Free Las Vegas
The most important thing to know is that the Las Vegas of both the Rat Pack and Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing" is long gone and is never coming back. Another helpful hint is that the "Las Vegas Strip" is really named "Las Vegas Boulevard South", and most of it isn't in Las Vegas itself, but rather unincorporated land within Clark County. The real city limits on the Strip begin (or end) on Sahara Avenue.
"Las Vegas" is usually meant to refer to the Las Vegas Valley itself, which also includes Henderson, North Las Vegas, Boulder City and Blue Diamond. The area has, in recent years, had a very large influx of Mexican expatriates, much to the dismay of many of the long-time (and considerably right-wing) residents. Politically, the city is rather conservative, but there are pockets of liberalism, mostly in the suburban regions.
The telephone area code is 702 (the rest of the state is 775), and is located in the Pacific Time Zone. Summer temps are VERY hot (weeks of over 100 degree heat are common in the Summer) and the temperature drops quickly at Sunset. Bring a high number SPF sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and a jacket in the summer, and a heavy coat in the winter.
There's a Minors curfew on the Strip. You have to be 21 or older to be on the Strip on your own after 9PM, or be in the company of a "parent, legal guardian, or responsible adult over the age of 21" . The cops have already seen all the fake IDs there are, so don't even try.
There are local terms that may confuse a visitor. When someone refers to "Metro", that's the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD). The "Spaghetti Bowl" is a clusterfuck of bridges and intersections where I-15, I-515, US 93 and US 95 tie into a knot. The same roads are involved with the "Henderson Spaghetti Bowl" (also called the "Fiesta Bowl" due it its proximity to the Fiesta Henderson casino), with State Route 564 (Lake Mead Parkway) added for good measure. The "Rainbow Curve" is an interchange of US 95 and State Route 595 near Rainbow Boulevard.
A large section of Industrial Road near the casinos was renamed "Dean Martin Drive" in 2005, but many of the locals still call it by the old name.
While "Lake Mead Parkway" (formerly Lake Mead Drive) and "Lake Mead Boulevard" have similar names, they're on opposite sides of the valley. When someone mentions "Lake Mead" in driving directions, ask them which one.
If you arrive at the airport and you're staying on the Strip or Downtown, tell the taxi driver "Take the Strip or Paradise Road, NOT the tunnel.", since that's the long way around and you'll be charged more.
Keep in mind that Las Vegas has been subject to great and drastic change, so some information listed here may become out of date even as you read it. On that note, if you're bringing a GPS unit to find your way in this valley (such as a TomTom or Garmin), update the maps with your computer before you come here. Road construction is a constant, and detours are the norm.
- 1 Housing
- 2 Food
- 3 Medical Care
- 4 Legal Aid
- 5 Armed Forces/Deployment Avoidance Counseling
- 6 Play
- 7 Information
- 8 Underground Papers
- 9 Miscellaneous
- 10 Public Transit and Bike Trails
- 11 Free Clothing and Furniture
- 12 Assorted Freebies
- 13 Survive
- 14 Stay Safe
Las Vegas has three hostels. As with most hostels, you might not get a room if you're a "local", so consider this only if you have a valid Student ID or a foreign passport. Check the respective websites for full amenities and rates.
- Las Vegas Hostel/USA Hostels (1322 Fremont Street) 702-385-1150 or 800-550-8958 
- Sin City Hostel (1208 Las Vegas Blvd. South) 702-868-0222 
- Tod Hostel and Motel/Hosteling International USA (1508 Las Vegas Blvd. South) 702-982-1481 or 1-877-343-1481 
CALL FOR RESERVATIONS BEFORE YOU GET THERE!!! Cheap rooms in Las Vegas are rare! This is no joke or exaggeration!
There are a number of homeless encampments scattered throughout the valley, but due to police "interventions" they only last a few days (a month at the most) and move quite frequently.
The major homeless shelter is the Las Vegas Rescue Mission on 480 West Bonanza Road (Phone: 702-382-1766). Lodging is first come-first served, so good luck finding a bed. Free dinner is served every day at 5 PM (4:30 on Sundays). You can also call one of the Salvation Army centers (see below) and plead poverty, if you don't mind a heavy dose of religion.
If you are staying longer than a week, stay st the Royal Manor,5600 Boulder Highway, Las Vegas, NV 89112. It is a seedy weekly hotel where nobody asks any questions. You will be able to make hook-ups there with others who live on the edges of society. As with all things be careful. Stores, cheap restaurants, laundry, etc., are all nearby.
The many cheap buffets that Las Vegas was known for are now almost all gone. There are still buffets, but they're more expensive, especially on Fridays when they are often serving seafood specials (It isn't cheap to ship fresh or frozen seafood across the desert!). Your best bets for a decently priced buffet would be the casinos located off-Strip (or on the neighboring city of Henderson) that are designed to appeal to the locals, including places like The Cannery, Joker's Wild, Railroad Pass, or any of the "Fiesta" or "Station" casinos (except Main Street Station off Fremont and Palace Station, which is too close to the Strip).
On the Fremont Street Experience, there are a number of souvenir shops that sell hot dogs very cheap (The prices will eventually go up as times get tougher). Vegetarian fare can be had at Rainbow's End at 1100 E. Sahara Ave., Souper Salad (yes, that's how it's spelled) at 4022 S. Maryland Pkwy and 2051 N. Rainbow Blvd #102, and a few Indian & Thai restaurants. Check the "Vegetarian" listings under "Restaurants" in the phone directory, or check the on-line reviews. 
