Category Archives: Free Las Vegas

Bellagio Conservatory Kicks the Holidays Into High Gear With Lavish Winter Display

If you’re feeling holiday spirit-challenged, we recommend a visit to the free Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens.

The Conservatory has unveiled its winter display for 2015, featuring enough creativity and whimsy to warm the heart of even the most die-hard devotee of humbuggery.

Bellagio Conservatory winter 2015

The Bellagio’s Christmas display nearly stunned the snark out of us. “Nearly” being the operative term.

Fans of the Bellagio Conservatory will find a number of familiar elements, but there’s always something new to see at this beloved attraction.

The centerpiece of the Bellagio’s winter display is the 42-foot white fir tree. Don’t get all bent out of shape, it’s faux fir.

Bellagio Conservatory Las Vegas

We kid. The tree is real, shipped in from Mt. Lassen, California. The tree weighs 6,800 pounds, more or Lassen.

The gargantuan tree, easily the most stunning in Las Vegas, has about 2,500 ornaments and 7,000 lights.

Other tried-and-true elements of the holiday display are frolicking polar bears. We suspect the polar bears aren’t going anywhere given the sponsorship deal Bellagio has struck with Coca-Cola.

Bellagio Conservatory polar bear

See all the inappropriate jokes we’re not telling? It’s the Christmas spirit!

The Coca-Cola advertising is done with class, however, and nobody going to begrudge Bellagio for finding a partner to help offset the cost of the producing this winter wonderland in the middle of the desert.

The Coca-Cola partnership once again has a philanthropic component. When guests share a Conservatory photo using the hashtag #HollyJollyVegas, Coca-Cola will donate a buck to Toys for Tots (up to $25,000). It’s hard to hate on Capitalism too much when kids get toys during the holidays.

Bellagio Conservatory

Aren’t you feeling super guilty about global warming right about now?

Each of the polar bears is made with thousands of white carnations. The cubs use 5,000 carnations, and the mother has 12,000.

Conservatory veterans will also recognize the 14-foot toy soldiers.

Bellagio Conservatory toy soldier

Dude, lighten up, it’s not Buckingham Palace.

We also love the working toy train running in endless circles.

One of our favorite Easter eggs in the winter display is the pair video screens showing live video from a camera affixed to the toy train. The screens are located elsewhere in the exhibit, and guests are consistently delighted when they realize what the screens are showing.

Bellagio Conservatory

One of the train camera video displays. We probably should’ve said “spoiler alert.” Then again, this whole blog is sort of a spoiler. You’ll live.

A snow tunnel has made its return, perfect for a photo op. The tunnel is constructed so that “snowflakes” move within the tunnel walls.

Bellagio Conservatory Christmas 2015

Sorry, but “Die Hard 2” sort of wrecked icicles for everybody.

Also in the new winter display are a collection of crowd-pleasing penguins, several of which clearly have a better fashion sense than this Las Vegas blog. Then again, just about everyone does.

Bellagio Conservatory

We assume this, too, is faux. Don’t make us cry penguin tears, Bellagio.

Beyond the returning favorites, new surprises abound.

The house made of chocolate is out, but an animated rocking horse is in (see below).

There are also two 12-foot snow globes. Those are huge globes, even by Las Vegas exotic dancer standards. Yes, in fact, we have to ruin everything. Get used to it.

Bellagio Conservatory

National Finals Rodeo is in town, so you can bet some cowboys have been eyeballing that horse, bigtime.

Overhead bells used in previous displays have been replaced by colorful, 10-foot stockings.

There’s also a 12-foot, animated jack-in-the-box.

Bellagio Conservatory

Or, more accurately, a harlequin-in-the-box, because Las Vegas appreciates alternative lifestyles.

While many of the props used in the Bellagio Conservatory’s winter display don’t involve flowers (an intriguing departure from past displays, and one we suspect could be a cost-conserving measure, it’s a Conservatory after all), there are still a lot of flowers.

According to the Bellagio, there are 34,000 poinsettias (our favorite dog, too), azaleas (love her music), cyclamen (our favorite lady part) and Ottowa mums (who raise the most polite kids, ever).

Bellagio Conservatory Christmas 2015

Everyone’s a child again! So, yeah, sort of smelly and loud, but in a good way!

Unless we missed it, it appears the live music component of the display has been nixed this year. Again, the exhibit appears to be trimming more than just its 750 plants and shrubs.

The Bellagio’s holiday display runs through Jan. 3, 2016.

