The Getaway
Here's What You Can't Miss in Estes Park, Colorado

Situated about a 90-minute drive from Denver on the Big Thompson River, the small Colorado town of Estes Park offers amazing views of the majestic Rocky Mountain peaks that surround it. Estes Park may not have a large ski resort like larger mountain cities, but it does have a charming yet trendy outdoor culture. But even if exploring the mountains isn't your thing, you can still find countless options for both indoor and outdoor adventures in any season.

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01 Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park lies just minutes outside Estes Park, and no trip to Colorado is complete without a visit. Covering over 250,000 acres, this park is an outdoor lover's dream. Here, you can camp, fish, take a scenic drive, or go on a picnic. The meadows, rivers, and panoramic mountain views attract photographers year-round. Whether you want to go cross-country skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing in the winter or hiking, biking, and horseback riding in the summer, you can find paths suitable for you among the park's over 300 miles of trails.

Sprague Lake Hallett Peak and Tyndall Glacier in Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado USA benedek / Getty Images

02 MacGregor Ranch

To get a feel for the history of Estes Park, check out MacGregor Ranch. This preserved authentic ranch dates back to the 1870s, when settlers first moved into the area. Horses and cattle still graze the meadows here, and guided tours take you through a milk house, smokehouse, and blacksmith shop. Visit the main museum building to see antiques and other belongings of the MacGregor family.

03 The Estes Park Aerial Tramway

The Estes Park Aerial Tramway was built by Robert Herron, a ski lift designer who was taken with European tram and ski lift designs. In operation since 1955, this open-air tramway takes guests up Prospect Mountain and its 9,000-foot elevation by using a cable that runs without any towers. Once you reach the top, panoramic views of the Continental Divide, Longs Peak, and the Rocky Mountains await, but the views during the ride are just as impressive. This attraction opens between Memorial Day and Labor Day; tickets are affordable, and kids under 5 ride for free.

04 The Stanley Hotel

If you've seen The Shining, you're probably already familiar with the red-roofed Stanley Hotel, which was opened in 1909 and rumored to be haunted. Book a stay at this historic hotel and choose one of the "spirited rooms" that allegedly has high levels of paranormal activity, like Suite 217, where Stephen King stayed. If you aren't quite ready to spend the night, take one of the spirited tours the hotel offers to get in on the spooky fun.

Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado gregobagel / Getty Images

05 Park Theater

Dating back to 1913 and one of the more historical buildings in Estes Park, the Park Theater is one of the oldest movie theaters in the U.S. The owners have updated this theater with the newest film and sound technology, but it's still a quaint, charming place to catch a movie, documentary, or indie film.

Sunset exterior view of the Historic Park Theater and Cafe Kit Leong / Shutterstock

06 Estes Park Memorial Observatory

Colorado's open spaces and mountains make the surrounding skies unusually dark, making the Estes Park Memorial Observatory an exceptional place to take in these clear, starry views. The volunteer staff runs educational programs for stargazers who visit, including lectures about the planets, galaxies, and nebulas you can see from the observatory. Guest lecturers knowledgeable about astronomy, astrophotography, and recent space missions also occasionally visit this observatory.

07 Elkhorn and Moraine Avenues

In 1982, a flood heavily damaged Elkhorn and Moraine Avenues — the two main streets in downtown Estes Park — when the Lawn Lake Dam failed. The rebuilding resulted in modern architecture sitting alongside rustic buildings dating back to the town's early days. The restaurants and shops on these streets remain largely independently owned, making this downtown area the ideal destination to shop small and get a feel for the people living in Estes Park.

08 Fun City

An Estes Park destination since 1969, the family-friendly amusement park Fun City has a stunning view of the surrounding mountains, beautifully landscaped grounds, and plenty of fun activities. Take a ride down the giant rainbow slide, jump on the bungee trampoline, go panning for gemstones, or give the bumper cars or bumper boats a go. You can also play a round on the miniature golf course, enjoy a leisurely stroll in water walking balls, and play your favorite arcade and carnival games.

09 Lake Estes Marina

If the mountains aren't your thing, but you love the water, head to the Lake Estes Marina. You can get a fishing license, buy fishing supplies, rent a boat at the marina store, grab some snacks, and spend the day out on the water. The shoreline provides the perfect place to sunbathe, and a 3.75-mile trail winds around the lake for biking, hiking, and spotting elk, bighorn sheep, and bears.

Lake Estes Trail path in Estes Park Colorado Jen Lobo / Getty Images

10 Rapid Transit Rafting

Estes Park attracts a lot of adventurers, and Rapid Transit Rafting offers a unique, exciting way to see this part of Colorado. When the weather heats up, the ice and snow melt in the mountains, and the rivers swell, making Estes Park an ideal location for white water rafting, with varying difficulties available, depending on your skill level. The experienced employees supply the gear you need and guide you on a safe journey — all you have to bring is a little courage and a dry change of clothes.