Over at North Las Vegas' Cannery Casino Hotel, you can pick up two eggs, home fries and bacon or sausage at Victory Cafe for 99 cents. Circus Circus has a gigantic polish sausage hotdog for the same price that you won't be able to finish. ALSO: Gold Spike - breakfasts $1.00, Riviera - hot dogs and a draft beer is $1.50, Nevada Palace - $1.99 top sirloin and eggs, Gold Rush - $2 steak and eggs. And the best deal of all, Klondike Sunset on Sunset Road off of Boulder Highway in Henderson - 49 cent sausage, egg and ham breakfast from 11pm to 5am (It's a red-eye meal but it's chump change!)
To buy packaged food on the cheap, there are a number of discount stores scattered around the valley that sell canned and dry foods, such as Big Lots, Family Dollar and 99 Cents Only Stores (The latter also sells milk, fruit juices, fresh produce and some refrigerated & frozen foods). There are a few "Bakery Outlet" stores that sell baked goods that are close to their expiration dates.
A contributor writes: "Many buffets are easy to get into for free. Simply walk in the exit, make it seem like you belong there, grab a plate and chow down, either while walking, or at an empty table. I've done this at Texas Station and Main Street Station, as well as some others. If you get caught, you get your picture taken and are told never to come back from my experiences."
US Health & Human Services lists Nevada Health Centers, Inc. and maintains a central switchboard in Carson City (the state capital) that can direct you to the nearest facility for your needs and schedule an appointment. Call toll free: (800) 787-2568. If you can't get through, try the toll line: 775-887-1590
You can also check out the website for Nevada Health Centers, Inc. 
Patient First Wellness Center is a cash-only low cost medical clinic that handles minor injuries and illnesses. There are no walk-ins and all appointments must be by phone. Telephone 702-474-6300. 
If you're arrested on the Strip, you'll be sent to the Clark County Detention Center, 330 S. Casino Center Boulevard, Downtown Las Vegas. If you make a phone call from there, remember that before you get a chance to speak, there will be a pre-recorded announcement telling the person you're calling that the call is from the CCDC and is being recorded for security purposes. The information number at CCDC, in case you want to check in on someone who might be there, is (702) 671-3900. They take Western Union payments for bail.
Free legal service can be had from Clark County Legal Services at (702) 386-1070 or (800) 522-1070.
Armed Forces/Deployment Avoidance Counseling
Try Clark County Legal Services at (702) 386-1070 or (800) 522-1070.
In case you plan to drink
The drunk driving laws in Nevada are very strict, so it's best to take mass transit or a taxi if you intend to do some serious bar-hopping. There is a company called Designated Drivers, Inc. that will drive you in your own car back to your home or wherever you're staying. The services start at $60 for the first 10 miles plus $5 for each additional 10 miles. Just remember that it's cheaper than hiring a lawyer, and there's a $35 cancellation fee. Keep the number handy: (702) 456-7433 (or 456-RIDE). You can also purchase their services in advance from their website. 
Las Vegas Strip
First, you have to be at least 21 to drink or gamble. Sorry, but that's state law. It's pretty much impossible to get booze at the hotel/casino bars or to gamble (and then cash out) without getting carded. The security and bartenders there are real picky on IDs, and they've seen all the fakes there are...so its probably well advised NOT to use a fake ID (unless your older brother or sister looks a LOT like you).
When you get here, grab all the tourist fliers and free magazines you can get. You'll find them in the hotel lobbies. Check the coupons and read the fine print as to how much the "free" stuff will cost you: some are 2-for-1 gigs or "BOGO's" ("Buy One, Get One Free/Half-Price"). Whatever you can exploit, do so.
Almost every casino has an arcade, but they vary greatly in the games offered. Some are mostly a place to dump off the kids while the parents spend their inheritance. There is a Gameworks on the Strip near the MGM Grand, but they have an enforced dress code (no torn, soiled or excessively baggy clothes; no clothing or tattoos with objectionable art or profanity; no chains of any kind), and they enforce the 9PM curfew for Minors. There is also "Adventuredome", a small amusement park inside the Circus Circus casino.
The major casinos have lots of free stuff to look at. Here's a play by play per casino:
- The MGM Grand has a lion habitat with lions on display daily from 11 AM to 7 PM. You can look for free, but there's a fee if you want to take pictures.
- The Flamingo has a habitat of Chilean flamingos, open 24/7.
- The Mirage has a simulated volcano "erupting" every hour on the hour (weather permitting) from 7 to 11 PM, a simulated rain forest inside the front entrance, and a huge aquarium behind the front desk.
- Treasure Island has a "Sirens Cove" show every day at 7, 8:30 and 10 PM (Extra show at 5:30 PM in the winter and 11:30 in the summer). Best view is on the walkway in front of the casino, but it fills up early.
- Circus Circus, which Hunter S. Thompson wrote about in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", still has free circus acts at the main stage near the Carnival Midwway arcade. They run about 10 minutes each on every half hour from 11 AM to 11 PM weekdays and to Midnight weekends.
- Caesars Palace has faux Roman decor all about, as well as a free "Fall of Atlantis" animatronic statue show above the aquarium in the shopping area, every hour on the hour. Showtimes are Sunday to Thursday 10 AM to 11 PM, Friday & Saturday 10 AM to Midnight.
