Lakeside Amusement Park, Denver, CO

The leisure of the past few weeks is over; now it’s time to get hustling.  The next month or two will involve a lot of travel, primarily by Airstream of course, but also a few unavoidable airline flights and at least one good road trip next week.  Today it’s Denver, a quick and easy hop from Tucson by air, where I am visiting a client, Timeless Travel Trailers, with Brett.

In the best mode of business, we concluded all the serious stuff in a matter of a few hours and then got on with the good stuff, which in this case was a late dinner at some local Italian place and an evening at Lakeside Amusement Park.  The park is one of those historical time capsules, begun in 1908, massively remodeled in 1934, and owned by the same family for decades.

I like the place.  It’s the kind of old park that hardly exists these days, right off off I-70 despite the pressure of development in the surrounding area.  It’s a tad rough around the corners and a few of the original buildings are in disrepair & closed, but we met the owners of the park (it’s small)  and found that they are extremely dedicated to the place. They are actively investing in refurbishing old rides, bringing in new ones, improving the landscaping, etc.  The lakeside setting is very nice, lit up with the reflections of neon signs from the classic rides and circumscribed by a narrow-gauge steam (or diesel) railroad that brings you far out and back in 13 minutes.

At night the park comes to life with the lights and crowds that fill the parking lot, even mid-week.  Admission is just $2.50 and all-you-can-ride bracelets were $17.75, although the price varies a little depending on day of the week and special promotions.   The park was packed last night with families seeking fun on a warm summer evening, even well past 11 p.m, when we were still bouncing from the bumper cars (“Autoskooter”) to the Ferris wheel to the ultimate ride in the park, the Cyclone roller coaster.  (Brett captured the picture of me exiting the Autoskooter.)

No question, the Cyclone is just plain awesome.  It’s one of those great rickety all-wood coasters from the golden era of amusement parks that you can ride again and again.  It starts with a dark curving tunnel, then the inevitable steep ascent where you get a good look at the peeling paint and wonder “is this thing safe?” –but you don’t get much time to think about it because in a few seconds you’re barreling through impossible turns and holding on for dear life.  About two and a half minutes later it’s over, depending on how fast the Cyclone is running that night.  (The speed varies with temperature.) We got a fast ride according to experienced folks who knew it well.

I particularly liked the little architectural surprises that are everywhere in the park.  One advantage of being old and not modernized is that the rides like the Wild Chipmunk, the Spider, Scrambler, Tilt-A-Whirl, and Hurricane have terrific mid-century design ticket booths, all different.  In other parts of the part you’ll see great Art Deco, both inside and out.  Curious and quirky features abound, right up to the giant neon exit sign that says simply, “R E D I T” (Latin for “to return”).

Closing hours vary but we were there until nearly midnight and the rides were still open.  I saw the last couple of riders puttering by on their blue Skoota Boats at 11:30, and there were still people dropping in at the snack bar for a cotton candy, Icee, or popcorn.  I have a feeling we’ll be here again, perhaps on our trip coming back east from Vermont in September.



  1. insightout says

    Two best friends, tummies bursting with pasta, gazing forty years in reverse through an adrenalin cloud of neon….

    proof that aging is inevitable, but childhood lasts forever.

    Don’t grow up.

  2. Forrest says

    Happy Birthday Rich,

    Glad you enjoyed Lakeside. You might have missed what lurks in the lake. There are carp that grow to surprising sizes due to all the popcorn people feed them. It’s entertaining, in a slightly frightening way, to do that because even one piece of popcorn brings a dark grey mass of writhing fish to the surface. When I was a boy, my mother told me that sometimes small children fall in, never to be seen again. I knew that wasn’t true, but it did keep me from getting too close to the water.

  3. John Irwin says

    When I worked for IBM in Boulder, the company alternated between Lakeside and Elitch Gardens for an annual employee day out. Elitch Gardens was a bit fancier of the two, but I always enjoyed Lakeside as a friendlier place.