Raft Dives IlexImage / Getty Images

11 Peak To Peak Scenic Byway

A journey through the Peak To Peak Scenic Byway — Colorado's oldest — provides a feast for the senses when you want to take a picturesque drive through the heart of the Rocky Mountains. The route is dotted with charming mountain towns, hiking trails, and ski runs for a unique blend of adventure and tranquility. The byway's panoramic views of the Continental Divide and the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area take your breath away, making this drive a must for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts alike.

byway krblokhin / Getty Images

12 Open Air Adventure Park

Get your adrenaline pumping at the Open Air Adventure Park, an outdoor park with a variety of challenges and activities for all ages. From crossing moving platforms to swinging from logs high above the ground, the park boasts a unique blend of fun and adventure. The self-guided course lets you take your time and enjoy each obstacle at your own pace. With safety harnesses and knowledgeable staff on hand, the Open Air Adventure Park ensures a safe, exciting day out for the whole family.

Kids having fun in ropes course adventure park Imgorthand / Getty Images

13 Estes Park Golf Course

Tee off at the beautiful 18-hole Estes Park Golf Course when you want to play through amid stunning mountain views. One of the most scenic golf courses in Colorado, this golf course offers an enjoyable yet challenging experience, whether you're a beginner or a seasoned golfer.

Senior men walking toward flag and hole on golf course Chris Ryan / Getty Images

14 Estes Park Ride-A-Kart

Have some family fun at Estes Park Ride-A-Kart, an amusement center with go-karts, bumper boats and mini-golf. Whether you're looking for a thrilling race with your family or a relaxing round of golf with your significant other, Estes Park Ride-A-Kart delivers family and date-night fun.

Family go-Karts vgajic / Getty Images

15 Estes Park Brewery

Sample local brews at the Estes Park Brewery, a local brewery featuring a variety of craft beers, all brewed onsite. With stunning mountain views and a cozy atmosphere, it's the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring the area. Whether you're a beer connoisseur or a casual drinker, the Estes Park Brewery offers a unique taste of Colorado.

Local Craft Brewery Customers Toast RyanJLane / Getty Images

16 Estes Park Riverwalk

Situated in the heart of town, the Estes Park Riverwalk winds around Big Thompson River, connecting downtown Estes Park to the beautiful Lake Estes. Take a peaceful stroll along this scenic path to access numerous local shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Whether you're looking for a relaxing walk, a spot for a picnic, or a unique shopping experience, this hidden gem shows you a charming slice of Estes Park.

Estes Park, Colorado RiverNorthPhotography / Getty Images

17 Estes Park Escape Rooms

Unlock the thrill of adventure at Estes Park Escape Rooms — an interactive experience that blends teamwork, problem-solving, and excitement. Each escape room has its own themed adventure where you and your team must solve a series of puzzles and riddles to escape within a set time limit. Themes range from mysterious cabins in the woods to haunted pirate ships, each meticulously designed to immerse you in the story. Whether you're a seasoned escape artist or a first-timer, Estes Park Escape Rooms delivers a fun, challenging experience that tests your wits and teamwork. It's not just about escaping the room — it's about the memories you make along the way.

Focused teenage boy examining ancient kettle in quest room JackF / Getty Images

18 Visiting the Estes Park Visitors Center

Before you lace up your hiking boots or set out to explore the town, make your first stop at the Estes Park Visitors Center. Located conveniently on Big Thompson Avenue, the center is a treasure trove of maps, brochures, and expert advice on making the most of your visit. Whether you're here for the trails, the wildlife, or the local art scene, the friendly staff can point you in the right direction, ensuring your adventure starts on the right foot.

19 Savor the flavors of Estes Park's dining scene

Estes Park's culinary scene is as diverse as its landscape, offering a delightful array of dining options that cater to every taste and occasion. From cozy cafes serving up hearty breakfasts to elegant restaurants with gourmet menus featuring locally sourced ingredients, the town boasts an impressive selection of eateries. Enjoy the catch of the day at a riverside seafood spot, indulge in homemade pastries at a local bakery, or sample craft beers at a brewery with mountain views. Dining in Estes Park is not just about the food; it's an experience that combines the best of local flavors with the town's charming atmosphere.

20 Discover the serene beauty of Lily Lake

Just a short drive from downtown Estes Park, Lily Lake offers a tranquil escape into nature. The lake's easy, level trail is perfect for a leisurely stroll or a family picnic, with stunning views of Longs Peak and Mount Meeker in the distance. Anglers will enjoy the opportunity to fish in the lake's clear waters, while birdwatchers can look out for a variety of species that make their home in the surrounding habitats. Lily Lake is a testament to the serene beauty of the Estes Park area, providing a peaceful retreat for visitors seeking a moment of reflection amidst the natural splendor.

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