- The Venetian has costumed singers in their "St. Marks Square" in the "Grand Canal Shoppes" area. They often have "living statues" which can be a good photo opportunity.
- The Luxor has faux Egyptian decor throughout the casino. Likewise, the New York New York as faux Manhattan decor.
- The Bellagio has fountains outside (with a show synchronized to music every 30 minutes, 3 to 7 PM weekdays, Noon to 7 PM weekends) and the indoor "Conservatory" has floral displays 27 hours a day. The sidewalk next to the fountains has often been called the most romantic spot on the Strip.
A note about the Bellagio: The place has serious snob-appeal, and if you're not dressed "appropriately", you might be asked to leave. A clean shirt and jeans are okay, but if you have a mohawk or dye your hair a unique hue, wear a hat. Also, you won't be allowed entry if you're an unaccompanied minor.
There are stage shows and concerts along the Strip, but they are VERY EXPENSIVE! Las Vegas is trying to appeal to a demographic with deep pockets, hence the quick disappearance of the "family themed" attractions from a short number of years ago. Check the listings in the Las Vegas CityLife or Las Vegas Weekly (see below) for info on local bands.
Many of the larger casino resorts have "professional" art galleries you can browse for free. Mostly, they're shops for the very, very upscale. You might get a sales pitch aimed at you if they think you have money (or they think you're going to steal something).
The world-famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign is down the end of the Strip near the airport. Thanks to a recent addition of a parking lot, you can now park next to the sign in the center meridian without fear of being run over by someone in a hurry to spend all his money.
The Fremont Street Experience, located Downtown, has something going on just about every weekend. If it isn't some cultural festival or trade show tie-in, there's usually live music.
While you're at the Fremont Street Experience, there are hourly light shows on the canopy at night. Watch your stuff, because that's when the pickpockets go to work. An ill-conceived attempt of revitalizing the area was "Neonopolis", which was supposed to be a vertical shopping mall with neon signs in a central column. It's now pretty much a ghost town. Worth a look to have a laugh at the futility of urban planning. (UPDATE: This may be the future location of a "Star Trek" themed attraction.)
Parking in the Downtown area seems to change with the seasons and any conventions in town. Some casinos will offer "Free" parking if you get your parking pass validated inside the casino, others will have you pay a "non-refundable parking fee" just to get into the parking garage. There is also a city-run public parking garage in the area (look for the blue signs), but it's metered, and you'll have to keep running back to your car every two hours or so. You might be better off parking your car at one of the Strip casinos and taking the bus downtown!
There's a bus station inside the Plaza casino at the intersection of Main and Fremont Streets, so if you need to catch a Greyhound, that's the place. Amtrak used to have their trains stop there, but in a boneheaded cost-cutting move, ended train service to Las Vegas. Now, you have to take Amtrak to Los Angeles or Baker, CA, Kingman, AZ, or even Salt Lake City and then take a bus to Las Vegas! (Ah, don't you just love governmental logic!)
The Burlesque Hall of Fame (formerly "Exotic World") is located inside Emergency Arts at 520 Fremont Street, #120, at the corner of 6th Street. There you can see exhibits of the history of striptease from its 19th century origins into the golden age of the 1950's. The museum is run by burlesque veteran Dixie Evans. Open only Fridays and Saturdays from 12 Noon to 6 PM and Sundays from 12 Noon to 3 PM. Admission is free, but a $5 donation or gift shop purchase is requested. To schedule a mid-week visit, call (888) 442-8959 or visit the website. .
Insert Coin(s) Video Lounge & Game Bar at 512 Fremont Street offers alcoholic drinks with your retro video games. Over 21 only, and open until 4 AM Sunday to Thursday, 6 AM Friday and Saturday. 
The nearby area will soon grace a proposed "Las Vegas Neon Museum", and some recently restored signs are scattered about the pedestrian walkways. Just look for the big neon signs on pedestals with the little metal informational signs next to them. If you can get to the "Neon Boneyard" near Cashman Center on Las Vegas Boulevard, you can look over the fence and see where the old signs are kept before they're restored. There are a few restored signs at the Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park (known to the locals as the "Old Fort") at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard & Washington Street. The exhibits are open Monday through Saturday, 8 am to 4:30 pm. Admission is $3 for adults and teens, $2 children 6 to 12, under 6 admitted free. The Boneyard itself has limited tours (a minimum donation of $15 per person), and they sell out, so call in advance. Phone (702) 486-3511 for info or go to their website. 
UPDATE: Several restored signs, including the famous "Silver Slipper", are now up on the center meridian near the proposed Neon Museum on Las Vegas Boulevard. Yes, they light up at night.
Downtown & Off-Strip
First, the non-casino attractions:
The Las Vegas-Clark County Library District (LVCCLD) holds a number of events each week, many of which are either free or at least cheap. They range from cultural events, seminars, movies, crafts and musical concerts (often jazz or classical music). Check here for events and locations.
"First Friday" is a monthly event where local artists and performers strut their stuff. Since it is scattered within the Downtown area, you'll need comfortable shoes to get around. Try starting at The Arts Factory (101-109 Charleston Blvd). Events start around 6 PM and are held (When else?) on the first Friday of every month. 
