Let the Fear Be Part of the Fun!

Cliffhanger Roller Coaster
Cliffhanger Roller Coaster

Conquer your fear and experience the fun of adrenaline-pumping thrill rides at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

Let the Fear Be Part of the Fun!

When it comes to roller coasters, the fear is part of the fun—unless it keeps you from taking the ride. Many people want to join the thrill ride—or at least not just stand and watch their friends at the park—but can’t overcome that fear, so Harvard Medical School professor Brian Newmark and clinical psychologist Michael Otto developed the Coasterphobia Stress Management Program nearly 20 years ago.

Coasterphobia is not a medical diagnosis— reluctance to ride won’t cripple your life like other fears— but it often bears traces of other recognized fears such as acrophobia (heights),  illygnophobia (vertigo), claustrophobia (tight spaces), social phobia (embarrassment), mysophobia (contact with germs), emetophobia (vomiting). Sometimes the fear results from a childhood experience. The fear, anxiety, panic, and/or dread can lead to shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, rapid breathing, sweating, and nausea.

One of the 15 members of the first Coasterphobia Stress Management Program class, Erik Minton, wrote about his experience for Psychology Today. Participants were encouraged to trust the engineers who had designed the rides, then were put through some preparatory routines: “We tensed and untensed muscles to learn to relax. We did breathing exercises. We circled our heads to induce dizziness. We rocked back and forth in our chairs to simulate a coaster’s motion. Then we circled our heads while rocking. We screamed, which Otto pointed out not only forces you to breathe on the coaster but is part of the ride’s fun. We watched a passenger perspective video of The Incredible Hulk, rocking as we did so.” For graduation, the group rode The Incredible Hulk at Universal Orlando Resort— and each one went on at least twice.

Free advice online will suggest taking baby steps or starting with the biggest coaster you fear, closing your eyes or opening them, staying in control of whether your ride or telling your friends to carry you on if necessary. Here are Otto’s professional tips:

  1. Make sure you are not being pressured or pushed into riding the roller coaster; this will only add to the feeling of not being in control.
  2. While waiting in line, try relaxation exercises. Practice tensing and slowly releasing your muscles as you breathe in for four counts and out for eight.
  3. It is important that you picture yourself enjoying the strange sensations involved in riding roller coasters. Anticipating fear and anxiety will only make it happen faster and stronger.
  4. Outsmart the “scare factor.” Remember that the loops and sudden drops are part of the roller coaster and are perfectly safe.
  5. During the ride, scream. Screaming stops you from holding your breath and helps relieve tension.
  6. Keep your eyes open. Being able to see what is happening actually helps terminate fear and nausea.

Let the fear become part of the fun at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park!

The Family that Theme Parks Together Reunites Together

Family at Glenwood Caverns
Family at Glenwood Caverns

With families spread out across the country like never before, the logistics of organizing a family reunion can become especially challenging. When the group is too big for a backyard picnic, families look to larger venues to handle issues such as lodging, food and activities that can interest multiple generations.

“For larger reunions, you may want to consider a park, campground, a nice resort, or maybe even a theme park,” advises the popular site Family-reunion.com.  In reunionsmag.com, Jacky Runice points out that theme parks like Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park even provide a metaphor for families: “Since we all know family life is like a roller coaster ride with its ups, downs, sudden turns and heads bumping together, why not go with the flow and consider a family reunion around a theme park vacation?”

Once you’ve decided on a theme park location, someone in the family should take the lead as organizer for the group and liaison with the venue. That means communicating with everyone to choose the best date (with plenty of time in advance to arrange work schedules), purchase the tickets (which may involve tailoring tickets to individuals’ preferences), book the lodging and meals (after reaching general agreement on budget), and coordinating transportation (individuals and families can make their own plans, but the leaders should know the itineraries).

At Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, groups of 25 or more can get catered meals and special rates for admission. There’s a wide variety of shows, entertainment, rides and attractions for all ages, plenty of lodging nearby, and you can even add an excursion for a relaxing, healthy soak at Iron Mountain Hot Springs. Contact us for more information. We promise a mountaintop experience that your family will remember for generations to come!

The Journey and the Destination

Ride the Iron Mountain Tramway for the best views in Glenwood Springs.

For a scenic and relaxing getaway to the top of Iron Mountain and a casual meal at The Lookout Grille, half the fun is getting there.

