Things to Do in Denver, CO: Elitch Gardens
Elitch Gardens is an amusement park located in the West Highland neighborhood of Denver, Colorado. America's only downtown theme and water park, it is one of the city’s key attractions that has been entertaining adults and children for more than a century. A single park admission includes access to both the theme and water parks, both of which are located at the same location.
The theme park operates from May through October. On top of its park rides, it also holds annual events, including performances and firework displays during Memorial Day weekend and 4th of July. Every October, the park is transformed for its annual Fright Fest in the lead up to Halloween. Apart from decking the park out with Halloween-themed decorations and costumed characters, it also throws open its doors at night on every weekend. Haunted attractions are added alongside regular rides as an added bonus to provide give visitors a multi-sensory spooky and scary experience. Photo: Elitch Gardens
First established in 1890, John and Mary Elitch converted their farm in northwest Denver into a zoological park and garden called Elitch Gardens. It became the city’s first botanic garden as well as the first zoo west of Chicago. During the rest of the 19th century and early 20th century, the park added the Elitch Theatre and Trocadero Ballroom to its entertainment facilities. Many famous artists and musicians have performed at these music and dance venues, including Grace Kelly, Sarah Bernhardt and Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey.
Fast-forward to 1995, Elitch Gardens relocated to its present day location in downtown Denver. In the next 10 years, the venue vastly expanded to become a full-fledged land and water theme park to include rides and attractions that serve to thrill and entertain. Today, the park sits on more than 60 acres of land with over 50 attractions that cater to thrill seekers, families and even young kids.
Photo: Elitch Gardens
Adrenaline junkies will revel in the park’s nail-biting offerings, including the Twister II. The attraction was modeled after the original 1964 Twister featuring wooden coasters, but unlikely its predecessor, it is much longer and taller. With 4640-feet of track, it is the longest coaster in the park that is 10-storey high and features a 90-foot drop that is sure to elicit shouts and screams.
For unique views of Denver skyline and the Rocky Mountains day and night, the Brain Drain is the ride to take. Designed as a giant loop, participants are sent forward, backward and up seven-storey into the air, literally flipping heads over heels. Each ride is a unique personalized experience given that the seats are positioned back to back in either direction which means no one view is the same as the other.
As with half pipes used for snow sports and extreme sports, the Half-Pipe coaster in Elitch Gardens is also shaped in a U-shape. Participants will sit on one of two free-spinning cars on the ride’s train that resembles a giant snowboard as the board rapidly accelerates on both sides of the track. The park’s Half-Pipe coaster holds the accolade of being the first in North America as well as being the tallest half pipe in Colorado at 98.5-feet tall.
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As a family friendly destination, there are numerous options where parents and kids can enjoy together. One of the highlights would be the historic carousel located between the Entry Pavilion and the water park. It has been around since 1928 and continues to remain popular from generation to generation. Having been restored to its former glory, children and adult of all ages will love riding on one of the 67 traditional 67 hand-carved horses or ornate chariots. It is also the perfect spot to take pictures and leave behind beautiful memories from a family outing.
Other family friendly attraction will include the Blazin’ Buckaroo, which is a family roller coaster that goes up to 15 miles per hour, perfect for adults accompanying first-time coaster riders. As for the Rockin’ Tug, it slides up and down while combining rocking, swiveling and whirling motions that mimics sitting inside a wobbly boat out in the ocean. For more adventurous kids, the gliding motion of the Sea Dragon Viking ship will send kids on swinging high.
There are also two family-friendly water rides for older kids to enjoy. While Disaster Canyon stimulates the surging rapids of white water rafting, Shipwreck Falls will plunge participants down a 50-foot high waterfall into a tidal pool. Be prepared that both rides will likely leave participants soaked to the skin.
Little ones are also not left out of the fun at Elitch Gardens. From pint-size trucks to boats and trains, children can enjoy sitting inside and pretend to drive these brightly colored vehicles around the track. Brave-hearted ones can sit on miniature version of adult rides. They can experience the feeling of free fall at the Jumping Jack, swing around in teacups at KidSpin or go on a wild and crazy bumper car ride at Mouse House.
After a sweaty morning at the theme park, head over to the 20-acre Water Park to cool down for free with the same admission ticket. Proper swimwear is required for all water attractions to ensure the health and safety of all participants. The park also provides complimentary life jackets for weak swimmers.
Photo: Elitch Gardens
For high-octane excitement, head over to the six-storey high SlideZilla water slide. Participants will begin their journey on a raft, as they shoot down an enclosed slide. Midway, they would be thrown into an open-top, swirling 24-foot bowl that is designed to suck them into the vortex of the bowl before dropping 57-feet. The fun continues as the raft gets swept up and across a four-storey high curved wall and suspends temporarily before cruising on towards a final big splash.
Another wet and wild ride not to be missed would be the purple and yellow Tube Top slide. In 2012, it was awarded Best New Water Park ride in 2012 by the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions (IAAPA). Up to four participants can sit on an inflatable tube, which will be sent twisting and turning down a wholly enclosed tube slide and through two spirals before landing into a pool of water.
These two slides are among a variety of high-energy slides offered at the water park. Some of which are as high as 65-foot that is designed to send butterflies up riders’ stomachs as they freefall down the slide.
Adults and kids are presented with numerous options at the water park to enjoy a splashing good time together. Families can cruise along Castaway Creek for a relaxing experience that is peppered with surprises at every corner from waterfall to geysers that will keep visitors entertained. Take the whole family on a raft ride down the 75-foot long Splashdown classic water slide. The surprising drops and twists will ensure plenty of smiles at the end of the ride.
Kids will enjoy getting wet and wild splashing away at Hook’s Lagoon that is packed with more than 150 water gadgets. Featuring a five-storey tree house, water sprayers and slides, it is a refreshing way for children to cool off on a hot summer day.
Elitch Gardens offers a fun and casual way to host group parties, company events or even meetings. Ample space is available throughout the location, the largest of which is the Elitch Arena that can hold up to 5000 people and features an area for setting up stage, sound and lighting facilities. Another unique venue to consider would be the Trocadero Theater, which accommodates between 100 to 500 people. Modeled after the original Trocadero Ballroom, its old-world elegance makes this a special venue to host guests and experience the rich history of the amusement park.
For those bringing more than 15 people to the park, group discounted tickets are available. There are also special packages catered for group events. They typically include admission tickets for all guests, food catering services as well as provision of audio equipment.
Read more: Best Things to Do in Denver
Contact: 2000 Elitch Circle, Denver, CO 80204, Phone: 303-595-4386
Photo: Elitch Gardens
Things to Do in Denver, CO: Elitch Gardens
- History, Photo: Courtesy of Elitch Gardens
- Theme Park, Photo: Courtesy of Elitch Gardens
- Thrill Rides, Photo: Courtesy of Elitch Gardens
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Elitch Gardens
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