Attractions in Las Vegas - Free

Vegas used to be the land of freebies -- or at least, stuff so cheap it seemed free. Those days are an increasingly dim memory, but some hotels still offer free attractions designed to lure you into their casinos, where you might well then drop far more than the cost of a day ticket to Disney World. Here's a handy list of the best of the free bait, er, sights:
Bellagio Conservatory (in Bellagio) -- A totally preposterous idea, a larger-than-life greenhouse atrium, filled with seasonal living foliage in riotous colors and styles, changed with meticulous regularity. From Easter to Chinese New Year, events are celebrated with carefully designed splashes of flowers, plants, and remarkable decorations -- it's an incredible amount of labor for absolutely no immediate financial payoff. No wonder it's one of the most popular sights in Vegas. Open 24 hours.
Bellagio Fountains (outside Bellagio) -- Giant spouts of water shoot up and down and sideways, and dance their little aquatic hearts out, to pieces carefully choreographed to tunes ranging from show to Chopin. We tell people about this, they roll their eyes when they think we aren't looking, and then they go see it for themselves . . . and end up staying for several numbers. Daily every half-hour, starting early afternoon, then every 15 minutes 8pm to midnight. Closed when it's windy.
The Forum Shops Fountain Shows (in The Forum Shops at Caesars) -- The first-established of the free shows, and easily the stupidest. We love it, in theory at least, as giant "marble" Greco-Roman statues come to creaky animatronic life and deliver a largely unintelligible speech, mostly exhorting the crowds to eat, drink, and get so merry they will think nothing of dropping a bundle on the slots. Not quite so bad it's good, but one day they are going to wise up and make the thing more high-tech, and a little something special will be lost. Daily every hour, starting at 10am.
Mirage Volcano (outside The Mirage) -- The first curbside free attraction, and one of the reasons Wynn designed it so that you can't see his new mountain and lake show from the street -- because that doesn't bring guests into the property. This had paled in comparison to such things as dancing fountains and pirates, but a 2008 makeover amped up the fire, lights, sound, and effects to a much more entertaining level. Get up close to feel the heat of the "lava" blasts and the rumble of the sound system. Daily on the hour after dark until midnight.
Show in the Sky (in the Rio) -- Like TI's pirates, this formerly wholesome, if a bit weird, show has undergone a revamp to make it more sexy and adult-oriented. It's still staged on floats that move above viewers' heads, but now those floats include "bedroom" and "spa" scenes peopled with what the company calls "high energy performers of seduction." This gives you an idea of the kind of action contained therein. Prepare to try to distract your kids' attention elsewhere, though if you want a better view, grab a spot on the second floor of the village. Performed several times in the evening Thursday through Sunday.
Sirens of TI (outside Treasure Island) -- We gave it the star because it has such high production values, but man, it hurt us to do even that. See, this used to be a fun, hokey stunt show, where pirates attacked a British sailing vessel. Lusty men swashed and buckled, cannons exploded, ships sank, the pirates always won. But Vegas is not for families anymore, and to prove it, the British were removed and now the pirates are lured by lingerie-clad lovelies. Stuff happens, but no one really cares; either you like the nekkid chicks, or you are so horrified by the whole spectacle because it's so appallingly bad that plot twists don't matter much. Parents, be warned: Between the gals and their undies, and the 24-foot stark-raving-naked female figurehead on the ship right by the Strip entrance to Treasure Island, you may be in for an interesting conversation with your children. Daily at 7, 8:30, 10, and 11:30pm, weather permitting.
Wynn Conservatory (in Wynn Las Vegas) -- Yes, remarkably like the one at Bellagio, only we have to admit this one is better placed, situated just inside the door, and laid out so that you can stroll through it on your way to other parts of the hotel, as opposed to the tucked-in-a-corner Bellagio version. The floral displays change regularly, though they may reflect the striking floral mosaics on the floor below. We do hope it won't get as wacky as its Bellagio counterpart and will stick to the merely festive. Open 24 hours.
Wynn Lake of Dreams (in Wynn Las Vegas) -- This is the most peculiar of the "free" shows in several ways: It's not easily defined (not dancing fountains, not a parade in the sky), and it's not easily seen. The 150-foot-tall mountain, complete with mature trees saved from the old Desert Inn golf course, plus several waterfalls, cannot be seen in its entirety from anywhere other than hotel rooms facing west. The show itself can be watched only if you are dining in the Daniel Boulud Brasserie or SW Steakhouse, the Parasol or Chanel bars, or a small viewing platform set above those venues on the casino level. Nab a coveted spot there or else pay double (or more) digits to dine or drink while waiting for the shows. Should you bother? Maybe. Basically, twice an hour, the lake lights up with pretty colors, cued to tunes ranging from classical to Louis Armstrong for "interludes." At the top of the hour are bigger extravaganzas of weird hologram erotic-psychedelic images projected on the wall waterfall, while shapes and puppets pop out for even more weird action, with some rather adult imagery at times. Shows are every 20 minutes, from 7pm to midnight.