While Estes Park, Colorado, served as Stephen King’s inspiration for “The Shining,” this stunning mountain town is anything but scary. The elevated paradise is the entry point to Rocky Mountain National Park, which spans across more than 200,000 acres. It’s also home to The Historic Crags Lodge, one of the area’s premier options for Estes Park cabin rentals.
Outdoor activity lovers flock here year-round to spot wildlife, go on scenic hikes and hit the ski slopes during the winter. But those who favor après ski to the slopes can find plenty to keep them entertained during a Colorado family vacation, no matter the season. Here’s a list of things to do in Estes Park that don’t require a set of skis.
Dig in: Rocky Mountain Eats
For a town with a population of about 6,000, Estes Park has a surprising number of incredible restaurants. There are a handful of chains, but also plenty of local establishments found exclusively in this community.
Notchtop Bakery & Cafe is a great place to start your day with heaping cinnamon rolls, trout and eggs, or biscuits and gravy. Claire’s Restaurant and Bar features a menu with fresh, local ingredients and views of Longs Peak. Stop by for breakfast, lunch or dinner, where favorite menu items include the breakfast burrito, wild game meatloaf and bison strip loin.
Poppy’s Pizza and Grill is known for its pizzas, salads and sandwiches. Pies come wood-fired, and you can choose from fixed menu selections or build your own with ingredients like smoked trout and vegan pepperoni. Lastly, swing by Estes Park Brewery for a scenic overlook and indoor activities like video games and the neighboring go-kart track. Their menu includes staple dishes like pizza and burgers.
Peruse Local Shops
Browse the diverse selection of locally owned stores in downtown Estes Park. Shops offer a range of items and crafts including apparel, books and artisanal products.
Originally opened as a mercantile in 1928, Macdonald Bookshop is one of the area’s oldest stores, selling books from Rocky Mountain authors as well as writers from around the world. Earthwood Artisans has been a community favorite since 1977 and sells locally produced artwork, jewelry and handicrafts. To take a piece of the Colorado landscape home with you, visit the Red Rose Rock Shop, known for minerals, fossils and natural materials sourced from around the world and transformed into jewelry, gifts and decor.
Learn About Colorado’s Culture
Estes Park is jam-packed with culturally invigorating family vacation spots. Start the culture circuit at the Estes Park Museum, which educates visitors on the early days of the town. The museum features artifacts and exhibits such as a cabin that dates back to the early 1900s and an early Stanley automobile from the owners of the Stanley Hotel.
Catch stunning views from the top of Prospect Mountain on the Estes Park Aerial Tramway. It was designed and built by Robert Heron during World War II and continues to be operated by his family today.
The unique Reliance Fire Museum has an incredible collection of 1920s fire engines and interprets the history of firefighting in the region. Guided tours showcase the ongoing restoration work on their vehicles.
Open seasonally, the MacGregor Museum informs guests about the area’s long-running cattle ranch that has been in the MacGregor family since the 1800s. It contains the original ranch house with outbuildings, furnishings and information on the homesteading of Colorado.
Enjoy Outdoor Activities
Estes Park and the surrounding Rocky Mountains offer no shortage of outdoor pursuits, whether you’re interested in skiing or not. During winter months, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are fitting activities for beginners that allow you to see fresh powder and possibly even wildlife.
During warmer months, guests can enjoy rock climbing, fly fishing and horseback riding through local operators. Hiking is also a popular activity, especially inside the national park. Visitor’s centers inside the Rocky Mountain National Park will have the most up-to-date information on which hikes are best for your experience level and which trails are currently open.
Where to Stay
Estes Park and the surrounding Rocky Mountains are the perfect backdrop for a cozy stay at one of the area’s resorts, and The Historic Crags Lodge by Diamond Resorts on Prospect Mountain is the ideal setting for a Colorado family vacation. Surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides, this cabin retreat feels a world away from the hubbub of everyday life.
Whatever brings you to Estes Park and the Rocky Mountains, don’t spend all your time indoors. Get out there and discover what makes the area so enchanting.
Diamond Resorts International Marketing, Inc., its parents, sister companies, and subsidiaries, make no warranty, express or implied, as to the condition, capacity, performance or any other aspect of the activities, events, or service providers listed herein. No inquiry has been made into the activities or events, or the qualifications or the quality of services offered by the providers. Do not consider this an endorsement of or recommendation for any of the activities, events, or providers.