Casa Bonita Family Photo


Casa Bonita: An Immersive Treasure House of Magic and Memories

Magic is alive in the Mile High City as we await the grand re-opening of the legendary Casa Bonita! 

Casa Bonita’s interior makes visitors feel like they have walked into a beautiful Mexican town.

Casa Bonita’s interior makes visitors feel like they have walked into a beautiful Mexican town.

Courtesy of Kim Kennedy White.

First opened in 1974, the iconic 52,000 square foot “pink palace” stands at the corner of West Colfax and Pierce Street in Lakewood. Long before “immersive experience” became a buzzword, Casa Bonita offered refuge from the real world; a place to lose yourself in the playfulness of childhood; a magical wonderland of exploration, mysterious caverns, fun and games, and all-you-can-eat sopapillas. 

My first visit to Casa Bonita was back in 1980 after a family day in Lakewood where my dad grew up. We lived in Colorado Springs at the time and only saw Denver through our car window as we made our way up I-25 to visit my grandparents’ farm in Boulder County.  We rarely went to Denver, and it marked a special trip like going to Elitch Gardens and riding Mister Twister (then open in the old location at 38th and Tennyson) or heading to the rodeo at the National Western Stock Show.

Driving down West Colfax, the grand pink palace stood out in the otherwise ordinary strip mall. We would park the car and make our way past the fountain only to be met with an impossibly long line of people winding their way towards the entrance. The wait seemed like hours. When we finally had our trays of food and reached the host station, we crossed our fingers that we would be rewarded with a coveted table by the waterfall so we could feel the splash of the cliff divers. The smell of the pool, the sound of the waterfall, the mariachi music playing in the background -- everywhere we looked, so much to see -- it was magical. 

Casa Bonita Entrance Sign, reading "Because we feature live Entertainment, and because there is No Cover Charge, we must require every person over 2 years of age to purchase a dinner before entering the restaurant. We sincerely believe that you will understand after seeing: Dangerous Gunfights, daring Cliff Drivers, hilarious Puppet Shows, astounding Magicians, Dancing Monkeys, and Splendid Appointments."

An entrance sign boasting “Splendid Appointments” welcomes guests.

Courtesy of Kim Kennedy White.

Casa Bonita And The Immersive Experience

Immersive experiences are increasingly popular with their ability to suspend belief. Detailed locations, themes, and storylines allow us to imagine ourselves someplace else. We can leave our worries, jobs, and responsibilities and dive into another world and participate in our own story-making, if only for a few hours. Immersive experiences can push the boundaries of reality, offering interactive fun while spending time with family and friends.


The cliff divers of Casa Bonita

The cliff divers of Casa Bonita (including many high school swim team athletes) have famously thrilled guests for decades.

Courtesy of Kim Kennedy White.

What makes Casa Bonita a powerful example of the ultimate immersive experience?

The moment you step foot into the pink palace and close the door, you’re transported to another dimension with Mexican-themed surroundings. Notice that the building has no windows to the outside world. You can easily lose track of time, day or night. Every detail, from the colors and architecture to the waterfall and rocky cliffs, adds to the perception that you’re outside of your reality. 

For me, three key features capture Casa Bonita’s timeless popularity and power as an immersive destination:

Elaborate location: The “pink palace,” topped by a statue of the last Aztec emperor of Mexico, is surrounded by a glorious fountain. The pink and white 85-foot stucco building was designated an historical landmark by the Lakewood Historical Society in 2015.

Fun and entertainment: For our family, taking a break means having fun, lots of laughter, and enjoying time together. Casa Bonita’s Entertainment Showcase is an all-out extravaganza! Who doesn’t love cliff divers leaping from a 30-foot waterfall, Chiquita the very large gorilla on the loose, and the mayhem between the Sheriff and Black Bart?

Traditions and memory-making: Traditions give us a sense of belonging and security, and the Casa Bonita experience promises the same “surprises” every visit. When I was a kid and later with our own children, we looked forward to getting our bag of tokens, cashing in our arcade tickets for prizes, taking a peek into the wishing well, and choosing a free toy from the Treasure Room at the end. The El Mercado gift shop offered memory-making in the form of souvenirs. That Casa Bonita magnet hanging on our fridge triggers happy memories. Of course, my hands-down favorite is Black Bart’s Cave -- still scary no matter how many times you walk through!

Puppet shows are just one of the many kid favorites at Casa Bonita.

Puppet shows are just one of the many kid favorites at Casa Bonita.

Courtesy of Kim Kennedy White.

Casa Bonita has been there for us time and time again as a space to gather, celebrate milestones, and immerse ourselves in fantasy and whimsy.


Magical Moments And A Lifetime Of Adventure

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to Casa Bonita, but each visit sparks feelings of nostalgia, joy, and blissful memories. At the heart of Casa Bonita are its stories; tales of adventure, treasure-seeking, and discovery. And we connect these stories to good times with family and friends. 

My husband and I shared the magic of Casa Bonita with our (now grown) kiddos who I’m sure will continue the tradition. On one visit, we captured the event with an old-time family portrait. Another year, we celebrated Christmas at the “pretty house” decked out in festive holiday décor. Ten years ago, we visited yet again to mark the bittersweet passage of time as we commemorated our son’s 16th birthday. On our last visit in February 2019, we attended our friend and Casa Bonita superfan’s massive event, “Andrew Novick’s 300th visit to Casa Bonita Fundraiser Party” that included a special menu, scavenger hunt, unique performances, and a sopapilla toppings bar.

Then the pandemic happened . . .

Fast forward to 2023, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Casa Bonita will again be alive with magic! 

I’m excited for the future and can’t wait to try the sopapillas.

For more fun Casa Bonita memories, check out this compilation from History Colorado staff members.

And if you’d like to join in the fun, visit our History Colorado booth at Fan Expo at the Colorado Convention Center June 30–July 2, 2023, where you can share your own Casa Bonita stories. 

Enjoy the trip down memory lane!

Casa Bonita Family Photo

Alison, Arlo, Kim, and Eamon White on a family visit to Casa Bonita in 2002.

Courtesy of Kim Kennedy White.