Your ride in a safe, comfortable, fully-enclosed gondola on the Iron Mountain Tramway begins at 6,000 feet and gently lifts you to 7,100 feet on the trip that is 4,300 feet long. The tram is a modern European pulse design by Leitner-Poma of America, with slowdowns on the way as other visitors enter and exit at the ends.

High above the trees, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of Storm King Mountain, Lookout Mountain, Mount Sopris and the Elk Range in the distance, Red Mountain, the Flattops Wilderness, the Colorado River, an active limestone quarry and Glenwood Springs.

Adding to the ambiance, from November through February, during Winter on the Mountain, the Park is adorned with over a half million lights. Rides and attractions, outdoor fire pits, a warming tent decorated as the North Pole and events like FAC with live music and food and drink specials offer visitors lots of options for things to do at the mountain-top theme park.

No matter when you visit, you can take in the spectacular views and recharge your batteries with a meal at the family-friendly Lookout Grille restaurant, with burgers, sandwiches, wraps, vegetarian options, a kids’ menu and beverage choices including beer and wine.

You’ll descend via the tram with another pleasant ride and go home with treasured memories to recall for years from the excursion of just a few hours.

Food for Play

From snacks to healthy food options, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park serves up delicious treats and meals that satisfy.

For many visitors to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, the theme park experience isn’t complete without the smell, stickiness and flavor of cotton candy and funnel cakes. For many other visitors, healthy food is essential for a happy visit.

Bob Stepniewski, the Park’s food and beverage manager, caters to both tastes. “It’s a fine balance,” Bob says. “People don’t come up here specifically to dine. They eat because it’s a convenience and they need to have some lunch.”

Three years ago, customer demand drove him to buy a Tiffany-style popcorn wagon and offer popcorn, cotton candy, and funnel cakes. “That’s what people want,” he says. “It’s the smell you think of when you come to the amusement park. I’m open to other options.”

The latest menu change added “grab and go” items, such as chicken salad wraps and a hummus-and-pretzel kit that make a quick snack without a long wait. “We’re offering something that’s healthier,” Bob says. “We do specials on a daily basis over and above our regular menu.”

The menu includes yogurt parfaits with fresh fruit and granola; seasonal salad options such as fresh berries, dried cranberries, feta cheese, walnuts and mandarin oranges; and gluten-free buns and brownies.

“When we make homemade soups here, we’re very in tune with being gluten free so people can be confident that they can have that,” Bob says. Several years ago, he created a book of ingredients for each dish so diners can check for themselves.

Bob, who started out in the hospitality industry as a teenager growing up in Wisconsin and worked in a hotel when he moved to Colorado at age 25, sold ski vacations for 15 years until he returned to the kitchen seven years ago at Glenwood Caverns. His right hand in the kitchen at the Lookout Grille, Mark Lambert, recently graduated from the Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy.

“I have been in the hospitality industry nearly all my life,” Bob says. “Ten or 15 years ago, people weren’t as health conscious as they are now. We are sensitive and empathetic to our guests. It’s a fun environment. Every day, I’m just thrilled to be a part of it.”

It’s Fright Season at US Theme Parks

Count on theme parks, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park included, for a screaming good time at Halloween and year-round. 

Many amusement parks across the United States dress up for Halloween – some for tricks, some for treats. There’s the frightful transformation of Pittsburgh-area Kennywood’s Raging Rapids into the Voodoo Bayou, Busch Garden’s Howl-O-Scream Blood Asylum, in
Williamsburg and Knott’s Berry Farm’s Pumpkin Eater, Voodoo Maze, Ghost Town Streets, and 13 haunted mazes. More kid-friendly choices range from the Sweet Trick or Treat Trail at Hersheypark to pumpkin decorating and the Not-Too-Spooky Howl-O-Ween Radio Show at Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pa.

Other theme parks stay haunted all year – the scary installations are called “dark rides” in the industry – starting with our own Haunted Mine Drop, the world’s only top-down fright ride. There’s Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood studio, a drop tower that goes on to a “fifth dimension” star field where you hurtle toward doom. Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando and Hollywood includes a ride through Hogwarts Castle with threating spiders, dragons, Dementors, and Death Eaters. For a more classic fright, check out the Spook-A-Rama at Coney Island in New York or the Haunted Mansion at Knoebels in Elysburg, Pa. Curse of DarKastle at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., combines the traditional scares with 3-D CGI animation and other modern features.

