Throughout its long, colorful history, the mountain village of Estes Park has welcomed visitors. Early settlers discovered that it was more profitable to host guests than it was to grow crops or raise cattle.
After the brutal winter of 1875, rancher Abner Sprague built a guest lodge in Moraine Park. Shopkeeper William James settled on Fall River in 1877 intent on raising cattle, but summer visitors begged for a place to stay, so James built cabins and finally Elkhorn Lodge.
Hosting visitors made financial sense. Estes Park has built on this welcoming tradition, and today offers more than 150 lodges, bed and breakfasts, condos, motels and hotels. Most are privately-owned, priding themselves on that personal touch—homemade cookies in the reception area, fishing poles at river properties, or s’mores and cocoa around the campfire at night. No wonder Estes Park is a favorite destination for individuals, families, retirees, and even honeymooners.
After the Lawn Lake Flood in 1982, town planners revitalized downtown Estes Park with trees, flowers, benches and plaques that point out historical features. Fall River and the Big Thompson River join at the George Hix Riverside Plaza where visitors can enjoy waterfalls and sculptures as they relax on tree-shaded benches with a cup of coffee or espresso.
To the south is a stunning view of Longs Peak. From there, visitors can walk along the Big Thompson River and browse the art galleries, souvenir shops, clothing stores and sports shops along the way. Stop for lunch at a restaurant with a view of the river and elk and deer grazing on the far hillside.
Those looking for a romantic getaway weekend might consider a bed and breakfast or a secluded lodge with a wood-burning fireplace. Soak in a hot tub under the stars with a glass of champagne. Dine next to a fireplace at one of the upscale restaurants or enjoy a concert at the majestic Stanley Hotel. Sample beer at a microbrewery, taste Colorado-grown wine, or enjoy spirits at a distillery. During the summer there is a cowboy sing-a-long in Bond Park, jazz at Performance Park and bluegrass at Barlow Plaza. Most weekends feature art fairs or cultural events like the Scandinavian Midsummer and the Rooftop Rodeo.
Families have been coming to Estes Park for years because there is so much to do. Ride the Aerial Tram, race go-karts, catch fish at Trout Haven, pose for a portrait in a vintage cowboy outfit and ride a bike around Lake Estes.
Estes Park—it’s a great place to visit. If it’s your first time you’ll soon want to make it a yearly tradition.