If you are headed to Colorado, take a look at the best things to do in Estes Park with kids! This lovely northern Colorado town is the perfect mountain getaway for every type of traveler. Solo travel moms will love the opportunities to get the kids outside and active. You’ll find hiking trails, otherworldly views, historical sites, learning opportunities, rustic restaurants, and more in Estes Park!
Frequently Asked Questions About Estes Park
What Is Estes Park Known For?
Estes Park is known as being the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park. You will find wildlife and natural beauty around every corner. It is the perfect western U.S. mountain town.
What Is There To Do In Estes Park For Free?
If you are looking for free things to do in Estes Park with kids, you’re in luck. As a mountain town, there are tons of outdoor activities like hiking, lakes, scenic drive, and more.
Is Estes Park Worth Visiting?
Without a doubt. This lovely town is simply stunning and one of the best mountain towns in Colorado. If you have plans to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, staying in Estes Park or simply filling up on food and supplies there before you head to the park are both great ideas.
Is It Better To Stay In Boulder Or Estes Park?
If you are looking for a small-town mountain experience, Estes Park is the place to be! Boulder has a population that is around 100,000 more than Estes Park.
Is It Better To Stay In Estes Park Or Grand Lake?
Estes Park is the easy choice if you are wanting to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. Grand Lake is quieter.
What Is The Best Time To Visit Estes Park?
You can enjoy a trip to Estes Park pretty much any time of the year. However, in general, June through mid-October is the best time to visit.
How Is The Drive From Denver To Estes Park?
The quickest way to reach Estes Park from Denver is to take I-25 to US 36 East. You will be driving around an hour and a half before you reach Estes Park. This is a moderately scenic drive.
How Many Days Should You Spend In Estes Park?
If you are staying in Estes Park and also visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, you will want to make sure to plan for around three days at a minimum. This gives you a couple of days in the park and a day to explore the town. Of course, this area is so beautiful, you would not have a hard time finding ways to enjoy yourself if you were to stay in town longer.
What are the Top Attractions To Visit In Estes Park?
It is no secret that this Colorado mountain town is very nature-focused. You can find fantastic outdoor activities as well as a variety of other activities as well. Keep reading to learn about the top attractions in Estes Park.
14 Exciting Things To Do In Estes Park, Colorado With Kids
Estes Park Museum
If you’re looking for free things to do in Estes Park with kids, this museum should be on your itinerary! The museum has free admission and wonderfully explains the history of the people, architecture, and events in Estes Park. This is a fascinating museum as Estes Park is one of the towns in Colorado that has a long history as a destination community.
The town is nestled at the bottom of Longs Peak, an iconic peak in Colorado. The town and more specifically the town’s location has been at the center of important history in the United States. homesteaders, artists, Native American tribes, entrepreneurs, and others have all been a part of the history of the town. This history is perfectly displayed for guests to learn about and enjoy during their visit to the museum.
Drive The Peak To Peak Scenic Byway
If you were to drive the entire Peak To Peak Scenic Byway it would take you around three hours with some stops along the way. This scenic route is one of the best in Colorado and although you will enjoy the drive any time of the year, it is particularly spectacular in the fall. The drive starts on Colorado Highway 7 in Estes Park and ends down south around Black Hawk, Colorado.
This scenic byway will take you through some Colorado ghost towns, on the Wind River Pass, by the Roosevelt National Forest, Brainard Lake, and other iconic sites. You will have access to some of the best hiking trails in Colorado as well as remarkable mountain scenery. Driving this byway is one of the best things to do in Estes Park with kids and will no doubt leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.
Towns Along Or Near The Peak To Peak Scenic Byway:
- Black Hawk
- Central City
- Estes Park
- Golden Mountains
- Idaho Springs
- Meeker Park
Open Air Adventure Park
The Open Air Adventure Park is one of the best things to do in Estes Park with kids for those traveling with kids. This fun park has everything you and your kids will need for hours of family fun. Jump on in and enjoy 32 unique challenges at varying distances from the ground. There are activities for every age level and they even have ax-throwing lanes for older kids and adults.
As far as adventure parks go, this one is one of the best. Why? Because it is just a couple of minutes from downtown where you will be adventuring surrounded by sprawling mountain views. If the kiddos drag you out of bed early to visit the Open Air Adventure Park, stop down the street from the park to grab a coffee-to-go from Coffee On The Rocks.
One of the best things to do in Estes Park with kids is to visit Fun City. This attraction has bumper boats, bumper cars, large colorful slides, and other kid-friendly activities. You can Zorb on water, go bungee jumping, play putt-putt golf, or mine for gemstones while you’re at Fun City. Although the town is full of educational and outdoor activities, sometimes kids just want something that is tailored specifically to them.
If you are finding your little ones are itching for something different, a trip to this attraction can be just what they need to make their visit to this beautiful little mountain town the most fun. If you want, you can visit for just an hour or so and pay per ride. Or if you plan on spending more than just an hour there, you can purchase an all-day pass for $70 which allows you unlimited fun on all of their rides and activities.
It may be hard to believe but Fun City actually edged out Rocky Mountain National Park as the best entertainment place for kids!
The Birch Ruins
If you are looking for free things to do in Estes Park CO with kids consider visiting the Birch Ruins. The stone ruins are on top of a 75-foot rock outcrop that overlooks Estes Park’s main street, Elkhorn Avenue. The walk to the ruins is only a few minutes, making it a great way to kill some time if you are waiting for reservations or you just want to make every minute of your time spent well.