Check out USA Today’s Readers’ Choice 2017 selections for seasonal spooky them parks to find one near you this month, or TripSavvy’s list for a scary treat any time. And be sure to experience the dark mysteries of the Haunted Mine Drop at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

Family-owned Theme Parks are a Rarity

Cliffhanger Roller Coaster Glenwood Caverns

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is one of just a few family-held theme parks in the U.S.

Changing tastes in entertainment and strong competition from new diversions mean family-owned theme parks must find innovative ways to attract people to their playgrounds. While mega-parks like Disneyland and Cedar Point cater to corporate investors for more and more roller coasters, smaller parks like Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park carve our niche with unique locations – like a the top of a mountain or inside a cave  – responsive service and often a dose of the old days.

Fewer than half of the Top Ten parks recommended by Grandparents.com are corporate-owned. Family-owned playgrounds on the list include Knoebels in Pennsylvania, Holiday World in Indiana (sometimes considered the oldest U.S. theme park), Adventureland in Iowa and Morgan’s Wonderland in Texas.

Our closest cousin in the family of family-owned theme parks is Herschend Family Entertainment that started with Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, and now has 23 locations in six states, including Dollywood – known as Silver Dollar City Tennessee until Dolly Parton partnered.

Like Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, Silver Dollar City in the Ozarks started with a cave originally explored in the 19th century that eventually became a tourist attraction. (It was originally called Marble Cave but changed to Marvel Cave when the smooth rock turned out to be limestone rather than marble.) They still give tours, and they’ve added thrill rides, restaurants and other amusements over the years.

Silver Doller City has a Giant Barn Swing designed, like our Giant Canyon Swing, by S&S Worldwide, which also has installations at Cedar Point and Dollywood as well as in Russia, Sweden, Japan and the United Kingdom. Silver Dollar City also has an eight-story drop tower, FireFall. Our Haunted Mine Drop that opened this summer descends more than 11 stories and goes underground.

We’re proud to be among the family-owned theme parks that are there for your family.

Other Great American Theme Parks to Explore

You won’t find a theme park on top of a mountain, much less inside a mountain, anywhere but Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. But if you’re interested in collecting a variety of rolling, watery, funny, tasty, accessible, thrilling, and good old-fashioned theme parks, we like this list from Grandparents.com.

  1. Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1963 and family-owned until 2001, this 48-acre park calls itself a Kingdom for Kids. It has more than 35 rides, attractions, and shows, including a water play area, three roller coasters (one wooden), a log flume, a riverboat ride, animatronic dinosaurs, bumper cars and high-dive shows.

  1. Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, Pennsylvania

Knoebels was founded on July 4, 1926, and is still family-owned. Part of its attraction is free admission, free parking, free entertainment and free picnic facilities. The park has more than 60 rides and attractions, including six roller coasters (one wooden), arcade games, mini-golf, a bald eagle habitat and two carousels originally built more than 100 years ago. You can still catch the brass ring for a free ride.

  1. Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana

Opened in 1946, with the water park added in 1993, this 125-acre family-owned park was one of the first to offer unlimited soft drinks to visitors. The park is divided into Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween and 4th of July themed sections, with food and music as well as rides reflecting the season. It has three wooden roller coasters, one steel coaster and two water coasters.

  1. Silverwood Theme Park and Boulder Beach in Athol, Idaho

Opened in 1988, with the water park added in 2003, this 413-acre playground is the northernmost U.S. theme park. It has 66 rides and attractions, including one of five giant inverted boomerang coasters in the world, five other roller coasters (two wooden), a Ferris wheel, bumper boats, a drop tower, a log flume, water slides, two wave pools and a popular steam train.

  1. Adventureland Amusement Park in Altoona, Iowa

This family-owned playground, opened in 1974, with the Adventure Bay water park added in 2010, has more than 100 rides, shows, and attractions, including five roller coasters and a whitewater river raft ride. It has numerous kid-friendly rides, a petting zoo and three game areas – Alpine Games, County Fair, and Dragon Island.

  1. Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut

Lake Compounce, founded in 1846, is the oldest continuously operating amusement park in the United States. The 332-acre playground was completely renovated after it opened under new management in the mid-1990s. It has 44 rides, including one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the world and one of the newest, the mountainside Boulder Dash, among its five coasters. Lake Compounce, where cold drinks are free at hydration stations, also has a lakeside train ride, a drop tower, a Ferris wheel and a log flume.

