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Erik & Smisty's Denver Disappointment!

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Like a lot of folks, Erik & Smisty haven't traveled a lot since 2019. So, a few months back, on the theory that as vaccines rolled out, built-up desire for leisure travel would result in booked up airlines and expensive flights, we sort of speculatively bought tickets for an August trip to Denver.

Well, my theories didn't quite pan out, but it didn't seem so bad that we should cancel the trip or anything. And we still had fun. But, as the title suggests, there were some let downs. But, actually, not so much because of Covid. Because of climate change.

Speaking of disappointment...


Elitch Gardens

Okay, to be fair, even though we'd never been to this park, Denver, or even the state of Colorado, we knew exactly what to expect from Elitch Gardens. It's reputation suggests that it's one of the worst parks in the country. And...it's not great. But we knew that going in, so with lowered expectations we still had a good time at what was, after all, a new-to-us amusement park.


The following attractions will not be operating today. As well as a bunch of other attractions not listed on this sign. Note also that this includes both of the park's water rides during a heatwave in early August.



I did enjoy the covered mini main street entrance. I think there's a lot to be said for this design.

Actually, that brings up one of the most interesting things about Elitch, as this is a park that completely relocated back in 1995. So, sure, that was 26 years ago--but, still, this place is an answer to the question: What if you were redesigning an existing theme park from scratch? What would you do differently? How would you rearrange the rides that you already had? And viewed through that lens, everything about the layout of this park, good and bad, is absolutely fascinating to me.



After the mini main street (or, er, teeny tiny CityWalk?) there's a carousel and the ghost of an observation tower on the right...



...the entrance to the included water park straight ahead (which includes this baffling sign)...



...and a second, uncovered "main street" leading to the park proper.

We entered the park midday, and headed for the Ferris wheel, only to have unexpected lightning move into the area while we were in line. So, off we went to the park's only dark ride.



This is an interesting set up. It's sort of a covered midway that connects what would otherwise be two dead ends, and contains the entrance to the dark ride, a gift shop, some vending and game machines, and a small food stand.

Also there's an SLC in this photo. If you don't know already, model coasters are very much Elitch's thing.



The nice thing about Denver is that Covid isn't a thing there. Apparently.

I joke, but it's not lost on me that I may be part of the problem. I mean, we are fully vaccinated, but still, should we have done any of this stuff?

Traveling right now is weird. Not as weird as this dark ride, though. (How's that for neck-snapping transition?)



Well, you can't take pictures inside, but here's the animatronic robot barker and a ride vehicle for Meow Wolf's Kaleidoscape, a Scooby-Doo Ghostblasters dark ride rethemed to...um, interdimensional travel via splitting doughnut eggs or something? It's low-budget psychedelic weirdness and I am here for it. By which I mean, I primarily came to Elitch Gardens for this weird-ass dark ride. and it was almost worth it.



Elitch has some nicely themed buildings that reminded me just a bit of Frontier City. The "one big food court" building probably helped with that impression, also.



Not one ride in this photo was open this day. Not one ride in this photo was on the closed sign out front.

In fact, the observation tower has apparently not been open for multiple years now, which I can find no kinder word for than "offensive." Luckily, I already knew that going in, or I would've been quite upset. (What can I say? I know myself.)



The games were all open.



When Elitch says something isn't opening today, they are serious.



I couldn't think of a good caption for this weird sign, so I googled "wears like a pig's nose" only discover that this was probably a real sign (or at least a copy of a real sign) as Finks really did make overalls and used both of these slogans.



Brain Drain did run that day, though it was down for lightning at the time this photo was taken. I can't blame the park for lightning, though. Seems like they handled that about as well as they could've. (And, as someone who's worked in rides at several different parks, including ones in Florida, this is a subject I know a tiny bit about.)



I want to say this was the first Half Pipe...? The park doesn't really invest in new rides anymore, though--and I don't think that's going to change any time soon, since the land it sits on has already been sold. Will Elitch Gardens move again, or just close for good this time? And does anyone care?