Sad to say, but there aren't very many All-Ages venues in the area. Check the listings in the Las Vegas Weekly and Las Vegas CityLife for local events. Since the night scene is prone to sudden and drastic change, your best bet is to read the listings once you get to Las Vegas, rather than rely on possibly outdated information.
Arcade purists need to visit the Pinball Hall of Fame (yes, a real pinball museum!) at 1610 E. Tropicana Blvd, between S. Maryland Pkwy and S. Eastern Ave (about 12 blocks or 1.5 miles from the Strip). Open 11 to 11 (till Midnight Friday and Saturday), all the machines work and are playable, with proceeds from the Non-Profit operation going to the Salvation Army. Admission is free but due to safety reasons, you have to be over 18 or be accompanied by an adult to enter since they also repair pinball machines there. Yes, they have a website  and they use quarters, not tokens!
If the Inner Geek still calls to you, Gemini Arcade (4180 E Sandhill Rd., Ste. 4-8) offers a variety of video games, some designed strictly for the Japanese market. 
If you're over 18 and are bold enough, the "Erotic Heritage Museum", Las Vegas' own museum of sex and sexuality at 3275 Industrial Road, would be worth a visit.  Open Wednesday through Saturday from 1 to 7 PM (Until 10 PM during First Friday events). Call for admission prices and exhibits: (702) 608-2461
Possibly the oddest museum you'll ever come across anywhere is the Atomic Testing Museum  at 755 East Flamingo Road (about a mile east of the Strip). Where else would you see a museum dedicated to technology that could have ended the world? Admission is $12 for adults, $9 if you have Nevada, Military or Student ID, or are under 17 or over 65. Open Monday to Saturday 10 to 5, Sundays Noon to 5 (Admission booth closes at 4:00. Feel free to take photos of the exhibits).
The SciFi Center has an odd location: On the second floor at Orleans Square inside the Sahara Commercial Center at 900 East Karen Ave., Suite D202 (If traveling by car or bike, try the main parking lot entrance at 953 E. Sahara Ave., near Maryland Parkway). Look for the huge Superman "S" in the window. Besides being a comic book and science fiction store, the "Underground Screening Room" in the back of the store shows any number of horror and science fiction films on Friday and Saturday nights. Admission prices vary depending on what they have to pay for licensing fees, and if there's a double feature you may have to pay a separate admission for each film (You can blame the film distributors for that!). Call (702) 792-4335 (or 792-GEEK) or check the website  to see what's showing.
Theatre 7 at 1406 S 3rd Street Downtown is a rarity in Sin City. An actual art cinema, live theater and art gallery! Call 568-9963 or visit their website  to see what's happening.
The Las Vegas Springs Preserve at 333 S. Valley View Blvd. is an eco-friendly multi-media place that includes outdoor exhibits and interactive displays. Admission is pricey (Adult Non-residents pay $18.95 for admission) but there's lots of activities on the weekends, often with discounted fees. Check the website for more info.  Call (702) 822-7700.
Now for the casino attractions:
Sam's Town on Boulder Highway (yes, the place that The Killers named their CD after) has an indoor park with animatronic critters all over the place. There are night-time laser shows synchronized with music and water fountains at 6, 8 and 10 PM.
The Rio on West Flamingo Road has a Show in the Sky with performers in costume as a DJ spins music, Thursday through Saturday, on the hour from 6 to 11 PM. If you don't mind spending $13, you can actually be part of the show.
The Silverton Casino Resort has a huge aquarium that has often been called the city's best free attraction. The problem is that it is about 3 miles off the Strip at 3333 Blue Diamond Road (off of I-15), so you'll need transportation to get there. There's also a free shuttle from both McCarran Airport and Caesar's Palace Forum Shops on the Strip.
The Hard Rock Casino at 4455 Paradise Road, which has been described by John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) as "a cross between a mausoleum of pop music and a temple of greed", has all sorts of rock memorabilia decorating the casino.
If you're over 21, go to the Double Down Saloon at 4640 Paradise Road, a short drive from the Hard Rock Casino. There are live bands just about every night, and there's no cover charge. The decor looks like a nightmare inspired by a back issue of Zap Comix and the jukebox is a college radio DJ's dream come true. Despite how they look from the outside, the bathrooms are perfectly safe and well-lit. Decent prices for the drinks, too! The Double Down is located within a small circle of Gay-oriented businesses known locally as the "Paradise Fruit Loop". Band list at their website. 
One would think tiki bars in Las Vegas would be a staple, right? Sadly, a number have come and gone during the years (such as the Stardust's Aku Aku, Taboo Cove, Don the Beachcomber, Trader Vic's and Venus). However, Frankie's Tiki Room at 1712 West Charleston Boulevard, owned and operated by the same folks who run the Double Down, will satisfy your craving for any number of exotic drinks. The drinks' alcohol content is listed on the menu by skulls (1 the lowest, 5 the highest) and major tiki artists (such as Shag, Crazy Al Evans and Bamboo Ben) provided the decor. According to the website, if you wear a Hawaiian shirt, your first drink is half priced. If travelling at night, look for the pink neon signs.  Phone: (702) 385-3110.
(A little historical note: The giant tiki head that stood in front of the entrance of the Stardust's Aku Aku tiki bar now stands on a man made island in an artificial pond in Sunset Park, bordered by Sunset Road, Eastern Avenue and Warm Springs Road.)
