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Elitch Gardens
Elitch Gardens Logo.png
Location Denver, Colorado, United States
Owner Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (2015)
Operated by Premier Parks, LLC (2015)
Opened 1890–2014, (original 1890–1994)
1995 (current 1995–2014)
Previous names
  • Elitch Zoological Gardens 1890–1900
  • Elitch Gardens 1900–1998, 2007–2010, 2011–2014, 2015–present
  • Six Flags Elitch Gardens November 1998 – April 6, 2007
Operating season May-October (theme park) Summer (water park)
Area 65 acres (260,000 m2) total
Total 40
Roller coasters 6
Water rides 2

Elitch Gardens Theme and Family Water Park, locally known as "Elitch's", is an amusement park in Denver, Colorado. It is owned by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment and operated by Premier Parks, LLC. Distinctive for being located in a downtown area, it is open April through October.


Gurtler era (1994–1995)

Elitch Gardens satellite 2004
Satellite view from April 2004 (top of image faces north). New Half Pipe coaster under construction. (Lower left corner).

As space was getting scarce at the original location of Elitch Gardens at 38th Avenue and Tennyson Street, the Gurtler family and their financial partners purchased a 67.7-acre (274,000 m2) plot of land in the Platte River valley near downtown Denver for the price of $6.1 million in June 1994. $90 million was spent relocating some rides from the original park and construction of the new park. The money was from a mix of public and private dollars and various loans.

On October 1, 1994—the end of the 1994 season—the original park closed permanently and a majority of the rides were moved to the new property, which opened on May 27, 1995. Attendance was about one million the first year there, lower than the expected 1.2 million. Some notable rides at the park's opening were the original Carousel and Sidewinder roller coaster, relocated from the old park; and a new version of the Mister Twister, the Twister II.

In October, 1996, the Gurtler family and its partners sold the park to growing theme park operator Premier Parks for $65 million.

Premier era (1996–1998)

Premier noted the lackluster figures the new park had in its first two seasons, and so new additions were rushed in for the park's third season in 1997. The first and most notable addition that year was the park's third roller coaster, Mind Eraser, a Suspended Looping Coaster by Vekoma. The next big addition was Tower of Doom, an Intamin freefall ride that stands at 220 feet (67 m). Also added was the park's 700-seat Trocadero Theater, named after the famous ballroom and dance hall at the original park. The price tag for these additions came to a total of $28 million.

Throughout this short era, the park had "The Great Escape" as a surname underneath the park's name in its logo, like most of its sister parks at the time, (Darien Lake, Riverside Park, and The Great Escape)

In April 1998, Premier Parks purchased the Six Flags Theme Parks from Time Warner. With this acquisition, Premier re-branded some of their other parks as new Six Flags theme parks as part of a deal made between Time Warner and Premier. Elitch Gardens was one of these parks, and big changes came the next year.

Six Flags era (1999–2006)

The main entrance of Six Flags Elitch Gardens

Numerous additions came in 1999 when the park was officially rebranded Six Flags Elitch Gardens. The first and most notable addition as a Six Flags theme park was Boomerang: Coast to Coaster. Various Warner Bros. properties, including the Looney Tunes and DC Comics franchises, were also introduced, which including costumed characters and shows.

Throughout 1999 to 2001, additions were rushed in, such as the new Looney Tunes Movietown area of the park, as well as water rides and flat rides.

In 2002, the park added Flying Coaster, a suspended steel flying roller coaster. It was a prototype model, and suffered from numerous operational glitches. It ceased operation in 2008, and was eventually sold to Luna Park in Coney Island in 2010, where it was installed in 2011 after being refurbished and updated by ride manufacturer Zamperla.

In 2004, the park installed the Half Pipe coaster, one of three operating in the United States.

In 2005, Six Flags removed Chance-Morgan Chaos flat rides for safety reasons. The same year, the park added a vertical water slide called Edge to its Island Kingdom water park.

Also in 2005, control of Six Flags was obtained by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, in a proxy fight following a shareholder revolt, which led to Kieran Burke being ousted as CEO. Snyder installed friend and former ESPN executive Mark Shapiro as the company's new CEO.

The park faced a grim future in 2006 when Shapiro announced that the company would sell off six of its properties. Costumed workers and entertainment workers were laid off as a part of cost-cutting.

