Location: Denver, CO
The Mile High City may be known for their cold winters, great ski resorts and the Broncos, but the area is also home to a fantastic theme park that can date its origins all the way back to 1890. Elitch Gardens which is located in Denver, Colorado has been everything from a zoo to botanical gardens and now houses a theme park owned by CNL and operated by Herschend Family Entertainment. Hold on tight as we tell you the story behind the park and all of the attractions that you can sing y our teeth into while inside the park.
The park is dated all the way back to 1890 with John and Mary Elitch used 16 acres of farmland to create the first zoo west of Chicago. Mary operated the zoo and park for 26 years after John died in 1891 and during her time she saw the park go from a zoo to a true amusement park. She added the Elitch Theater which was open until 1991 and even added the park’s first roller coaster in 1904 build by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.
In 1916 the park was sold to John Mulvihill under circumstances that the park’s name could never be changed. Mulvihill began adding attractions like a famous ballroom and another PTC roller coaster called the Wildcat. During his ownership, the park’s slogan cam about known as "Not to See Elitch's is Not to See Denver." Mulvihill died in 1930 but it was kept in the family. Throughout the 1900s many rides and attractions were purchased and added and attendance was great. The park became so poular by the 1990s that the park had run out of room.
In 1994, The Gurtler family and their partners purchased some land in the Platte River Valley near downtown Denver and began to move the rides and attractions to the new area. Eventually the old park was completely shut down and the new park was opened in 1995. The park suffered hard times as attendance was sparse and in 1996 they were forced to sell the park to up and coming Premier Parks. Premier noticed the lack of big rides and they rushed rides like the Mind Eraser roller coaster and vertical ride Tower of Doom to the park. In 1999, Premier had purchased the Six Flags brand and big changes were on the horizon for Elitch Gardens.
Many of the big changes were instant at the park as Six Flags brought in Coast to Coaster, a brand new boomerang roller coaster and even DC Comic characters for the kids. Six Flags had attendance back up and people were loving the new attractions but in 2006, PARC purchased many of the smaller Six Flags Parks and began scaling back the additions to the park. Under CNL and PARC, the park received upgrades to water rides, kid’s areas and some major flat rides. In 2010, the lease was terminated by CNL and they were on the move to find a new operator.
In 2011 Herschend Family Entertainment took over the operations of the park. The first thing they decided was an expanded kids area and that has been completed. There have been no more talks on future advancements from either party. Today Elitch Gardens has over 30 rides and includes 9 roller coasters. Some of the most known coasters is the Sidewinder and Mind Eraser. The park also just added a relocated kid’s coaster called Blazin’ Buckaroo. The park has a waterpark called Island Kingdom Water Park that you may want to check out as well. Next time you are in the Denver area and skiing isn't your thing, check out Elitch Gardens for a day full of fun for the whole family.
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