Off on another adventure last month, I happened to arrive in Estes Park, Colo., about lunch time and hearing my tummy rumble, I headed up the hill to the towns’ famous hotel. I’d been told they had great food and I was in the mood to enjoy a nice “sit-down” dining experience, instead of my usual “on-the-run” meal. I drove up Wonderview Ave. (which is apply named) and arrived at the Stanley Hotel, a grand palace of a hotel, built above the town and listed as one of the historic hotels of America on the National Trust for historic preservation. Built in 1909, the Stanley Hotel advertises itself as 7,500 feet above the ordinary, just minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park and the crown of the delightful Colorado town of Estes Park.
If you come to the Stanley Hotel, do yourself a favor and walk up from the bottom of their front lawn area ... that way you can take in the whole vista-view of the spectacular mountains, as well as the grand front entrance of the hotel. I could almost see elegantly dressed ladies in their long white summer frocks and hats, strolling up the steps onto the wide porch for a lemonade or iced tea ... but then, maybe it wasn’t just my imagination, as the Stanley is supposed to be a haunted hotel ... and the large white wicker chairs on the porch felt somehow, occupied, yet were empty.
As I walked through the front doors, I entered the elegant lobby, it’s woodwork and waxed wood floors reflecting the light from the picture windows. A large brick fireplace filled one wall on each side of the room, with overstuffed easy chairs and sofas scattered round, inviting guests to relax. In the center of the room, rose a spectacular wide dark-wood staircase, its spooled white-banisters flowing upstairs past a grand arched picture window. Along each staircase wall, heavily framed portraits gazed down at me, dressed in their stiff, high-necked collars and fancy dress. Beside these framed faces, hung mirrors, which reflected the portraits from across the opposite wall ... it made me feel as if I was, perhaps, the one being looked at and not the other way round.
I headed to the front desk, where I was happily greeted and told of the amenities and rates for a travelers stay. Behind the desk, a long wall displayed two small, gold-frame portraits of a man and a woman, the first owners of the Stanley Hotel. Below these hung five rows of large brass room-keys, no doubt used during the hotel’s 100 plus years of lodging travelers and I wondered what stories they could tell if they could talk.
The Concert Hall room was on one end and I peeked inside the half-opened sliding doors to discover up on the small stage, stood a wooden door, the numbers 217 boldly displayed. It had a huge hole broken through it ... WOW, this was the door Jack Nicholson “hacked” through in “The Shining,” a spooky 1980 psychological horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick which was filmed here at the Stanley. I could almost hear those creepy words “... here’s Johnny!”
With the hair settling back down on the back of my neck and my tummy still rumblin’, I headed to the Cascades restaurant for lunch, which was delightfully yummy. As well as this restaurant, the Stanley offers the Whiskey Bar and Lounge and the Steamers Cafe for a large selection of meals and libations. Located on the lower level of the hotel, the Riverspointe Spa offers all types of services and treatments from massages, therapeutic wraps, manicures and hairstyling, to full holistic and unique gift items.
If you are in the mood for some adventure, the Hotel offers tours with experienced guides who will take you on a spooky walk through time throughout the Stanley Hotel. The popular Night Ghost Tour and seasonal Fire Engine Tours are great fun ... who knows, you may encounter one of the many spirits that frequent the halls and rooms.
The Stanley Hotel has historic charm and wonderful accommodations. A newly-remodeled Lodge, adjacent to the main building, welcomes visitors with dogs and features home-made dog treats as well as doggy beds and feeding bowls. If you’d like, there are condominiums for rent, in one-room to four-room units, all with the works, dandy hot-tubs, fireplaces and patios, so you can relax and enjoy the panoramic views.
As I headed out of the Stanley, I paused in the doorway and closed my eyes, wishing myself back 100 years... I could almost feel the breeze pulling a curl of hair from under my ribbon-hat and my white cotton dress hem fluttering at my ankles ... and of course, a big brass door key cool in my hand. ❖