All eyes are on the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park this time of year. The famous historic hotel draws ghost-hunters and travelers from around the world, curious to see if the sprawling campus truly is haunted.
But there’s so much more to the Stanley than its ghostly reputation.
The Stanley just completed a $30-million renovation and has totally changed since even last year.
“A lot of this has been incubating quietly and now it’s really taking off,” says Reed Rowley, spokesperson. “A lot has happened in the last six months to create a very different experience than if you came here four years ago.”
Among the renovations: the construction of a wellness center, a conference center, a film center, an amphitheater, revamped rooms, new roofs and more. What this means for travelers is the Stanley today is a different hotel than the Stanley of the past.
The hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America and the National Register of Historic Places, attracts about 430,000 visitors every year and has a higher-than-average occupancy rate. It’s rich with diverse experiences, many that you might not realize.
Everyone knows the Stanley as a haunted hotel, but here you can also:
1. Attend an intimate, national-caliber concert.
The Stanley Hotel is also a concert venue for respected musicians. StanleyLive, in partnership with iHeartMedia, brings live entertainment to the hotel. Nov. 11 and 12 features Mary Chapin Carpenter. Coming soon: Rick Springfield, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Los Lobos.
Other big names to have played here in the past include Bob Dylan, Tony Bennet and Barbra Streisand.
Although many people may not think of the Stanley as a concert venue, music at the Stanley is not new. Concerts have been held here since the beginning. Founder F.O. Stanley was a violin maker and his wife, Flora, played the piano. They both loved music.
Local tip: Look for a VIP package that includes lodging and concert tickets.
2. Plan a wellness vacation.
Wellness tourism is a huge trend, and the Stanley is tapping into that. Starting this spring, the Stanley will offer luxury spa treatments to help it compete with other luxury mountain resorts in the state.
Part of the renovations is the new Estes Park Wellness Center, which will focus on weight loss and health. The center will boast a 15,000-square-foot fitness facility and offer health-focused retreats that will help travelers with diet, nutrition, stress management and other health goals.
3. Stay in a modern, state-of-the-art room.
The Stanley is known for its historic architecture and decor but you can also stay in a newly redesigned room if you want that modern, boutique feeling. The Lodge at The Stanley, formerly The Manor House (located next to the main building), offers 40 freshly renovated rooms, with super comfy beds (no, really, like the most comfortable beds in Colorado), complete with designer bedding and three-chambered pillows. In the cozy century-plus-year-old rooms, you’ll be surprised to find modern amenities like iHome clocks with outlets for your smartphones, free wifi, flatscreen TVs and even free farm-fresh breakfast for all guests in the Manor Hall.
Breakfast includes fresh-baked pastries and scones, fruit from local farms, house-made granola and the occasional cinnamon sticky bun or upside-down caramel banana muffin.
The Lodge is also dog-friendly. Your furry friend will be greeted with homemade dog biscuits, a dog bed and food and water bowls.
4. Book a guided tour to climb frozen waterfalls.
Being located a short drive from Rocky Mountain National Park means plenty of opportunities to explore with Mother Nature. The Stanley organizes outdoor adventure packages with the outfitter Kent Mountain Adventure Center. Pick your own activity, such as climbing frozen waterfalls in the winter.
In 2016, the Stanley partnered with REI Outdoor School to offer all kinds of warm-weather outings, classes and events. The outdoor concierge offers everything from guided hikes to avalanche safety courses to the fine art of S’mores making. Learn how to take the best nature photos, how to climb a fourteener, all about geocaching and pro tips on camp cooking.
5. Gather at the outdoor amphitheater.
This fall, the Stanley is scheduled to open its $8.2-million indoor-outdoor amphitheater hidden in the woods behind the hotel. The Pavilion Events Center will offer 18,000-square-feet of performance and conference space.
The space will have seats for 250 people, making it ideal for conventions, weddings, classes, corporate retreats and other gatherings. The facility will include classrooms, a horror museum, a theater and even an artist-in-residence program. It will tap into the inspiration of Colorado’s wilderness right in the heart of the mountains.
6. Try the state’s largest selection of whiskey.
The Stanley’s Whiskey Bar and Lounge is home to the largest selection of whiskey and single malt scotches in Colorado. While we haven’t counted (or tried) them all, the list is impressive. The bar also has a lunch and dinner menu, but where we think it really shines is its historic cocktail menu. Sip some old-fashioned drinks in an old-fashioned space. Even if you don’t like whiskey (tragic!), there’s wine and a full bar. Try the 291 Sm’oaked Old Fashion. Or better yet, the Redrum Punch. We dare you.
7. Hop on the party bus.
Boulder, this one’s just for you. As part of the Stanley’s musical line-up for 2018, it’s bringing in Leftover Salmon. There’s a special tour bus shuttling fans directly from Boulder to the Stanley. In addition to their intimate concert, there’s a small workshop to jam with the band. The event is March 9-11.
8. See live comedy and magic shows.
Music isn’t the extent of the entertainment at the Stanley. The hotel also brings in live comedy and magicians, like illusionist Aiden Sinclair, who appeared on “America’s Got Talent” and “Penn & Teller Fool Us.” He will bring a 90-minute show to the haunted hotel, complete with a Victorian “theatrical seance.” The claim: His magic will bring you face-to-face with the hotel’s ghosts.
9. Buy Colorado cherry pie at the local vendor.
This area of Colorado is known for its cherry trees that make cherry pie, cherry cider, cherry jam, cherry everything. The Stanley has recently opened a handful of new local businesses inside the hotel, including one that sells famous Northern Colorado cherry pie.
Check out Steamers Cafe, for fresh pastries, ice cream, sandwiches and more.