Heritage Square: Like Disneyland,
But Without the Bothersome Lines,
High Prices, or Fun

by Jeff Lewis

The big name amusement parks can greatly lighten your wallet and lead to serious buyer's remorse.  I'm not a Grinch; Disneyland is fun for all ages, but there are other ways to happiness.  Next time you are itching for amusement, instead of dropping a C-note at a big corporate park, I recommend sniffing out the closest amusement park with free admission.

They usually are a bit dilapidated and dreary, but there generally is plenty of amusement to be had in one guise or another.  This doesn't necessarily come in the form of fun, but I can say without sarcasm that bargain bin amusement parks are plenty memorable, if viewed in the correct light.

The greatest free amusement park that I've come across is Heritage Square, a faux Victorian Towne in Golden, Colorado.

You can step right up to the front of the line at Heritage Square, where many of the rides are mechanical.

If you live within a three-state radius, you are doing yourself a disservice if you don't take a road trip there.  Here are five reasons why:

1. Ride the Alpine Slide

At $6.00 per ride, the luge is not necessarily economical, but it does provide sweeping views of the adjoining strip mine.

Two cement and fiberglass luge runs snake their way down the hill atop the park.  A chairlift takes you to the summit, where you grab a fiberglass board, read about the serious injuries that you may incur, and then catapult down the track at breakneck speeds.

Actually, my wife and I went down rather slowly because Lynn didn't want to scare me.  By the end of the run, some punk kid had caught up to us and bashed into our sled at about fifteen miles per hour.  Because the kid only weighed around thirty pounds, we escaped without whiplash.

The alpine slide, while not very thrilling and way too expensive, was worth it for two reasons: a) disappointment is usually very memorable, and b) the chairlift gave us bird's eye views of the strip mine next to the park, as well as Heritage Square's waterslides which—despite it being the beginning of July—were closed and filled with brown water.

2. No Lines, Especially for Caricatures

There's plenty of elbow room at Heritage Square and no waiting for a buck-toothed, big-eared caricature of you and Princess Amidala.

3. Teach Your Kids to Live With Disappointment

If you visit Heritage Square during non-peak hours, it's likely that some of their premier events will not be open, such as the Fish N' Farm, mini golf, go-carts, pony ride, or brown waterslide.  All were closed when we were there, but because my parents taught me how to live with disappointment, the closures produced a nostalgic feeling for my youth.

Of course, many of the attractions are designed to disappoint even when open, including the Spider Mansion—guaranteed to make any boy sad who thinks they are going on a Spiderman-themed ride—and Junglequest!, which sounds like fun, but actually is just an expensive jungle gym.

I didn't let my fear of lawn art tarnish my trip to the Spider Mansion.

4. One-Stop Shopping

The grounds of Heritage Square house a number of merchants that you'll never find at Disneyland or Six Flags, including:

There's also plenty of unrented office and retail space, in case you would like to move your business into this unique setting:

5. Lots of Free Parking

After a day of excitement at Heritage Square, feel free to kick back and empty a six pack in the spacious parking lot.

Well, there you have it: five irrefutable reasons to venture out to Heritage Square.  I can't guarantee that you'll have any tangible fun, but I assure you that you won't—and will—be disappointed!

Copyright Jeff Lewis 2005.