Actually, I think Denverites care. We talked to a few fellow park-goers (there was a lot of lightning) who seemed to really love the place. I guess the most important thing about a theme park is its location. Because this place would be absolutely buried by any kind of competent competition. I can't imagine it surviving long in the same market as, say, a Cedar Fair park.



Elitch has one non-model coaster: Twister II. "Built wilder the second time," is its slogan, and while I never got to ride the original Mr. Twister, I can only imagine that's a lie to shake the heavens.



Having said that, Twister II wasn't bad. I mean, there was no airtime or anything, but it was fast and fun and not too rough for a 26-year wooden coaster at a park that can't even keep track which rides are temporally closed, which rides are closed for the day, and which rides are completely abandoned.



It's quite an attractive ride.

Actually, most of the park *looks* pretty good, and is well upkept in terms of paint and such.

But yeah, Twister II's lines are very appealing.

I'm not saying that I want to have sex with a roller coaster. That's not what I'm saying. And even if I hypothetically did, looks aren't everything, you know. Emotional attachment is important. Shared interests. A better park to have it in, maybe.



Besides, Lech Coaster has my heart, currently.



This kiddie ride had a nice theme. One thing worth noting is that most of the kids rides didn't have queue, nor did the carousel. Just entrance and exit gates and maybe three pair of foot prints to indicate where you should start lining up. A bit unstructured for my taste, but an interesting choice.

I also think that the blue arch in the background is a perfect encapsulation of this park. The front of it says "Kiddy Land," which it is the entrance to. But the back is just blank, even though that's also the exit. It just says nothing. Not goodbye, thanks for visiting, now leaving kiddy land, buy a season pass, nothing. It's like they couldn't immediately decide what it should say, so they just gave up forever.



We tried again to get on the Ferris wheel, but again lightning came while we were in line. And again, the park is not unattractive.

Not that anyone is suggesting sleeping with it. Geez, would you stop that already?



The park's main gift shop is themed to a carousel building. So that's arousing.




If you look closely, you can see that this awful shirt is actually three different awful shirts. And, what's more, they don't say Busch Gardens on them!



The entirety of Elitch's covid response is not allowing returns. I feel so much safer.



Is this a good time to mention that Denver was enveloped in smoke from Oregon and California wildfires the entire time we were there? I mean, that's not Denver's fault, but if I sound a little gruff it's only because I was smoking the equivalent of two cigarettes a day and I've never smoked before.

Anyway, Elitch Gardens has potential. But it's potential that this version of the park will almost certainly never reach. Still, I'm glad we visited. Stay tuned for more complaining, coming soon-ish-ly!


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Great TR! I haven't been to Elitch's in years. The only reason I would go back is for the dark ride. I feel like you captured the true spirit of most theme park employees this season with that Plinko guy. Thank you for not having sex with any of the rides in the park. 

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Elitch really is a terrible park and the great people of Colorado deserve so much better.  My son and I visited the park a few years ago before a Broncos night game.  The two coasters I was most excited to ride, Twister II and Sidewinder (Arrow shuttle loop), were both closed with no signage warning us beforehand.  After waiting in a ridiculously long line for the SLC, we bought their version of Fast Lane that also included the Sling Shot and the Skycoaster.  These two upcharge attractions were the highlights of our day, but we ended up waiting about an hour for each of them due to poor/slow staffing. 

Lucky for us both of the water rides were open as it was a very hot late August day.  One bright spot was their policy of letting you take your shoes off and put them in a bin for the Disaster Canyon raft ride.  We rode this several times (thanks Fast Lane thingy) and didn't have to spend the rest of the day walking around in wet socks and shoes.  The shoot-the-chutes ride Shipwreck Falls had a bridge at the end a la the former Tidal Wave at my home park of SFMM.  My son never got to ride Tidal Wave and spent about 30 minutes getting water-blasted on the bridge (see below), which was very entertaining for me to watch.

I don't think any enthusiast would bemoan the loss of Elitch but I think the people in Denver would miss it.  Their only other amusement park options (Lagoon, Worlds of Fun) are 9-10 hours away.  I may try to visit once more to get the two credits I missed, but I won't be sad if I never get back there.



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3 hours ago, coreyb said:

When they first moved, the carousel was in the entrance building where the carousel-themed gift shop is now.

