One of my all-time favorite places to go is Casa Bonita here in Denver. I grew up in Fort Collins, and have the best memories of my parents telling us- “get in the car, we are going to Casa Bonita!” I was, admittedly, a visitor of Casa Bonita in it’s heyday- I remember waiting in huge lines just to get in the door, which is definitely not the case anymore. I still love it though- visiting Casa Bonita makes me so nostalgic for my childhood. There is nothing in the wrld like Casa Bonita, and it still is a tourist attracton in the summer. It’s been well taken care of and makes me so happy to visit. So last Saturday I had a tough morning, and I said to my husband “Can we please take the kids to Casa Bonita?” We had a wonderful time, and I decided to share my top tips for visiting Casa Bonita with the whole family!
Eating at Casa Bonita
Everyone always wonders about the food at Casa Bonita- especially after South Park’s infamous episode. Casa Bonita had billed itself as an “authentic Mexican food experience” back in the day, but the food is not authentic at all. I have memories of waiting in line for sooo long to get to the food- there were women preparing tortillas in a window and it all seemed so amazing. A few details:
- Everyone over the age of 2 must purchase a meal. There are kid’s meal options at about $5.50 and several adult options ranging from $14-$30. The fajitas are expensive but looked super good when I saw people eating them on this trip. I highly recommend that you do not purchase any sort of gringo platter or American-style food. If the so-called Mexican food restaurant can mess up the Mexican food, just think what they will do to the American food. (It’s so bad, so so bad.) Check out their menu here.
- You are not going to Casa Bonita for a culinary experience. Embrace this. I almost always get the Deluxe Platter with beef (there’s a chicken option too)- I love the beef tacos and the platter is all you can eat. So I just ask the waiter for a few extra tacos and go to town. I also learned on this visit that along with the complimentary chips and salsa, queso and guacamole are free upon request too. Big Sister had fun dipping her french fries in the queso this time.
- You are not going to Casa Bonita for nutritional value. Embrace this also. There’s a taco salad option on the menu, but it’s a huge fried flour tortilla shell filled with iceburg lettuce, meat and cheese. A few years ago they introduced a chile relleno platter, and it is pretty good. It’s the cheese and green chili-filled dough pockets deep fried and covered in pork green chili.
- The drinks are great! Besides juice and sodas for the kids, there are pitchers of margaritas, super cold beers and wine.
- Sopaipillas. Casa Bonita offers free sopaipillas to all their customers. They are amazing- freshly fried pockets of flour dough served with honey. You can tear the corner off the dough and pour the honey inside. Another thing I learned on this visit is that the waiters have aluminum foil that they can use to wrap up sopaipillas to go.
- You carry your own food to the table. You will get your food and non-alcoholic beverages from a window, and then walk with a restaurant escort to your table carrying a tray. They trays can get heavy, and especially with young kids it’s important to keep everyone aware of their surroundings. At busy times, this can get especially precarious.
Best time to go
When you arrive at Casa Bonita, in order to enter and see all of the sights, you are required to purchase and consume your meal first. This means that popular meal times are also very busy times for the restaurant and can mean long lines. We went on Saturday at about 4 pm and it was perfect- no line, food was fresh and we finished eating before it got super busy. On the weekends there are mariachis or other live music, and pinatas every hour starting about 5 pm, so if that is something you really want to do, it is important to go during those times. We found, though, that the show schedule is mostly dependent on the memory of the teenagers running everything, so we definitely had to ask our waiter to advocate for the show times with the entertainment director so that we could see the puppet shows and do the piñata.
There is so much to do and see at Casa Bonita- we always spend at least three hours there. It’s a huge venue, and it is divided into many different themed dining sections. Just wandering around to see all the different themes (there are caves, a palace theme, walking under the waterfall, just to name a few) is so fun, and beginning walkers love to run up and down the carpet ramps. Here’s a list of things to do at Casa Bonita Denver
- Take old time photos or get a caricature– there are two photo booths where you can dress up and take old time photos. There is one upstairs that is a bit classier, and also a bit more expensive. There is also one in the basement area that is a Mexican-jail theme. Both are fun, and a good souvenir memory of your visit. There is also a caricature artists by the gift shop/piñata/puppet show/cave area, and the artists are super high quality.
- The arcade. I freaking love the arcade. Love it! It’s the reason I love to visit Casa Bonita- seriously. I love Skee Ball, and they have 12 machines. However- be warned. The arcade hasn’t been updated probably since I was a kid. It’s in the upper corner of the restaurant and it is hotter than hell inside. The games don’t always work, the tickets don’t always come out of the machines, and the prizes for the tickets are crappy at best. Oh, and it’s filthy! That being said, if you go with low expectations, you will be pleasantly surprised! You can buy tokens for your waiter or at a stand near the arcade, it’s 60 tokens for $10. If I’m at Casa Bonita, you can find me dunking 60 tokens into the Skee Ball machines- one after the other until they are gone. I know it’s been a successful visit when I wake up with a sore arm the next day. Insider’s tip: if you have young children, save 5 or so tokens for the exit, as there are ride-on machines that only take tokens.
- Black Bart’s Cave. The cave is perfect for 5-12 year olds. It’s super dark, and meant to be scary. As an adult, I can hardly believe it is scary, but as a young kid, it was terrifying. Kids from about 5 and up can understand that the cave in’t real- and there are often bands of older kids running wild through the cave while their parents sip cocktails by the pool. I wouldn’t recommend Black Bart’s Cave for young kids- it’s too scary.
- The shows. There are diving shows and gun shows. The gun shows have super loud gunpowder pops that have never been popular with the younger set. If you have people in your party who do not like unexpected loud noises, ask to be seated away from the pool area. There is also a big black gorilla that runs around for one of the shows, and he can also be a bit scary- again, just ask for a seat farther away from the pool area and kids won’t even notice the gorilla. The diving shows are awesome. Local high school divers jump off of the cliffs surrounding the pool and it is awesome to see. When we went this weekend, the pool was under maintenance and drained. It was super cool to see how deep it is- check the images below.
- Puppet show and piñata. The puppet show is tucked in the corner by Black Bart’s Cave, and it’s short, fairly cute. My 21 month old did not like it, as the mic was up really loud. But my four year old enjoyed it. The piñata is a ridiculous free for all that kids will love and parents will hate.
- The gift shop. The gift shop has a lot of toys from the dollar stores at a higher mark up. That being said, over the years I have found some cool decorations for the house that have been imported straight from Mexico, and at a fairly good price. There are also all kinds of Casa Bonita souvenirs like pint glasses and magnets. I always stop in there on our way out, but I usually don’t take the kids.
Follow our Do It In Denver attractions board on Pinterest for more great fun in Denver!
Heading to Casa Bonita can be expensive, but there is usually a discount coupon on their website. They only accept printed coupons, so don’t try to hit them up with your smart phone showing the coupon. Make sure to print before you go. This time, we got two deluxe dinners, two kids meals and four fountain drinks for $42.99, which was a pretty good deal.