  1. Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas

Built in 2010 by Gordan Hartman after his daughter was born with cognitive and physical delays, Morgan’s Wonderland is the world’s first theme park designed for children with special needs, although it is open to everyone (the accessibility is also convenient for older adults). The 25-acre nonprofit park has about 25 wheelchair-accessible attractions, including a carousel, Ferris wheel, train ride, wheelchair swings and Sensory Village. The three-acre Morgan’s Inspiration Island water park was added in 2017. Children with disabilities are admitted free.

  1. Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California

Knott’s Berry Farm started on a berry farm that also sold preserves and pies in the 1920s, then added restaurants and shops, and finally built a Ghost Town in 1940. It expanded with a Camp Snoopy in 1983 and was sold by the family in 1997. Soak City, a water park, was added in 2000. The playground has five themed areas – Ghost Town, Fiesta Village, The Boardwalk, Camp Snoopy and Indian Trails. It has 35 rides, including nine roller coasters, two water rides and train rides. Knotts.com

  1. Carousel Gardens Amusement Park in New Orleans, Louisiana

This center in New Orleans City Park is focused on the 1906 Live Oak Ladybug Rollercoaster, locally known as the Flying Horses but has 16 other rides including a drop tower, a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, a Tilt-A-Whirl and a miniature train. It is closed for most of the winter.

  1. Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio

Cedar Point, opened in 1870 and second only to Lake Compounce for longest-running park, attracts more than 3.5 million visitors a year, the most of any seasonal theme park. The 365-acre playground has more than 70 rides, including 16 roller coasters, two water rides, a 136-foot Ferris wheel, a 1912 carousel,and a train ride along Lake Erie. Performances are in the Extreme Sports Stadium, the Celebration Plaza Stage and smaller venues.

10 Oktoberfest Celebrations in Colorado and Nearby

Oktoberfest at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is coming up soon in October; in the meantime embrace your inner German with these other celebrations that start in September.

We started our Oktoberfest tradition at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park two years ago with extra activities for families, including a pumpkin patch, face painting, and hayrides. Last year, we added an Oktoberfest band for a weekend, and it was such a hit we’re doing two weekends this year – stay tuned for all the details. Our rides will continue to be open this fall, including the new Haunted Mine Drop, and we’ll have plenty of beer, brats, and other food and drink specials.

Most Oktoberfests in the Rocky Mountains get moved to September, but in Glenwood Springs, October weather is perfect for us at the Park on top of Iron Mountain. If you want to get ready for our celebration, here are our Top Ten suggestions for events in Colorado and nearby.

  1. The Denver Oktoberfest, September 22-23 and 29-30

Denver will host the 48th Annual Stein Hoisting National Championships, the Keg Bowling National Championships, the 12th Annual Long Dog (Dachshund Derby), and a bratwurst-eating contest. There will be music on a downtown German stage.

  1. The 23rd Annual Breckenridge Oktoberfest, September 8-10

Breckenridge lays claim to the largest Oktoberfest street party in the Rocky Mountains. More than three dozen vendors will sell genuine German cuisine and brew. German-themed games include Hammerschlagan, a nail-driving contest. There will be Bavarian lederhosen, oompah music, polka dancing, a 5K run, and a ceremonial keg tapping.

  1. Oktoberfest at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, Sandy, Utah, August 12-October 15 (Saturdays, Sundays, and Labor Day)

This event started in 1973 and now draws a total of more than 60,000 visitors. The biergarten has more than 50 varieties of beer, both traditional German and local brews. Authentic German food and music, handmade arts and crafts, and children’s activities are on tap.

  1. Vail Oktoberfest, September 8-10 and 15-17, 2017

Vail’s admission-free event includes traditional food and Paulaner beer, Bavarian music, dancing, yodeling, and contests for bratwurst eating, keg bowling, stein lifting, and best Oktoberfest costume. Free concerts are on Saturday nights. Children’s events include crafts, entertainers, and a 1K fun run.

  1. Ninth Annual Steamboat OktoberWest, September 15-16

Steamboat’s Friday Beer Stroll among participating restaurants features Colorado, not German, beer. Saturday’s event in Gondola Square at the Steamboat Mountain Village includes live music, all the Colorado beef you can taste at an “I Love Beef Cook Off” from local restaurants, and 45 Rocky Mountain brewers, each sampling two beers, in the beer garden.

