Colorado for kids: Lakeside Amusement Park

Lakeside Amusement Park was once a fancy place with dance floors, a casino, swimming beach, race track, theater and more.

Lakeside Amusement Park. (Erica Meltzer)

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Lakeside Amusement Park. (Erica Meltzer) lakeside amusement park; rides; denver; colorado; denverite; rollercoaster;
Frog Hopper, Lakeside Amusement Park’s baby drop tower, by night. (Erica Meltzer)

Lakeside Amusement Park was once a fancy place with dance floors, a casino, swimming beach, race track, theater and more. Today, it’s the opposite of fancy, but it retains many nostalgic traces of its former grandeur. It’s a great place to spend the day with your kids, especially if you have little ones who can’t do most of the stuff at Elitch’s or if your kids cover a broad age range and you need to entertain everyone.

Lakeside is marked by a tall, yellow tower.
Lakeside Amusement Park. (Erica Meltzer) lakeside amusement park; rides; denver; colorado; denverite;
The old tower at Lakeside Amusement Park, which opened in 1908. (Erica Meltzer)

Lakeside is its own tiny municipality on the northwest edge of Denver, near I-70 and Sheridan Boulevard. From central or southeast Denver, take the Sixth Avenue Freeway to Sheridan and head north until you see the yellow tower on your left.

You park in a large gravel lot next to the abandoned speedway.

Lakeside Amusement Park's vintage parking sign, March 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) lakeside amusement park; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite;
Lakeside Amusement Park’s vintage parking sign, March 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Lakeside is really affordable compared to other amusement parks.

It costs $4 per person to enter, and with that, each person gets one ride ticket with a 50-cent value. You can buy additional tickets or wrist bands at booths throughout the park.

Rides in the Kiddieland section are one ticket each, and tickets are 50 cents a piece. Lakeside sells a discounted “mini rider” wrist band for guests under 42 inches. It costs $8.50 on weekdays and $13.50 on weekends, but I’ve never bought one for my kids. That’s 27 rides to break even on a Saturday!

Wrist bands for adults are $15.50 on weekdays and $22.50 on weekends. The regular rides tend to be in the four- to six-ticket range. I’ve never felt like I’d break even on an adult wristband either, but that’s because I’m kid-herding. This one might be worth your while.

You can take your own food and drinks into Lakeside. We like to stop at the King Soopers on 38th Avenue and Sheridan for fried chicken and sides. (OPINION: King Soopers has really good fried chicken.)

There are a fair number of picnic tables under pavilions that are available without a reservation near the entrance.

There is an actual drop tower and a little kid drop tower.

The little kid one is called the Frog Hopper. (And the adult one is the Zoom Drop.) It steps down in little jolts, not one big drop. Exhilarating but not scary.

Lakeside Amusement Park. (Erica Meltzer) lakeside amusement park; rides; denver; colorado; denverite; rollercoaster;
Training for the big day when they’ll go on the Zoom Drop. (Erica Meltzer)

Kiddieland is right by the main entrance and contains all the rides for very young children, except the carousel, which is at the other end of the midway.

Some rides are so gentle that even toddlers can go on by themselves.
Lakeside Amusement Park. (Erica Meltzer) lakeside amusement park; rides; denver; colorado; denverite; merry go round; carousel;
Lakeside Amusement Park. (Erica Meltzer)
Others remain entertaining even for big kids.
Lakeside Amusement Park. (Erica Meltzer) lakeside amusement park; rides; denver; colorado; denverite; rollercoaster;
This is a great little rollercoaster. (Erica Meltzer)

Kiddieland is a fairly contained area that’s easy to keep an eye on. You can hand your kids a roll of tickets and let them run loose without too much worry. This is the other advantage of not buying them a wrist band: They have to check in with you for more tickets.

I love Lakeside.

I love the people-watching and the relaxed atmosphere, the reasonable prices and the short lines, the way it accommodates a large, extended family of different ages.

It is a little rough around the edges, and if you like everything really clean and orderly and new, it might not be for you.

That said, there’s always been soap in the bathrooms when I’ve been there, which is the most important thing, and the kids who work the rides have always been nice.

If you and yours are too big for Kiddieland, head down the midway.

There are bumper cars and bumper boats and a ferris wheel in the transition zone between the little kid and older kid sections. There are carnival games that will take all your money while you try to win a giant stuffed bear, a house of mirrors, food stands and rides for older kids and adults. And there’s a train around Lake Rhoda, named for the daughter of the second owner, which is much more charming at night.

There’s a drop tower.

There are many types of spinning rides.
Lakeside Amusement Park. (Erica Meltzer) lakeside amusement park; rides; denver; colorado; denverite; rollercoaster;
“Satellite” lets you “be a pilot.” (Erica Meltzer)
Lakeside Amusement Park. (Erica Meltzer) lakeside amusement park; rides; denver; colorado; denverite; rollercoaster;
Tbh, this one made me feel a little sick. (Erica Meltzer)
There’s an old-fashioned carousel.
Lakeside Amusement Park. (Erica Meltzer) lakeside amusement park; rides; denver; colorado; denverite; merry go round; carousel;
Lakeside Amusement Park. (Erica Meltzer)
Lakeside Amusement Park. (Erica Meltzer) lakeside amusement park; rides; denver; colorado; denverite; merry go round; carousel;
There are many animals to choose from. (Erica Meltzer)
Lakeside Amusement Park. (Erica Meltzer) lakeside amusement park; rides; denver; colorado; denverite;
Lake view from the carousel. The train station is right around the corner. (Erica Meltzer)
There is a big old wooden rollercoaster called, of course, the Cyclone.
Lakeside Amusement Park, March 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) lakeside amusement park; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite;
Lakeside Amusement Park, March 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Home of the Cyclone. Lakeside Amusement Park, March 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) lakeside amusement park; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite;
Home of the Cyclone. Lakeside Amusement Park, March 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Built in 1940, the Cyclone is recognized as an ACE Coaster Classic.

My daughter’s gotten tall enough for this one in the last few years, provided she rides with an adult. She loves it, and it scares her, as all good rollercoasters should.

“Well, we’re going,” she said stoically as we pulled out of the station this summer. “We might as well enjoy the good parts.”

Hours are a little irregular.

I’m going to refer you to the website for all the little details, but here’s the important part: gates open at noon on weekends and most rides open by 1 p.m.

Kiddieland is generally open until 10 p.m. and the rest of the park until sometime between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., though gates might close earlier. I really like being there at night. It’s cooler, and the bright lights take you back to the park’s heyday.

It’s generally closed on Tuesdays during the 2017 season.

When in doubt, call 303-477-1621 to check.

Lakeside Amusement Park. (Erica Meltzer) lakeside amusement park; rides; denver; colorado; denverite;
The Cyclone. Lakeside Amusement Park. (Erica Meltzer)

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.