This Denver Roller Coaster Doubles As An Art Exhibit

A rad new rollercoaster that doubles as a neon art exhibit, spiked with a fantastic sci-fi storyline, is now open in Denver.

Meow Wolf, a Santa Fe-based arts collective, teamed up with Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park to create Kaleidoscape, a ride that’s less about heart-racing drops and turns than it is about the oohs and ahhs it earns by taking riders through an otherworldly landscape of eye-popping designs. Thrillseekers can hop into an ’80s-tastic cart and embark on the 3-minute journey, which weaves through different artist-designed landscapes — and if you follow the storyline, it transcends space and time, too.

The ride is a teaser for what’s to come when Meow Wolf expands into the Denver market, opening up a full art complex.

Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park

I went on the wild ride this past weekend, and my thoughts unfolded like this: “Wow, this must be what it’s like to be inside a galactic arcade game! No, wait, where’s Michael Jordan, because I think I’m on the set of “Space Jam”?! Hold on, is this a dream that’s been hijacked by the Mad Hatter? Let me go again! Actually, please let me go 12 more times.”

What am I getting at? Basically, prepare yourself for a thrilling, mind-bending adventure. While you’ll be buckled into a cart, you should definitely let your imagination roam free.

The ride does have a storyline that’s open for creative interpretation, and that a talking robot briefly explains to riders as they wait in line, Jenny Weinbloom, the executive producer for Meow Wolf Denver, tells me. That story involves a fictional “Quantum Department of Transportation,” a municipal agency that monitors inter-dimensional travel. Riders follow a single point of light as it evolves into a planet. The scenery evolves from minimalist designs to maximalist eye candy, AKA WOW I DON’T KNOW WHERE TO LOOK, BUT IS THAT A GOLDFISH IN AN ARMCHAIR EATING CAVIAR? Seems fishy!

Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park

But here’s what I loved most about the experience: The artists were tasked with re-imagining a previous “shoot ’em up”-style ride and, as part of that, they repurposed the lasers they inherited with the set.

“We weren’t comfortable with guns being part of play,” Weinbloom says.

She explains that rather than using the lasers as instruments of destruction, they instead spurred creativity. For example, the lasers that riders can use have the potential to crack open a giant egg, set a giant moth into motion and trigger a chorus of cheering.

Meow Wolf artists excel when it comes to inheriting material, adapting it and repurposing it. After all, the popular George R.R. Martin-backed Meow Wolf funplex in Santa Fe, where the House of Eternal Return exhibit is located, was an abandoned bowling alley before artists resurrected it.

Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park

In addition to the local artists who designed the scenes for Denver’s newest ride, internally more than 70 Meow Wolf artists tackled the project, including tech crews and graphic designers.

Kaleidoscape, Weinbloom told me, is designed to stir excitement about what’s to come at Meow Wolf’s Denver location. She also hopes it inspires budding artists.

“I sincerely hope that this ride gets some really cool kids thinking about what they could create,” she says.

The Kaleidoscape ride is included in the price of admission to the amusement park.