There are a number of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender spots in Las Vegas. The two main areas are the "Paradise Fruit Loop" at Paradise Road near the airport, and a "rough around the edges" collection of spots at the Commercial Center at East Sahara Avenue. GayCities.com has a full listing.
The monthly publication QVegas (which merged with Out Las Vegas), is available at bookstores and gay-friendly businesses around the city.
As of October 2009, same-sex civil unions are recognized by state law. Ask at the wedding chapels about the paperwork if you want to tie the knot.
At 1820 South Boulder Highway in Henderson (all the way down towards Boulder City), there is the Clark County Museum which features a nature and historical diorama, a changing exhibit space, a historical self-guided tour of rebuilt houses from the valley's history, and a desert walking trail. There's wild rabbits, hares, ground squirrels and reptiles about, so watch your step on the trail. Open 9 AM to 4:30 PM; Admission is only $1.50 ($1 if you're under 15 or over 65).
In Henderson proper, the main business area is Water Street, which has undergone much renovation in recent years. There's a few galleries, a used book dealer, and more than a few places to eat. The plaza at the City Hall often holds public events, a farmers market on Thursdays from 9 AM to 3 PM and an art event dubbed "Third Thursdays" held, obviously, every third Thursday from 5 to 9 PM. Check here for events:
The local branch of the public library is at the corner of Water Street and Lake Mead Parkway (next to the Target shopping center). You'll need a library card to use the computers.
The Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve is rather out of the way at 350 East Galleria Drive at Moser Drive (Take Boulder Highway to East Sunset Road and make a left on Moser. It's next to the Animal Shelter. Look for the signs). Set inside the Water Treatment Facility, it is 140 acres of open range where you can see as many as 200 species of birds. Admission is free but hours of operation vary with the season (March through May and September through November: 6 AM to 2 PM, June through August: 6 AM to Noon, December through February: 7 AM to 2 PM. Last admission is 30 minutes before closing). Note: In order to keep the birds "wild", you can't feed them. Phone: 702-267-4180. 
The Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Cactus Garden, located off of Mountain Vista and Sunset Road at Two Cactus Garden Drive, is a free attraction. It's located inside a commercial office park and there are small signs leading to it (If you get lost, ask one of the locals at the shopping center across the street). The garden has free admission and open every day from 8:30 AM to 6 PM, but the chocolate factory tour is only open Monday to Thursday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. You can stroll about the cactus garden and take a peek at the upscale chocolates being made. After the brief tour, you can have a sample of chocolate as you enter the chocolate shop and wince at the high prices. There's also an M&M themed shop on the grounds. At Christmastime, the cacti are strung up with electric lights and lit up at night for an oddly southwestern winter wonderland. The property is owned the the Mars family (of M&M/Mars fame) and the company is named after Ethel Mars. (Corporate founder Franklin Clarence Mars was married twice, each time to a woman named Ethel. Go figure.)
Lake Mead National Recreation Area & Hoover Dam
If you have a car (or access to one), check out the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, just outside of Boulder City. It's a fee area, but a pass is good for 7 days. It's $10 per car load, $3 if you're on a motorcycle, bicycle or on foot, or you can get a annual pass for $30. In the summer months you can swim anywhere there are no boats or fishing, but the water can be VERY COLD at times! There are no lifeguards, so swim at your own risk! If you have kids, bring along life jackets! Call (702) 293-8990 or (702) 293-8906 for info, or check out NPS.gov.
While you're in the area, also check out Hoover Dam (You can park for free up the hill on the Arizona side and walk, otherwise it's $7 per car, cash only). Remember to get there early, since due to Post-9/11 security regulations, no one is allowed to walk across the dam after sunset. There are guided tours of the dam (inside and out), and tickets are $11 for adults, $9 for ages 7 to 16, over 62 or have a Military ID, and free for kids 3 and under. If you just want to see the Visitor's Center without the tour, tickets are $8 each, free to kids 3 and under. The tickets stop selling at 4:15 PM, and is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. (Just a reminder; It's illegal to throw ANYTHING off the dam!) For full information while you're there, you can tune into two low-power informational radio stations provided by the government: 530 AM gives info on Hoover Dam, while 1610 AM plays info on Lake Mead (The time check is always a few minutes off).
In case you're curious, the highway leading into Arizona leads all the way into Kingman and US Route 66.
The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge (officially called the Mike O'Callaghan Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge) officially opened on October 19, 2010, ending all through traffic across the dam. There's a pedestrian walkway on the dam accessible from the base, but it closes at dusk. For updated information about crossing Hoover Dam, call 1-888-248-1259 or read the official list.  The Bypass has its own official website. 
Boulder City was built for the workers who were building Hoover (originally Boulder) Dam, and it was a "Federal Zone" for a number of years afterwards until it officially became part of Nevada. Since many of the buildings, parks and roads were built by the folks who normally build Army bases, the city looks like a little model railroad town. There's funky antique shops, arts & crafts stores, a brew pub, eateries and a few boutiques around, like Goat Feathers Emporium at 1300 Wyoming Street which rents out space to a number of dealers. Just remember that many of the stores in this otherwise sleepy little city close around 5PM and all day on Sundays.
If you think something is missing in town, you're right. Boulder City is one of only two towns in Nevada where gambling is illegal (The other is the village of Panaca, which also prohibits the sale of alcohol), but there is the Hacienda casino just outside of Boulder City on a parcel of private land within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, so it's not "officially" in Boulder City. They have decent food specials and a modest buffet.