Bellagio Conservatory

Experts believe penguins survived the extinction of the dinosaurs 60 million years ago. Who’s the comic relief now, dinosaurs?

The winter display is one of five seasonal themes at Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens (here’s the official site), with the others being Chinese New Year, spring, summer and fall.

Bellagio Conservatory

On your way out, stop by the hotel lobby where there’s whimsy all year round.

Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens continues to be one of the great free attractions in Las Vegas, and this year’s holiday display is already drawing huge crowds.

Bellagio Conservatory Christmas

Don’t be surprised if your heart grows three sizes during your visit. It’ll be uncomfortable, but totally worth it.

Walking through the Bellagio Conservatory at this time of year is a magical experience. It’s a chance to reconnect with our childhood, to feel the anticipation of Christmas morning, to be filled once again with the wonder and spirit of the holidays.

And we’re not even going to ruin it with a stupid joke. Because we’re sure as hell not going to risk ending up on anyone’s “naughty” list this late in the game. Sorry, heck. Sure as heck.

More cheer below!

Bellagio Conservatory Christmas 2015

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Bellagio Conservatory Whips Out Its Impressive Autumnal Regalia

It’s fall, and the Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens are once again resplendent with all things seasonally-appropriate and whimsical, including pumpkins, mythical and woodland creatures, ample foliage and a big-ass watermill.

Bellagio Conservatory fall 2015

Before we get too far, we should say Autumnal Regalia would not be a bad band name.

The Bellagio Conservatory will sport its fall display through Nov. 27, 2015. The annual holiday display opens Dec. 3 and runs through Jan. 2, 2016.

Bellagio Conservatory fall 2015

The bridge is much like a covered bridge you’d find in Vermont, but with fewer people in Birkenstocks.

Some of the elements of this year’s fall display will be familiar to frequent visitors to the Conservatory, but it’s a must-see nonetheless. And not just because it’s free. But in case there were any question, it’s free.

Bellagio autumn 2015

It’s getting whimsical up in here.

At the center of Bellagio’s fall display is the aforementioned 33-foot-long bridge. We love aforementioning. Somebody has to do it.

Bellagio Conservatory bridge

It’s intesting to note the bridge is 33 feet long because that number is considered mystical in Chaldean and Pythagorean numerology, whatever those might actually be.

There’s also a talking tree, which is only creepy for a minute and the kids seem to love it.

Bellagio talking tree

Feeling guilty about your cutting board right about now, aren’t you?

New additions to the autumnal display are three larger-than-life dandelions. At least we think they’re new. We were fairly tanked during our last autumnal visit.

Bellagio Gardens fall 2015

The dandelions range in height between 14 and 18 feet. The scientific name for dandelions is “Taraxacum,” which sounds dirtier than it really is.

As with all the displays at the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, there’s an incredible attention to detail and an enviable amount of creativity.

There’s a wagon overflowing with pumpkins, scarecrows, bales of hay and various water features. One of the pumpkins weighs 1,000 pounds, evidence even pumpkins can’t resist a delicious Las Vegas buffet.

Bellagio Conservatory 2015

Autumn is often marked by melancholic reflection. Which confirms this blog is a band name-generating machine.

And, of course, there are lots of flowers.

Over the course of the fall exhibit, about 45,000 flowers will be used (about 7,500 a week), and let’s not forget the shrubs. The shrubs never get any of the glory, but there are 1,950 of them. Shrubs should seriously think about unionizing. As the watermill would say, “What goes around comes around.”

Bellagio Conservatory

This watermill just got aforementioned, hard.

The mythical tree creatures, called Ents, are especially indignant about the shrubs being taken for granted. You tell them, Treebeard-looking dude.

Bellagio Gardens Ent creature

Ent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning “giant.” It’s annoying being forced to learn things, isn’t it?

Las Vegas visitors always look forward to seeing the latest display at the Bellagio Conservatory, and we rarely fail to miss one. While the there are signs Bellagio is starting to cut corners a bit (the polite term is “recycling”), the seasonal displays remain one of the best free things to do in Las Vegas.

Bellagio Conservatory  & Gardens

If it weren’t for the Bellagio Conservatory, residents of Las Vegas would honestly not know what season it is.

While we stopped by during the evening, it’s important to remember visits during the day and at night provide two very different experiences. So, do both. And gamble while you’re there. Autumnal regalia doesn’t come cheap, you know.

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Mirage Volcano Slashes Showtimes to Save Some Bucks

The Mirage is cutting back on its free volcano shows, bigtime. The cost-cutting measure means you’ll have fewer chances to see one of the best free things to do in Las Vegas.

