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Lions and Tigers and Clowns

We don't care what they sayIf you're like us, you think paying $100 a pop to see French Canadian clowns is ridiculous. That's a hundred hands of dollar blackjack, for Pete's sake. In Vegas, they want over $200 to see some washed-up, fat broad belt out bathhouse tunes. Ask yourself, would you pay that to see these people back home? We sure as hell wouldn't

You can't spend your whole vacation gambling, though, especially not if you play roulette. So what to do? Sit in your hotel room for hours on end watching free preview after free preview of the pay-per-view adult movies? Or go do a free sightseeing tour? We vote for the latter. The shows we list are free, meaning you don't pay a dime, which is right about our budget level.

Bellagio - The MGM Mirage's fanciest attempt to show that they know what it means to be sophisticated. Apparently, class has to scream at the top of its lungs, so they created an elaborate fountain show in front of this dump. Basically, it's the same thing as the old "Dancing Waters" at Sea World, except MGM Mirage has the money to make it bigger and use fancier music. The fountains spurt every half-hour and can be seen from the street or by hanging around on the casino's front porch.

Caesars Palace - There is a lot of tacky crap in this casino and just wandering through it might take a while. Take the time to walk around and marvel at how beautifully tacky it all is. Honestly, this place takes glitz to a new level of artfulness. It used to be even tackier and more glorious, but it still outdoes its neighbors.

Caesars Palace Forum Shops - Two seemingly inanimate fountains come to life every hour on the hour in the shopping mall attached to Caesars. The latex-covered characters resemble marble statues, and are animatronic. The first show features Bacchanal realizing that gambling at Caesars is good. The other relates the story of the sinking of Atlantis. Neptune gives his offspring the King Lear treatment and he dooms them to an early and watery, grave. Both shows are non-spectacular but they draw big crowds. If you want to watch them, find a spot near the back that allows you to slip out quickly and easily. As long as you're in the Forum Shops, wander around and marvel at the sort of crap rich people buy. Wealth and good taste are not synonymous.

Circus Circus - The AdventureDome, a mini-amusement park under a huge pink glass enclosure behind the hotel is a pretty lame attempt to assuage parents' guilt while they go and gamble. The theme is supposed to be the Grand Canyon and the hotel may actually be proud of the amateurish animatronic dinosaur display and papier-maché looking cliffs and rocks. A decent but short roller-coaster (among other rides) can be ridden for a fee, but entering the park and walking about is free of charge.

Also, every 20 minutes from 11 a.m. to midnight, circus acts perform on the midway above the casino. Once we saw a man spinning with towels in his mouth. On the other end of the towels were dogs, swinging through the air. Now that's entertainment!

Cosmpolitan - If you want to see cool art, this is the choice. The second through fourth floors are littered with interactive and playful art displays that don't feel all stuffy and pretentious like the junk at Aria. If you just want to shoot some pool for free, then head upstairs fromt hej casino to the game room. There is a pool table, board games and plenty of comfortable places to sit and hang out. Nobody's gonna make you pay any dough.

Fremont Street Experience - Don't get us started. A four block long canopy of lights covers Fremont Street. At night, the little lights twinkle every hour on the hour to produce elaborate, four block long, overhead cartoons. The resolution is about what you would get on a normal television. The animation is mostly hoaky, the music is brutally loud and the whole thing is unavoidable when you are downtown and outdoors. A few dozen people crowd the streets to "ooh" and "aah".

On weekends, Fremont Street has lots of events, like concerts and street artists. You may be lucky enough to catch us giving one of our famous "breakdancing" seminars, or giving the street artists a few painting tips we picked up from Bob Ross.

Flamingo - In the courtyard at the center of the Flamingo compound is a "wild habitat" that lovingly recreates what koi, turtles and flamingoes look like in their natural setting: an artificial oasis between massive Las Vegas hotel towers. No matter the absurdity, the animals are pretty fun to look at. There are also swans and ducks, which makes it nearly a petting zoo.