Mind the speed limits! They are enforced and you WILL get a ticket if you speed (especially on weekends)!
A hint about driving through Boulder City: When you're on US 93/Nevada Highway and reach Buchanan Boulevard, you can get to the dam by either going straight through town on Nevada Highway (also called "Nevada Way"), or by turning left which takes you onto US 93. They'll both lead to the dam, but if the traffic is backed up on US 93, going through town can shave a few minutes off your drive.
The Boulder Dam Hotel (named after the dam's original name), at 1305 Arizona Street in the Historic District, features a small museum about the dam that is worth a visit. Admission is $2, $1 for kids & seniors (Closes at 5 PM).
Other natural places to visit are Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire State Park (both are Fee areas). At the entrance to Valley of Fire State Park on Interstate 15 (North from Las Vegas) is a small corner of the Moapa Piute Reservation, and the Moapa Tribal Travel Plaza, which sells gas, diesel fuel, food, liquor, tobacco products, fireworks (which are illegal in the rest of Clark County!) and Native American books, CDs, arts & crafts, all exempt from Nevada Sales Tax.
Those with a Pagan spirit should seriously consider taking a drive out to the Sekhmet Temple (also known as the "Goddess Temple") in Cactus Springs, about an hour's drive on US 95 North, about 2 miles past the town of Indian Springs. Look for the grove of cottonwood trees on your left. Remember that this is a place of worship, so please, no drugs, booze, loud music or firearms. Check the website for a schedule of ceremonies. 
If you have the time and transportation, the little town of Chloride, Arizona (about 1 1/2 hours drive from Las Vegas past Hoover Dam, at mile marker 53 on US 93) features an eccentric collection of outdoor (and outsider) artwork. Many in this mining town have taken scrap materials and made large works of art on their front lawns. Ask at the Mineshaft Market & Arizona Visitor Center on Tennessee Avenue about the "Purcell Murals" when you're there. It's a one-mile walk up a dirt road to see the murals Roy Purcell made in 1966. The town is quiet on the weekdays but busy on the weekends when the tourists arrive. The main "meet and greet" place is Yesterdays Restaurant on 2nd Street (Great pancakes!). Remember to bring plenty of water and watch out for the snakes. The Chamber of Commerce keeps a website. . Another good informational website is Chlorideaz.com.
Many of the resident Las Vegans take their vacations (or even day-trips and weekend getaways) in Laughlin. Think of it as Las Vegas' poor cousin. No sleaze, but it has a nice long walkway alongside the Colorado River. The car collection in the Riverside Casino has free admission. Drive towards Boulder City on Boulder Highway or I-515 South and take US 93 South through Searchlight (Watch the speed limit!), turning left onto State Hwy 163 East when you get past Cal-Nev-Ari. It's about a two hour drive from the Strip. When you're there, buy your gas across the river in Bullhead City, Arizona, where it's usually cheaper. If you stay there overnight, you can take day trips into Arizona (like London Bridge in Lake Havasu or Route 66 in Kingman). Most of the time the cheapest place to stay at is the Pioneer Hotel & Gambling Hall, which is more of a very large motel than a hotel.
A word about Arizona: The state doesn't recognize Daylight Savings Time. In the Fall and Winter, they're in Mountain Standard Time (1 hour ahead of Nevada). In the Spring and Summer, they're in Pacific Daylight Time (the same time as Nevada).
The following websites have mostly commercial information, but may be of interest:
Primm & Jean
Formerly known as "Stateline", Primm, on the Nevada side of the California border on I-15, is a little town that is built around three casinos (Whiskey Pete's, Primm Valley, Buffalo Bill's) that offers gambling, shopping, hotel rooms and entertainment, including a wicked (80 mph) roller coaster at Buffalo Bill's. Weekends can be chaotic, since that's when many of the bus tours from California come by.
Because of Primm's unique geography, one part of the parking lot extends over the state line into California and features a small store that sells California lottery tickets!
Jean, on the way to Primm, has only one casino operating; the Gold Strike, which is one of the few casinos in Nevada that has coin payout slot machines. It is popular with the "hardcore" gamblers since the rooms are cheaper than on the Strip, and if you're only interested in gambling, sleeping, drinking and eating, and not shows or shopping, it's the place to go. It also has a huge parking lot which makes it popular with long-haul truck drivers. Nevada Landing, across the highway, was demolished in 2008 for another project that has yet to be started. Jean is also home to a post office for a town that officially has no residents (That is, if you don't include the inmates at the women's prison).
The free weeklies are Las Vegas Weekly and Las Vegas CityLife (read about them below). The local daily is the Las Vegas Review-Journal (known locally as "The R-J") with another much more liberal paper, the Las Vegas Sun as an insert within it. Both have their own websites:
What passes for a college station, KUNV at 90.5 FM, is an NPR Jazz station Monday through Friday, with miscellaneous music programs on the weekends.