The volcano show at Mirage opened in 1989, when offering lavish free spectacles was used to lure gamblers into Las Vegas casinos. The Mirage volcano underwent a renovation in 1996, and was closed for most of 2008 while it underwent another renovation, at a cost of $25 million.

Mirage volcano

The schedule changes means 67% fewer fireballs! We’d get more upset about this, but we’re a lava, not a fighta.

The Mirage volcano was designed by a company called WET, the same firm that designed the Bellagio fountains. The all-caps company name is less annoying when you discover it stands for “Water Entertainment Technologies.”

Here’s the skinny on the new Mirage volcano schedule. The volcano will erupt at 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, there will be an additional 10:00 p.m. show.

The volcano showtimes have been cut back from happening every half hour, 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. If you hurry, you can still pretend that’s the case because the Mirage Web site’s metadata hasn’t been updated.

Thanks to our friends at Las Vegas Advisor for the tip about the change in showtimes.

The cost-cutting at Mirage is reminiscent of when Treasure Island, also in the MGM Resorts family of hotels, sent its “Sirens of TI” to Davy Jones’ Locker (read more), replacing it with a CVS. The sexiest of the pharmacies, we might add.

Mirage lagoon

Even without the pyrotechnic razzmatazz, it’s still a lovely lagoon. Get used to seeing it this way.

So, why would Las Vegas resorts cut back on free attractions? Because they can. Or think they can. (We’re counting down the minutes until The Mirage claims cutting back on showtimes is done because it’s part of a green initiative to save energy.)

Mirage says it will monitor visitor reactions to the schedule change. Translation: “We’ll see if fewer shows has any impact on revenue, but switching back is about as likely as bringing back coin-operated slot machines or Siegfried & Roy.”

Las Vegas has changed a lot over the years, and resorts are relying less and less on free attractions to distinguish themselves. While casino revenue used to subsidize such attractions and spaces, now, every square inch of a resort has to make money, or it’s downsized or removed altogether. The park-like area outside Bally’s, for example, was replaced with Grand Bazaar Shops. Which will also feature, wait for it, a CVS.

There are still lots of free things to do in Las Vegas, of course. And you can still catch the Mirage volcano doing its thing, just less often.

We should probably resign ourselves to the fact eruptions happen less frequently as time goes by. If you get our drift.

If the news about reduced Mirage volcano shows bums you out, we suggest you console yourself with shots of Fireball. See what we did there?

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Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens Unveils “Under the Sea” Display for Summer

Just when we feared the Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens was falling into a rut, the free Las Vegas attraction has pulled out all the stops with a new “Under the Sea”-themed summer display. Feast your eyeballs on this!

Bellagio Conservatory 2015

Las Vegas remains the world’s largest producer of awestruck in the world.

If you visit the Bellagio Conservatory on a regular basis, you start to see patterns (repetition) in the seasonal displays, so we were pleased to see an entirely new display unveiled for the summer of 2015.

The new display features a mermaid, sunken ship, a 26-foot tall coral reef, multiple water features and a variety of vividly-colored sea life, including massive jelly fish and seahorses.


The coral reef is 26 feet tall and 35 feet long. But this isn’t time for measuring things, it’s a time for being agog.

This is the first time the Bellagio’s Conservatory has plumbed the depths of the ocean for inspiration.

Our first visit to the new summer display was during the day, and while impressive, the true magic of this new motif happens at night. We recommend making two visits. During the day, you can get a good look at the attention to detail. During the evening, your inner child will take over and you’ll be transported into the undersea world populated by Nemo and Ariel and Bambi, had Bambi ever shown the ambition to be scuba certified.

Among the highlights of the display is a sea turtle fashioned from red carnations and yellow Fuji mums.

Bellagio summer 2015

We like turtles.

A fishermans’ wharf plays host to live music. Performances happen daily 4:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Bellagio summer 2015

Ladies and gentlemen, Carlos Sandtana.

In keeping with a recent trend to include more marketing aspects in the Conservatory’s displays, there’s also a sandcastle replica of Bellagio.

Bellagio Conservatory summer

Hey, somebody has to pay for all this whimsy.

Another stand-out aspect of the summer display is a mermaid with 1,500 fresh-cut flowers in her tail. Yes, we counted.

Bellagio Conservatory summer

Insert your favorite “getting tail in Las Vegas” joke here.

The artist who fashioned the mermaid’s face is named Ruel G. James, and he used a Las Vegas model for inspiration, a friend of ours, Tarra Scarff Proctor. Tarra would hate it if we included a photo of her here. So, we’re definitely doing it.


