The word ‘Welcome’ and ‘Las Vegas’ are both boldly highlighted with red paint. I am sure it was a well thought out plan by the creators who made certain that the warmth of Las Vegas did not go unnoticed. We had to have our ‘proof’ that we visited Las Vegas by taking pictures at the sign.
We got to the sign which is located to the south of the Las Vegas Strip at 2 pm. We thought because it was COVID season, there would be no one standing in line, waiting to take pictures. Boy, were we wrong. The lines stretched so long it was discouraging. The sun was also doing its part of being persistently scorching.
So, we decided to do what other brilliant people were doing and pose at the side of the sign. Mind you, we were not the first to do this. We saw others doing it and figured it was okay. Even when I researched it online, people unanimously agreed it was alright to pose at the side. I emphasize this because the moment we came, a disgruntled man walked up to us. He asked us to not pose at the side. He said we had to respect others who had been standing in line for a long time.
Given that we were bloody Nigerians, we ignored him and proceeded to pose at the side of the sign. I had ‘come and beat me’ written on my forehead. We were not through taking pictures before others started forming a line behind us. It was like they immediately received an epiphany because we dared to be different.
The Seven Magic Mountains.
We were on a budget, so we had to find free things to do in Las Vegas. All the blogs I read strongly suggested we visit the Seven Magic Mountains created by the Ugo Rondinone. I told my girls and the next day, we were on our way to see the colorful large-scale public art installation. I must compliment Ugo for blessing us with his artistry, for without him, the mountains would not exist.
There are seven different towers, each with its unique color and story. The boulders are stacked on each other, and they stand tall and proud. The luminous colors of the mountains make it an Instagramable sight to create social media content. We made the mountains our backdrop for the sundry of pictures and videos we took.
The mountains are located ten miles south of Las Vegas, Nevada. Weirdly, they reminded me of Lot’s wife, who turned into a pillar of salt. Just as she was the creative expression of human presence in the desert, the mountains also take on that meaning. We were not the only ones who had the urge to explore the mountains. The desert was packed with tourists from all walks of life. If you want to visit the mountains by yourself, you should go early in the morning. Other than that, find a creative way to pose so that people are not disrupting or interrupting your pictures. After you have explored the mountains, take a long walk in the desert and learn more about nature. It can get pretty dusty, so be prepared to get dirty. But it is the kind of dirt you won’t mind going home with.
Mystic Falls Park
We had no idea it was an indoor park until we got to the location. Instead of seeing a mesmerizing park outside, we were standing in front of Sam’s Town Hotel. When we walked inside the hotel, we were greeted by guests playing in the casino downstairs. The security checked our temperature and directed us to where the park was located inside the building. As we walked, we noticed that inside the hotel there was a pretty cool movie theatre.
We went there in the afternoon because it was our last day and we wanted to visit a few other places. The park was still as vibrant even without its automated light show and colorful night lights. Due to COVID-19, the show remains temporarily closed, but we were able to stroll through the park and take some great pictures. We were amazed by the built-in rolling waterfall which was refreshing to see.
The park was decorated with animated animals that made sounds and moved their heads once in a while. I was worried there was a life wolf in there because of how real the sounds were. The trees were the real attraction to me because they were real. They reached up toward the skylight 10 stories above and stretched out their leaves and branches like umbrellas.
Fountains of Bellagio
On New Year’s Eve, the complex water feature at the Bellagio reminded me of the Titanic. Possibly because Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ was used as the soundtrack. The Fountains of Bellagio tells a story unique to Las Vegas. It can reel you in, make you stare in amazement, and pull at your heartstrings. When you think it’s over, it teaches you never to underestimate the wonders of creation.
An invention with great value such as this should not be free, but the Fountains of Bellagio is the gift that keeps on giving. I am inspired by how humans use their talents, mixed with technology and natural resources to make the world a better place. The sky at night is lavender and the buildings behind the Fountains shine bright and blue. The water performance is rarely the same, so you can see it multiple times without it becoming a bore. It is an elaborate presentation designed to serenade the senses. The water show is an aquatic performance that gives meaning to the term “water is life.” Feel free to watch the full show on my Instagram when I upload it.
The Volcano At The Mirage
Ella and I were walking to the Fountains of Bellagio when Ella excitedly called out for me to turn back. When I did, I was taken aback by the Volcano erupting just a few feet away from us. It was an incredible sight to behold. We could hear the soundtrack from The Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart and Indian tabla sensation Zakir Hussain playing, as the fire flared up artistically.
Unfortunately, we could not get close enough that night. We could not even take pictures or videos. It was a captivating sight that demanded that we immerse ourselves in the experience. On New Year’s Eve, we made sure we were there early. Like fans, we anticipated getting as many videos and pictures of the show. You can watch the full video on my Instagram.
The show is free and it is located outside the Las Vegas Boulevard main entrance along the strip. Should you choose to park at the Mirage as we did, use the elevator to go into the Casino. The Casino is another attraction you’ll fall in love with. Turn left and go past the front desk. You’ll come in contact with the main entrance doors, go through the doors towards Las Vegas Boulevard. The volcano will be on your right. I believe the show is from Thursday to Sunday, from 7 pm to 10 pm. Be sure to check local listings before you go because times are subject to change. If you stand close enough as we did, you’ll feel the heat, experience the music, and get great pictures and videos.
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We are not done! see you next time for part two of my Las Vegas Trip!
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