PARC Management era (2007–2010)

In January 2007, Six Flags announced that Elitch Gardens, along with six other parks, would be sold for a total of $312 million. The agreement saw them sell the properties to PARC Management, who in turn sold them to CNL Lifestyle Properties. CNL would then lease them back to PARC Management under a 52-year triple-net lease.

An immediate change under the new management was the removal of all Looney Tunes and DC Comics branding uses from the park. A new ProSlide Bowl water slide, named RipQurl, was added for the 2007 season. In 2008 a new interactive dark ride, Ghost Blasters, opened. It takes guests through a dark mansion haunted with ghosts. Using light guns, guests have the opportunity to extinguish the ghosts while competing against one another as digital counters keep track of the scores. Alongside the new rides, the park hosts a summer concert series which has included Raven-Symoné, Metro Station, Sara Evans, and Lee Ann Womack. It also has live entertainment shows, such as "Survivor Live!", and "Sea Lion Splash!" The ones for 2010 were "Rocknation: Don't Stop Believin'", "Bob the Builder Live: Let's Recycle!", "120 Rockin' Years at Elitch's" and "Laser Rocks". During October it has haunted houses and a Trick or Treat Trail.

CNL Lifestyle Properties era (2011–2014)

However, after less than three years into the 52-year contracts, CNL terminated their agreements with PARC Management in November 2010. The move came after, according to their 2010 SEC filings, PARC defaulted on their lease obligations on the properties. In early 2011, CNL appointed Herschend Family Entertainment as the new operators of the park, along with Darien Lake.

On March 8, the park announced three new rides, Tube Top (a Proslide Tantrum waterslide) in Island Kingdom Family Water Park, Rockin’ Tug, and Tike Bikes both in the newly transformed kid's area, KiddieLand.

In 2013, the park's operation was transferred from Herschend Family Entertainment to CNL Lifestyle.

Premier Parks LLC era (Since 2015)

On June 5, 2015 the park was purchased by an investment team made up of Revesco Properties, Kroenke Sports Entertainment, and Second City Real Estate. Operation remained under the control of Premier Parks, LLC.

Due to the growing concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, Elitch Gardens announced a delay of the 2020 season operations. On July 31, 2020, with the ongoing pandemic, the park announced that the park will not operate at all for the remainder of 2020. The cancellation is the first time in 130 years, that the park closed down for an entire season, with the park's entire 130th season instead being deferred to 2021.

Future of Elitch Gardens ("The River Mile" redevelopment)

In June 2018, it was announced that the current site of Elitch Gardens would be the site of a massive redevelopment project by Revesco Properties named "The River Mile" in the near future.

On December 19, the Denver City Council voted 12–0 in favor of giving Revesco Properties permission to begin the project.

No further details, including a permanent closing date for Elitch Gardens or relocation have been announced. However, there are rumors that it will relocate.

Entertainment & special events

In 1998, Six Flags' Fright Fest event debuted at the park. The event was typically held at the end of the operating season (October) until 2006.

When the park was sold to PARC Management in 2007, a replacement event for Fright Fest named "Fall Family Fun Fest" added family oriented areas such as hay mazes and pumpkin painting, as well as haunted houses and trick or treat trails.

In 2008, "FrightFest" debuted, with a lack of space between the words Fright and Fest in order to avoid legal trouble with Six Flags. The event continued on for several years, including 2011-2014 when Herschend Family Entertainment managed the property. The park is currently managed by Premier Parks, LLC, who continues to host the event.

Island Kingdom Family Water Park

Island Kingdom is a 20-acre (81,000 m2) family water park located next to the entrance of Elitch Gardens. It is open from Summer, and admission is included with admission to Elitch Gardens. It has several main attractions: a large tube slide tower, a family body slide tower, a family water playground, a large family raft ride, a half pipe water attraction, and a lazy river. Palm trees are planted yearly to add to the atmosphere. There is a race of rubber duckies to support charity on opening day.

Public transportation

There is an RTD light rail stop located next to the park's entrance, served by C, E, and W line trains. The tram station also serves neighboring Pepsi Center. Many park visitors take mass transit instead of paying for expensive parking. There is a bus station just off park grounds as well, which is served by route 10 operated by First Transit.