Golden Nugget - Fittingly, this casino is home to the largest gold nugget in the world. It is the size of a small child but weighs considerably more. They keep it behind glass so that you cannot touch it and we cannot steal it.

Hard Rock Hotel - Besides being the ideal place to hang out if you have never bothered to develop a personality and would rather use the one conveniently pre-packaged by the Hard Rock chain, there is a lot of rock and roll crap on the walls. Most of it is from artists that mean as little to today's society as Kid Rock and Lionel Ritchie.

Hooters - Breasts in tight t-shirts on display.

The Quad - The Quad car collection can be seen for free by finding a coupon in town. If classic and unique cars interest you, this is a pleasant, air-conditioned way to spend an hour or so.

Main Street Station - Ever wanted to urinate on the Berlin Wall? Well, the men's room near the buffet has the pee stations built into a big chunk of that famed relic. Come on in and make a statement while you relieve yourself.

Mandalay Bay - The House of Blues club features bands just about nightly, but tickets cost a pretty penny. Looking at the cool art on the outside of the club's walls, though, sets you back nothing. They actually had a real "outsider" artist, Leonard Jones, do the sculpture, featuring a massive collage of bottle caps, rusted cans and other found objects.

Mirage - This place tries to impress you into thinking it's really a classy joint, but when was the last time you went to a Ritz-Carlton with a phony volcano belching out flaming methane gas at night? It's just a more expensive mouse trap and they can't keep out the occasional rat like you and me. The volcano (neé waterfall) out front is free to watch. Behind the registration desk is an enormous aquarium. Imagine the fish bowl you have at home being 100 times longer and containing eels and sharks. Actually, it's pretty cool.

Paris - After taking a quick look at the stunted Eiffel Tower (which costs a small fortune to go up), wander inside this joint and look for the gendarmes. And don't forget to wander the cobblestone streets, admiring the Frenchness of it all. And occasional exclamation of "Sacré Bleu!" is expected.

Rio - In the Masquerade Tower, the noisy Parade in the Sky takes place in the evenings. The show includes floats that travel hung from the ceiling, and a stage with dancers. It might be fun if it weren't in the middle of a casino, a shopping pavilion and competing with both for attention and noise. They hand out a few beads sometimes, though, and the music is sometimes pretty cool.

Sam's Town - They have something called the Mystic Falls Park, which is really a giant atrium in the middle of their hotel tower. Inside there, the Sunset Stampede tramples innocent onlookers every day at 2, 6, 8 and 10 p.m. Don't worry, though, they don't literally trample you, they just clobber you with laser lights and dancing waters in what is described as a "musical journey across the Great Plains." Boy, I bet the pioneers wish their journeys were this pain-free, musical and laser-filled. They also have free shuttle service to the Strip and downtown.

Silverton - Another huge aquarium with some cool fish lies at one end of this casino. Nearby is a bar with live jellyfishes floating around behind glass. Sorry, they don't have a "Get stung by the jellyfish" attraction, despite the numerous times we've asked. Next door and attached is a massive Bass Pro Shop with simulated ponds with big bass and trout. occasionally, someone from the shop demonstrates a new lure and hooks into one.

Treasure Island - Every two hours in the evening, when the weather permits, a hokey "sexy" pirate battle takes place at the entrance to this casino. Two ships shoot cannons and lots of bad actors dressed as pirates fall into the phony lake. The sexy part comesin when the "sirens" sing and expose midriffs. they are the lusty wenches on one of the ships. It's overlong, overwrought and silly to the point of tedium. Truly, trust on this one.

Venetian - It costs dough to ride around in the gondolas, but they can't make you pay just for walking around their make-believe canals of Venice with the mini-golf blue water (the real one's water is filthier than the Western's toilets) and watching the singing gongoliers make some people cringe and others swoon.

Wynn Las Vegas - There are a myriad of ways for this place to remind you, for free, that you're not rich. Wander around the man-made mountain out front. If you like flowers, walk around the conservatory, which is a lot like the one in the Bellagio.

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