Voted “One of the Best Mountain Towns,” when you visit Downtown Estes you’ll understand why. The town dates back to the early 1900’s, and features dramatic views of the nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. It is like a trip down memory lane with old-fashion taffy shops, homemade ice creams and artist galleries galore. Be sure to do the Riverwalk, which is a sidewalk that follows the river to the visitors center. The trail is on the backside of the shops, and here you’ll discover more restaurants, antique stores and tea shops that you may not notice from the main street. There are more than 200 retailers so there is something for everyone. If you like rocks and gems, visit the Red Rose Rock Shop on the way to the park's entrance, to get in touch with the history of the earth.
Whether you love historic architecture or are a Stephen King fan, be sure to visit the Stanley Hotel during the day and at night. Originating in 1909, events, tours and performances occur weekly so there are plenty of ways to experience the hotel if not a guest. I suggest doing the night ghost tour, which cost $28. Creepy? Mildly. Haunted? Yes. During my tour in the basement the ghost “Lucy” decided to make herself known by closing an open door three times. Guides will point out popular ghost siting spots and suggest taking "burst" images on iphone to pick up orbs, colors, or dark matter in the images.
The irony is that on the first time I visited the hotel at night, my heart raced, I ran out of breath and my breasts went numb in the lobby. During my tour, my guide mentioned where other ghosts “leave their mark” in the hotel, one being a former 1940’s French pastry chef Pierre. He is known to “honk honk” and “squeeze squeeze” the ladies from time to time. Even ghosts can be mild perverts.
If you’re not into paranormal activities, take the daytime architecture tour or just enjoy a drink at the Whiskey Bar. During the day visit the café in the basement, which features a variety of Colorado Cherry Co. ciders. The peach cider was rather tasty and the pure cherry juice rather tangy!
There is more than 100 years of legend and lore, so it’s worth a visit, even if just for a picture.
333 E Wonderview Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
Movie lovers can enjoy a Hollywood flick in the same setting as people did in the early 1900’s. This original theater house originated in 1913 and is a historic landmark, making this the oldest motion picture theater in the United States. The interior is the same as it was in the original days, including the seats. But not to worry, blankets and cushions are provided for extra comfort. The most modern updates are the Dolby digital sound and the projection screen.
Ticket prices in 2019: $10
130 Moraine Ave, Estes Park, Colorado 80517, Phone: 970-586-8904
Estes Park Museum
This museum exhibits displays of the creation and past events of Estes Park. Like any traditional museum, one experiences display cases filled with relics, machinery and other preserved artifacts that played an important role in the development of Estes Park.
200 4th St, Estes Park, CO 80517
Located on Highway 7 and a 15-20 minute drive from town center is the historic Catholic Church. The church only operates for Catholic weddings, but the exterior and views are photogenic, so even if you don’t make it inside, the outdoor view is worth it. The chapel was built in the 1930’s and donated to the Archdiocese of Denver. The church currently has restoration plans to preserve it’s beauty, and the Pope Saint John Paul II trail. There are plans to build a visitors and heritage center.
10758 CO-7, Allenspark, CO 80510
Enos Mills Cabin Museum
Located also on Highway 7 is the historic home of the “Father of the Rocky Mountain National Park.” A short nature trails leads to the original cabin homestead of Enos Mills who was 15 at the time he built it in 1885. Tours of the home are private and made by appointment, which lasts around one hour. On the tour guests view original relics such as photographs, letters and other treasures from this Colorado snow observer, who was also a miner, inn keeper, speaker, author and nature guide. Enos played an important role in the preservation of the park. He petitioned Congress to preserve acreage in the form of a national park and recreational areas.
6760 State Highway 7, Estes Park, Colorado 80517
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