Great Things to Do in Estes Park With Kids
Estes Park: a children's paradise by the Rockies.
Imagine a children’s playground that is the size of Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s a vast play area filled with dramatic rock formations and nature’s obstacle courses that make for a children’s paradise. Lakes, mixed woodland and snowy slopes create a varied topography that’ll keep the kids entertained at every turn. Adventures are there to be had, with ziplining, trekking and water sports.
Meanwhile, in the heart of Estes Park, you’ll find many fun things to do with kids. The main avenues are packed with elegant boutiques and fine-dining establishments. All the while, the imposing snow-capped peaks of the Rockies frame a picturesque backdrop. The little ones will love riding the aerial tramway high above the town and into the mountains. And for the older children, a glimpse of the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining will keep them up all night. So, here’s our Plum Guide look at the best things to do in Estes Park with kids.
Explore the heart of the town
The easiest thing to do would be to not visit the Rockies at all (though if you do, there's plenty to do and see in this vast national park). Relax and saunter around the town instead, making sure to take a look around the gallery of the Images of the Rocky Mountain National Park. Take photos of your children with these lovely images forming a backdrop, to trick people back home and on Instagram into believing you bothered to go into the park. Just make sure not to include any price tags, information plaques or anything else that’d give anything away. Also, check out the nearby Aspen and Evergreen Gallery for its eclectic works.
Wander through the main avenues, enjoying the serene ambiance and explaining to the kids what an ambiance is and how it’s pronounced. Snow blankets the area in winter, making for a gorgeous setting and a town almost stunned into winter silence. Choose from the many restaurants and cafés, to rest your feet after all that hiking you haven't been doing.
The Taffy Shop is one of the highlights for the kids, as it’s packed with candy. They won’t even mind having to stay away from the park if you give them enough sweets. Stuff them full of their favourite sweets and chocolates, and tell them they’d never get this kind of service out on the mountains and lakes. You’re slowly teaching them to be as much of a couch potato as you are. Then, go and rest your troubled tummy on a grassy patch in the Bond Park, looking half-longingly and half-relieved at the mountains in the distance that you’re too lazy to climb.
The Stanley Hotel
This one depends on whether your kids are fans of horror, so make sure they’re at least two or three years old before explaining the relevance of the haunted Stanley Hotel. You can take all sorts of tours of the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining. It even has several features, such as a whiskey bar, that bring back memories of that creepy film. Show your little ones the scary frontage of the hotel and let them play in the maze. Explain to them how you never want to them to look after a haunted hotel in winter and chase their family with an axe. It is, otherwise, a normal, functioning hotel, with the Cascades Restaurant one of the top fine dining options in the town. As dusk falls, see how the silhouettes of the snowy mountains seem to encroach menacingly upon the hotel.
Staying in the heart of Estes Park, head down to the Lake Estes for an afternoon of sun and water. What could be better (and easier) for a family? The lake's variety of water sports and activities make this a great option when it comes to things to do in Estes Park with kids. Rent kayaking and stand-up paddling gear and go out on the water with your little ones. See if you can stand up on the board and try to contain your rage and jealousy when you realise your kids can do it much better than you.
Go on a family hike and hope that nobody complains. You’ll come across the Matthews-Reeser Bird Sanctuary, where the kids can try to identify all the different species. Gaze longingly at the Lake Estes 9-Hole Golf Course that isn’t really child-appropriate; save it in your mind for a kid-free trip next time.
The kids will, however, enjoy the Estes Park Dog Park, which might just satiate their canine desire for a few months and save you having to get a dog for the family. Disclaimer: it might work the other way round too, and encourage them to beg for a dog. The Estes Park Museum and the Estes Valley Recreation & Park District are among the highlights surrounding the lake.
In terms of verified children’s attractions, the Estes Park Ride-A-Kart amusement centre seems to beckon them from the eastern end of the water. Play a few rounds of mini golf, join them on the go karts and watch them attend to the climbing frames. When all is said and done, watch the sunset and the boats from the Marina Pavilion.
Estes Park Aerial Tramway
This is one of the most fun and memorable things to do in Estes Park with kids. Towards the town's southern end, you’ll find Estes Park Aerial Tramway. We don’t know why they couldn’t just call it a cable car, but it sort of works: a tramway in the skies. Climb inside the little red cabins and prepare to be dangled from a string at a great height, on your way up to Prospect Mountain. Beside the lower station stands the Open Air Amusement Park, with its aerial (there’s that word again) obstacle course. Make a mental note not to confuse it with the cable car. Take on the dodgems and water bubble fights in the Fun City amusement park next-door.