Denver, Colorado, USA
I enjoyed coming to this park for some of its unique attractions like Sidewinder, Half Pipe, and the Elitch Gardens Carousel and because of the parks history and its attempt to pay homage to the original park as much as possible so I hope you enjoy reading my review of this park.
Elitch Gardens actually started out as a small 16 acre farm called the Chilcott Farm at the corner of W 38th Ave and Tennyson St. John Elitch purchased it in 1888 with the intentions of growing their own produce for their restaurant called Elitch Palace Dinning Room which was at 1541 Arapaho St in downtown Denver. They quickly noticed that people loved walking through their garden as there really were no public parks to enjoy in the Denver area at that time. John & Mary Elitch began charging an entrance fee and slowly but surely, they started adding amusements to their garden until they decided to open their own park called Elitch Zoological Gardens on May 1, 1890. That same year, they built a summer stock theatre called the Theatre at the Garden, which is now called the Elitch Theatre. Many well known actors and actresses like Sarah Bernhardt and Douglas Fairbanks performed in this theater and even took up residence at the park during extended stays. One of the first mechanical attractions at the park was a carousel from the Philadelphia Toboggan Co (PTC) which was housed under a huge carousel building that was built about the same time. Both buildings are still standing today and the Elitch Theatre is on the National Register of Historic Places as the nations oldest summer stock theatre.
It should also be noted that B.T. Barnum, who was a friend of the Elitchs’, donated several newborn animals from his traveling circus to the new park. Mr. Barnum ran the highly successful Barnum & Bailey Circus which would later become the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. As time moved along, the gardens and zoo slowly went away in favor of things like the Trocadero Ballroom, rides, and two famous coasters called Mr. Twister and the Wildcat. Operating the park became too much of a burden for Mary Elitch so she sold the park to John Mulvihill who operated it until his death in 1930. The ownership then passed to his son-in-law, Arnold Gurtler and it remained in the Gurtler family until the family was forced to sell to Premier. Unfortunately, the original 16 acre location which grew to 22 acres was just too small so the Gurtler family started looking for a new, much larger location as early as the mid 1980’s. The city of Denver had a plot of land that was originally a Union Pacific rail yard and was heavily polluted. It qualified for a federal Superfund cleanup grant so the city decided they wanted it to be a cultural center and that Elitch Gardens would fit nicely in with their plans. So the original location closed on October 1, 1994 and the new (present) 67.7 acre location opened on May 25, 1995. Many rides made the move including the carousel, Sidewinder, and Ferris Wheel, but the Wildcat and Mr. Twister had to be sacrificed.
The first two years at the new location were not good as 1995 was incredibly hot and the trees hadn’t yet grown out to provide enough shade from the heat. The next year was no better in that it was one of the wettest years on record and with two years of poor attendance, the Gurtler family was forced to sell to Premier Rides who owned Six Flags at the time. The park operated as Six Flags Elitch Gardens until Six Flags sold the park to CNL Lifestyles who then operated it until Stan Kroenke bought it on June 5, 2015 and gave the control of the parks operation to Premier Parks, LLC. Lets head into the park now that we’re done with its brief history.
This is where you get your park tickets, season pass, all day lockers, and skip the line pass. This is where you’ll find the security, customer service, and main park offices, and the parks main gift shop. There are a few rules as well that you need to know before you enter. There are designated smoking areas which are listed on the park map and well signed throughout the park. Smoking is not tolerated outside of these areas including the queue (line) areas. Use of photography and video while riding is also prohibited. You may, or may not, be able to bring in food so please find out what can, and cannot be brought in before you arrive. There also is a board outside the main gate telling you what ride is down for the day so stop by here to make sure your favorite rides are up and running.
Line cutting is also not tolerated and riders must secure all loose articles as well.
This is what I would call the main street area of the park as it contains an indoor theater called the Trocadero, named after the ballroom that was at the original location, shops, and a few food stands. There are also two rides here which are the Observation Tower and the parks Carousel. The entrance to the water park called Island Kingdom is also here as well but I didn’t go in there as I really don’t visit water parks that much.
