Colorado Vacations 
Family Travel Colorado 
Your Guide to Visiting Colorado with the Kids
Activities and Attractions for the Kids in Estes Park, Colorado
Family fun in Estes Park, Colorado is easy to find.

Attractions and activities include everything from the historic Aerial Tramway to great ghost tours of the Stanley Hotel.

Learn about horseback riding, mini golf, shopping and other entertainment for kids in Estes Park. 




See Colorado's National Parks with the Kids!


Our nation's National Parks have been called the
crown jewels of America. 



Colorado is the proud home of four National Parks: 

  • Rocky Mountain 
  • Mesa Verde 
  • Great Sand Dunes 
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison 

Plan your great Colorado family vacation with our
series on Colorado's National Parks - 45 pages of information and inspiration


Start with the National Parks Directory at FamilyTravelColorado.com
              







Did You Know?

Two
famous
Colorado mountains were named for early explorers.


However, Stephen Long never climbed Long's Peak,



and Zebulon Pike never climbed Pikes Peak!





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Did You  Know?


The Peak to Peak Highway, Colorado's oldest Historic and Scenic Byway, stretches south from Estes Park



Several National Forest Service campgrounds line the route, plus access to some of the prettiest hiking in Colorado.


Little wonder that the Peak to Peak Highway is one of our favorite Recommended Trips here at FamilyTravelColorado.com. 











Article:
Visit the Prettiest Places
in Colorado
 
 with the Kids

From the
Far View Lodge
in Mesa Verde
to Eagle's Nest
on Vail Mountain,
follow this link to the
Most Scenic Places
in Colorado
for families
.
 

  
Did You Know?

More than 360 miles of hiking trails wind through Rocky Mountain National Park.

One of our favorites for trekking with kids is the easy 0.9-mile Alberta Falls hike in the rugged Glacier Gorge area.



Photo: A plastic English cop with a fountain squirting from his helmet adds
 to the fun of kids on a bumper boat ride in Estes Park . 


From its early years of settlement, Estes Park’s inspiring setting attracted adventurers and vacationers. As its reputation grew, so did the number and variety of attractions and activities offered for traveling families. 

Here is our list of favorite activities to do with the kids in Estes Park. 

Rocky Mountain National Park 


Photo: Rocky Mountain National Park is known for its
excellent ranger hikes and miles of hiking trails, 
many of which are perfect for families with kids. 


There are two roads leading into Rocky Mountain National Park from Estes Park and both have top-notch visitor centers right at the gateways. Stop here and ask the friendly folks behind the info desk about the best activities for your family. 

Depending on the ages of your kids and their interests, there are great museums, ranger talks, and ranger walks. How cool for the moppets when a real park ranger takes them on an easy hike through the natural wonders of the park and shows them all kinds of interesting things about the country they are exploring! (See our series of articles on Rocky Mountain National Park.)

Estes Park Visitor Center   

Leather couches and pillows embroidered with mountain scenes greet parents and kids who stop at the Estes Park Visitor Center on their way into town. 

Just past Lake Estes, and hard on the Big Thompson River, this log and stone building is a great place to get your bearings. Start by picking up the Official Visitor Guide. It is full of maps, seasonal suggestions, safety tips, articles on local wildlife, and a comprehensive directory of area services. 

The visitor center lobby is full of racks with brochures for lodging, restaurants, and other services. And in a very family friendly gesture, both the men’s and women’s rooms have diaper decks. 

The folks behind the information desk are super helpful with their maps, highlighters, and suggestions. For everything from lodging to restaurants to entertainment, they can help you plan the best visit for your family. 

Aerial Tramway   

A panorama of the Estes Park valley spreads before families who take the Aerial Tramway up Prospect Mountain. 



As many as 50,000 people per summer ride the vintage gondolas which glide along a 1500-foot span of cable stretching between terminals at the top and bottom of the mountain. 

During the four-minute rise up over forests and rock outcrops, kids and parents are treated to an ever widening view. Eventually they can see the whole valley as it spreads into Rocky Mountain National Park and to the base of the Continental Divide. 

A cinderblock building at the top of the tram houses an offering of cheap, brightly-colored plastic souvenirs and a snack bar. A walkway around its outside offers different perspectives on the town and hills below. 

Families can hike trails around the top and have a picnic before heading down. 

With only two gondola cars, the tram doesn’t move people very quickly. The wait in line can be awfully long, so plan to get there as close to the 9 a.m. opening as possible. Photography from the summit is better in the morning light, too. 

    

Horseback Riding



Horseback riding is one of Estes Park’s most popular family activities, and several stables offer trips from short pony rides to multi-day adventures. We chose the Gateway Stables, just outside the Fall River entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. 

The 8 a.m. ride promised fresh horses and cooler temperatures, and even at that hour, reservations were necessary. Our guide, a biology major at Colorado State University during the school year, had years of experience working with horses. She had a friendly but firm way of managing the skittish tourists on the trip, and offered common sense advice about how to communicate with our animals.  

The trail led through the forest and along Fall River into Rocky Mountain National Park. Eventually we emerged into a meadow with gorgeous views of the high peaks. 