Roller coasters

Ride Year opened Description Manufacturer
Twister II 1995 A John Pierce designed wooden coaster based on the original Elitch Gardens Twister. The old coaster proved too costly to move with the park and was in bad condition. This coaster opened with the new park in 1995. Hensel Phelps Construction
Sidewinder 1995 An Arrow Dynamics shuttle loop roller coaster. Moved from the original Elitch Gardens and originally built in 1980, it was relocated from Magic Springs and Crystal Falls park as the Roaring Tornado Arrow Dynamics
Mind Eraser 1997 A Vekoma SLC (Suspended Looping Coaster). Riders are suspended below twisted track. Vekoma
Boomerang: Coast to Coaster 1999 A Vekoma Boomerang roller coaster. Vekoma
Half Pipe 2004 An Intamin Half Pipe Coaster. Two free-spinning pods of seating are propelled on a platform between two vertical towers, similar to the skateboard trick of the same name. Intamin
Blazin' Buckaroo 2013 An E&F Miler family roller coaster. Relocated from Alabama Splash Adventure and operated as Marvel Mania from 1998 to 2011. E&F Miler Industries

Other rides

Ride Year opened Description
Hollywood & Vine 1995 A Huss Breakdance themed with 1980s-era futuristic cars, and named after the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood, Los Angeles. Relocated from the old Elitch Gardens, it was formerly known as "Paradise" and originally built in 1987.
Turn of the Century 1999 A Zierer Wave Swinger with ancient Egyptian/Aztec paintings on it. Relocated from the old Elitch Gardens and originally built in 1973, it was not operated until 1999.
DragonWing 1998 A Chance Aviator with a dragon theme. First Aviator installation worldwide; prototype installation was rebuilt and reinstalled to final specifications after the first season of operation. Known as "Batwing," under Six Flags.
Tea Cups 1995 A Zamperla Teacups ride relocated from a park in Germany. Originally built in 1988. One of seven rides to debut at the new park for 1995.
Observation Tower 1995 A Premier Rides observation tower 300 feet (91 m) tall with the observation platform at 250 feet (76 m). One of the seven new attractions to debut at the new park at 1995. Previously branded "Total Tower". It is permanently closed.
Spider 1995 Classic Eyerly Spider ride relocated from the old Elitch Gardens. Originally built in 1969. Relocated several times.
Troika 1995 Classic Huss Troika ride relocated from the old Elitch Gardens. Originally built in 1976.
Disaster Canyon 1995 A basic white water rafting ride by O.D. Hopkins. Built new in 1995, it opened with the new park. It opens around Memorial Day and closes before Labor Day.
Shipwreck Falls 1997 An O.D.Hopkins Shoot-the-Chutes that ends in a massive splash. Other related parks operate Shoot-the-Chutes under the same name.
Tower of Doom 1997 A 210-foot (64 m) Intamin drop tower that drops up to two groups of four people at a time. Originally installed with a third ride car, for a total capacity of 12 riders per cycle. One ride car and corresponding track have since been removed from service.
Sea Dragon 1995 A Chance Sea Dragon Viking longship that rocks back and forth. Relocated from the old Elitch Gardens. Riders experience high g-forces. Originally built in 1980.
Tilt-A-Whirl 1995 A Sellner Tilt-A-Whirl relocated from the old park. Originally built in 1957.
Thunderbolt 1996 A Chance Alpine Bobs ride, it replaced the older Holland Express attraction, which had been moved from the old park.
XLR8R (upcharge attraction) 1996 A 182-foot (55 m) Skycoaster that is available for a nominal additional fee.
Sling Shot (upcharge attraction) 2006 A 160-foot (49 m) reverse bungee attraction that rockets riders skyward at 70 mph (110 km/h).

Available for a nominal additional fee. Previously located at Kentucky Kingdom.

