One of the most historic parks in the country, Lakeside Amusement Park next to Denver. Literally on the border of Denver. Is half attraction, half museum of mechanical, thrill-generating Americana. Its creators were inspired by the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition also known as the Chicago World’s Fair where the fairgrounds were nicknamed “White City” due to the color of materials used to cover building facades. Ben Krasner bought the park in the 1930s and gave it an Art Deco update, courtesy of architect Richard Crowther. Lakeside Amusement Park opened in 1908, and at that time, in addition to its myriad rides, had a dance floor, boats, and a swimming pool. With a candy-colored glow and retro ride, a visit to Lakeside is like a trip in a time machine.
Ben’s granddaughter, Brenda Fishman, manages the park’s operations today. Regardless of Lakeside’s status as the last White City standing, Brenda is hesitant to lather on the historical superlatives. There are several parks in the Northeast that are older but from an architectural standpoint, they have a much grander layout than some of the parks inspired by the Columbian Exposition.
Only one of the original rides from when the park opened in 1908 is the merry-go-round was still operative as of the opening day in 2018. “It is billed as a Parker,” says Fishman, referencing Charles Wallace Parker, whose company manufactured roughly 1,000 carousels from the late 1890s to the 1950s. According to the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum in Leavenworth, Kan., there are only 16 operating Parker carousels. However, Lakeside’s carousel has a few quirks. It’s a menagerie merry-go-round, meaning it has animals other than horses which are very unique for a Parker. The park’s original owners acquired some non-Parker steeds to get it up and running for opening day. There are many carving styles which is a little different, Fishman explains.
Another original ride, the steam train that circumnavigates Lake Rhoda which is named for Fishman’s mother, is undergoing repairs and could be operative by the end of the summer. There are two trains, and one dates to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair while the other was built in the 1970s. The park has a machine shop on-site and also works with outside companies to manufacture them, but it’s no simple task. They are hoping to have them back online for this season. Built-in 1940, the Cyclone is another thing of roller-coaster legend. The wooden coaster hits a top speed of 55 miles per hour on 2,800 feet of track. It’s one of just 40 Coaster Landmarks designated by American Coaster Enthusiasts in the U.S. There’s also a Loop-o-plane, Auto Scooters, Wild Chipmunk Coaster, the Matterhorn, Heart Flip, Hurricane, Auto Scooter, Crystal Palace, Dragon, Hurricane, Skoota Boat, Whip and more.
Lakeside Amusement Park doesn’t just showcase old rides. They also have a new Spider ride which is way prettier, brightly colored, with glitter and LED lighting and it’s way quieter than the old one which has a smoother ride. And another new ride might open before the end of the 2018 season which is a roller coaster. The park also has a Kiddies’ Playland, filled with rides for children under age 7 or under 100 pounds: a small Ferris wheel, flying tigers, motorcycles, turtles, horse and buggy, Midge-O-Racer, sky fighters, granny bug, kiddie whip, and wet and dry boats. Rides in the kid playland open at 1 p.m. during the week and at noon on weekends, although the adult rides don’t open until 1 p.m. on weekends and at about 7 p.m. on weekdays.
The place seems to be popular with families, who are perhaps drawn by the nostalgic rides, the free parking in a dusty parking lot at Lakeside, and the covered shelter with picnic tables and benches where many families make their headquarters. Glass bottles, alcohol, grills or other cooking devices are not allowed.
Lakeside Amusement Park is at Sheridan Boulevard and Interstate 70 West on the border of Denver. And is open every day from sunrise to sunset.