7 Must See Places in Estes Park For A Perfect Family Vacation

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Estes Park, the eastern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, is only 36 miles from Boulder.  If you are planning  a trip to Colorado make sure that Estes Park is on your list! Let me share some of my family’s favorite things about our backyard mountain town. Last week it was in the 60s, which is fantastic for February, so I took my youngest up for a day trip.

On your way into town, make sure you pull over for a photo at the Estes Park sign.  There seems to always be someone else there taking a photo, so don’t be afraid to ask them to take a picture of your family. Just make sure to reciprocate!

Remember “The Shining” by Stephen King?  What about the movie?  When you’re first driving into town you will see The Stanley Hotel majestically overlooking town.  This is the hotel Stephen King had in mind when he wrote the book “The Shining.” According to King he came up with the idea for the novel after spending the night in the hotel during the off-season. There are legends of it being haunted and you can take ghost tours!

Downtown Estes Park is full of beautiful galleries and home decorating shops, fly fishing outfitters, great restaurants (Ed’s Cantina is our favorite and the view from the rooftop is amazing,) candy and ice cream shops – something for everyone.  Many of the buildings and businesses have been there for years so look for historical signs all around you. When you arrive downtown keep an eye out for parking.  It can be especially tight in the summer and you may have to walk a bit!

The Red Rose Rock Shop is a big hit with kids of all ages.  Follow Highway 36 west out of downtown Estes Park toward Rocky Mountain National Park.  The entire store is filled with amazing things to look at – from fossils to unique pieces you can buy and ship home!

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While you’re there, stroll their outside stock and enjoy the view of Big Thompson River. The shop is quaint and the staff are incredibly friendly!  (Our dog, Lola, knows to sit by the front counter so they can give her a treat.)  On one of our first visits there, we left with a list of places to explore or camp.  I love to support great local business like this!

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I highly suggested walking across the little parking lot to Coffee On The Rocks, which is more a destination than a coffee shop.  The setting is beautiful so grab some coffee or a glass of wine inside and sit by the pond watching your kids feed the ducks. Wildlife is abundant around here so keep you eyes out!  Last spring we lost count of the elk walking by!

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Once you have your coffee, keep heading west into Rocky Mountain National Park.

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  One of the gifts Colorado gives its residents is amazing weather. Even on a February day, RMNP is beautiful!  We took a short drive to one of my favorite places…a mountain meadow. In one direction, blue skies.  In the other a storm was rolling over the peaks. No matter when you come, it’s always awe-inspiring.

RMNP meadow

Historic hotels are a great alternative to chain hotels if you aren’t excited about camping! Mary’s Lake Lodge is where my best friend got hitched!  It was an amazing place for a destination wedding!

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The Estes Park Resort on Lake Estes is where we stayed when we came out house-hunting.  Amazing resort with amazing views!  They are both amazing and our family loves both!

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Unlike other mountain towns, it isn’t as busy in the winter as the summer, so plan accordingly. Visit Estes Park!

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2 Replies to “7 Must See Places in Estes Park For A Perfect Family Vacation”

  1. Where on 36 is the Estes Park sign located? Is this before the lake?

    1. Yes, this is right before you descend into the valley with the lake. Good luck!

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