My eleven-year-old declared it the most fun he had in Estes Park, and he wished it could have gone on all day. However, the two hour ride was plenty long enough for this city-girl’s seat and knees. 

Lake Estes Marina 

The Big Thompson River and the Fall River join in Estes Park before flowing just east of downtown into Lake Estes. On the north shore of this pretty blue gem sit the facilities for a day of family fun. 

A marina holds a variety of boats from canoes and kayaks to paddle boats and large pontoon boats, all for rent by the hour and half hour. Fuel and life jackets are included with boat rental. 

Nearby, fringe-topped pedal carts for two or four passengers also wait for folks to take them out on the Lake Estes Bike Trail near the lake. Also for rent are bicycles for kids and beach cruisers for adults. Tagalongs and bicycle child carriers are available to rent as well. All the bikes and pedal carts come equipped with bike bells that emit a pleasing chime when alerting pedestrians to the cyclists’ presence.  

Kids who want to fish and don’t have the gear can rent a rod and reel and purchase bait in the Marina Store which also sells snacks, t-shirts, and hats. 

The park along the lake shore has picnic tables and picnic shelters, a deluxe playground, and a beach and wading area - not to mention a lovely panorama of the mountains surrounding Estes Park. 

      

Shopping 

Elkhorn Avenue, Estes Park’s main road through town, is lined with a half a mile of shops and restaurants. 

Admittedly, most of the wares are designed for tourists (t-shirts and coffee mugs anyone?),  and while they carry Colorado and Estes Park labels and slogans, it’s a good bet most were actually made in overseas.  

However, there are some excellent art galleries, where the work of local artists is displayed, and a couple of shops with cute kids’ clothes. And the salt water taffy sold in several shops is a historic favorite in Estes Park.


Photo: Kids enjoy a glass blowing demonstration at the
Mountain Blown Glass Studio and Gallery in Estes Park, Colorado. 

One of the shops at the top of our list was the Mountain Blown Glass Studio and Gallery. Here, visitors can pull up a stool and watch artists heat glass until it flows and bends like taffy. The gentleman who was working on the day we visited was happy to explain to the kids what he was doing as he mixed colors and pulled the glass into lovely flower shaped vases. 

Fishing  

Two spirited little creeks run into each other in downtown Estes Park.

At the confluence of Fall River, and the Big Thompson River, the city has built a lovely park with flagstone walkways, park benches and a pedestrian bridge spanning Fall River. It is pretty spot for families to try their luck. Right across the street, on Riverside Drive, the city has provided public restrooms and a playground for young anglers whose attention wanders a bit. 

That said, we saw people fishing in the streams all through town, from the east end, right near the Estes Park Visitor Center, to the west side of the main business district in Tregent Park. 

Miniature Golf

At least three establishments in Estes Park offer miniature golf courses for families to try. 

East of Lake Estes, the Cascade Creek Mini-Golf is a part of the Ride-A-Cart Family Amusement Park. Part of the course passes by a fountain that pours over a large pretend rock outcropping to make a waterfall. 

Also look for miniature golf at Fun City, another amusement area with slides and rides south of downtown. 

Tiny Town, west of downtown Estes Park on Moraine Avenue, offers budget conscious families another option 

Small Amusement Parks



Fun City and Estes Park Ride-A-Cart both offer go carts, bumper boats, bumper cars, bungee trampolines, and miniature golf.  

Ride-A-Cart also has batting cages and a miniature train ride. Fun City has giant slides and climbing wall. 

Estes Park Museum  

Families who want to learn more about the history of Estes Park can visit the Estes Park Museum, a repository of stories and stuff from Early Man to today’s travelers. Explore a  pioneer cabin and the cute clapboard storefront that served as the in-town offices of the rangers for Rocky Mountain National Park.

Inside, exhibits offer glimpses into the lives of folks who passed through and lived in the valley. Especially gripping are the descriptions, complete with sound effects and video, of the two major floods that swept through the area - the Lawn Lake Flood, and the Big Thompson Flood.   

Tours of the Stanley Hotel 

The Stanley endures as an elegant, venerable, and grand hotel. The wealth of history housed within its walls makes it something of a museum as well. 

To that end, families on vacation to Estes Park should sign up for one of the tours that explore the old hotel and its past. You don’t need to be an overnight guest to take a tour. There are several to choose from. 

Out favorite was the Ghost and History Tour. This is a very popular activity, and reservations are essential. During the tour, a knowledgable guide led us from the narrow hallways on the top floors (originally reserved for nannies and their charges) down to the creepy recesses at the very foundation of the building. His descriptions of otherworldly phenomena were just vivid enough to give the kids on the tour a real thrill without scaring them too much. 


Photo: A favorite for the kids, the antique elevator at the Stanley Hotel
whispers of elegant guests, some long gone,
others still lingering in its reflections...

Other tours at the Stanley Hotel include Fire Engine Tours, where kids get to try on firemen’s gear and ride on an open air antique fire engine around Estes Park. 

Older and more studious kids will enjoy a rare treat on the History and Archive Tour. The Stanley Hotel Museum Curator will don special white gloves for handling rare antique artifacts, documents, and photographs. It is a extraordinary look at the fundamental stuff of history. 





 



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