One of the local NPR stations, KNPR (Nevada Public Radio), is at 88.9 FM and has local public affairs and news programs mixed in with NPR fare. It features news on the hour and the BBC World Service overnight (Yes, they carry "A Prairie Home Companion" on Saturday evenings with a repeat broadcast every Sunday). It's also one of the few talk stations locally that isn't over-run with Right-Wing blowhards. The other NPR station, KCNV, broadcasts Classical music at 89.7 FM. Check the schedules here
There are a few rock radio stations in Las Vegas, but all of them are corporately owned. In short, the overwhelming majority of them suck. Presently there is a halfway decent Alternative Rock station at 107.9 (KVGS) licensed in Meadview, Arizona with a transmitter in Dolan Springs, Arizona, but despite having a booster transmitter on top of the Stratosphere casino's tower, its signal doesn't reach the whole valley.
If you bring along a small digital TV, see if you can pick up KGNG-LP (Digital 47). Their digital channel 47.5 offers oddball public domain movies and TV shows with the occasional infomercial to pay the bills.
The closest Las Vegas has to an independent press are two free weeklies. Las Vegas CityLife (yes, that's one word) and Las Vegas Weekly. They both come out every Thursday and can be had at marked street boxes and convenience stores around the valley. They both have great information on local free and cheap events (that is, when they're not attacking each other in print!), as well as good local reporting.
QVegas (formerly the Las Vegas Bugle and merged with its sister publication Out Las Vegas) is a glossy monthly publication that covers the LGBT scene in the valley. It can be had for free at many bookstores and gay-friendly bars and businesses.
There are two local conservative papers called the Las Vegas Tribune and Penny Press. Both are limited circulation weeklies. The Tribune has had financial and distribution troubles as of late, and dwells heavily on local politics from a sharp conservative viewpoint, as well as featuring former City Councilman Steve Miller's juicy reporting on criminal influence in local politics. The Penny Press, aimed at the Northwest part of the valley and the military market, is published by long-time Nevada broadcast station owner Fred Weinberg and has regular contributors such as economist Pat Choate, market contrarian Al Thomas and local libertarian figures such as Doug French.
If you're in need of some small item, remember that the stores on the Strip (especially those inside the casinos) charge more, since they have to pay higher rent. It's best to buy stuff you might be needing (dental floss, medicines, condoms, etc.) in advance. If you need to get something, try going to the stores on the main streets off the Strip.
While it is legal to drink from an open container while walking on the Strip (between Sahara Avenue and Tropicana Avenue), if you act stupid or are seen to be TOO drunk, the cops will take you in. Casino security guards have a reputation for acting like police when they aren't. Also, while the sidewalks in front of many of the casinos are public walkways, due to a strange law in the County Code, the casinos can actually OWN them if they provide the upkeep! Yes, the sidewalk in front a major casino is often casino property! If you find yourself hassled by casino security, just say "I'm leaving now." and then leave! Don't make a scene, don't be rude, just leave. If they hassle you any more, stay cool and ask them politely but firmly, "Are you police officers? If not, I want one present." That should calm things down a bit. Just remember that the best way to get out of hot water in Las Vegas is to not get in it in the first place. Stay cool, watch your back, and don't make a scene. Remember, you're here to have fun.
There is a quasi "Chinatown" slowly springing up on Spring Mountain Road. Two large Chinese shopping centers (a short drive apart) offer all sorts of stuff, and both have well-stocked Asian supermarkets. Chinatown Plaza is on Spring Mountain Rd. between Arville and Valley View (look for the big archway in front of the parking lot), and Pacific Asian Plaza is at 5115 Spring Mountain Rd, on the other side of Decatur Blvd.
The Broadacres Swapmeet is an outdoor flea market selling just about anything (legal) you can think of. Thanks to Nevada's unique liquor laws, they also sell beer you can drink while you shop! It's on 2390 Las Vegas Boulevard North and open every Friday, Saturday & Sunday, with admission varying on the day (Friday is 50 cents, Saturday is $1, Sunday is $1.50. Kids under 12 free with adult admission). It's worth it just to see all the stuff available and watch the amazing parade of people go by. Get there EARLY (the gates open at 6 AM) because parking is a nightmare! Drive away from the Strip into Downtown and keep going into North Las Vegas. You can't miss the big billboard on your right.
A good indoor flea market is Fantastic Indoor Swapmeet at 1717 S. Decatur Blvd. (Corner of Decatur and Oakey Blvd.), open 10 to 6 Friday through Sunday. Admission is $1 but you get a coupon for $1 off a purchase of $15 or more (at most vendors). The "Fastastik" sign on the building is leftover from those pre-Costco days when it was the site of a members-only department store. (Some of the vendors used to have a reputation for selling pirated and knock-off versions of brand name goods. After a FBI raid, many booths were shut down.)
There are a number of good used book and CD/record stores in the valley. Record City at 300 E. Sahara Ave also sells used DVDs. As for used books, Dead Poets Books (937 S. Rainbow Blvd) and Book Magician (2202 W. Charleston Blvd #2) are the big two, but there are others, like Amber Unicorn (2101 S Decatur Blvd., next to Trader Joe's) which has a mind-bending assortment of cookbooks. Check the phone book while you're here.
If you're in the need of things spiritual, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Las Vegas  is located at 3616 East Lake Mead Boulevard (not to be confused with Lake Mead Drive). Sunday services start at 10:30 AM, but get there early for some good conversation.
Public Transit and Bike Trails
The main bus service is Citizens Area Transit (CAT), and is rather dependable. It's run by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTCSN). Visit the website  or call 702-228-4733 (CAT-RIDE) for Customer Services. (The local joke is that "CAT" stands for "Can't Afford a Taxi".)
