Elitch Gardens Theme Park

This theme park in downtown Denver has been a family-friendly playground for over a century.

Elitch Gardens began as a zoological park in 1890. Over the years it was famous for floral gardens, the glitzy Trocadero Ballroom and amusement rides. Its very first roller coaster opened in 1904, and the carousel from 1928 is still in use today.

As Elitch’s popularity increased, it outgrew its original site and was relocated in 1995 to its current location next to Interstate 25 in downtown Denver. It remains one of Denver's most popular family attractions. A combination theme park and water park, there are more than 50 rides as well as live entertainment and shows throughout the season.

If thrills and excitement are what you're looking for, the theme park area has some adrenaline pumping rides. Ride the Boomerang, the Sidewinder and the Tower of Doom. Jump onto the Mind Eraser, on which your legs dangle out from the seat while the roller coaster twists and loops at speeds up to 50 mph (80 kmh). If something slower is called for, try the 100-foot-high (30-meter) Ferris wheel. KidSpin twirls little ones around as they sit in giant tea cups.

Entry to the adjacent water park area is included in the ticket price so make sure you bring your swimwear, as you're going to get wet! Send the bigger kids to the high speed Acapulco Cliff Dive, or the 62-foot-high (19-meter) Paradise Plunge. Hook's Lagoon will keep the younger ones entertained for hours.

As well as roller coasters and waterslides, Elitch's has some charming sideshow attractions and stalls. Try your hand at balloon pop, hook a prize at Fried Frogs, or toss a ball into a milk can to win a prize. Children are well catered for too, with pint-sized meals and fifteen rides in KiddieLand.

The parks are open May through October but check the website for exact dates. There is plenty of paid parking available, and both light rail and bus routes stop near the park's entrance.