On your walk to the ruins, you will pass Birch cabin which was built in 1908 by the city editor of the Denver Post, Albert Birch. This cabin has a stunning copper-lined sink, built-in bookshelves and other spectacular architectural features. The cabin was placed on the State Register of Historic Places in 2001.
As you continue to the ruins you will pass meadows, pine trees, and Wyoming ground squirrels. When you arrive at the ruins, you will be greeted with a massive stone fireplace that features turn-of-the-century masonry work. The walls of the ruins from the town below and you’ll have views of Longs Peak as well as a portion of the Continental Divide from your place in the ruins.
Eat At Bird & Jim
Bird & Jim is by far one of the best restaurants in town! This restaurant is casual and rustic, yet elegant and refined. They serve hearty mountain cuisine that consists of mainly locally-sourced meat and produce. You will find the outdoor seating at Bird & Jim to be some of the very best.
Bar stools line the patio out back where you can sit with a fine glass of wine or other beverage and enjoy mountain views while you enjoy company or wait for your food. You will find delicious offerings like slow-roasted pork belly, short rib sliders, crispy tuna roll, charcuterie boards, roasted acorn squash, buffalo burgers, and more. Jim & Bird’s does not disappoint.
One of the best things to do in Estes Park with kids is to visit Lake Estes. You can enjoy a picnic on one of the picnic tables, hike the Lake Estes Trail, go cycling, rent a pontoon, or let your kids can play in the sand or green space. If you want to launch a kayak or canoe, there is a small launch fee, but it’s totally worth it to go paddling amongst the mountains and elk. The Lake Estes Trail is 3.72 miles total and is kept in great condition for guests to enjoy.
Trout Haven Fishing Pond
The Trout Haven Fishing Pond is located on Moraine Avenue and is a super serene location in the mountains. You can try your hand at angling at the pond for a hassle-free family-friendly activity. Rod rentals are only two to three dollars and no fishing license is required. This is one of the most fun Estes Park activities because you can catch your own dinner! They will clean the fish and pack it up for you so that it is ready to cook and eat when you get back to your accommodation.
Gem Lake Trail
Gem Lake Trail is best hiked between May and October. It is a 3.1 mile out and back trail that features the beautiful Gem Lake. It is ranked as moderate in difficulty and is heavily trafficked. The trail will gain just under 1,000 feet of elevation as you meander through the trees ad enjoy impeccable views of the town below.
Attend Elk Fest In Bond Park
Elk Fest is a family-friendly event in Bond Park where they have vendors, food, performances, bugling contests, and live music. The festival coincides with elk mating season which is perfect as wild elk are seen easily near Rocky Mountain National Park and in town as well. Admission to the festival is free, however, there are fees for joining the bugling contest.
The elk rut lasts from around mid-September to mid-October so you can expect the festival to be scheduled for around this time as well. Past activities and performances at the festival have included educational displays about elk, Native American storytelling and music, along with folk and blues music on the main stage.
Estes Park Memorial Observatory
If you are the type of traveler who likes to fit educational opportunities into your adventures, you will want to include the Memorial Observatory on your list of things to do in Estes Park with kids. The observatory is designated as a center for fostering scientific education in children. You can book a public or private viewing at the observatory or attend one of the scheduled events that you can find on their website.
You can find Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. This lake is particularly popular as it is visited year-round. It sits at 9,449 feet high in the mountains, about 13 miles from Estes Park. The lake is about 11 acres and is highly photographed by nature lovers in the park. You will need to purchase a park pass or pay a daily fee to have access to the lake as it is in RMNP.
The drive to the lake is stunning and you will want to make sure you arrive early if you want a parking spot as the lot regularly fills up by 9 or 10 am. Both grizzly and black bears lived in the Rocky Mountains in 1912 when the lake was named. However, grizzlies have been extinct in the park for quite some time and only around 30 black bears remain in the park. Spending time outdoors is among the best things to do in Estes Park with kids.
Stay At The Stanley Hotel
The Stanley Hotel is an iconic landmark in Colorado as it is full of charm and history. It was founded in 1903 and by the 1970s the hotel had unfortunately faded due to lack of care. However, thanks to a visit by famous author Steven King and his bestseller The Shining which was based on the hotel, the hotel may have continued to fade in popularity.
Today the hotel has been restored to its glory and has a lot to offer its guests. You can enjoy brunch at the lodge with sprawling mountain views, see shows like the Magical Underground, or simply lounge in the elegance of the rooms and interior. Although a stay at the Stanley is a bit of a splurge, it is totally worth it as it is one of the best things to do in Estes Park with kids. You can also visit the Stanley Home Museum which is less than five minutes from the hotel.
Enjoy The Views From The Aerial Tramway
The best way to see the town is from above! The tramway opened in the 1950s and has been serving visitors to the area ever since, having carried more than three million people to Prospect Mountain summit. The tram runs from the end of May to early September. This tramway is unique as it is one of just a few European-style cable cars that are operating in the United States. For those traveling with kids, you will be happy to know that kids five and under ride for free, making this one of the best things to do in Estes Park with kids.
Colorado, along with South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, is one of the best states in the western United States. If you have the chance to visit Colorado and more specifically, Estes Park, you should jump on the opportunity!
Estes Park is a beautiful town full of outdoor fun and adventure. Which of these things to do in Estes Park with kids will you do first?
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