The Rockies are calling, people. I was lucky enough to visit Estes Park, Colorado and get the star treatment as I toured the park with the pros. I had never been to the Rocky Mountains before and from a first-timer's perspective, the wonderment and adventure one achieves whilst there is undeniable. Who knew I could hike at high altitudes with a llama? Not me! There are so many things to do, the words, "I'm bored" will never escape your child's lips again. At least, not in Estes Park!
Everyone knows the YMCA. But did you know that Estes Park is home to the very first? Built in the late 1800's, the vast campus spreads over 860 acres. With 250 cabins, 9 lodge buildings, and ample space to explore, the YMCA of the Rockies is the perfect family retreat. The view is stunning. There are mountains surrounding the scene, free roaming elk everywhere you look, and beautiful hiking trails throughout the area.
Set nature aside for a moment and discover the stunning Crafts and Design Center where you aren't just making lanyards--- with expert guidance, you can weave a basket, paint a silk scarf, or learn an entirely new skill.
There is also miniature golf, a beautiful pool, and plenty of sports activities around. You could spend the entirety of your vacation nestled right here and you would feel completely satisfied. Plus there's a day camp for the kiddos so you can sneak away and get a massage. Yes, really.
Fun to be had:
I have never fly-fished before. It's an art. I've seen A River Runs Through It like, ten times, and I watch as Brad Pitt (in all his glory) flings the line up and down the river catching fish after fish. Let me be quite plain: it's not easy. But Kirk's Fly Shop in the heart of Estes Park guarantees you'll catch a fish. With the unparalleled knowledge of Kirk and his staff, you are outfitted with waiters and rods and given a thorough crash-course on how to catch trout. Check out my video below to see how I did:
If you're not sure if a fishing excursion is right for you, there are several options to choose from. You can choose a full day adventure or go for a few hours. Either way, you are led through the Rockies with llamas (they are great pack animals and I didn't get spit on once. Also, if you have little ones who weigh under 80lbs, they can opt to ride them through the tougher areas of the trail) to a gorgeous river where there are 4 kinds of trout available to catch.
All the fish catching can be distracting though, and staying hydrated is important. If you're not used to the elevation, doing this trip on day two or three of your vacation is wise. Lucky for me I had this awesome water bottle from Contigo which my llama friend Bruce was clearly impressed by as well.
The history (and haunts):
The MacGregor Ranch is one of those idyllic places you see in magazines. Set on paradisal grounds that have remained untouched since it's inception in 1870, the ranch offers a youth program, garden, tours, and an education about early homesteading. Take a look back in the early days of Estes Park and the Black Canyon Creek area. The Lumpy Ridge borders the Ranch on the north boundary and offers dramatic views of the Estes valley.
Have you ever read The Shining? You've at least either seen the movie or have heard of it. Well, welcome to the Stanley Hotel, the very one which inspired Stephen King's creepiness. Though it wasn't filmed here, there are plenty of nods to the story throughout the hotel. Learn the history of the hotel and it's amazing builders, The Stanley's while getting an education about the trials and tribulations of the early 1900's.
There's also an impressive whiskey bar, a live-in psychic, a hedge maze, and ghost tours of the various buildings on the property. It's definitely a fun stop if for nothing more than to get another impressive view of Estes Park.
Eat and Drink:
Get down with a chuckwagon dinner and cowboy music at the Lazy B Ranch and Wranglers. Dinner and a show takes on a honky-tonk vibe and if you're lucky, you'll get to see the owner's son play fiddle. Definitely check their calendar to see a list of performers and make it a stop on your visit. Perfect for the whole family.
Add The Baldplate Inn to your dining stops. Part hotel part restaurant, the Baldplate has some interesting history. Their signature key room is filled with so many keys, you could probably open every door in the country. Scavenger hunts for specific "famous" keys are great for the kids and their pie list is divine. Be sure to bring a spare key with you to add to their incredible collection.
Don't forget to take everyone to the Donut Haus. Perched on the corner in downtown, this fun little shop has some pretty big flavors. They open at 6am which makes a great breakfast stop before you head out for the day. Try the cheesecake donut or lemon filled. You're welcome.
This is not a sponsored post.