This past weekend, season pass holders had first dibs at Elitch Gardens and an early chance to ride Kaleidoscape, the surrealist, sci fi-themed dark ride by Santa Fe-based arts and entertainment company Meow Wolf.
Those who arrived Sunday afternoon faced extreme lines, and many waited hours to enter the gates.
Families of all backgrounds grumbled as they waited, occasionally chatting with contrite staffers. The backlog raised the question: Why didn't the park have a better system for processing passes? After all, those in line were such Elitch fans that they'd already anted up for an entire season.
"We've been waiting an hour," bemoaned one parent with several children in tow, who had yet to hit the halfway mark.
Elitch Gardens spokesperson Jolie DuBois attributes the long lines to the cold weather on Saturday. Most people wound up coming on Sunday when the temperatures were warmer.
"The park was fully staffed and each processing station was in use," she explains. "And of course, the new ride is a huge draw! We also gave out a bonus bring a friend ticket to pass holders if they visited this weekend. As a note, we recommend pass holders process their passes early. We open our Season Pass office weekends starting in March and all last week we had hours during the week too.
"While I can’t say how many passes we sell each season, I can tell you we are trending ahead of prior year and that things are looking good," she adds. "I have to say, I know a lot of our guests are very excited about the new ride and from talking to pass holders this weekend, Kaleidoscape was their first stop when they entered the park. While we understand waiting in line for rides can be frustrating, about 45 minutes to an hour is not uncommon for ride lines. We are always working to make our processes smoother and easier for our guests and pass holders."
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Despite the crowds, Elitch's season pass is one of Denver's better deals: Kids up to five years old get free passes, and adult season passes currently start at $69.99 and include a free souvenir cup with refills, free parking and unlimited visits.
The wait at Kaleidoscape was reportedly more than an hour most of Sunday. The ride, which lasts mere minutes, gives the public a taste of what's yet to come for Meow Wolf, which will be opening a 90,000-square-foot installation (lines certainly included) at the intersection of I-25 and Colfax Avenue in late 2020 or early 2021.
Seven Denver artists worked on Kaleidoscape, including Frankie Toan, Laleh Mehran, Kenzie Sitterud, Michael Ortiz, Chris Coleman, Brick Suede and Katie Caron, along with dozens from Meow Wolf.
Elitch Gardens opens Saturday, April 20, to the general public. Daily tickets are $39.99 and can be purchased at the Elitch Gardens website.