Sure, anyone can go to museums, zoos and theaters. It takes a special kind of adventurer to delve into the funky side of things. Although only one of these attractions is actually in the city of Denver, forcing you to drive just reminds you, it ain’t easy being cheesy.
Casa Bonita, Lakewood
Casa Bonita claims they are a top ten tourist attraction in America. Of course, they also claim they are a restaurant. With a 30ft waterfall, cliff divers and strolling mariachi bands this attraction gives you quite the taste of Mexico. That is, if Walt Disney were born in Tijuana and drank Tequila morning, noon and night. Most folks warn their friends: you don’t want to miss Casa Bonita, but don’t go there hungry. Go for the sopapillas, margaritas and cliff divers.
Heritage Square, Golden
It’s an amusement park, it’s a family picnic, it’s an old time shopping mall. Just what the heck is it? How about: all of the above. With kiddie rides including bumper boats, go karts and Putt-Putt, the kids will be happy. With the Alpine Slide, Aerial Challenge Course and Beer Garden, Dad can have fun too. The Music Hall and Dinner Theater are great fun, though the food buffet has been ranked right up there with Casa Bonita. The Theater is well worth a visit as they employ the old fashioned, Melodramatic style to the shows and everyone has fun. That is except the unsuspecting guests who get drug up onstage to join the show. Rumor has it the theater is closing at the end of 2013. Please, close the kitchen but keep the theater open. Plan a stop before this gem disappears.
Lakeside Amusement Park, Lakeside
Opened in 1908 and never cleaned since; okay just kidding. Lakeside is a throwback to the good old days of 10 cent rides and cotton candy. Well, they still have the cotton candy at least and admission is only $2.50, with some rides as cheap as 50 cents. They have the classic wooden roller coaster called the Cyclone, the famous Wild Chipmunk and of course corn-dogs. Who could possibly ride rides without eating corn dogs? Unfortunately the old fun house with the creepy laughing lady up top is long gone along with the race track, but Lakeside retains their classic ambience. That means yeah, it’s sticky, cheesy and fun as heck.
Tiny Town, Morrison
Built in 1915 as TurnerVille by George Turner, then opened to the public in 1920, this tiny town is big time. With over 100 tiny buildings to wander through Godzilla style and a Steam powered engine on a 5/8 mile long, 15” gauge railroad to get around on, this is the epitome of living large. Or at least, thinking you are. Several floods, a disastrous fire and the re-routing of Hwy 285 have all tried to stunt the growth (sorry for the pun) of this attraction but it persists anyway.
Forney Transportation Museum, Denver
Featuring one of the world’s largest steam locomotives,-remember, you just saw one of the smallest at Tiny Town-this is not just another car museum. It started that way, incorporated in 1961 by J.D. Forney but has grown to include all types of transportation. The star of the show has been Big Boy, the just mentioned steam locomotive. Most fascinating is the 1916 Prius- I mean Detroit Electric Opera Coupe- they have in their possession. It could go up to 211 miles on a single charge and yes, its’ owners had that annoying, smug, I’m a better person than you attitude even back then.
Buffalo Bill Grave and Museum Golden, Morrison
Located atop Lookout Mountain is Buffalo Bill’s grave. We’re lucky it’s still there since rumor has it, the residents of Cody Wyoming wanted him buried in Cody. Maybe we should have obliged since Wyoming is a little short on attractions. I bet they don’t have a Tiny Town or even a Casa Bonita. But then we wouldn’t have an excuse to drive up Lookout Mountain for the best view around of Denver. We also wouldn’t get to see all the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show posters, his guns and still fashionable fringe jackets.
Georgetown Loop Railroad, Georgetown
At 3.1 miles long and $26 a ticket, this has got to be one of the most expensive train rides around. The fact that it sits right alongside I-70 makes it cheesy. It is a reconstruction of the line between Georgetown and Silver Plume which are a grand total of 2 miles apart. Of course, it is in the mountains, crosses 4 bridges and 2 loops to gain 640ft in altitude but twenty-six bucks? The most exciting thing I’ve heard about the ride is when a friend had O.J. Simpson and his new blonde girlfriend sitting right in front of him on the train. I guess that was better than right behind him.
The Royal Gorge Bridge, Canon City
Okay, this is not in Denver, heck it’s not even close. Just a short three hour drive though will take you to a bridge from nowhere to nowhere. Why it was built I’m not sure but I’m thinking it was for cheesy tourists like us. It is the highest suspension bridge in America and was once until 2003, the highest in the world. Recently savaged by a wildfire, the bridge itself was slightly damaged and 48 of the 52 buildings were destroyed. I’m thinking 40 of them were souvenir shops. They are rebuilding and hoping to at least reopen the bridge by fall 2013. It’s definitely worth keeping on the bucket list just to make jokes about the Bridge Over Troubled Waters, The Bridge of Sighs, The Bridge too Far… Thank you very much; I’ll be here all week.
Michael is a full-time musician and freelance writer residing in Morrison, Colorado. He enjoys downhill skiing, traveling and attempting to play golf. He excels in the sport of extreme napping so if you must call, make it afternoon.