Casa Bonita Denver – What’s It Really Like?

aerial view of casa bonita denver colorado

Casa Bonita has been delighting families for years. The Mexican themed restaurant and family entertainment destination located in Denver has been named as one of the nation’s top 10 roadside attractions year after year. And Casa Bonita is super fun- but it’s also kitschy and really weird.

In this article, I’ll share all the Casa Bonita insider’s tips with you so you can decide for yourself if it’s worth a visit when you are in Colorado. But- spoiler alert- I think it’s a must-visit!

Related article: Water World Denver Family Travel Tips

One of my all-time favorite places in Colorado is Casa Bonita 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 its heyday- I remember waiting in huge lines just to get in the door, which is definitely not the case anymore.

I still love Casa Bonita though- and I find myself constantly telling people that they must visit! A lot of people look at me like I’m crazy- is the food good? Is it fun? Has it changed since we were kids?

Since I find myself giving visitor tips to Casa Bonita Denver so often, I thought I’d just go ahead and write a post with my top visitor tips- and as a sort of homage to an iconic Denver tourist attraction.

aerial view of casa bonita denver colorado

Best Time To Visit

Casa Bonita is open 7 days a week- Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm. Friday and Saturdays they are open until 10:00 pm.

If you are planning to visit on a holiday (Christmas, Easter, etc) make sure to call ahead to see if they are open. (303-232-5115)

Expect to spend about 2-3 hours at Casa Bonita, so definitely don’t show up right before they close. Also note that you can’t enter Casa Bonita without purchasing a meal. 

casa bonita entrance

We like to go on the weekends at about 4 pm- no line, food is fresh, and we finish eating before everything gets super busy.

On the weekends there are mariachis or other live music, and piñatas every hour starting about 5 pm, so if that is something you really want to do, it is important to go during those times.

Otherwise, there are shows about every 30 minutes and the kitchen is always open, so you can pretty much go anytime!

Note: You carry your own food to the table. You will get your food and non-alcoholic beverages from a window and then walk with your tray to a table.

The 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 so plan ahead or ask for extra help from the staff before you start walking to your table.

children waiting in buffet line

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Activities

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. Otherwise, here are the activities offered at Casa Bonita:

Casa Bonita Denver Cliff Divers

The cliff divers at Casa Bonita are probably the most well-known performers. Men and women divers scale the wet rocks behind a multi-story waterfall. When they arrive at a ledge, they perform dives into a gorgeous turquoise pool that is at least 15 feet deep. After waving to the crowd, they disappear underwater until the next show. It’s so fun!

Shows

Every 30 minutes there is a cheesy show performed by the divers and other local “actors.” They usually involve a bad guy, a gorilla, and some sort of silly shenanigan. Super fun, ask for a seat near the pool and the main stage when you are seated to dine so you can see everything better.

Note: We just visited Casa Bonita and they had taken the gun element from the show. However, they used to have loud pops like guns going off, and also the gorilla can be a bit scary for young children. If you are concerned, just ask the host to seat you accordingly.

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 (weekend afternoons only) is a ridiculous free for all that kids will love and parents will hate.

children at treasure chest casa bonita

Black Bart’s Cave

Black Bart is the bad guy in the shows, and he has a dark cave (probably about 200 feet of walking total) in the corner of the restaurant by the gift shop and puppet theater.

The cave is super dark inside, and there are red flashing lights, a few scary roars and maybe a floating face in a mirror or something.

The cave is perfect for 5-12 year-olds. 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 isn’t real- and there are often bands of older kids running wild through the cave while their parents sip cocktails by the pool. Enter at your own discretion if you have young kids.

Photos/Caricatures

For additional fees, you can have a caricature done of you, or take old-time photos in one of two photo booths.

The caricatures are located by the gift shop, and the artists are really nice and do a great job. I think the cost is around $12 per person.

As for the photo booths, there is one upstairs that is a bit classier, and also a lot more expensive (maybe around $11 a person).

The photo booth in the basement area that is a Mexican-jail theme and costs just $4.95 per person. Both are fun, and a good souvenir memory of your visit!

old time photo at casa bonita jail

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 in probably 30 years- they still have the Feed Big Bertha Game!

The arcade at Casa Bonita is located 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 at your table or in the gift shop. The price varies but I think it’s usually around 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 and then trying to get a whole other bag so they can ride a stupid train for 1 minute is a huge pain in the you-know-what.

feed big bertha game at casa bonita

Casa Bonita Food

Everyone always wonders about the food at Casa Bonita-, especially after South Park’s infamous episode. In the episode, they change the name from Casa Bonita to “ka ka don’t eat it.” 

Back in the day, Casa Bonita had billed itself as an “authentic Mexican food experience” back in the day,  and I remember as a kid anxiously awaiting the food as we stood in long lines just to order.

We would wind through endless turnstiles while walking past old-time Mexican decor. Once we passed the big picture window where you could see las señoras preparing fresh tortillas we knew we were almost to the food line. Everything seemed so amazing and authentic- like a real Mexican restaurant. 

Here’s the lowdown on the food at Casa Bonita:

 

menu on wall in casa bonita

You Must Purchase A Meal

Everyone over the age of 2 must purchase a meal in order to go inside the restaurant. So don’t think that you are going to just head over for the entertainment. The menu is fairly varied, here’s a summary:

Kid’s Meals are $6.00- kids can choose from cheese enchilada, chicken strips and French fries or a hamburger and fries. 

Adult meals range from $15.50 to the huge fajita platter for one that’s almost $30.00.

Craving queso? Check out our Damn Good Torchy’s Tacos Queso Dip Recipe  

Is The Food Any Good?

People always wonder whether the food is any good at Casa Bonita. The short answer is no. The long answer is…. well here it is:

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.

Tip: Along with the complimentary chips and salsa, queso and guacamole are free upon request too.

beef tacos best food at casa conita denver

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 iceberg 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. I love them, but they are not “healthy.”

The drinks are great!

Besides juice and sodas for the kids, Casa Bonita serves pitchers of margaritas, super cold beers and wine.

Sopaipillas.

Casa Bonita offers free sopaipillas to all its customers. They are amazing- freshly fried pockets of flour dough served with honey. You can tear the corner off of the dough and pour the honey inside.

casa bonita food- bottomless sopaipillas

FAQ

Tip: The waiters have aluminum foil that they can use to wrap up sopaipillas to go, and you can take as many as you want.
Does Casa Bonita accept reservations? – No. They can accommodate large groups very easily due to the nature of the restaurant. however, if you plan on celebrating a big party here, I recommend calling ahead. (303-232-5115)

Does Casa Bonita serve alcohol? – Yes, they do. It’s maybe a bit on the pricey side, but the cocktails are good and the beer is nice and cold.

Is Casa Bonita Denver going out of business? – No! There was a Dallas location that went out of business, but the Denver locations seem to be very well managed. The restaurant is meticulously taken care of, and the owners seem to take a lot of pride in the space. I would be very surprised if they went out of business any time soon- although the rumor is always there!

cartma of southpark in casa bonita jail

Discounts

Heading to Casa Bonita can be expensive, but there is a discount coupon on their website. I’d say for a family of four to do a meal, arcade and a photo you can expect to spend about $100. 

Casa Bonita only accepts printed coupons, so don’t try to hit them up with your smartphone 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. Don’t forget to tip your server. 🙂

Have you been to Casa Bonita? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

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aerial view of casa bonita denver colorado

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Costa Rica Outsider
    February 12, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    I love Casa Bonita, as you well know! Sorry the pool was closed, though. We’ll have to meet up there again next time we’re in town!