Yay for all of our friends getting married!! As much as we are super excited we are at the point in our lives that all of our friends are starting to find “the one”, we selfishly also love these excuses to visit new areas and of course visit with so many of our friends.
Colorado is not a new place to either of us, but it is also not somewhere that we have been recently. It’s always been a bigger hype in my family during the winter months when everyone heads to go skiing. Additionally, there is SO much to Colorado so when this wedding trip popped up, we were immediately in.
We headed to Colorado on a very early morning Saturday morning flight. (Travel Tip: for those of you who are working and trying to travel, the best way is to bulk up on your holiday/three day weekends. For a weekend like this (aka labor day weekend), try to head out either after work on Friday allowing you the maximum non-PTO time or morph the long weekend into a longer weekend and fly out Thursday night – only taking one PTO day for a four day weekend vacation. This can definitely maximize your PTO and allow you to do more when it comes to travel.) Once we landed, we assembled our group, grabbed our rental car, and started the hour and a half drive to Este Park. Estes Park is located on the western side of Denver at the start of the Rock Mountains. Its honestly a pretty quick drive from the airport, especially when the views are so awesome and you haven’t see half of the car mates in several months. We dropped our bags off at the hotel and hit the ground running for the weekend.
Where We Stayed
The Historic Crag’s Lodge. This is where the wedding party we recommend that we stay during our time in Estes Park. As the name states, this historic hotel has been around for a long time. Located half way up the mountain that overlooks Estes Park, this hotel has fantastic views of the city below. Each room is suite style, so every room has a little kitchenette and a table area. We were able to sleep 4 in the room, but it was a little tight. Additionally, the room was a little outdated style-wise and there was no AC which is fine during the winter, but it was a little warm during the day for us. Overall, not our favorite hotel that we have ever stayed in, but it had an awesome location and beautiful views from its back porch.
Black Canyon Inn. The bride and groom of the wedding we went to ended up staying here, but because it books so fast, there wasn’t room for anyone else to stay. Although hands down, this is totally where we would have stayed if there was room. These condos were gorgeous. The true sense of lodge cabins and the mountain views surrounding are stunning! If you are looking for a place to stay in Estes Park, click the link and see if there is any availability at Black Canyon Inn.
What We Did
Kruger Rock Trail. Since we had just gotten off the plane and were still adjusting to the altitude, we wanted a hike to get us out and about, but that wasn’t going to kill us on our first day – Kruger Rock Trail was just the perfect hike. Read all about our hiking adventures here.
Estes Park Brewery. Nothing better than a cold beer after a few hours of hiking. The biggest perk to this brewery is the free tasting – yes, we did say free. First thing inside, you are greeted with a sampling bar where you can sample up to 4 different beers (or if you are smart like us, double up and sample all 8 beers between two people. Gotta figure out which is your favorite, right?!) From there, you have several different options – enjoy a cold brew on their big outdoor deck, hanker down in the dining room/bar to watch some sports (like we did) or head across the street and continue your brewery experience at Rock Cut Brewing Co.
Walk Through Town. Picture an old school, quaint little town. The main street is lined up and down with little, local shops with antiques, souvenirs, and restaurants. Nothing like spending some time wandering aimlessly and see what you can find.
The Barrel. This is such an AWESOME bar. Although, we don’t know how it would fair in the winter months, but in the summer, its perfect. The whole bar is made out of a shipping container and they have over a hundred beers to choose from. The whole atmosphere is super casual with picnic tables outside and lots of people sitting out enjoying the sunshine.
The Stanley Hotel. This historic and grand hotel has been an icon of the city since it was built in 1909. It has been the background to two different movies/show – Dumb and Dumber as well as The Shining: the Steven King TV miniseries – as well as has hosted several famous guests. After the wedding, since we were still dressed up, we figured we walk around the beautiful grounds and then make a stop at their famous whiskey bar. In the main building at the front of the main restaurant, stands a bar lined with almost every kind of whiskey you could think of – from american made to irish to new asian blends. The boys had a blast (especially in their suits) perusing the menu and sipping so sophisticated. Totally worth stopping by for a drink (although one is probably the limit seeing as it wasn’t our cheapest stop of the trip.)
Rocky Mountain National Park/Trail Ridge Road. Read about our whole experience here, but we had a blast spending several hours driving through the Rocky Mountain National Park.
Grand Lake. Located on the other end of Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park, the town Grand Lake sits on, as you guessed it, a lake. This town was SO cute – we actually fell in love with it more than Estes Park. Since this was the end of Trail Ridge Road, we took some time to walk around the lake and up the main street. We grabbed some ice cream at a small local shop and enjoyed our time outside of the car.
A few other activities that we didn’t have time for:
Kayak on Lake Estes. Right as you enter into Estes Park, there is a big lake bustling with boats, kayaks and paddle boarders. This would have definitely been an afternoon activity if we had more time to spend.
Estes Park Aerial Tram. Just below our hotel was the entrance to the Estes Park Aerial Tram, where you can take a lift up to the top of Prospect Mountain. For just $14/person, the summit boasts stunning views of Estes Park and the continental divide.
Where We Ate
We didn’t have much planning when it came to food – and honestly, we didn’t have too many meals in actual Estes Park. The one thing we can say is that you probably don’t want eat at the Stanley hotel, just go to admire the views. The food was just ok, but it was pretty pricey.
If you are looking for actual recommendations, head over to the Wandering Wilson’s page. Being from the area, they were super useful in giving us recommendations before we left. From their list of suggestions, the go-to places to eat are:
Smokin’ Daves BBQ, Penelope’s, Baba’s, and Estes Park Pie Shop
Overall, our three day weekend in Colorado was an absolute blast. We had so much in exploring a new town, those things people call mountains, and celebrating two of our good friends. If you ever visit Estes Park, let us know what you think!
Do you prefer mountains or beach?