The faux Eiffel Tower looms in Las Vegas. (Brian van der Brug, Los Angeles…)
Reporting from Las Vegas — — For those who want to spend more time than money in Las Vegas, here are 21 things to do for less than $21, all aimed at keeping the bottom line low and the fun factor high.
1. Springs Preserve. Forsake the fake pyramid and fake Statue of Liberty for a power walk through the real Vegas: 110 acres of pre-Bugsy Siegel desert. There are miles of cactus-filled trails, botanic gardens and a museum that pays tribute to the city's Mojave Desert roots. Open daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. $18.95 for adults, $10.95 for kids 5-17. 333 S. Valley View Blvd.; (702) 822-7700, http://www.springspreserve.org.
2. Hoover Dam Bypass. The Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, as it's officially known, opened two years ago to ease traffic congestion at Hoover Dam. The bridge, about 35 miles south of Las Vegas, became an instant landmark for its breathtaking views of the dam and the Colorado River. Pull off U.S. 93, take a stroll over the span and snap a few pictures. http://www.hooverdambypass.org
3. Can you say Chi-hu-ly? Glass man Dale Chihuly seems to be everywhere in Vegas. The chandelier in the lobby of the Bellagio is a must-see, with layers and layers of glass flowers and petals in the massive sculpture. Then tour the Gallery at Crystals Place in CityCenter where the artist's glass works sell for $4,000 to $640,000 — but window-shopping is free. http://www.crystalsatcitycenter.com/crystals-place/the-gallery.aspx.
4. Mandarin Oriental Tea Lounge. This calming refuge awaits on the 23rd floor of the luxe, gaming-free hotel. A pot of tea — organic lychee green or jasmine Earl Grey — is about $12 a person. There's no better place to look out over the Strip, particularly during the late-afternoon lull, and watch the lights come up. Afternoon tea 2:30 p.m.-5 p.m. http://www.mandarinoriental.com/lasvegas/dining/tea_lounge
5. Bird-watching at the Flamingo Hotel. Chilean flamingos, distinguished by their gray legs and pink knees, are the namesake bird of the hotel's 15-acre wildlife habitat, also home to pheasants, swans, native grackles and some koi fish. OK, it's nerdy, but bring your binoculars just in case. Go to http://www.flamingolasvegas.com and click on "wildlife habitat."
6. Harbor rainstorm at the Miracle Mile Shops. The sky darkens before an indoor weather cell lets loose with rain that falls into a mini-harbor amid the Miracle Mile mall at Planet Hollywood. Little kids will enjoy jumping on rocks and getting wet in the "storm" — and then ducking into a nearby Ben & Jerry's. It rains on the hour Mondays-Thursdays and on the half-hour on weekends. Check the weather forecast at http://www.miraclemileshopslv.com/entertain.php?id=19
7. Picture with a Vegas showgirl. Take home a souvenir that captures the glamour of Las Vegas. (You could always say you were in the show.) Get a free picture taken with a showgirl, with the famed "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign as a backdrop. Go to Harrah's near the north entrance of the casino.
8. Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas. It's not as adrenaline-pumping as the Stratosphere Tower ride, but going 460 feet up the Eiffel Tower (half the scale of the real one) offers spectacular panoramas of the Strip — without being strapped in. Why not create your own "Midnight in Paris" moment? It's open 9:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m. (barring bad weather) and costs $10.50-$15.50 for adults and $7.50-$10.50 for children. http://www.parislasvegas.com/casinos/paris-las-vegas/casino-misc/eiffel-tower-detail.html
9. Flair bartenders at Harrah's Carnaval Court. It's ground zero for flair bartenders who dance and juggle bottles to make drinks (Tim "Flippy" Morris is the superstar). You can watch these mesmerizing mixologists free, but the drinks aren't; they'll set you back $11 to $13 each. 3475 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
10. The Mob Museum. No one goes to Las Vegas to visit a museum, but the hottest new attraction in town may be the National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement. Exhibits give equal time to crime figures such as Bugsy Siegel and Al Capone and the men who pursued them, from J. Edgar Hoover to Rudy Giuliani. Open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets are $19.95 for adults and $13.95 for children 5-17. 300 Stewart Ave.; (702) 229-2734, themobmuseum.org.
11. Pinball Hall of Fame. At this joint, there's still time to have a misspent youth. Few people younger than 40 will understand the allure of pinball machines, but who cares when you can play these throwbacks for 25-75 cents a game? Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays. 1610 E. Tropicana Ave. http://www.pinballhall.org.