Thanks. I wondered if that might be the case. But what was where the carousel is now?

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COVID only delayed the conversion of this park to 800 condos at a project valued at $2.4 billion.  It did not stop it.   If they were nice, they could give all their old rides to Trey and Matt Stone and they could build a Cartmanland next to a Casa Bonita.  Mui Bien!  Or takeover Lakeside and build a new Casa Bonita over there?

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Park probably has the best location of any in the country (actually in downtown right off a metro station) and is just left to rot.

I went mainly because it was convenient to do before catching dodgers at rockies and I had never been. Will never go back, but your TR sums up the place perfectly. 

I’m also not expecting a replacement whenever it closes. Stan kroenke just spent a metric ton of money on sofi stadium, so he’ll probably sell off the rides…

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As a local Denverite who has been to the park 10+ times this season due to its proximity to my work, I cannot disagree with anything anyone has said in this thread about the park lol. Shame Sidewinder was closed, but it seems the park can't be bothered to staff it aside from weekends and some weekday afternoons. It's my favorite ride there, with the ends of the train offering the best & most airtime the state has to offer currently. Troika is usually open, so sorry to see it wasn't. Glad Half-Pipe was open too, that can be very hit-or-miss with being staffed. I believe it was the second one ever, with it's only remaining model sibling being the one at Chimelong Paradise.

It's definitely sad to see the park in it's current state, with incredibly poor operations (ex. usually 3-5min dispatches for the SLC), quite a few rides unstaffed or abandoned, and the rides themselves not being in great shape. Supposedly Twister II is tearing itself apart so badly, it's the reason they had to shorten the train from 4 to 3 cars in 2018. A shame it's doing that with zero airtime and only a few good lateral moments. Tower of Doom has been on two-sided operations for literally the past decade, they've never bothered to fix the third on an already low capacity ride. Thunderbolt is now a skeleton, and Disaster Canyon has not opened this year whatsoever. 

Since I'll likely be moving out of state before next year, I definitely have tried to appreciate Elitches for what it is, and still maintain that it's better than nothing. Can't complain that I got to turn basically all my in-person work days this summer into park days, too. But, the park is in a slow death waiting for it's eventual demolition, and I hope the Denverites do get something better one day. I don't expect any current park chains to consider the market, but a third Elitches iteration isn't entirely off the table just yet.

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I flew into Denver 2 years ago and visited this park and Lakeside. Sidewinder and Halfpipe were both closed so that was unfortunate. The park looked nice. I loved the layout. Twister 2 was fairly smooth for an old woodie. They had some nice flats. I said it in my trip report and I will say it again. I would love for them to move the park to Lakeside and merge them. Lakeside has so much potential 

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I flew into Denver 2 years ago and visited this park and Lakeside. Sidewinder and Halfpipe were both closed so that was unfortunate. The park looked nice. I loved the layout. Twister 2 was fairly smooth for an old woodie. They had some nice flats. I said it in my trip report and I will say it again. I would love for them to move the park to Lakeside and merge them. Lakeside has so much potential 

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Oh, there will be complaining! But not much in this update, as this place was quite good.

Denver Zoo



Yes, it's another hot and smoky Denver day and we're ready to walk around outside!



I don't think I've ever seen or heard a lion roar at a zoo, but that's exactly what we were greeted with at what Smisty has now declared to be her second favorite zoo.



This zoo has an Animal Hospital in it, and you can watch live surgeries!

Wait, that's kind of weird actually.



I just found out that I don't know how to spell "Rhinoceros." I can spell "flowers" though, so have a look at these flowers.



No animals in this photo (I don't think?) but it is a good example of how nice this zoo can be.

Of course, in my experience, most zoos are a mix of really nice new areas and older crappier-looking ones. That's just how it is. This one is mostly pretty nice.



Toucan Sam is the cartoon toucan mascot for Froot Loops breakfast cereal. The character has been featured in advertising since 1963. He exhibits the ability to smell Froot Loops from great distances and invariably locates a concealed bowl of the cereal while intoning, "Follow your nose!



The Denver Zoo claims to be doing away with maps due to Covid, but this is clearly a map.

