August 19, 2013

Lakeside Amusement Park

my blurry photos from Saturday night
 One of my friends suggested we go check out a place she came across online, Lakeside Amusement Park in Denver. I will admit I was at first nervous because the place wasn't in a great part of town and was reviewed on Yelp as being pretty run down and sketchy but the more I looked into it the more the place sounded awesome. We visited this past Saturday night and Lakeside Amusement Park is like a time capsule, a dirty, rusted time capsule and it is fascinating!

Photo from the Denver Public Library, ca. 1937
Built and opened in 1908 the park is over a hundred years old. I love anything retro but antique is even better! Originally called White City the park has been privately owned since its inception and is one of the oldest amusement parks still operating in the US. Lakeside is the oldest amusement park in Colorado and underwent a major renovation in the 1930's giving the park its amazing art deco flair. The artitechture and neon in this place is a dream for anyone interested in such things. Below are some pictures I took of the amazing signage while I was there.

Walking around the park at night was like being in a cross between a 1940's and a post-apocalyptic movie. Run down enough and missing enough light bulbs that it would be the perfect setting for a zombie film but just retro charming enough to swing into not terrifying territory. Looking back on some of my photos some of the dirty neon even reminds me of blade runner which is one of my favorite films.

There were plenty of people there, more than you would probably expect. The park is really cheap and despite the less than wholesome neighborhood most people had brought their kids along. I figured if parents could trust their children's lives to the rickety old rides I could too. We went on the Cyclone coaster, a wooden roller coaster built in 1940 and one of the only pre-war roller coasters still in operation. It was a pretty wild ride in our wooden car feeling like we could fly out to our deaths at any moment. The age of the coaster, the worn away paint and shoddy looking rails made the ride feel more death defying than any other I have ever been on. After you get off you feel a bit like you have cheated death.'

 We took the nice little steam train around the lake afterwords happy to be alive. The train is actually a real tiny steam train made for the 1904 St. Louis fair so that was pretty cool too. The train ride was loud but the trains little dark private cars have probably been an ideal make-out spot for over a hundred years and you have to appreciate the history of it all.

Overall it was an interesting experience and I would go again just for the awesome neon signage alone. Further investigation about the park on the internet has lead me to a collection of early photos of the park at the Denver Public Library. Check them out for a heavy dose of nostalgic awesome. There was a 'casino' and ballrooms in the original park and both musical performances and dances were once held there. It seems like the park has been in constant use since it opened and some of the dresses in the vintage photos will make any vintage lover swoon.

ca. 1913!
ca. 1900-1920

ca. 1908-1920
Flapper Lane! ca. 1920's
ca. 1920's

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