Amusement parks in Colorado offer entertainment suitable for the whole family. Teenage thrill seekers will love the coasters at Elitch Gardens, and smaller children are sure to enjoy the 15 rides geared toward them at Lakeside Amusement Park. As part of a Huffington Post Travel series on family-fun parks, here is our guide to all the key information visitors need to know about Colorado amusement parks.
Elitch Gardens is Colorado's largest and one of its oldest amusement parks. The family-owned park, in operation for more than 120 years, offers more than 45 rides and attractions. Nickelodeon's Parents Connect recommends the park for families because of its wide variety of attractions, including six roller coasters and a special Startoon Studios area for children under 54 inches.
The Mind EraserThe Mind Eraser, Elitch Gardens' signature thrill ride, takes adrenaline junkies through a series of dives, corkscrews and rollovers at speeds topping 50 miles per hour. Riders must be at least 52 inches tall to ride. The Elitch Gardens website suggests riding high-profile rides like the Mind Eraser first thing in the morning or after 5 p.m. for shorter lines. If possible, visit on a weekday to avoid crowds.
The Ferris WheelOther park attractions include a 100-foot tall classic Ferris wheel offering stunning views of downtown Denver and a number of family-friendly Bugs Bunny-themed attractions. Stay past sunset to take in the nightly fireworks display.
Boardwalk Classic EatsElitch Gardens offers more than a dozen dining opportunities, ranging from boardwalk classics like hand-spun cotton candy and funnel cakes to pub fare at J.M. Mulvihill's Pub and Italian cuisine from Big Boulder Pizza. The park's Blue Moon Beer Garden is the perfect place for adult family members to cool off with a cold micro-brewed beer.
Safety RecordAccording to RideAccidents.com, Elitch Gardens reported 31 injuries from riding the Mind Eraser roller coaster from 1997 to 1998, but a spokeswoman for the park insisted that the ride was safe. In 2001, 12 passengers had to be evacuated from the observation tower elevator after being stuck for over an hour. In 2002, a man riding the Rainbow unlatched his seat belt and fell to his death.
Address: 2000 Elitch Circle, Denver, CO 80204
Hours: Open May through October, hours vary by day.
Price: $42.99 for adults over 48 inches, $29.99 for seniors and children under 48 inches, $79.99 for a season pass.
Lakeside Amusement Park
With free parking and a nominal entrance fee for non-riders, Lakeside Amusement Park is one of the premier amusement parks in Colorado. While the park has plenty of rides that spin and twirl, including a drop tower for older children and teenagers, it also offers 15 rides for young children. The park is the oldest in Colorado and one of the oldest in the United States, but still maintains a youthful sense of excitement.
Scenic Train RideThe park's two signature miniature steam engines, Puffing Billy and Whistling Tom, take guests on a scenic ride for views of the lake and Colorado mountains. The two historic trains made their debut at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair and have operated at Lakeside since the park's opening in 1908, according to Denver Westword.
Historic CoastersLakeside's wooden Cyclone coaster, built in 1940, has earned the title of Historic Landmark by the American Coaster Enthusiasts. One of the few remaining pre-World War II coasters still in operation, the Cyclone also offers rides in the late evening, when neon lights illuminate the park. Even if you don't ride, take a stroll through the park grounds to enjoy the art deco decor and vintage feel of this family-owned park.
From Pizza To PretzelsWhen the entire park is open, Lakeside serves all of the traditional amusement park favorites, such as pizza, hot dogs and soft pretzels. Vending machines are available during the Kiddie's Playland-only hours. Picnics are always welcome, and a special catering menu is available for groups of 100 or more.
Safety RecordThe Denver Post reported that in July of 2006, the Cyclone roller coaster was temporarily shut down after the coaster car stopped at the top of a hill. Twenty passengers were evacuated but no one was injured.
Address: 4601 Sheridan Blvd., Denver, CO 80212
Hours: May through September, hours vary by day
Price: $2.50 gate admission for adults and children 2 and over, 50 cents for one ride coupon, $13.75 for unlimited rides and gate admission Monday through Friday, $19.75 for unlimited rides and gate admission weekends and holidays
Other Noteworthy Parks Near Colorado:Heritage Square
Buckskin Joe Frontier Town & Railway
North Pole Home of Santa's Workshop
Gateway Park Fun Center
Boondocks Fun Center
What's your favorite amusement park in Colorado?
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