In other news, it's interesting how places in Denver only do things "because of Covid" that result in monetary savings.



Most decent zoos have a carousel...



...and quite a few have train rides. Their website says that the train is open from 10:00am to 6:00pm daily, but does not mention anything about it shutting down from 1:30pm to 3:30pm "for lunch" as it did during our visit. This, combined with our lack of psychic powers, resulted in our not being able to ride it. So that's a shame. But, also, it's a train ride. We'll get over it. (Still qualifies as a "Denver Disappointment" though!)



On the other hand, Dole Whip!



The Denver Zoo features many exotic animals, such as this squirrel.



Only one aviary, and it was small, but good. Actually, there's a building labeled "World of Birds" that is currently under construction/refurbishment, so maybe there's normally more...?



No wonder they're endangered.



Snaked-headed Crap Turtles



I want the job of naming new animal species. What do I bring to the table? I don't despise animals.

Whoever is doing it now is just clearly burnt out. "YOU'RE A STUPID SH*T BIRD!"



Light-Green Weakass Snake



Rather than show you a photo of actual sea lions, I've opted to show you this statue, with the underwater sea lion viewing area way in the background. Because I'm in charge here and you get what I give you.



I've seen tiger bridges. Heck, this zoo even has one. But I've never before seen an elephant bridge.



Hey man, what would it take to get you to walk over that bridge so that I can take a photo of it? Do you want a fish or something?

I have been informed that elephants do not eat fish. And that also that this is probably a lady elephant. But is gender really that important? And maybe they would like fish if they tried it.

In other news, I am no longer allowed at the zoo.



I can still take a photo of the gift shop, though, because technically it's outside of the zoo--which I thought was interesting.

No? Just me?


How many zoos have we been to now? I think this makes 14 (not counting things like BGT or DAK).

(Spoiler: By the end of this TR, it will be 15. Pretend to be excited!)


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you ever notice how the zoo's with carousels always seem to call them "Conservation Carousel"

whoever thought up and sold those signs, must have made out like a bandit!

and thank you for not being horny for any of the offerings in this update - as you were looking at animals?  that would have been weird 😛

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20 hours ago, bert425 said:

you ever notice how the zoo's with carousels always seem to call them "Conservation Carousel"

I did notice that! I nearly commented on it, too.


20 hours ago, bert425 said:

and thank you for not being horny for any of the offerings in this update - as you were looking at animals?  that would have been weird 😛

You brought it up, sir. You brought it up.

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We're not water park people. I mean, we've been to a small handful, but it really needs to be something special to get us to deal with all the inherent inconvenience of the general water park experience. (And also, many water slides are terrifying.)

However, Denver is home to a place with something that, to my knowledge, no other water park really has: "dark ride" water slides. So, we decided to check it out:

Water World



Their slogan is, "America's Largest Water Park." Is it actually true? Who the hell knows? It is pretty big, though.



Okay, so, as I mentioned at the top, we haven't been to a whole lot of water parks. But none of the ones we had been to had the system that Water World largely employs. Basically, there's a line at the bottom of the slide, where you wait to get a tube form someone getting off of the ride. You then carry that tube up the hill to the top of the slide, where you wait in another line to actually go down the slide--but in this line, you're constantly having to wait longer as people who paid for "tube valet" cut in front of you.

I say "you" because that wasn't me. We paid for tube valet. We also sprung for a little bungalow thing because I wanted to make our water park experience as pleasant as possible.

I did see one complaint. But it was from a guest with tube valet who was upset that some regular guests had been allowed to go in front of her.

Have I mentioned that that Denverites are very confrontational?



The park is very relaxed about what guests can bring in. I mean, okay, they won't let you bring glass jars and the like, but you want to bring some chairs and a tent and a cooler the size of small car? Sure, just camp anywhere!



What I'd heard (or maybe just assumed?) was that these "dark rides" were lazy rivers. But not so much. There are calm sections (where most of the scenery is), but there are also some pretty wild sections.



This is a good photo. Relatively. At this point, I was using a cheap waterproof camera that, you guessed it, doesn't do so well in low-lighting conditions.



It seems like the whole "theming" thing is doing well for them, so they're trying to incorporate more and more.



