Last month my dad and I trekked out to Colorado for our annual dad-daughter trip and decided to split our time between Denver and Estes Park. Admittedly, one of the main reasons we chose the location was wanting to stay at the famous and historic Stanley Hotel. And now that I’ve been, I can confidently say that if you find yourself planning a trip to Colorado, Estes Park is definitely the place to go and The Stanley Hotel is the place to stay!
In the early 1900s, F.O. Stanley (founder of the Stanley Steamer car) and his wife had moved out to Estes Park from the east coast after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and only given six months to live. A few years later, Stanley seemed to be miraculously cured and decided to build The Stanley Hotel as a summer resort, which opened in 1909. Early guests included high-class families like the Rockefellers, Kennedys, and Vanderbuilts, who were friends of F.O. and his wife, and the rooms filled up quickly each summer, so much so that they had to turn people away!
At the time F.O. opened the hotel, there wasn’t much going on in Estes Park, so he set out to boost the local economy and tourism in the city. And boy did he succeed! Not only did he build a road from Lyons, another popular Colorado destination, but he also brought visitors in via the Stanley Steamer car versus having them take a train ride out to the resort (which was what people did back then). And by his last year (1940), he had established sewer, power, and water companies, Estes Park’s first bank, AND helped to restore wildlife to the area.
In more recent history, you might be familiar with The Stanley Hotel as the inspiration behind Stephen King’s The Shining. At the time Stephen King stayed at the famous hotel in the 1970s, it was still a summer-only resort and Estes Park hadn’t been the fully developed town it is today. Who knows, if you stay at the hotel maybe you’ll be inspired to write a best-selling novel! After all, the setting of The Stanley is absolutely STUNNING and oh so peaceful!
The Stanley Hotel is tucked away in Estes Park, in the Rocky Mountains (check out the view from the hotel’s front yard!), about an hour and a half outside of Denver. Because it’s so far outside of the metro area, most people rent a car, but we opted to Uber out to the hotel, and take the Estes Park airport shuttle bus back. It ended up working out really well and saved us a lot of time and money!
Our room was located on the second floor in the main building and had a very historic look and feel, including photos from “back in the day” on property. How fun to imagine what life was like in the very places we stood!
We appreciated the mini-couches for sitting/luggage holding at the foot of each bed as well. I hate leaving my suitcase on the floor, and it helped us feel a little more at home being able to set up our own luggage station. The bathroom was more modernized with newer accessories and design, but you’ll notice the base of the sink is still a bit older. We could tell that while modernizing for guests is important, The Stanley is adamant about keeping those historic roots in place as well!
There are three places to dine at The Stanley Hotel – Steamer’s Cafe, Cascades, and Table. For breakfast or a quick bite, you can pop into Steamer’s. If you need to hop on the computer, this is the place to do, and you can also check out the incredible wildlife photos taken in Estes Park of all kinds of animals in the night!
The second, Cascades, a bar/restaurant, where we spent quite a bit of time! Let me start by saying if you’re an NFL fan and staying at The Stanley on a game day, you’ll be pleased to know the hotel has the football package so you won’t miss out on any football! As an Eagles fan, my dad was thrilled. Because despite being on vacation, watching the game was a must! And their bacon mac + cheese?! STELLAR, guys.
During our two-night stay at The Stanley Hotel, Cascades was hoppin’ day and night! And after our dinner in the restaurant, we totally see why. For starters, we ordered a caesar salad and grilled pear bruschetta. Both were different than the “standard” look of the dishes we’re used to seeing, but were absolutely delish, especially the seasonal pear bruschetta!
For the main course, I opted for a steak and my dad went for the game meatloaf. Both of these were gobbled up pretty quickly because they were SO good. In fact, my dad even stated that it was the best meatloaf he’d EVER had in a restaurant! By the time main courses were over, we shook our head at dessert, thinking we couldn’t possibly eat another bite. But our waitress assured us that dessert at Cascades shouldn’t be missed so we went for it. And boy am I glad we did! The raspberry sorbet crumble was out of this world!
Cascades is also home to the Whiskey Bar Colorado’s largest selection of whiskeys, bourbons, and scotch. And get this. Around 1,200 different whiskeys!! I had no idea so many varieties even existed! We sat down with one of the whiskey experts and were able to chat for a bit and do an international whiskey tasting which was really cool! I can’t even imagine how crazy it must be to be the keeper of the whiskeys!
Third and most unique, Table Restaurant, which is located in The Lodge, next to the main building. Each weekend, the hotel brings in a new chef to concoct a special themed menu for a five-course dinner. See the plates lining the top of the room? Those are all signed by guest chefs from Table!
There is SO much to do at The Stanley Hotel that you don’t even really need to leave the hotel grounds! My absolute favorite was the 90-minute Illusions of the Passed show by Aiden Sinclair (who appeared on America’s Got Talent)! Sinclair’s show consisted of historical and ghost stories and haunted artifacts, and kept the audience engaged and in awe the whole time. Not to mention EVERYONE in the room participated in some way, which was even more thrilling. I’m still trying to wrap my head around one of the parts I participated in!
On the hotel property, you can also take advantage of the REI Basecamp (yes, it’s on-site), which runs in summer and winter months. At the Basecamp, you can participate in guided hikes and take classes in things like first aid essentials and wilderness survival! While I don’t plan on ever getting lost in the wilderness, I’m fascinated by the man vs. wild life, and hey, it never hurts to be prepared! Plus, if the zombie apocalypse ever happens, you’d have a major leg up!
The Stanley also offers two tours for guests – a nightly ghost tour, and a historic tour. If you have extra time during your stay, I highly recommend taking one! We went on the historic tour and learned so much about not only the hotel’s history, but about life in the early 1900s, and about Estes Park. Plus, if you’re into hauntings, you’ll hear a story or two!