David L.

Published: August 26, 2013 at 2:44 PM

I had the uh...pleasure, of visiting Elitch Gardens a few years back and was thoroughly unimpressed. It doesn't sound as if it has improved...

My family in Colorado also labeled Lakeside Amusement park as ghetto and discouraged me from visiting.

On the contrary, I visited Waterworld this past summer and really enjoyed it! Voyage to the Center of the Earth, the Zoomerang, and the Mile High Flyer were all really fun! Sun burns also seemed to be a problem at the higher altitude...I ended up having to rotate myself like a roast while waiting for the Mile High Flyer.

Glenwood Caverns and the Animal Sanctuary will definitely be at the top of my list for my next visit to Colorado. The only zoo with exhibits near the Sanctuary's size in Georgia is Oatland Island, while Zoo Atlanta has by far the smallest animal habitats I've seen. Any love for the Denver Zoo or Cheyenne Mountain zoo?

Thanks for the great trip report!

AJ Hummel

Published: August 26, 2013 at 5:54 PM

Great trip report, James! It was a very fun read and I certainly learned some interesting things about the rarely mentioned parks of Colorado. For convenience, I'll put comments for both pars here.

Elitch Gardens: I've always been interested in Elitch Gardens simply because it is the biggest park in the Rocky Mountain area, but after reading what you wrote it sounds like little more than a credit stop. Interestingly, it reminds me a lot of a park I visited last year: Darien Lake. Both parks share some history, as they were purchased by Premier Parks, became Six Flags properties, got sold to PARC Management, and are now run by Herschend. Service was pretty poor at Darien Lake, with one train operation on coasters despite 45 minute waits and a number of breakdowns. Unlike Elitch Gardens, however, Darien Lake does have an outstanding coaster in Ride of Steel (the first Intamin Mega Coaster), although the rest are average at best. Perhaps it was because my only other experience with Herschend was at Dollywood (an outstanding park) but I came away from Darien Lake disappointed.

Also, before I move on, here's some more information about the Mind Eraser comment from Part 1: The Mind Eraser coasters were installed by Premier Parks in the mid/late 90s. Five total were built, all of the standard Vekoma SLC model (25 of which have been built to date). Darien Lake, Elitch Gardens, Geauga Lake, Six Flags America, and Six Flags New England all received one of these coasters. Today, four of them still operate at their original locations under their original names. The Geauga Lake installation now runs at Michigan's Adventure instead under the name Thunderhawk (a name it received when Cedar Fair purchased Geauga Lake).

Lakeside Amusement Park: This certainly sounds like the better of Denver's two amusement parks, even if it is a little ghetto. It doesn't sound like a full day park, but would be fun for a half-day or so (perhaps Elitch and Lakeside could be done on the same day). Cyclone looks like a pretty good coaster (especially for its age), and that tunnel of love beginning exists on the only other remaining Vettel coaster as well (Conneaut Lake Park's Blue Streak, which I got to ride last year).

Heritage Square: While I've heard of this place before, I knew very little about it before reading this report. It sounds like a fun place for families to spend some time, although other than the Alpine Slide nothing is really thrilling (by the way, James, still think the alpine slide from my TPA 4 park could never happen?). Still, it would be fun to visit just to see the place, as from the pictures it looks like the theming quality is excellent for a small park.

Water World: Of all the parks in Colorado, this is the one I most want to visit simply because of its unique attractions. Lost River of the Pharaohs, Voyage to the Center of the Earth, and Storm could each be placed into almost any waterpark and instantly become that park's best attraction, and everything else seems among the best of its type. It's a shame that the hours make it impossible to do everything in a day, but I guess that would just give reason to return.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park: This place is a bit of a trek from Denver, but it sounds like it's worth it. I didn't realize there was so much to do here and thought it would be a place good for a couple hour stop if passing by, but from what you described it certainly sounds like you could easily spend a good part of a day here without getting bored. The Alpine Coaster sounds better than the one I rode in Park City and although I don't usually get scared by rides, the Giant Canyon Swing would certainly give me second thoughts. Yes, they've got a normal roller coaster, but compared to all the unique attractions and the cave tour it sounds like Cliffhanger is one of the least interesting rides.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary: Unlike the other places mentioned, I had never heard of this place until reading the report. This sounds much better than any zoo out there, and although it kind of reminds me of the San Diego Safari Park it seems very different and a lot more unique. While I'm not a huge animal person, if I were in the area and time permitted I would definitely want to check this place out.

James Koehl

Published: August 26, 2013 at 8:24 PM

OK, AJ, let me rethink your slide for TPA4 ;+)...as far as Lakeside being called a "ghetto" park, let me say that when we were there, in the evening, I never felt in any way threatened. The people there were families, friendly, young couples. I never felt uncomfortable nor that it was an unsafe situation. I'm not totally sure what they meant by the word "ghetto", if it referred to the location or to the residents around the park. Perhaps a local (Jeff?) could clarify this for us.
Elitch Gardens is definitely a half-day park unless you want to spend 1/2 day in the water park and the other 1/2 in the "theme(less)" amusement park. Unless you really like old flat spinners or have young children to need several hours in Kiddieland it would only take a few hours to do every major (and I use that word loosely) attraction in the park. Actually a few hours was all we could take of Elitch Gardens.
Denver is the Mile High City, and it is easy to get sunburned there unless you are already well tanned or use a good sunscreen. Jeff's wife Evonne was almost militant about us using sunscreen wherever we went. We went to Water World our last day there, and we had already built up a pretty good base tan, but she was still there with her sunscreen spray, spraying us down like she was fogging for mosquitoes!
Laurie Niles

Published: August 26, 2013 at 9:12 PM

Wow, as someone who grew up in Colorado, I loved hearing about these parks! It sounds like Water World has expanded quite a bit since I was a teenager. I think that, when it comes to things like hauling a tube to the top of the ride, Coloradans have that hearty-fit attitude that comes with the altitude! And I'd never even heard of Glenwood Caverns, even though I've driven through that area more times than I can count. I hope to visit this place, next time, though I'm not sure if I could handle swinging over a cliff!