If Tarra looks familiar, you may have bumped to her at Flamingo Las Vegas where she promoted shows to work her way through nursing school. Exclusive!

The mermaid has some impressive touches, like her hair, made from hundreds of seashells.

Bellagio Conservatory mermaid

No clams or scollops were harmed during the making of the mermaid’s hair.

Bellagio’s summer display also has a 35-foot-long sunken fishing boat made of teak, mahogany and cedar wood. It’s difficult to see the whole boat from ground level, so we fired up our drone.


Actually, we put our camera on a monopod, but that doesn’t sound nearly as cool as “we fired up our drone.”

There’s also a larger-than-life treasure chest that would make the “The Goonies” proud. Related: How the hell is that movie 30 years old?

Bellagio Conservatory treasure chest

While a popular myth, only one pirate is known to have actually buried treasure, William Kidd.

As with all displays at Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, flowers play a big part in the overall wow factor.

The summer display will feature 6,000 flowers per week, or 80,000 for the duration of the exhibit.

Bellagio Conservatory

Botanical experts are available in the Conservatory each morning, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. to answer questions from guests. Yes, even the annoying ones.

In addition to the flowers, the attraction also boasts 600 shrubs. That’s a lot of shrubs. Sadly, shrubs don’t get nearly the attention or glory the flowers do. Shrubs are like the Jan Brady of the Bellagio Conservatory. “Fuji mums, Fuji mums, Fuji mums,” the shrubs exclaim.

Bellagio Conservatory

You’re definitely not looking at the shrubs. This animated clam is five feet tall and six feet long and opens up every seven minutes. Note: The Animated Clams would make a great band name.

This latest Bellagio Conservatory installment is a captivating reminder of just how lavish, creative and ingenious these exhibits can be.

Bellagio Conservatory

The hanging jellyfish are 20 feet in diameter. Definitely a nighttime thing.

Thankfully, the Bellagio understands there’s a benefit to providing unforgettable, free things to do on The Strip. Given ongoing belt-tightening at Las Vegas casinos, we’ve worried the Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens would be sent to Davy Jones’ Locker. Hang in there Bellagio!

So, catch this new Bellagio Conservatory display while you can!

And don’t miss the animated fishies.

The family-friendly “Under the Sea” display at the Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens is free, open to the public and runs through Sep. 12, 2015.

Enjoy a virtual tsunami of photos, several of which are even in focus, in our exclusive photo gallery.

Bellagio Conservatory Summer 2015

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Bellagio Conservatory’s Spring Display Goes to the Far East for Inspiration

The Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens have, for the first time, drawn inspiration from Japan for its spring display.

Bellagio Conservatory Japan

The oil-paper umbrella originated in China. Which is pretty much the same as Japan if you look at a map, from a distance, while squinting.

The Bellagio’s new spring display showcases many aspects of Asian culture, including the fact Asian visitors drop a metric ass-ton of cash at Las Vegas casinos. Wait, sorry, that wasn’t in the news release.

This is from the release, “Pairing the soothing aesthetics of Japan’s traditional gardens with Bellagio’s striking grandeur; the new display boasts a vibrant collection of more than 82,000 flowers and larger-than-life floral creations.” Back to more pretty photos!


Some of the 82,000 flowers. We’d tell you which ones, but that would involve “remembering” or “note-taking,” not our favorite things.

Flowers at the Conservatory include tulips, daffodils and snapdragons. Thank you, news release!

Live musicians (our favorite kind) perform songs on a floating platform from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. each day.

Bellagio musicians

No dancing, please. You might crush a snapdragon.

In a pond, there are 75 live Koi fish (again, our favorite kind).

Bellagio koi

“Koi” is a Japanese word that means “carp.” Koi makes them sound more exotic, so just go with it.

Also on-hand is a 12-foot tall traditional Japanese-inspired tea house.

Bellagio tea house

The ideal floor size of a tea room is 4.5 tatami mats, whatever those might actually be. We are a Las Vegas blog, not a foreign exchange student.

Other cultural icons at the Bellagio Conservatory include the turtle, below. In Japanese culture, turtles represent longevity and good luck. Or soup. But mostly those other two things.

Bellagio turtle

The turtle on display at Bellagio is similar to Gamera, the building-crushing mutant that got its ass whipped by Godzilla. But with flowers.

There are a few elements of this year’s display that are head-scratchers. While the hotel may claim they were inspired by Japanese culture, they seem to have been inspired by, “What can we throw up there on the cheap?”