The first ride we come to is the Carousel, one of the rides that made the move from the original location.
According to the National Carousel Association, this carousel was built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Co. (PTC) and opened in 1928 and is listed as being PTC #51. This one has 44 jumping horses, 18 standing horses, and 4 chariots being pulled by horses. The chariots are of a roman design and are being pulled by two jumping horses which are not to be ridden. There are also two small standing horses from the Dentzel Co on the platform as well.
Here’s my off ride video of the carousel.
Behind the carousel is the parks 300 ft. tall Observation Tower which was built by Premier Rides in 1995. Riders take an elevator to the top for an open air platform at the top for a 360 degree look at the surrounding area. Unfortunately, there were high winds in the area while I was there so the tower was shut down for most of that time.
Walking down main street, you’ll see a few hidden tributes to John and Mary Elitch, the founders of Elitch Gardens.
The Trocadero Theater is where you can see stage shows inside a air-conditioned building.
Inside the foyer, are several photographs from the original park location as well as several items like Mary Elitch’s dress.
The rest of the park.
Now we come to a point where we must turn left or right, so we’ll go right and head to our next attraction.
This is the Big Wheel which is a Giant Wheel model from Chance that is about 100 ft. tall and also made the move from the original location. Unfortunately, they do not allow any single riders so I couldn’t get any great shots from the wheel. Next up are the picnic pavilions which can be reserved for corporate or private events.
Next up is a Breakdance model ride from Huss called Hollywood and Vine that opened here in 1987 at the original location as Paradise.
Riders are strapped into one of four swinging ride vehicles that surround one of four ride pods that rotate around their own axis and the ride itself rotates as well. I usually don’t ride these type of attractions as they tend to give me headaches but they’re still very popular.
Next up is the Spider.
This is the Monster model most likely from Eyerly Aircraft Co. and was one of the rides that made the move as well as it was originally built in 1969.
Next up is an attraction called Turn of the Century that was built by Zeirer. This is one of the most beautifully themed Wave Swinger attractions I’ve ever seen. It carries a Egyptian/Aztec theme and was built at the original park location in 1973. It made the move but was put in storage until 1999 when it was installed at this location.
Here is my off ride video of Turn of the Century.
Next up is an up-charge attraction called the Sling Shot that opened here in 2006.
Riders are strapped into the pod and then launched skyward up to 70 mph between the two towers that are 160 ft. tall and then slowly lowered back to the ground by the same wires that initially launched you up into the sky. It is an additional charge but comes free with the purchase of the top of the level skip the line wrist band. This attraction originally operated at Kentucky Kingdom near Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
Next up is J.M. Mulvihill’s Pub which is a sports themed bar and restaurant that was named after John Mulvihill, who bought the park from Mary Elitch early in the 20th century.
Next up is a walk through building that houses a small gift shop, arcade, and a really good dark ride.
This attraction is called Ghost Blasters is a shooting dark ride from the Sally Corp. that opened in 2008 and I really enjoyed it.
The goal of this attraction is to shoot as many ghosts and ghouls as possible so you can get as many points as you can. Each target you successfully shoot will activate something that pops out, makes a sound, or does both.
Next up is our first roller coaster called Mind Eraser.
This is a SLC 689m Standard model inverted coaster from Vekoma. Let me just say that Vekoma isn’t really known for manufacturing a smooth coaster ride and this one is no exception. It isn’t too rough but it isn’t smooth either as I rode it a few times during my visit.
According to RCDB.com, this coaster is 2,260 ft. 5 in. long, 109 ft. 3 in. tall, has a top speed of about 49.7 mph, and a total ride time of about one minute and thirty-six seconds long. I would ride in the front row as it provides the smoothest ride experience.
Here is my off ride video of Mind Eraser.
Here is an on ride view from Sharp Production’s YouTube channel.
Next up is a first of its kind ride called DragonWing.
This attraction is an Aviator model from Chance and actually opened as Batwing in 1998 when the park was owned by Six Flags. The name changed to DragonWing when Six Flags sold the park in 2007.
