Coaster Days

A rite of passage for just about every Denver student during the last year of elementary school was the year-end trip to the old Elitch Gardens or Lakeside amusement park. You'd be sitting around with your friends, signing yearbooks, and the following conversation between boys courageously boasting (though quivering inside) would ensue: "Are you gonna go on the Twister?" "Yeah, ten times." "What about the Cyclone?" "I'll take the front car!" The mystique of these old wooden roller coasters -- before Colorado was introduced to the fancy steel ones that propel riders through numerous corkscrews, with feet dangling below -- was fueled by urban legends. My sixth-grade class speculated (falsely, of course) that limbs had been lost on Elitch's Wildcat and that the tunnel at the top of Lakeside's Cyclone was haunted.This year, as both parks -- the newer Six Flags Elitch Gardens, at I-25 and Speer Boulevard, and Lakeside, at 4601 Sheridan Boulevard -- open their gates, that end-of-the-year excitement will undoubtedly fill another generation of kids. But such a visceral escape isn't the exclusive domain of adolescents: A new breed of rides, like Elitch's Mind Eraser, offers an experience thrilling enough for even the most jaded adult. Also new to Elitch's is the Flying Coaster, which whirls passengers through twists and turns head first, in a Superman-like position. The park is trying to attract a larger and more diverse crowd this year with a series of concerts including Elvis Costello and Motown legends the Temptations.

Those seeking a more campy, old-school experience should make Lakeside their amusement destination. Walking around the park at night, eating cotton candy and looking out over the lake -- a romantic backdrop for generations of daters -- will make you feel at least a little nostalgic. And the infamous Cyclone -- the source of my first and most memorable coaster experience -- is still fully operational.

Both parks feature plenty of rides for those not yet old enough (or tall enough) for the giant coasters. For the rest of you, step right up and let a 60-mile-per-hour nosedive 100 feet down be the catalyst for good times ahead. Hours and admission prices vary, so call Elitch's at 303-595-4386 or Lakeside at 303-477-1621. Or are you too scared? -- Dustin Jacobs

Mortal Coil's tale helps slow things down
SAT, 5/10

Guess what Alicia finds when she leaves the gray city for the verdant rainforest?Big Frog. Check. Medium Frog. Check. Giant Spider. Whoa! There it is, luring her into a game of jump rope during The Treemendous Journey, on stage at 1 and 3 today at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard.

The original play, by the Vancouver-based group Mortal Coil, is a cautionary tale for modern folks.

"The girl's life seems hectic at first, so she dreams of the rainforest," says Bessie Wapp, who plays Alicia. Eventually, after playing an accordion for the frogs and escaping the spiders' web, the girl and her mother (played by an actress on stilts) learn a few things.

Mom discovers, for instance, that it's okay to "slow down and sing a song to her daughter," Wapp says. And Alicia learns not only to avoid spiderwebs, but also to savor life's diversity.

For tickets, $12, call 720-898-7200. -- Ernie Tucker

We Are the World
THURS, 5/8

Park Hill Elementary is a Denver school that focuses on international studies by having each grade study a different continent every year. "These kids learn by what's going on around the world," says Cristina Sandoval, Park Hill's art teacher. Students will showcase their global knowledge tonight from 5 to 8:30 at the 15th annual International Arts Festival, where visitors can watch African dances, snack on foreign cuisine and view everything from Japanese prints to Mayan clay pots.Park Hill is at 5050 East 19th Avenue. Call 303-322-1811 for details. -- Julie Dunn

Kabuki Hooky
THURS, 5/8

Pry the kids away from the Nintendo and take them to see Kabuki Gift, opening today at the Walden Family Playhouse. Centuries ago, kabuki was Japan's prevailing form of theater. These days, it's the perfect opportunity for kids to ogle platform shoes from another culture. And they will ogle.

"Kabuki, with its exaggerated movements, colorful makeup and humorous subject matter, is easily accessible," says Walden artistic director Douglas Love.

Set to the music of Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado, Gift follows the classic Emperor's New Clothes story, with a greedy emperor who learns that it's good to be humble (ornate costumes plus a morality lesson: bonus!).

For tickets, $14 to 16, and show times, call 303-590-1475 or log on to The theater is at 14500 West Colfax Avenue. -- Erin Kindberg

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Julie Dunn
Contact: Julie Dunn
Dustin Jacob
Erin Kindberg
Ernie Tucker
Contact: Ernie Tucker

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