Thanks for this great report.

Published: August 26, 2013 at 9:42 PM

What a fun way to see these theme parks in my hometown. I have lived in Colorado since 91 and have seen Elitchs and Water World grow up considerably.

I have to say though, that Elitchs was not for the better. I have not been there in...5+ years and even when I went, it was just dirty, and no fun. It's sad to even think that it may be just a ghost park in the next 15-20 years if the owners can't turn it around and hype it back to what it used to be.

Water World on the other hand...I LOVE it. Sure, it's not fun to have to carry your OWN tube to the tops of the rides, but at least you know you'll be getting wet and cooling off on your way back down. I worked there for 7 summers and enjoyed my job. They hire some of the best teens in the state and I find, even know, great customer service. As for Mile High Flyer and the wait time, it opened last summer, and I'm sure they're still working out SOME kinks...so you have to give them a break on the loading times. Not to mention, I'm sure other water parks with water coasters faced the same slow load time in the beginning as well. Give it time, it'll get better. :)

Mark Kausch

Published: August 27, 2013 at 3:31 AM

Haven't read part one yet, so just to comment on part deux:
I have wanted to go on "Voyage to the Center of the Earth" for quite a while - long before I've had to use a scooter to get around theme parks. [sigh] Looks like this is a park I'll never see except maybe as a spectator.

Interestingly enough - at least for me - I heard of the Glenwwod Caverns Adventure Park for the first time earlier today on the Travel Channel's Ride-alicious. I think that's how they spelled it, but whatever - it's a madeup word to begin with. From what I saw on television, those pix supplied by the park don't do it justice. But also doesn't seem to be especially accessable.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary also reminds me of the San Diego Wild Animal Park. No, NOT the Safari Park. If it ain't broke,...

And I'll sign off before I start to REALLY rant on that. :-)

James Rao

Published: August 28, 2013 at 6:26 AM

Great stuff, James, I enjoyed every paragraph of your two part trip report. Very informative, startlingly objective, and terrifically entertaining, I am a much more informed theme park fan for having taken the time to feast upon your adventures!

I can't express how disappointed I am with Herschend for not getting Elitch Gardens turned around at all, but in their defense, it is difficult to change a culture as bad as the one in that park. Furthermore, who knows how much money they are allotted for improvements, maintainence, and training? PARC is a lousy parent owner and their parks, pretty much across the board, are crap. As I sit in my hotel room getting ready to go to Silver Dolllar City in Branson, MO, I am keenly aware of what Herschend is capable of doing when they have the latitude and budget to do it right. One can only hope a new owner steps in and Elitch Gardens is given the love and attention it deserves.

And one last thing... I miss Celebration City and my fun, little Firestorm coaster. Tell Glenwood Caverns we want it back! ;)

Again, thanks for sharing James (and Jeff), you made my morning. Now off to SDC and OUTLAW RUN!!!

Published: August 31, 2013 at 5:40 PM

WW is badly laid out because it was added to willy-nilly for a long time. It started out with 2 slides and the wave pool. There is also a smaller-cheaper- water park near Golden that is better with little kids.

Ghetto for LS?! Lol! NW Denver is hot! And houses now cost a fortune! 20 years ago, ghetto, now gentrification hell.

But to be honest, the tiny little "town" of LS is trashy and rundown because the woman who owns all the property does nothing to fix or maintain. All the houses along that strip on the westside of Sheridan are owned by that person also. Awful and rundown, where houses going for 500+ are only a few blocks away.
Did you notice the ramshackle racetrack South of the amusement park? A car went into the stands in 88 and debris went all over into the crowd. That speedway should have been torn down years ago- it is a hazard. In any other place it would have been. But b/c it is in LS and mot Denver or Wheatridge, it still is there. Owned by that same person. The land where Lakeside mall used to be is being completely wasted. Also, don't speed on 44th between sheridan and harlan! Ticketing speeders is LS's main source of revenue (same for nearby Mountain View on harlan btwn 44th and 38th.

Published: August 31, 2013 at 5:53 PM

Re: Elitchs - the old park was beautiful but small and lacking steel looping coasters when they came of age. No space to add those. They had built a steel that consisted of one loop. Think top thrill footprint (less actually) but with a small loop instead. The move to the current location was dome when there was nothing else in that Platte River Valley ( no Pepsi Center). Except whoever the moronic PTB were didn't buy more land there when it was available. So it ended up AGAIN with not enough space, but with the addition of being awful and sterile and having no trees, picnic areas, or gardens (hence dropping that part of the name).
Once it was sold to 6 flags there was no return from further decline.