Nestled in the heart of the Rockies is Estes Park, a charming mountain town and one of the most popular destinations for those visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. In this post, I’ll share some exciting things you can do in Estes Park from being served your dinner by a robot at a popular restaurant, encountering wildlife as you explore, riding a thrilling adventure ride through a lush forest, or sipping a drink in a famous and historic hotel that has been featured and inspired some well-known movies.
Are you ready for a fun-packed adventurous time? Explore my list of 9 exciting Estes Park things to do!
See More Elk in Town than in RMNP
Elk are the largest species in the deer family and can be found all over Estes Park. This scruffy-looking critter lined the road into Rocky Mountain National Park, we even saw a couple in the parking lot of our hotel! Be sure to keep your distance, they may seem peaceful, but they won’t hesitate to defend themselves if they feel threatened. While this isn’t necessarily something you can control, this is definitely something you will most likely happen upon while in Estes Park.
Ride The Mustang Mountain Coaster
Just past the main strip in Estes Park is the Walker Family Ranch and their really fun alpine coaster Mustang Mountain Coaster. We had free passes through our hotel and we rode the coaster a couple of times and had so much fun!
It starts off with a long, 2+ minute crawl up the hill in which the mechanism pulls you up. As soon as you reach the top, you take over the controls and can go as fast or slow as you want up to almost 30mph. It doesn’t sound fast until you’re actually going downhill. Personally, I’m convinced it goes much faster! This speedy thrill ride should be a must-visit for anyone coming to Estes Park.
Note: I only took a picture for the memories on the way up and put my phone away before I took over control. There is a recovery fee if they have to find your cell phone so it’s best to just keep it away.
Have A Drink At The Famous Stanley Hotel Bar
If you’re a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, or Jim Carrey & Jeff Daniel’s classic comedy Dumb and Dumber, then you might want to stop in to visit the Whiskey Bar at Cascades Restaurant in The Stanley Hotel to have a sip. While this bar wasn’t the actual bar from The Shining, it did inspire it. You’ll see a lot of similarities. Additionally, this is the bar you saw Carrey’s character Lloyd Christmas lament at this bar in Dumb and Dumber. In fact, you’ll even spot the “Man Lands on the Moon” newspaper article he comments on framed on the wall so you can reenact that funny scene.
You can tour the Stanley Hotel, enjoy dinner at The Post, or try the giant maze in front of the hotel, too.
Shop Fun Touristy Shops The Main Strip
We loved walking through the quaint mountain town’s main strip on Elkhorn Avenue, full of tourist-filled shops sprinkled with some unique gems. On the west end, views of the mountain greet you and a rush of water flowing from Fall River fills your ears from nearby Tregent Park. The rest of the strip is several walkable blocks full of t-shirt shops, Christmas ornament shops, bookstores, restaurants, and more. A few favorite shops were The Danish Cone Factory, Penelope’s Old Time Burgers, Ore Cart Rock Shop, and Grandma’s Mountain Cookies, to name a few.
Eat a Burger and Fries at The Famous Penelope’s Old Time Burgers
Step back in time with this diner-esque burger shop that claims to be “world famous”. They offer fresh burgers cooked to order, old-fashioned malts, and sodas you don’t see as often these days. I liked the kitschy decor and thought the burgers and fries were quite tasty. It’s definitely a spot to hit up at least once during your visit.
Indulge in Ice Cream at The Danish Cone Factory
This ice cream shop intrigued us with their Danish Waffle Cone Maker in the window, apparently, it’s one of only 7 in existence. The shop is half ice cream and half taffy shop. You can choose from a variety of custom-made waffle cones, homemade ice cream, shakes, malts, and other treats. I ordered a cookies and cream ice cream and a cookies and cream waffle cone. Delicious combo.
Have a Robot Serve You Pizza at Antonio’s Real NY Pizza
Have you ever been served by a robot? Well, it’s definitely quite a novelty! All heads turned as our multi-tiered robot wheeled by and delivered us salads and apps before our pizza was ready. The pizza was really good, but we definitely ordered too much food. We often forget to eat lunch when traveling and my eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach.
Stroll The Lake Estes Trail
We decided to take a stroll along the Lake Estes Trail that circled Lake Estes. Just a short walk from our hotel, this was a nice and quiet walk, however, I imagine on a clear day the trail may be busier. We were getting a lot of smoke from Canadian wildfires during our visit so it was extremely foggy and the view obscured.
Explore Rocky Mountain National Park
Visiting one of the most popular National Parks is probably why you’re staying in town, so my list of Estes Park things to do would be incomplete if I didn’t give a nod to Rocky Mountain National Park. This stunning park is full of mountain ranges, calm lakes, flowing rivers, exciting wildlife viewing, and so much more. I have a post featuring 10 easy Rocky Mountain Views & Hikes You Need to See that offer a little something for everyone. Be sure to check it out as you plan your epic adventure!
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