Glacier Run. Did we ride it, or did we just take photos of it? You decide!



Best ride in the park.



Safety is for grownups.

Also, Water World has a sky ride!



This sky ride consists of two "trains" worth of gondolas that run in opposite directions. No turning in the station, though, they just reverse. Sort of like a funicular.



From our vantage point high in the sky, we can see some peasants carrying their own inner tubes.

I'm actually really against "fast pass" systems. All the more so because opting out just gets you screwed over. Still, having said all that, I was quite happy to not have to carry my own inner tubes up long winding uphill pathways.

But, I now realize having typed all that, that it misses the real issue entirely. Put in some conveyor belts, you d*ickhe@d water park!



I don't get this one. They just go along the outside. What's the point of the swirly bit?



Well, it's not available, it's ours. Or, it was. I guess it could be available now. Anyway, here's lunch. Pretty standard stuff, but not horrible.



Colorado is super-into its flag. Like, more than Texas. (To be fair, it's a nice flag. Who wants to cornhole Colorado's flag?)



Schlubs carrying their own tubes up to The Storm.

Actually, even people *with* tube valet have to carry their own tubes for this last bit. (Tube valet tubes are red.)



The Storm's exit theming.



Voyage to the Center of the Earth



Again, this one is fairly wild in parts. Which I don't mind. What I was less fond of is that we kept getting stuck on, like, ridges on the bottom? We weren't the only ones, I don't think. And we sort of had to shimmy our way off of them to continue. Maybe weight was a factor, though we certainly didn't exceed any posted weight limits.

At one one point, there was a  backup that resulted in the tube behind ours slipping under the back end of our tube in a way that I would describe as alarmingly-about-to-capsize-we're-all-going-to-die.

Still, we didn't. And I don't know if these "stalls" are a purposeful part of the design or not. We're not water park people. I mean, it didn't *feel* entirely safe. But what do I know?



I can only apologize for the quality of this photo. Is it worse than no photo? If so, well, just don't look at it.




A lazy river. Of the type I would've preferred the "dark rides" to be. Still, they're unique and (mostly) pretty fun. But I'm still going to label them as a... *takes off sunglasses* ...disappointment.



I believe this is called a Butt Bouncer.

Or possibly an Aqua Scoot.

Butt Scoot?

Aqua Bounce?

All of those are fine.



They also have a couple of water coasters. So, certainly, they have a lot of stuff. And it takes up a lot of room. Of course, a quick internet search reveals that Noah's Ark in the Wisconsin Dells also claims to be the largest water park in the US.

Neither of them have Commerson's Dolphins though, so whatever.



On the other hand.

What does Smisty have to say?



So there you have it. Two people who have no business at a water park judging it as okay-ish.

Stay tuned for more hot smoky Denver fun!


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On 8/19/2021 at 3:04 PM, bert425 said:

you ever notice how the zoo's with carousels always seem to call them "Conservation Carousel"

whoever thought up and sold those signs, must have made out like a bandit!

Manufacturers like Carousel Works and Chance started marketing "conservation" and "endangered species" carousels to zoos several years ago.

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I am *absolutely* not a WaterPark person (tho for me, I have to take my contacts out, then I'm blind, so they aren't fun to me).

We do seem to have very similar tastes and I'll bet a trip together would make for a hell of a good time! 

but. . . I'd TOTALLY go to a waterpark, just so I could take a picture of my rented "Cowabungalow"

that's so awesome, there's simply not enough awesomesauce in the world to cover it!

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It's been like 20 years since we went to this water park but I remember thinking it was fine, nothing super special other than the random water slide dark rides which I kind of wish were everywhere!  Also, we're super spoiled when it comes to water parks now as when we include them on trips we always get cabanas and/or ERT for our people and now it's hard for me to go to a water park without some goodies.  It's good to see they're still doing well and seem to be adding slides. 

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This place has always interested me for the dark ride slides and the fact that is look massive. Massive as in area wise but it also seems like they have every type of waterslide ever invented. I love a good day at the waterpark but there's nothing worse than when it's super crowded, so having about 50 different slides seems like it would help that.

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