Location: 299 Walnut Street
Rides: 45 Total including 2 water rides and 7 roller coasters
Admission prices: Approx. $40 or more for a day pass and $55 for a season pass
Fun facts: Elitch Gardens was originally built in 1890 at Tennyson and 38th
Back when Elitch Gardens was at its original location, I used to go there once or twice every summer. Prices weren’t insane. Each and every ride was thrilling. They had two gates facing the intersection of 38th and Tennyson, gates facing the parking lot farther west, and a boat load of every kind of ride known to man. They had a cool bumper-cars facility, a nice 50s-style cafeteria, games in just about every space that wasn’t occupied by a ride, and they had the Wild Cat. Back in the day, there were two main attraction roller coasters, the Wild Cat and the Twister. I always considered the Twister to be a little rough, but I was a kid at the time. The Wild Cat, however was a completely thrilling experience for everytone, young and old. It’s simple, the Wild Cat whipped you around more, but it was shorter than the Twister. The cat was fast, maybe a little two fast, and scary. I remember growing up, hearing screams from men and women for miles as they were launched down the Wild Cat’s incredibly steep and exciting downhill drop. Sadly, other patrons on the Wild Cat or any of the other rides at the park did not know the concept of respect. Bubble gum was stuck to walls and even trees. But there were so many great things about this quaint, hometown amusement park, who gives a damn how bad everything looks. They had the Log Ride, and it too had one heck of a steep drop. Once you hit the bottom, your log-like train would create a wall maybe 20 feet high of pure water. We didn’t need a carnival. The carnival was already in town and it was here to stay. At least, that’s what we thought.
In October – October 1st of 1994, this great old amusement park closed their gates forever. Then the new “improved” Elitch Gardens was resurrected at 229 Walnut. This was once a train yard. But developers decided to tear out all traces of trains or train tracks and revamp, and move an old, timely amusepark in ts place. This revamping brought in some big time names, like Six Flags which was recently bought out by PARC. Six Flags wasn’t as evil as we were lead to believe. They did kill the old-fashion feel of the original amusement park by giving us the Looney Tunes and many other Time Warner products and names. We had a building where actors would be performing Batman Forever. It was like going to Universal Studios when it’s supposed to be a tribute to Denver and Colorado. The original park at 38th and Tennyson had an old theatre in which people could put on plays, enjoy the company of neighbors and friends. It was a community park. But Six Flags did give us some fun, exciting rides; such as the Mind Eraser, the Flying Coaster, and the Boomerang. Bad or good? It’s all in the eyes of the beholder, but I sure do miss the old Wild Cat.
Twister 2 – In the previous Elitch Gardens, there was a great thrill ride called the Twister. This ride is only a carbon copy – “built wider” – but who cares when you’re having so much fun screaming. The train goes up, the train goes down. There’s no loops or spirals. You don’t go upside down, but you can’t keep your heart from pumping a million miles a minute. I remember the suspense and intensity in that first uphill climb. Then when you reach the top, everything around you seems to slow down, your heart stops, and you can’t believe what you’re seeing. On the other side of that hill looks like such a steep drop, you can’t help but worry that the train is going to flip off the tracks and you end up crashing head-first into the pavement over 50 feet below. The train shoots down that drop so fast, you don’t want it to stop, but you can’t stop yourself from screaming either. That’s what Twister 2 does to you.
Opened: May 27, 1995
Designer: John Pierce
Lift / launch system: Chain lift hill
Height: 100 feet
Length: 4,640 feet
Maximum speed: 55 MPH
Tall enough? You have to be 52 inches tall or more to ride this thrill ride
Mind Eraser – The greatest thrill ride in the new park if you ask me is this high-speed mind eraser. It’s kind of like being in a fighter jet while the pilot is trying to evade an oncoming missile. You’re doing spirals, loops, turns, whipping around so fast you don’t even realize what hit you. Just thinking back to the last time I was riding the Mind Eraser, I can’t help but want to go back to Elitches just to ride this ride. I hate rides that suspend you upside down. It can be thrilling to an expect but the thought of the ground being so far below your head for very long is not exciting, it’s terrifying to me. But you never get the chance to realize that you’re upside down in several of the twisting spirals on the Mind Eraser. So, if you get sick from hanging upside down, never fear, you’ll be right side up before you can blink on this thrill ride.
Type: Inverted steel roller coaster
Designer: Vekoma SLC
Height: 115 feet
Maximum speed: 55 MPH
Tall enough? Go to Elitch Gardens and find out. I’m guessing you’ll have to be around 50 inches tall or more.
Sidewinder – It doesn’t suspend you upside down, but you run back and forth through the loop, and you feel like telling the park managers, “What’s the point of all the teasing, leave us suspended upside down”. The march up the countless flights of stairs sucks. Don’t get caught in a long line up those stairs in blistering heat. But the biggest drawback goes back to the fact that this ride ends way too quickly to get any kind of a thrill.
