austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Come on, little miss, and do the twist

Elitch Gardens is not just a place of roller coasters and an antique carousel. Granted those are the things most of interest to us, particularly as the park in its current grounds isn't that old and hasn't got much astounding landscaping. It's got some nice things, including a floral clock that nicely leads up to the Ferris Wheel. But it's not vast like Waldameer or lush like d'Efteling or overgrown with strange historic quirks like Kennywood. We spent some time, as we do, thinking about what other parks Elitch Gardens feels like. I thought Kentucky Kingdom the best match, which is curious as it's also a relatively new park (opened in the late 80s), owned for a while by Six Flags, and surrounded by city. The transitive curiosity is that Elitch Gardens doesn't feel much like Michigan's Adventure, which was the park we had thought Kentucky Kingdom felt most like, at that time.

Where Elitch Gardens is strongest in theming is the Old West stuff, admittedly a common thematic strength for parks. (Old West is the only themed area Michigan's Adventure is able to put together, for example, and it's the clearest themed area at Cedar Point too.) But the Denver setting probably encourages them to try a little harder on the Old West theme. The big central (and enclosed) food court goes wild with this, including featuring oil-painting posters that explain the Jackalope and its history.

We stopped midday for food, with their Parmesan Cheese Fries seeming the most promising alternative plus letting us compare to Cedar Point. What we did not expect was that we would get a pile of fries large enough to bury our car, covered in enough Parmesan to cover Lansing to a depth of three inches. It was good, mind you. And we ate at a great spot, on a bench overlooking a relatively undeveloped spot that looked like it turns into a lake when it rains. We just didn't realize there'd be so much of it.

Later in the day --- staying hot and sunny, despite the rides' interruptions for weather --- we stopped for frozen ice. That was sold out of a van, and they just gave you the raw ice. There were like two dozen syrups beside it, for you to pour on where and as much as you liked. And maybe it was the setting and the heat and all those other incidentals, but this was really, really good. And carried us through another couple hours. And demanded we stop in the bathrooms again to wash up since that syrup could be really astoundingly sticky, given the chance.

I mentioned getting to the magic show. We were also ready to get on the Thunder Bolt, their Musik Express ride, when that ride too went down for weather and that time it did rain a little bit, enough to drive us forward in the park. It also gave us the chance to see (but not ride) their swinging-Viking-ship ride the Sea Dragon. Unlike its twin at Michigan's Adventure --- and many other instances of this ride --- this one still has the short mast and fake crow's nest, which most parks have taken out as it's an inspection and maintenance hassle.

We picked our day just about perfectly for visiting Elitch Gardens. It was hot and sunny, yes, and the storm threatened in midafternoon and actual in early evening closed rides for a while. But they also kept the place from overcrowding as it could plausibly have, and the latter forced us to walk around the park looking at things rather than riding. A park at night is normally glorious, although the rides that weren't operating --- basically, any without cover --- turned their lights off. So there was less that jungle of light; but then it did have this fascinating blend of islands of light with crowds gathered around, say, the teacup ride (which we did enjoy, with care taken to not spin faster than really either of us are up to these days), and others turned off as if tucked in for the night. And somehow all this lead to Half Pipe opening just in time for us to ride it, long after we'd supposed it wouldn't be running at all that day.

And, yes, we made a mistake. I lead us to the back of the park and Twister II for a last-ride-of-the-night. The gift shop closed by the time we got to the front of the park. We hadn't seen a park T-shirt that was quite appealing. But they did have these brass Christmas ornaments that were exactly of the kind bunny_hugger collects. We hadn't gotten one earlier because we didn't want to carry it around the rest of the day, and figured we could just get one on our way out instead of buying it then and taking it out to the car. So we learned, as we should have before, to just buy the thing and take it out to the car, especially considering the shop was right up by the front gate. We had hopes that we might get someone who was planning to go to Elitch Gardens anyway to pick one up. So far, we haven't found one. So this closed the night on a bit of our cursing our own folly.

Nevertheless, it was a great day overall, and we had no trouble getting home, to the accompaniment of the Beatles Channel on the satellite radio, and getting to our basement apartment without (so far as we know) disturbing our AirBnB hosts. The first full day in Denver was a grand success.

Trivia: The calendar of the Coptic Church has twelve months of thirty days each, followed by five (in leap years, six) days not belonging to any month. The calendar starts (through to 2099) on the Gregorian calendar's 11th of September. Source: Marking Time: The Epic Quest to Invent the Perfect Calendar, Duncan Steel.

Currently Reading: Academia Waltz and Other Profound Transgressions, Berkeley Breathed. Complete collection of his late-70s college newspaper comic, plus miscellaneous stuff that I guess was editorial cartoons. Most disappointingly there's no attempt to give any of this context. You can understand where stuff is joke-shaped, but when it makes a reference that clearly made sense to someone at University of Texas in 1979, and you're not them, it's a bit like reading fog.

PS: Storybook Land has a lot of neat stuff to look at that isn't rides, including a lot of animatronics.


Animatronics set up inside Santa's Workshop. One deer works the adding machine, and another writes out, and there's an elf just off-camera so as to raise the question: wait, why do you give the jobs requiring manual dexterity to the animals that have no fingers? Huh?


So before there was the Philly Phanatic, there were Phil and Phillis, mascots for Veterans Stadium. Statues of them were set up on the outfield wall, and when the team hit a home run Phil would pop out and hit a baseball to strike a Liberty Bell, which lit up, and then the ball went over and hit Phillis, who'd pull a lanyard to shoot off a cannon. (I can't find any videos of this but it sounds like it would've been fun.) Anyway, the Phanatic came in, and the comparatively personality-free Phil and Phillis got sold off to Storybook Land, and here they are. (South Jersey is a suburb of Philadelphia.) The seats are a couple pulled from Veterans Stadium before its demolition.


Torn-up track for the Old Tymers antique-car ride. It's still not running, a year later. It looks like they're removing the wooden bridge and part where it goes over this channel, to our regrets since antique-car rides are generally better longer. Aw.

Tags: denver dash, elitch gardens, fifth anniversary trip, story book land

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