Why Lakeside is the best amusement park in Denver

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Stephen Cummings for Westword
A grand view of Lake Rhoda from the top of the Cyclone roller coaster.
Once upon a time, like twenty years ago, Lakeside and Elitch's were comparable amusement parks of the turn-of-the-last-century persuasion. Yes, prior to being ripped out by its north Denver roots at West 38th Avenue and Tennyson Street and tossed carelessly into the Platte River area by downtown and rebranded as a Six Flags, Elitch Gardens had much of the beauty that is Lakeside today.

If Elitch's were still in its original location in 2014, you might be able to actually compare the two. But as it stands, they're so completely different that it's easy to see why Lakeside rules. (Even so, I will explain why -- in the process filling my personal annual requirement of writing a slobbering love letter to the most beautiful place in Colorado, one that I will defend to my death, even if that death is on Lakeside's roller coaster, the Cyclone. I'm kidding! Sort of.)

See also: Why Elitch Gardens is the best amusement park in Denver

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Look, Lakeside isn't fancy. It isn't an amusement park you visit for the latest in upside-down, shake-the-shit-out-of-you rides. It is a place for nostalgists and those on the cheap, architectural lookie-loos and people who want to buy a lot of fun for under $20. Being a person who fantasizes about rotary-dial phones still being commonplace and makes a "living" as a writer, I qualify for all of the above.

If you love art-deco anything, Lakeside has acres of eye candy. Though the park opened in 1908, in the late '40s, architect Richard Crowther was brought in to spruce up the joint, adding a gorgeous assortment of neon-lit ticket booths and ride entrances. The foliage, too, is something I have always loved -- and something that Elitch's lost when the park that was famous for its gardens moved into town and replaced all that greenery with cement.

With nostalgia comes ambience, something Lakeside has in droves. At night, the neon and blinking bulbs come alive, from the flickering, half-lit sign for the Wild Chipmunk to the zippy pink-and-green fluorescence of the Hurricane's ticket booth. Ancient trees dot the cement and asphalt trails that wind from the Kiddieland entrance to the boarded-up Riviera Ballroom on the edge of Lake Rhoda.

And speaking of Lake Rhoda, did you know there's a real-life Rhoda? Though Elitch's carries a name rich in Colorado history, Lakeside can brag that the namesake of its body of water, Rhoda Krasner, is not only alive and well, she runs the park. When her father, Ben Krasner, purchased Lakeside, he changed the lake's name from West Berkeley Lake.


Location Info

Map

Lakeside Amusement Park

4601 Sheridan Blvd., Denver, CO

Category: General

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91 comments
caringkatie00
caringkatie00

We love lakeside! It's cheap and fun! And you actually ride more rides then Six Flags! Instead of standing in line for hours! Family fun for the budget! Love the cyclone its a fun roller coaster. End of the night you can ride and ride and ride!

TxTransplant.
TxTransplant.

I seen Lakeside. You couldn't pay ME to ride that coaster and I love coasters. Lets hope the same reason that brought down the "Comet" at Fair Park Dallas doesn't happen there.

Mark Moffett
Mark Moffett

We moved here from Ohio and were way spoiled by Cedar Point. Both Elitch and Lakeside are a waste of time. I'd rather spend a day at Water World.

Sarah LeighAnna Smith-Gonzalez
Sarah LeighAnna Smith-Gonzalez

Its nothing special. A breeding ground for pedophiles and disease! The rides have always sucked and the chipmunk gives you whiplash and back spasms. I will never bring my children to that hell hole. Always fearing the rides would collapse or break isnt how I'd want to spend a good time. It would take ALOT to get that place updated and worth visiting.

Pam Stiffler
Pam Stiffler

I've always liked Lakeside better. Elitch's has become so plasticized over the years, it just doesn't feel like the real deal anymore. I do miss the racetrack & the boats. The creaky wood adds to the fun

Brian Leet
Brian Leet

Lakeside rocked when the racetrack was open.