Bellagio Conservatory

Did we mention the Bellagio Conservatory is still free? All is forgiven.

While the spring display may not necessarily be the Conservatory’s most memorable, we have to keep things in perspective. It’s free, and it could be a CVS. ‘Nuff said.

Besides, flowers!


These are the rare, delicate “flowers we also didn’t bother to write down the name of.”

One of the highlights of the display is an 18-foot-tall cherry blossom tree with 300 acrylic blossoms and leaves.


Whatever happened to the Acrylic Blossoms? Loved their music.

A six-foot-tall crane stands nearby, wings outstretched as if to say, “Please, can we wrap up this blog post? I have to get busy sharing some of these amazing photos on Pinterest.” Or something.

Bellagio Japanese crane

The red-crowned crane, or Japanese crane, is among the rarest in the world and symbolizes fidelity. And in Las Vegas, it’s about the only thing that does.

Before you leave the Conservatory, make sure to check out the giant Fabergé egg fashioned from (wait for it) flowers. The egg is a clever cross-promotion for an exhibit in the Bellagio’s Gallery of Fine Art, “Fabergé Revealed.” The gallery features more than 200 objects made by a dead Russian. Although that’s probably not the description Bellagio uses in its marketing materials. They’re fancy like that. Learn more.

Faberge egg

Despite the fact this has absolutely nothing to do with Japanese culture, it’s still a great photo op, not to mention it could make 4,800 omelets.

Even after years of Bellagio displays, we still enjoy seeing what the Bellagio’s approximately 140 horticulturists have up their sod-soiled sleeves. And like we said, it remains one of the best free things to do in Las Vegas.

Please enjoy more photos in our exclusive gallery of the Japanese and dead Russian-inspired spring display at Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens.

Bellagio Conservatory Spring 2015

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Even Yoko Ono Can’t Ruin Glorious Video Art Display at Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

Here’s something to add to your list of things to do in Las Vegas, and be sure to bring along your eyeballs. All of them.

In the Cosmopolitan’s registration area, you’ll find a gorgeous set of columns decked out with video displays. The video art shown on the columns looks a little like this.

Cosmopolitan video art

Visuals so spectacular, it’ll make you gawk like an Assemblyman at a sorority carwash. Feel free to use that in your ads, Cosmopolitan.

You can’t really get a sense of the gloriousness in a mere photograph, of course. So, because we have the generous nature of a Dominican nun, we snagged some video of the video for your edification and to kill some time at work.

Live dangerously and go for the 1080p high-def video.

Pretty amazing stuff, don’t you think?

The Cosmo recently upgraded the 408 video displays on its columns and behind its registration desk. Each of the columns has an astonishing 100 million pixels each. We know because we counted.

Cosmopolitan video art

The polished floors and mirrored ceilings intensity the spectacularity. Spiced rum also can’t hurt.

The Cosmopolitan says 100 new computers send content to the bezel-less, smart displays. They are clearly smarter than we are, as this Las Vegas blog wouldn’t know a bezel if it tripped on one.

Cosmopolitan video

Enjoy this free showing of “50 Shades of Having Few if Any Bezels.”

The big news lately, and we probably should have put “news” in quotation marks, is the Cosmo’s video screens (including the hotel’s 65-foot digital marquee) recently began showing a video art piece by none other than Yoko Ono. Yes, that Yoko Ono.

Let’s just say you probably won’t want to make a special trip for professional coattail-rider Ono’s video art.

To get an idea of what Yoko Ono’s video art looks like, just just imagine the default computer wallpaper for the Windows XP operating system. Now, superimpose the phrase “Imagine Peace” on that in 24 languages. No, really, that’s the whole thing.

Cosmopolitan video art Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono’s video presentation is very calming. Then again, so is being shot with a tranquilizer dart.

Here’s a peek at some of the best work in Yoko Ono’s career, mainly because it doesn’t involve her singing.

Thankfully, most of the video art displayed at Cosmopolitan was done by an actual video artist, Yorgo Alexpoulos. The New York-based artist’s work is actually worthy of the eye-popping technology said to have 12 times the resolution of a single HD channel.

Cosmo Las Vegas lobby

And you think it’s rough keeping up with the fingerprints on your smartphone.

The video displays in the Cosmo’s registration area are truly a feast for the eyes, and a great reason to visit the hotel. As if you needed another reason. It’s the Cosmopolitan.

See below for more photos, and while you’re exploring, check out our article about things to do in Las Vegas which has been viewed nearly 200,000 times, and we’re not even making that up. (No, really this time.)

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Video Art

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