With drive-thru chapels and 24-hour wedding venues, Las Vegas and love go hand in hand. However, not everyone is ready for marriage. You’ll want to spend some time with your crush first, and the city has plenty of first-date inspiration that won’t break the bank, including hiking at Red Rock Canyon. Here’s our pick of the best free or inexpensive date ideas to try in Sin City.
Play a game at Gold Spike
If you’d rather avoid the obvious first-date ideas, Gold Spike is a great little alternative. In the heart of Downtown Las Vegas (DTLV), it’s first and foremost a popular weekend nightspot. There’s a diner on the bottom floor, three bars and a dance floor. The lobby and courtyard serve as a playground for grown-ups, with pool tables and shuffleboard inside and beer pong and cornhole outside.
Dinner and a movie at Eclipse Theaters
When it comes to making the right first impression, you can’t go wrong with dinner and a movie – particularly if you combine the two. Eclipse Theaters in DTLV takes the cinematic experience to a whole new level. While watching the film, you’ll get to enjoy a romantic dinner, wine and cocktails. You can also relax in the lounge before or after the screening. It hosts different events throughout the month, including comedy shows and indie-film debuts.
Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art
The way to a date’s heart can easily be through, well, art. Even if you’re only remotely creatively inclined, a night at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art pays dividends for the serious romancer and their squeeze. Inside, you can feast your eyes on masterpieces by world-renowned painters such as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Claude Monet. And after you’ve canvassed opinion on your date’s artistic leanings at the gallery itself, you can head over to Palio for a crafty coffee or gelato.
Take a ride on the Big Apple Coaster
Relationships can be a real rollercoaster ride, so why not buckle up and try out the real thing in Vegas? With a pulse-quickening 203ft (62m) drop, the Big Apple Coaster is unequivocally the main attraction at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino; it’s part of the hotel’s arcade. It’ll give you every reason to hold hands tightly, and if you survive this together, the rest of the arcade will be a picnic, where you can challenge each other to Dance Dance Revolution or air hockey.
Eat at La Comida
In the mood for food? In the heart of DTLV, there’s at least one restaurant on every corner, but the neon-pink monkey above La Comida sets this little Mexican restaurant apart from the local competition. It looks like a bar you might find in the middle of Mexico; the rosaries and light fixtures give the establishment an enigmatic appeal. The margaritas are undoubtedly the star of the show here, but the food comes in a very close second. Favorite dishes include the chile rellenos, queso fundido and fajitas.
See Marriage Can Be Murder
A play and a bite to eat might seem cornily retro, but it’s alive and well in Sin City. Marriage Can Be Murder, showing in Las Vegas since the late ‘90s, is billed as a “long-running dinner theater offering an interactive show with a comedic murder-mystery plot,” and it remains one of the longest-running experiences of its kind in the city. If it sounds like less-than-ideal subject matter for a first date, rest assured it’s utterly absorbing and a lot of fun; it’s the work of real-life married couple Jayne and Eric Post, both of whom also star in the show. Ticket prices include entrance to the play and a three-course meal.
Take in the scenes from the Eiffel Tower Viewing Deck
They say Paris is for lovers – and that holds true even at the Paris Las Vegas. Romantic evenings are begun or rounded off perfectly at the Eiffel Tower viewing deck. At 540ft (165m) tall, this version is only half the size of the 1889-built original in the French capital. But it still sets hearts aflutter, with an impressive 360-degree view of Sin City when you get to the top; it’s particularly impressive at night when the city is sparkling. After taking it all in, you can head down to La Creperie for crêpes and coffee.
Explore Fremont Street Experience
If you’d like to take your date outdoors, invite them for a stroll through the Fremont Street Experience. The LED light show plays every hour on the hour after dark, pumping out music from various genres. You can also take in the cast of painters, street performers, vendors and musicians who change the landscape of Fremont Street just a little bit each evening. There’s also a parade of bars and restaurants to slide into and make the most of your special night. Names to look out for include Downtown Cocktail Room, La Comida and Pizza Rock.
Hike at Red Rock Canyon
Heading out into nature is sure to get your hearts racing. As long as the two of you avoid the searing heat of summer, you’ll be wowed by the great outdoors at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Expect wildflowers in spring, a furnace of orange foliage in autumn and snow in the higher elevations in winter. The 20-plus hiking trails deliver killer mountain and city views. To make a day of it, set up a picnic at Red Rock Canyon Campground, or take the 13mi (21km) scenic drive that cuts through the park.
Experience VR Adventures at the Linq
At VR Adventures, the saying “the couple that plays together, stays together” is put to the test. This virtual-reality experience at the Linq Promenade is within walking distance of the High Roller. With five simulations to choose from, you and your special someone can achieve almost anything. How about whitewater rafting in a jungle or battling creatures inside a haunted elevator? When you’re done, wander down to the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop for a sweet temptation to take you further into the night.
Take a spin on the High Roller at the Linq
Another great Vegas viewpoint is from the top of the High Roller. This giant observation wheel is the star attraction at the Linq, revealing an awe-inspiring scene of the Strip as you rotate over the top – 550ft (168m) high. In operation since 2014, the skyline sensation takes 30 minutes to complete a loop, giving you plenty of time for memorable snaps. Fancy something extra special? Sign up for the High Roller Wheel Chocolate Tasting Experience to sample chocolates from the local Ethel M Factory, paired with a glass of wine.
Go ice skating at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Every winter, high above the glitzy lights of the Strip, the enormous rooftop Boulevard Pool at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is transformed into a winter wonderland, with open fires for making s’mores, warming cocktails and a huge ice rink strung with festoon lights. While it’s one of the more wallet-friendly places to take a date in Vegas, it doesn’t lack drama and romance.
Take a gondola ride at the Venetian Resort
So, it’s not quite Venice, but then again, if you’re based in the States, it’s considerably cheaper than flying to Italy. If you focus on the gondola boats themselves, which are all made in Venice, you could believe you were gliding past the Palazzo Ducale. You and your date can drift along the network of canals – there are inside and outside rides – past reconstructions of Venetian landmarks, such as the arcades of Piazza San Marco, and under low-arching bridges. It’ll earn you real credit in the romance stakes until you can experience the real thing.
Visit the Observation Deck at the Strat
Soaring 1,149ft (350m) into the blue Las Vegas sky, the Strat is one of the city’s standout architectural landmarks. Indeed, it’s the tallest freestanding observation tower in the country, with dizzying views over the city, the desert and mountains beyond – among the best panoramas west of the Mississippi. Make an evening of it by picking up some food and wine from 108 Eats and 108 Drinks, respectively.
Alex Allen contributed additional reporting to this article.
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