Riders can actually control their own gondola by moving the rudders to the left or right by pushing or pulling the lever located between the two seats.
Here’s my off ride video of DragonWing.
Up next is a restaurant called 53 Fourteen Burger & Tap where I had lunch and bought my refillable souvenir bottle which is good all season long. The burgers are decent and they do have indoor seating. The spear they use has a Elitch Gardens logo on top which was a nice little touch.
Next up is another up charge attraction called XLR8R that opened in 1996. This is a pendulum swing ride that is 182 ft. tall and pulls riders that are strapped into special flight suits and attached to two guide wires, up 150 feet to the back spike. Then, one rider pulls the ripcord allowing the group to free fall for a second or two until the guide wires swing riders out like a giant swing. Riders will swing back and forth until the operators lift up a giant ring that gently slows the group to a stop so they can be unhooked from the guide wires. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good enough angle for the shot without getting the sun in the frame. Next, we cross over a small bridge and walk up to our next ride.
This one is a second generation drop tower ride called Tower of Doom. This attraction is 210 ft. tall and opened here in 1997. It originally opened with three gondolas that held four people each but one was removed some time ago so now there are only two gondolas that hold four riders each. Here’s my off ride video of the ride which was pretty fun.
Next up is a roller coaster that will send you head over heels forwards and backwards called Boomerang. This is a shuttle coaster which means this coaster doesn’t make a full circuit. It goes out to a point and then returns via the same track it came out on. This particular one was built by Vekoma and opened here on April 30, 1999. According to RCDB.com, it is 935 ft. long, 116 ft. 5 in. high, has three inversions, a top speed of about 47 mph, and a total ride time of about one minute and forty-eight seconds. This one is not so bad but a bit rough so I recommend riding in the front for the smoothest ride. Here is my off ride video of Boomerang.
The next coaster will have you skating around on the Half Pipe. This shuttle coaster is quite unique as there are only four like it around the world. This was built by Intamin and opened on May 27, 2004 and really is quite fun. It is a Half Pipe/30m model that is 229 ft. 7 in. long, 98 ft. 4 in. high, has a top speed of 43.5 mph, and a total ride time of about two minutes according to RCDB.com. There are two ride pods that hold eight riders each and spin independently of each other. This would be completely re-rideable if you are willing to wait in the long lines. Here is my off ride video of Half Pipe.
Next up is a park model version of a ride that is a standard at most county or state fairs. This one is called the Brain Drain and is a standard looping ride from Larson that opened here in 2014 and is seven story’s tall. These type of rides are nicknamed Larson Loopers by those of us that are fans of amusement and theme parks and are worth at least one ride. The ride rocks back and forth until it is able to go a full 360 degrees for a few rotations, then it rotates a few times in the other direction and then slows and rocks back and forth until it stops. Here is my off ride video of Brain Drain.
I do apologize for not getting photographs of the last few rides but that stops right here, right now with Star Flyer.
This attraction was built by Funtime and opened here in 2017. It is 17 stories tall and has top speed of about 50 mph and I love riding these type of attractions.
Think of this as a Turn of the Century ride on steroids. Here is my off ride video of Star Flyer.
Next up is the parks only wooden roller coaster called Twister 2.
The tag line is “Built Wilder the Second Time Around” and it is a pretty wild, and rough ride, but from what I’ve been told, it doesn’t compare to the original Mr. Twister at the original park. This ride was designed by John Pierce and built by the Hensel Phelps Construction Co. and opened on May 27, 1995. According to RCDB.com, it is 4,640 ft. long, 100 ft. high, and has a top speed of about 55 mph.
They tried to incorporate the signature first turn and drop and the final helix that Mr. Twister had but many of those that have ridden both have said that this ride is inferior to Mr. Twister. You can see the full layout of Twister 2, as well as the Star Flyer on the right, and Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium where the Denver Broncos of the National Football League (NFL) plays their home games in the fall and winter.
Here is my off ride video of Twister 2. I recommend riding in the front row on this one.
Followed by an on ride video from davidjellis’s YouTube channel.
Next up is the Thunderbolt which also made the move from the original park and opened here in 1996.