The Route 301 bus on the Strip has been replaced by "The Deuce", a double-decker bus system which has also been expanded to other heavy routes. There is also a much maligned monorail system linking many of the Strip casinos with a website . Plans are to extend it to Downtown and to McCarran International Airport...and it's free.
The RTCSN also maintains the local bike trails. The map is frequently updated and can be downloaded from a link on this page.
There is a Greyhound bus station next door to the Plaza Casino on the corner of Main and Fremont Streets in the Downtown district.
Las Vegas has no subway system. When someone mentions "Las Vegas Metro", they're referring to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD).
In Las Vegas, senior citizens are very savvy when it comes to using the free inter-casino shuttle buses. Since many of the casinos are owned by the same company (Station Casinos, MGM-Mirage, etc.), they will have shuttle buses that go from casino to casino. Many have the timetables memorized where they can walk to one casino, take the shuttle bus to the other casino, and walk the rest of the way for free. Ask around. They are available in many larger cities for free transit from the airport to convention centers, hotels, resorts, and theme parks often with no questions asked. Nearly every casino has shuttle buses, call and ask.
Free Clothing and Furniture
Thrift stores abound here, and there are yard sales scattered about every weekend. Just look for the signs posted on cardboard boxes weighed down with rocks at the major intersections. With people moving in and out with great frequency, lots of stuff (like repairable bicycles!) is thoughtlessly thrown away. Go out on garbage night in the suburbs with a pick-up truck. Happy hunting!
Casinos will give out free drinks if you play the slot machines long enough (Drunk gamblers are happy gamblers, and happy gamblers spend money!). Tip the waitresses, however, since their's is a rough job.
Many of the locals join "players clubs" at the casinos. If you gamble using your slot club card, you often get mail notices of promotional freebies (ranging from chess sets to clothes hampers and kitchen bowls). Some folks have furnished apartments this way. The downside to this is that your personal information is in the casino's database.
Police Non-Emergency - 311
Suicide Prevention Center of Clark Country - 731-2990
Poison Information - 732-4989
Rape Crisis Center Hot Line - 366-1640
Domestic Crisis Shelter - 646-4981
Information and Referral HELP of Southern Nevada (includes the group Traveler's Aid International) - 369-4357
Juvenile Court Services Abuse and Neglect Hot Line - 399-0081
Crisis Mental Health Unit - 486-8020
Youth Runaway Emergency Shelter - 385-3330
Salvation Army Corps Community Centers
- 2900 Palomino Lane, Las Vegas - 870-4430
- 2828 E. Cheyenne Avenue, North Las Vegas - 651-9550
- 830 E. Lake Mead Drive, Henderson - 565-9578
Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth
- If you're between 12 and 18, these folks can help you out with a number of services. Their main phone number is 383-1332, but their Mobile Crisis Intervention Team has a 24 hour toll-free line at 1-866-827-3723 (1-866-U-ARE-SAFE).
Anything else, dial "211" and ask the Operator for assistance.
Stay away from the sleazier joints, since they have a bad reputation for overcharging patrons and fights in the parking lot. Be careful about tempers flaring in the bars during any major sporting event, since the patrons will probably have large amounts of money riding on the outcome. (The Double Down Saloon, however, is an glowing exception to this, and is worth a visit, especially for the live music.)
Watch out for the "Official Tourist Information" storefronts. Nearly all of them are shills for time-share operations with little if any tourist information (One of our writers used to work for one). The truly official website  is run by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Despite all the pleasures you can indulge in in Las Vegas, its always best to be smart.
Small amounts of marijuana possession have been decriminalized for people over 21 as per a voter referendum. You'll still get a nice ticket and fine to boot, though. If you're under 21, it's a misdemeanor with (more than likely) no more than a night in the pokey and a stiff fine. Cocaine, Meth, and basically any other uppers are all-too plentiful in the 24/7 city that is Las Vegas, but the pig patrol is much more happy to bust a cat with hard drugs on him.
Don't even think of trying to cheat the casinos! With all the video security in the casinos (Ever wonder what those little glass domes on the ceilings are hiding?), you have a better chance of winning than cheating and not being caught.
Once again, avoid using a Fake ID in a casino. These people are not stupid when it comes to fake ID's, and know every trick in the book. Best case scenario if you're busted is that your ID will be confiscated and you'll get escorted out by LVMPD. Worst case scenario is if the casino presses charges against you (very possible). These places could very well lose their license (EXTREMELY valuable) if they turn a "blind eye" to under 21's in the casino. If you're under 21, stay away from any gambling machines or gaming tables. Nevada gaming laws are pretty tough on under 21's... you can't even watch if you're underage! The same should be said for bars, nightclubs, etc.
Almost all hotels in Vegas require you to be 21 to simply rent a room. Since its not illegal to do so and liquor laws are tight, you very well may get a room if you fork out enough bread. If you feel risky, get some booze delivered to your room by the room service. It's costly, but fake ID's are pretty much accepted at par with delivery staff (most don't even give a rat's ass so long as you tip them well)
Regardless of what anyone tells you, prostitution is illegal in Clark County (that includes Las Vegas)! All the legal brothels are outside the county, and they're not cheap.
In closing, never bet on an Inside Straight, watch your wallet (there's lots of pickpockets out here), and as soon as you think you're "getting the fever", cash out and quit. Remember, "Easy Street" is both a dead end and a blind alley!