Lee Edward Miller
Lee Edward Miller

None now as they drained it last summer and cleaned it out. At least that's what it looked like last year with front-end loaders working in the bottom of it. They probably found a few cars and other things as well.

Tyler Cross
Tyler Cross

There should be a strong fear of death at an amusement park. Lakeside wins.

Evan Conroy
Evan Conroy

Let Elitch's was the best, ever. New Elitch's is horrible. Lakeside is okay, but stay off the Chipmunk.

Mary Jane Martin
Mary Jane Martin

Water world is where it's at. Lakeside is scary and elitchs too packed

Clara Madrid
Clara Madrid

Absolutely. The new Elitch asphalt jungle is too expensive and no place to hang in the shade and picnic or whatever.

Eric Isbell
Eric Isbell

Lakeside is where it's at. Way more fun than Elich's. Elich's was cool way back when it was at the old location. Now it's just lame, overpriced, and corporate.

Debby Powell
Debby Powell

In spite of living in Denver for nearly 23 years now, I have never been to Lakeside. I live close to it and drive by often. I have a date with my husband to go next Friday evening. I'm doing it! Hoping to get some good evening pictures of the lights and art deco designs.

Dan Simpson
Dan Simpson

Old Elitch Gardens actually had gardens and trees and places to sit and visit.This was head and shoulders above LakesideThe New place should drop the gardens from the name and instil desert. Lakeside now is the best by default.

Bernie Shwayder
Bernie Shwayder

I liked the old Elitch Gardens and the new one. Lakeside had more of a carnival feel to it and I liked that as well. Now I'm 250 miles or so south of Orlando, but never go.

Rhonda L Martinez Rydalch
Rhonda L Martinez Rydalch

Lakeside does need updating, but it is actually a real amusement park. I'll always have great memories of my childhood there.

Adrian Delmastro
Adrian Delmastro

I rebuilt that coster track...it last another 15 years ..I miss my coaster. Me n my uncle mike did a great job ...rhoda U will miss Us...have a safe n great season lakeside...

Adara Scarlet
Adara Scarlet

I've only been to Lakeside once and was nearly killed on the Chipmunk. That sours my experience a bit.

Charles Martinez
Charles Martinez

Plenty of good memories @ Lakeside. Old Elitches was pretty fun. Current Elitches sucks.

Tacha Grenier
Tacha Grenier

Totally gross place to take your children!!!!!!!we will never go back

Justin Henderson
Justin Henderson

I worked at lakeside. That place is not maintained. So have fun dying

Tylr Tre
Tylr Tre

Lakeside is awesome, .anyone new to denver dont let these haters ruin in for you..its a must see attraction...whats cooler then 100+ year old amusement park..go ahead haters go sit in line at SIX FLAGS( its not elitches anymore) for 3 hours per ride and pay 65 for a ticket. Ima be in line for 5 min riding the cyclone. #knowyourroots #oldschoolfun #fuk6flags

Bryan Moberg
Bryan Moberg

are you retarded? lakeside sucks, it has its charms, but its a terrible, terrible place

Heather Steinberger
Heather Steinberger

I've talked to a lot of families who've said it's a great family place... lots of stuff for small kids. We're going to try it this summer. :)

Bryan Lett
Bryan Lett

Lakeside sucks. Its cool to smoke one and ride the roller coaster and leave but that place pretty much sucks.

Merrill Shauna Wallace
Merrill Shauna Wallace

Love Lakeside. Way better then Elitch's. welllll the new one at least..The wild Chipmunk was by far the best ride. The old racetrack was awesome too. growing up we would spend the day at Lakeside Mall and the nights at the park.

Taylor Myers
Taylor Myers

I'm pretty sure I've heard about more deaths at Elich's.

Matt Leising
Matt Leising

Lakeside is a great place to get jumped into a gang or robbed! So wholesome :)

Alex Ziolkowski
Alex Ziolkowski

Lakeside, where the gangbanger wanna be's & hoodrats like to hang out.

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