Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Historic Lakeside

So I'm not sure if I've mentioned it, but we live in Berkeley, about 6 blocks from an old amusement park called Lakeside. I recently learned the history on Lakeside, and Elitch Gardens (the big Six Flags owned amusement park in downtown Denver) as well - thanks to Wikipedia, my neighbors, and a few cheesy amusement park lovers' websites. I have been fascinated with this park since we moved here. I love things with history, and I love cheesy things, and I am "that girl" that would enjoy Six Flags or the Texas fair whether I'd go once a year or weekly. SO - In celebration of being finished with my Wound and Skin class and with being half way through school on Tuesday, Grant, Britt, and I walked over (yes - we walked. It's like that close to us) to check out Lakeside for ourselves. Finally!!

This place is incredible. In many descriptions of the word. Every time I drive by, no matter what day of the week, the parking lot is full. And yet, every time I drive by, I think to myself, that roller coaster could fall over on me any minute if I sit at this red light for too long on Sheridan! The rail on one side is broken, it's old and wooden, and probably makes a little too much noise!

You can tell it used to be amazing, and after doing some research, I found out it really did. Lakeside was build in 1908, as a competition to Elitch Gardens (which was literally down the street until the 1980s). It was originally called White City, thanks to it's over 100,000 lights within the park, a big accomplishment in the early 1900s. They also had some of the earliest American roller coasters (which we rode I'm afraid to say!), a skiboat show on the lake, a beach and swimming area, and a casino theater with plays, shows, and carnival games. It was the place to be! When built, according to our Denver friends, it blew Elitch out of the water, nearly putting them out of business. Elitch was quite rundown and in the 1980s, bought by Six Flags, torn down in it's original location down the street from us, and rebuilt downtown into a huge, typical Six Flags like amusement park. Elitch's original carousel now stands as a gazebo in a small park on 38th street, with all new development around it and no sign that a theme park ever existed there. Meanwhile, Lakeside continued to run as a family owned sensation, never really rebuilding if something died, and looking like it did in the early 1900s.

This is definitely the kind of place that locals would never go, unless you have small children to entertain or are a certain demographic, and a place that people like me think is amazing. Original ticket booths still stand and you buy tickets for each ride, or you can buy a wrist band allowing access to all rides for 13 dollars. Haha! We rode rides such as the Cyclone, a 100 year old roller coaster looking exactly like it did in the 1918 picture I found (it's probably good I didn't look that up until AFTER visiting the park). Another old one was the Chipmunk, the only ride that I thought I actually might die during. This was another 100 year old ride still controlled by levers to start and stop it (which a 16 year old was controlling - scary), that looks like a giant erector set. Every turn I thought we actually might roll off the side and fall. There were no seat belts or safety bars to hold us in, and I'm pretty sure I was hysterically screaming and cursing intermittently until it we were safe again at the end of the ride. Grant however, who loves life threatening activities, rode it a second time, while Brittany and I stayed safely on the ground and prayed for his safety. I will probably never do that one again - but I will say it was quite a rush. We also did some cheesy old rides - like the airplane ride, the go carts, and a quite scary tower drop. They have bumper boats and bumper cars, mini golf, a funhouse maze, and an entire kiddy land full of mini rides. The thing I loved about this place was they still have the old signs and original, now dead, rides standing, just not running. The signs for the boat show and original seating still surrounded the lake. The original ferris wheel in the middle of the park, now with no cars and not functioning, still towers above. The casino theater still lights up in front, now no longer providing shows and instead used as storage. This park, if updated, could probably be really nice (not to mention safer!), but then again, if updated, it probably wouldn't be worth blogging about. And it definitely wouldn't be rich in history like it is today. I loved it.

If you are ever in Denver and want a fun, cheap, nostalgic experience, come to Lakeside! We'll join you! Just without the Chipmunk ride maybe....

Here's some pics old (courtesy of Denver Public Library online) and new of the amazing park:

Lakeside Amusement park in 1918

Lakeside Tower in 2011

Cyclone Coaster 1940

Us on the Cyclone 2011!

View from the Dog Park at Berkeley lake (across the street) of the Cyclone

Picture from 1910 of Lakeside

The Airplane Ride 2011

Britt and me on the Airplane ride. G is behind us if you look closely! 
This thing was faster and scarier than we thought it'd be!

Lakside lake (Lake Rhoda) in early 1900s

View of the lake in 2011 from atop the Cyclone coaster

Lakeside Amusement park 1920

A very old, slightly scary water fountain!

Airplane ride with original sign

Wild Chipmunk - it really was wild

View of the wild chipmunk. I couldn't take any pics while on the ride. 
I was praying too hard and screaming!


  1. Great post! Lakeside does have a nice charm to it. I love the park, especially all the old rides. One comment is that the picture that you have posted as the cyclone in 1940 is actually the derby racer that was in the same place until the cyclone was built in 1940. The derby racer was built in the late 20s or early 30s.