Type: Steel launched
Manufacterer: Arrow Dynamics
Lift / launch system: Launched
Height: 56 feet
Length: 635 feet
Maximum speed: 45 MPH
Tall enough? You have to be at least 48 inches tall to ride this crap-fest
Boomerang – If you’ve ever been to a Six Flags Theme Park, you should know this ride is great fun. You go through one loop, twist and turn into another loop. Given my fear of being upside down, this wasn’t fun as much as it was sickening, but everyone else around me seemed to be having grand ol’ time. The average capacity for each train is 20. You’ll be getting much more for all the time you spend in line on the Boomerang than you would on that Sidewinder crap-a-thon. Why they’re keeping that ride up and running is beyond me.
Type: Steel roller coaster
Height: Approx. 116 feet
Length: Approx. 935 feet
Maximum speed: Approx. 47 MPH
Tall enough? You must be at least 48 inches tall to go on the Boomerang
Flying Coaster – A steel roller coaster, not to be mistaken for a steel works factory, this big, bad baby is the most unusual roller coaster I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding. First, you’ll be climbing aboard on 4-across trains as they’re slowly moving by. The trains are designed upright. You can get comfortable while you’re in a standing position. Next, they actually have you choose your height on a series of five rung ladder-like steps. This is how they determine how a rider will be positioned when the train tilts. It’s a safety prevcaution I think, because it really has no other bearing on the rest of the ride. Then they latch down the cage-like enclosure, and away you go. This ride does a lot of unusual things. The train climbs up a hill, and slowly but surely twirls the train upward. The first drog feels like your heart is going to pop right out of your mouth, it’s so terrifying and exciting. You go through barrel rolls, you whip around like Sonic the Hedgehog, it is weird as all get out. But, the Flying Coaster is sure fun, I won’t deny the smile on my face afterward.
Designer: Werner Stengel
Lift / launch system: Spiral lift
Height: 50 feet
Length: 1,282 feet
Max speed: Approx. 25 MPH
Tall enough? You have to be 50 inches tall or more to ride this wild ride
Half Pipe – Another bizarre ride is this Half Pipe. It’s perfect for anyone who loves snowboarding or skateboarding, because it’s designed to appeal to that crowd. It’s looks like a ramp of some kind. The train goes down on side, and goes back down another. I think if you’re really doing this kind of trick on a skateboard, it’s a lot different. On a skateboard, you actually launch yourself into the air, but on the Half Pipe, you stop suddenly just to go back down 5 to 6 times. But if you’re not a big skater or snowboarder, this ride will thrill you just as much as it thrilled me.
Type: Steel – launched
Manufacter: Intamin AG
Designer: Werner Stengel
Lift / launch system: LIM
Height: Approx. 98 feet
Length: Approx. 229 feet
Maximum speed: Approx. 43 to 44 MPH
Tall enough? You must be approximately 52 inches tall or taller to ride this baby
Great Chase – Great fun for the kids. It’s in what we had once called “kiddie land” and it’s thrilling for the youngsters. The Great Chase is not too scary or too fast or even remotely dangerous. Rest assured, parents out there will be happy to see the smiles on your little one’s face.
Opened: May 27, 1995
Manufacturer: Allan Hershell Company
Model: Little Dipper
Height: Approx. 12 feet
The move of Elitch Gardens may have given us some great rides, but it has never again felt like the heart and soul of Denver.
Location: 4601 Sheridan Blvd.
Opened: May 30, 1908
Rides: 37 total with 3 roller coasters and 1 water ride
Fun facts: This is a wholesome family owned and operated amusement park that has never moved in its almost 100-year run
It’s been so long since I’ve been to Lakeside, I can’t tell you what some of these rides are or what they do. But, I do have a good recollection of a few. This amusement park has gone through so many changes, it’s hard to keep up with anything new. Rides like the Wild Chipmunk have been there for ages. My mother used to go on that ride. She’s told stories of great times when she was young, going to Lakeside. They an actual race track, a Fun House, some other great rides I wish I could’ve been there to see.
Back in the day, Lakeside Amusement Park operated Lakeside Speedway (from the late 1930s to the late 1980s). There was once a Fun House which was replaced by the Dragon, and a Casino Theater that still stands once hosted theatre productions, plays and concerts. Another thing that still stands today is an old Riviera Ballroom.
Auto Skooters – A fun and exciting bumper cars ride that should not be missed.
Cyclone Coaster – It’s not as thrilling as the Wild Cat, but it’s right up there. In fact, this ride is so awesome, it is the most popular at Lakeside.
Skoota Boats (Bumper boats)
Tilt-A-Whirl – Great fun, I remember feeling sick, but it’s well worth it.
Wild Chipmunk – If you want speed, this is the perfect ride for you. I remember this ride actually made me feel like I had whiplash.
Horse & Buggy
I wish I can guarantee you, my readers that all of these rides will be there. Some of the ones I know a thing or two about were terrific fun at the time, but they may have taken them out by now.
Other amusement and theme parks to check out in Colorado are:
Gateway Park Fun Center
Heritage Square – GREAT waterslide
Kit Carson County Carousel
Royal Gorge Bridge and Park