  1. Keystone’s Oktoberfest, River Run Village, September 2

The Das Bier Burner 5K initiates the events at noon, with a pint of craft beer for any adult who crosses the finish line. New Belgium Brewery will bring Colorado craft beers with German roots. Concerts and kids events are free.

  1. FORToberfest, Fort Collins, September 16

The last music festival in Old Town Square includes 10-plus hours of live music – funk, bluegrass, rock, indie, and more – seasonal beer from more than six local breweries, and bicycle booths. Costumes are encouraged. Admission is free.

  1. Red River Oktoberfest, New Mexico, October 6-8

At the annual Oktoberfest in Brandenburg Park, you can vote for the best brews from local microbreweries, eat German food, buy crafts from local vendors, and listen to German oompah music. There will be a Miss Oktoberfest contest, competitive stein holding, chicken yodeling, and brat-eating, as well as activities for kids.

  1. Art & Oktoberfest, Boulder, September 29-October 1

This event in Boulder’s Band Shell Central Park includes arts and crafts, music, German food, polka, and a German beer garden. Dancing and polka lessons will be held in front of the bandshell.

  1. Grand Targhee’s 2nd Annual Oktoberfest, Alta, Wyoming, September 16.

This festival includes brats, sausages, pretzels, music, and beers from local microbreweries. Events for children include face painting, potato sack races, and a pumpkin toss.

Haunted Mine Drop Is World’s Deepest Drop Tower Ride

 The Haunted Mine Drop at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park isn’t the tallest drop tower in the world – just the deepest. No other drop tower goes underground like the Haunted Mine Drop’s 110-foot descent into Iron Mountain. Riders say the darkness below the surface multiplies the intensity of the experience.

The Haunted Mine Drop is also one of the few drop towers embedded in an active narrative. Riders take the role of Glenwood Mining Corporation miners showing up for their first day of work at the site that had been shut down years ago because of a deadly accident. While they wait to enter, they listen to scary mining tales. After the drop, ghosts at the bottom finish the story before the workers ascend to the surface. Similar context-enhanced drops include the recently-opened “Mission Breakout,” a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed ride that replaced the “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” at Disney California Adventure, and “Tower of Terror” at Tokyo DisneySea that retains the haunted-hotel narrative.

Guests at the Haunted Mine Drop

Competition among amusement parks is fierce for the highest and tallest drop towers. The highest is The Sky Drop at 1,591 feet 2.45 inches atop the mast of Canton Tower in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China, although the actual drop is just 101 feet 8.47 inches. That surpassed the Big Shot in Las Vegas that is a 160-foot drop but sits on top of the 921-foot Stratosphere tower. The tallest, at 415 feet, is Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California, which surpassed the 390-foot Giant Drop at Dreamworld in Australia in 2012. Lex Luthor is embedded in the Superman: Escape from Krypton tower. The tallest freestanding drop tower in North America is the 335-foot Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens in Tampa, which comes with a special twist: it’s the first face-down drop tower because guests are turned 90 degrees to see the ground before they plummet.

There’s no competition for deepest drop tower. There’s only the Haunted Mine Drop at Glenwood Caverns Amusement Park, on top of Iron Mountain at 7,000 feet above sea level.

Great Eclipse: Follow the Moon Shadow

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park offers safe mountain-top viewing of the Great Eclipse of 2017.

Visitors to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on Monday, April 21, can watch the solar eclipse from our mountaintop safely. The Great Eclipse of 2017 that will sweep across the continental United States passes so close to us that the moon will cover 90 percent of the sun. That’s the darkest we’ve seen in daylight since about 1900.

The eclipse will start here about 10:20 a.m. and peak at about 11:45 a.m. It’s extremely dangerous to look at the eclipse with the naked eye, so we’ve stocked 200 special glasses for protected view. This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so bring the kids and grandkids. They’ll be bragging about the experience for generations to come.

You can also become a citizen-scientist, contributing to NASA’s Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program by collecting data and reporting it through the free smartphone app GLOBE Observer. “No matter where you are in North America, whether it’s cloudy, clear or rainy, NASA wants as many people as possible to help with this citizen science project,” said Kristen Weaver, deputy coordinator for the project. “We want to inspire a million eclipse viewers to become eclipse scientists.”

Of course, when broad daylight returns in the early afternoon, you can always find shade underground in the caverns or on the newly opened the Haunted Mine Drop.