The Stanley Hotel
This Colorado hotel needs no introduction, but our boss says we have to, so here goes: Set in the charismatic hamlet of Estes Park, mere minutes away from a Main Street lined with shopping, dining and some of the best saltwater taffy on Earth, you’ll find The Stanley Hotel. This world-famous lodging delights with a storied past, charmingly historical accommodations and its amazingly close proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park.
The hotel offers four different types of lodgings, ranging in size and features. At The Stanley Hotel proper, you’ll find original historical rooms with contemporary touches. A stay here will transport you back to the early 1900s … but with Wi-Fi and TV.
The Lodge has a historical-meets-boutique vibe, while Aspire offers mountain-chic trimmings with lush features like a spa and rooftop wellness deck. Meanwhile, The Residences at The Stanley are perfect for extended stays or group trips, with one- to four-bedroom condos decked out with everything from fireplaces and full kitchens to balconies with amazing views of the Rockies.
What makes it special?
The Stanley is more than a hotel: It’s a full-fledged experience. Take the day tour to learn about F.O. Stanley, inventor of the Stanley steam car and hotel founder, as well as the history of the property and the famous guests it’s had over the years. Or brace yourself for chills and thrills on the night tour, where you’ll be introduced to the phenomena and spirits surrounding the hotel. Re-up your courage with a few rounds of old-timey cocktails at the on-site Whiskey Bar & Lounge afterward.
The most “Colorado” thing about this place
Did we mention it’s really close to Rocky Mountain National Park? In fact, it’s just a 10-minute drive to the park entrance from the hotel. The only way to get any closer would be to camp or become an elk. Speaking of elks, you’ll have the opportunity to spot them — along with bighorn sheep, yellow-bellied marmots, moose, pika and ptarmigan — as you hike the park’s 355 miles of trails.
Best room to book
This hotel’s claim to fame is its paranormal activity, which inspired Stephen King to write The Shining. Stay in room 217, the Stephen King Suite, and you might encounter the wandering spirit of former head housekeeper Elizabeth Wilson. She’s known to lend a hand with unpacking luggage and turning the lights off and on. (We imagine she’s fascinated with electricity since the hotel had gas lanterns in her day.) If you prefer to actually sleep, you’ll be pleased to hear that most of The Stanley’s rooms are much less “spirited.” (Tip: Book well in advance. The Stephen King Suite is one of the hotel’s most popular lodgings.)
Our favorite traveler review
“We came up for a quick trip and have had the best time. It’s a charming, well-kept hotel and we fell in love. The staff have been very helpful, and the room is clean and comfortable. Our bed and pillows were so comfortable! Far superior to most hotels, even the more expensive ones where we’ve stayed. We can’t wait to come back! Oh, and our tour guide for the paranormal tour was Kristin and she is an absolute gem!! Definitely take the tour when you come!” — Jenny Y., Google
Things to see and do nearby
A four-minute drive takes you to the heart of Estes Park, where you could easily spend a full day shopping and noshing. A checklist of musts includes lunch at Himalayan Curry & Kebob (garlic naan + Colorado craft beer = perfect post-hike recovery food), picking up keepsakes and cool gear from Brownfield's, and grabbing a colorful bag of sweets for later from The Taffy Shop. If you’re looking to venture further up and out, take a stunner of a sightseeing ride on the Estes Park Aerial Tramway or cruise Trail Ridge Road — a designated national scenic byway and the highest continuous paved highway in America. Wildlife sightings are almost guaranteed, and you may catch the sound of bugling elk come fall.
Photos courtesy of The Stanley Hotel