This ride was built by Chance rides and can hold up to 36 adults or 54 kids in 18 ride vehicles. The ride vehicles can swing back and forth and all 18 vehicles rotate around a central point in an undulating manner.
Next up is a classic that made the move from the original park location.
This Tilt-A-Whirl was built by the Selner Corp and originally opened in 1957. and really is fun and even better if you know how to get the gondolas to really spin. You have to learn how to throw your body weight by leaning at the right time and the right direction.
The next ride is a boat ride that will soak riders and unsuspecting people passing by.
Shipwreck Falls is a Shoot-the-Chutes attraction that is 50 feet tall, was built by O.D. Hopkins and Associates, and opened here in 1997.
Next up is another attraction that made the move from the original park called the Sea Dragon.
This is a Sea Dragon Viking Longship model from Chance that opened in 1980. It basically is a pirate ship that swings back and forth and does NOT go upside down. It is a staple of most parks across North America and is still quite popular in every park that has one.
Next up is another wet attraction called Disaster Canyon.
This is a white water rafting ride from O.D. Hopkins and Associates that opened here in 1995 and you WILL get wet on this one.
Next up is Troika, a model of the same name that was built by Huss and originally opened in 1976 at the original park location.
Next up is a real rare coaster nowadays called the Sidewinder.
This was originally built at Magic Springs & Crystal Falls near Hot Springs, Arkansas, USA. It opened there as Roaring Tornado in 1980 and was moved to the original Elitch Gardens location and opened as Sidewinder in 1990. It was then moved to its new location in 1995 where it operates to this day.
This was built by the now closed Arrow Dynamics which was a pioneer in the steel roller coaster industry. They came up with several innovations including the first inversion on a steel coaster and the invention of the steel roller coaster itself. This is what is called an Arrow Shuttle Loop, as it was designed by Arrow Dynamics, is a Shuttle coaster, and it has a Loop in it. As before, a shuttle coaster goes out to a point and then comes back, this one has an added bonus in that it is launched out of the station at the start, and then launched out of the second station backwards. These rides used to be at almost every park across the US and there are now three operating Arrow Shuttle Loopers world wide. One that was called the Zoomerang/Daredevil/Double “O” at the long closed Circus World/Boardwalk & Baseball near Haines City, Florida, USA at the intersection of Interstate Four (I-4) and US Highway 27 where a large shopping mall called Posner Park is now located. That’s right, it operated under three different names, two different park names, at one location. Riding this beauty was a trip down memory lane for me and it was a real thrill. I recommend riding in the front and back rows as you get a decent amount of air time in both locations. According to RCDB.com, the coaster is 635 ft. long, 56 ft. high, has a top speed of about 45 mph, one inversion, and a ride time of about one minute and six seconds long.
Here is my off ride view of Sidewinder.
It should be noted that Sidewinder’s station is about sixty feet high so be prepared to climb exactly 100 steps to get to the top. The view from the top is simply spectacular and that is where is got the shots of downtown Denver and the Pepsi Center where the Nuggets of the National Basketball Association (NBA) play and the shot of Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium, Twister 2, and Star Flyer.
Next up is a special event’s arena called the Elitch Arena.
This used to be the Axis Chemicals arena where a Batman stunt show was performed when Six Flags operated the park. Now it is just used for special events like concerts.
Up next is a classic park ride called the Tea Cups. This ride is a Teacups model from Zamperla and opened here in 1995.
Next up is KiddieLand.
This land is filled with rides and play structures that are meant only for the little ones.
There is one coaster in here which is not available to adults that don’t have kids of their own going with them and it is called Blazin Buckaroo. It opened here on May 4, 2013 and was built by E&F Miller Industries. According to RCDB.com, it was relocated from Alabama Splash Adventure just west of Birmingham, Alabama, USA.
That brings us to the end of thus park review. In short, the park is a good mid level park in my opinion, it isn’t great, but it isn’t bad at the same time. I hope you found this useful in planning your trip to this park and please check out my review of nearby Lakeside Amusement Park as well which is also in the Denver area.