Meow Wolf's Kaleidoscape 2019 A psychedelic, virtual reality ride based on the Meow Wolf attraction in Santa Fe, NM and coming to Denver. It is new for the 2019 season and replaces Ghost Blasters.
Big Wheel 1995 A Chance Giant Wheel model Ferris wheel ride over 100 feet (30 m) tall. The Big Wheel was restored in 2010, including the addition of a programmable LED lighting array, which has become a recognizable feature of the Central Platte Valley night skyline.
Carousel 1995 A fully restored 1920 Philadelphia Toboggan Company, PTC #51 merry-go-round featuring 76 hand-carved horses and 4 chariots. A 1909 Wurlitzer style #155 Military Band Organ (model nicknamed "Monster") provides the carousel's music.
Rockin' Tug 2012 A Zamperla Rockin' Tug boat ride that rotates clockwise and counterclockwise while rocking back and forth.
Mike's Bikes 2012 Motorcycle ride that is covered by a large umbrella that rotates counterclockwise sending young riders over hills and jumps. Originally install at Darien Lake in the 1980s as "BMX Motocross". Relocated to Elitch Gardens as "Tike Bikes" in 2012, and renamed in honor of long-time park sign shop technician who died.
Brain Drain 2015 A 7-story steel looping Larson International thrill ride that rocks forwards and backwards, gaining momentum to eventually follow through a series of forward and backward full loops, in which riders are fully inverted.
Star Flyer 2017 An all new swing ride that opened in spring 2017. Located next to Brain Drain and in the spot where Shake, Rattle and Roll used to occupy. The height is around 200 feet.

Water Park Rides

Ride Year opened Description Manufacturer
Acapulco Cliff Dive Wavy Speed Slide
Cannonball Falls Two Enclosed Slides
Castaway Creek Lazy River
Commotion Ocean Wave Pool
Gangplanks Two river-run slides
Hook's Lagoon Water Playground
Paradise Pipeline Corkscrew Speed Slide
Sun Plunge Speed Slide
Splashdown Family Raft Slide

Past rides

Ride Added Closed Description
Edge 2005 2014 Edge water slide that was added in 2005 has now been removed from the park. Some call it the water version of the half pipe roller coaster. Only lasting 10 years the Edge was a fairly new ride, it was sold with plans to relocate it to a different water park.
Shake Rattle and Roll 1995 2014 Shake Rattle and Roll, a Huss Top Spin originally known as the Avalanche, being one of the rides to debut at the opening of the relocated park downtown, was demolished due to its old age and frequent breakdowns.
Rainbow 1995 2010 After many years of being a favorite in the park, this Huss Rainbow was finally taken down due to waning popularity from an accident in 2008.
Western Round-Up (flat ride) 1995 2001 Relocated from a park in Germany and debuted at the new park, this Vekoma Sky Flyer ride was dismantled in 2001 due to major maintenance issues. Though reasonably popular, it was standing idle half the time. Originally built in 1985.
Holland Express 1995 1998 This classic Reverchon Himalaya ride was one of the rides moved from the original Elitch Gardens. As maintenance costs rose due to the ride's age, it was removed in 1998. A newer incarnation of the ride, the Thunderbolt, now fills its place. Originally built in 1964.
Mine Shaft 1995 1998 This Chance rotor ride was removed due to the controversy over a similar ride at Six Flags Great America. Rather than modify the ride as many other parks did, Elitch Gardens dismantled it in 1999. Originally built in 1972 and traveled on carnival routes. It was also at the old Elitch Gardens for a short time.
Sky Ride 1995 1997 A standard Watkins aerial chairlift ride, it stood for two years until the opening of the Island Kingdom water park prevented it from remaining open. It was one of the rides moved from the original park and was built in 1965.
Run-Away Train 1995 1997 A Mack Blauer Enzian powered roller coaster, it was bought used from a park in Germany and was originally built in 1987. Upon inspection, the "hot rail" that powered the train was badly damaged. This ride only ran for two seasons and Mind Eraser now stands in its place.
Flying Coaster 2002 2007 A Zamperla "Volare" roller coaster that is the first of its kind in the United States. It was a beta version of the coaster design, which made maintenance excessively expensive. The roller coaster was refurbished by the manufacturer and installed at Coney Island.
Casino 1995 1998 This Wipeout/Trabant ride was another ride moved from the old park. Even though it was in good running condition, Elitch Gardens couldn't find room for it among the newer rides.
Chaos 1999 2010 A Chance-Morgan Chaos ride that flips its riders upside down while spinning and lifting in the air at the same time. Removed due to safety issues.
Cactus Coaster 1995 2011 An Allan Herschell Company "Little Dipper" kiddie coaster relocated to Frontier City as Wild Kitty in 2013.
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