Historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado

Old World meets ghostly charm at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park,  just an hour from Denver, Colorado. Located six miles from the Rocky Mountain National Park in the shadow of Pikes Peak, the Stanley is a “shining” example of romantic, secluded and haunted.

The complex includes the main building of the 135-room Stanley Hotel, built in 1909, and the adjacent the 40-room Lodge at The Stanley, built in 1910 as housing for bachelors.  The buildings were constructed in solid rock at an elevation of 7,800 feet, and of course, all buildings have been renovated, maintaining its historic allure.

Stanley Hotel Colorado

History of The Stanley Hotel

Today this historic Colorado hotel and its grounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Stanley Historic District. The neo-Georgian elegant complex was the creation of F.O. Stanley, inventor of the Stanley Steamer, who migrated to Estes Park hoping the thin air would cure his tuberculosis – and it did.

Its July 4, 1909 opening was well-received by the rich and famous, with a guest roster of many well-known people, including the RMS Titanic survivor Margaret Brown, John Philip Sousa, Theodore Roosevelt, the Emperor and Empress of Japan, and a variety of Hollywood personalities. When horror novelist Stephen King stayed in room 217 at the Stanley Hotel, it inspired him to write the novel, The Shining. Mini-versions of The Shining were filmed here. On Channel 42 in guest rooms, the hotel complex continuously airs the unedited R-rated version of Kubrick’s classic horror film, although it was filmed elsewhere.

The Shining Hotel Colorado

Arrival Experience

Driving up the hill toward the four-story, white and historic Stanley Hotel is slightly awe-inspiring. The white exterior is strikingly luminescent against the Rocky Mountain and tree-lined mountain top.  However, once you arrive, the signage for check-in is a bit confusing.  Plenty of parking can be found in front of the Lodge at Stanley. We opted for the short walk to Stanley Hotel, and near the coffee shop on the ground floor was the check-in sign.

A sweeping stairway and historic porch is the entrance to the hotel, opening onto the beautiful expansive lobby, rectangular showcase to days gone by bookended by the ballroom on one end and the music and billiard rooms on the other. (These rooms are used as meetings and event spaces.) Showcased in the lobby is one of Mr. Stanley’s historic cars.

Check-in is to the left of the winding staircase, taking a longer than usual due to some sort of snafu. Eventually, we were pointed to our accommodations at the adjacent pet-friendly Lodge at Stanley Hotel, the least “haunted” of the complex. The Lodge is much quieter than the Stanley Hotel, with its constant flow of guests and visitors, many participating in the daily ghost and historic tours.

Accommodations at The Stanley Hotel

The newly remodeled Lodge at The Stanley offers 40-rooms with a boutique hotel ambience. The sprawling porch, similar to its sister Stanley Hotel, offers comfortable chairs with a view of the Rocky Mountains.  The main floor consists of a relaxing guest lounge and updated interior and exterior. My updated accommodations were on the second floor, near the staircase, convenient and surprisingly quiet.

My room offered a comfortable queen bed with designer bedding, but the most surprising amenity was three hypo-allergenic pillows. I appreciated that as so often feather pillows are given, and I have to request hypo-allergenic.

The room was generous size with a small corner devoted to a work area, with complimentary WiFi, and a separate large bathroom. An iHome clock offers plug ins for your iPhones, iPads & iPods, and you can also sit back and enjoy flat-screen TV with plenty of channels.

Hotel Dining

Guests at the Lodge at Stanley Hotel enjoy complimentary daily continental breakfast on their main floor in the Manor Hall. The “classic continental American breakfast” is included in your room, and the elegant spread includes house made blueberry scones, various Danish pastries, muffins, yogurt, fresh fruit and cereal, in addition to juice, tea and coffee.

At the Stanley Hotel, Cascades serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The classic Americana restaurant and Steakhouse serves Colorado specialties with a farm-to-table menu tailored towards the local cuisine. See more info here.

Although I didn’t dine there, the constant flow of guests reiterated the need for reservations, and when I asked one of the departing restaurant customers, the couple reported the food was very good. An exceptional wine list earned Cascades a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Weather permitting seating is also available on the covered patio. Take your coffee or champagne to the front veranda for a view of the mountains.

When entering Cascades, you pass by a 37-foot antique1909 Rothschild Bar. The new lounge entrance serves Stanley Hotel-themed prohibition-style cocktails created by “Libation Engineers,” including Mata Hari, Corpse Reviver, Bacon Bloody Marys, and Pomegranate Mimosas. Stop at the new Cascades Whiskey Bar. Serving 300 whiskeys, it’s earned the bragging rights as the largest whiskey collection in Colorado.

Haunted Stanley Hotel

Otherworldly residents include the first owner’s long-deceased wife, Flora Stanley, who can still be seen and heard playing the piano. Choose any room on the fourth floor of the Stanley Hotel, particularly Room 418, to check your ghostly stamina. Or for the ultimate experience, stay in Room 217, where King himself stayed – if you dare!

Whether you stay or visit, Stanley Hotel’s historic ghost tour is worth the $25, and their Night Tour is most definitely the creepiest. Bring your camera and someone to hold onto, because this one will challenge even the staunchest non-believers.

If you’re really into haunting, register for the 5-hour Ghost Haunt ($60). TIP: Get the most out of your visit by booking an appointment with Stanley Hotel resident Psychic Madame Vera.

Haunted room 217 at the Stanley Hotel, where Stephen King wrote The Shining

The elegant Stanley Hotel and the adjacent Lodge at the Stanley is a beautiful complex, elegant and welcoming. The complex is romantic, yet when the sun sets on the secluded complex, you can see how it garnered its ghostly reputation.

Rates range from $159-459 at the official website. You can also book it at Hotels.com.

Accommodations were provided by the Stanley Hotel and the Colorado Tourism Board.

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