#90 The Stanley in Estes Park, CO
I've stayed in hotels, motels, inns, lodges, resorts and motor courts.
I've never stayed at a place that calls itself an historic district.
Flags & Flowers
It had rained during our entire drive through Rocky Mountain National Park. So we were pretty delighted to find the hotel drying out when we arrived around 5.
I managed to snap a photo of the waving flags and colorful flower display without any people.
It wasn't easy. The hotel and grounds were swarming. I thought we were traveling off season in September.
Don and I were in the first week of our western road trip and this hotel was looking out of place. Not only was it huge, but it looked like something from New England, not the West.
That's because FO Stanley (as in Stanley Steamer fame) missed the old mansions back home in the east. He built this wood framed building first on 160 acres in 1909.
I Love Stairs
I do appreciate a dramatic stairway and this one was hard to beat.
After we reached the first level, we had to hunt around for the extra stairs to the third floor. We have seen this trend in old hotels and it just adds to the fun.
It was actually pretty nice having an elevator option since many old hotels don't have them. Of course this one seemed to have a ghostly operator... wearing a ball cap. Wait, that's Don.
I mentioned the Stanley Steamer connection. They even had one on display in the lobby.
There was a fleet of Stanley Steamer Mountain Wagons that once picked up guests at the train station. That would be a fun arrival.
This would have been quite a sight for those arriving in Mountain Wagons, even for those wealthy East Coast travelers!
It is kind of funny though, to see how dwarfed the hotel looks at the foot of the Rockies.
The King Connection
Besides the Stanley Steamer history, it's the Stephen King connection most guests are curious about. This is the hotel where the author and his wife stayed when he became inspired to write The Shining.
Next to the Stanley Steamer in the lobby, there was a cutout for photo posing... so you could feel a part of the movie. That was a little weird.
The Stanley in 1974
There were so many renovations, it was hard to imagine what the hotel was like when guests dined in the roaring twenties. The Whiskey Bar with its copper-toned molded ceiling was hopping on Thursday evening.
I had to peek in early in the morning to imagine what it was like when Mr. and Mrs. King stayed in 1974. They were the hotel's only guests when they stayed, right before the hotel closed for the season. The dark wood in the closed off Pinon and Billiard rooms, looked more like the movie image to me.
A Scary Image
The stairs were the way to go, when we weren't lugging bags. So many odd things to see along the way. I startled myself once, when glancing at the framed portraits as I climbed.
Most of the ornate frames surrounded paintings and photos, but a few were mirrors. Mirrors can be eerie. Especially when you see a familiar looking, rumpled traveler staring into your face.
We paused on the second floor to look towards Stephen King's room, 217. I'm sure it looked a little different in 1974, but it was creepy enough to King that he woke in the night. The dream image of his young son running down the hall, urged him to get up and begin writing what became one of the scariest books ever.
Our Room 310
I think our room was considered a budget room, without a budget price. It was cozy and I loved the wooden doors.
The large wardrobe held the TV, where you could watch the The Shining, 24/7. The odd headboard embraced us in a very bold way. I felt like a baby in a cradle, unable to reach for my water glass!
I always have to mention the view, whether it's good or bad. It was cloudy when we arrived or we would have seen more mountains.
Mostly our view was of the back of the hotel, which isn't bad for the back of anything. There was an outdoor dining patio that could have gotten loud with our open windows... had the weather been nicer.
Morning was the best time, where we could have the veranda, plus the view to ourselves.
There were so many private functions and ghost tours on the evening before. I hated to leave when it was finally quiet.
I did manage a fun chat with Cindy at the desk when we checked out. She works the night shift and has heard one too many stories from guests. Only once did she feel the chill of a shadow passing behind her, that could have been a ghost. "I refused to turn and look.
I just turned on the Christian radio station, real loud." We headed for the car, past some stones and bushes. It seemed to be some kind of attempt at a hedge maze, like in the movie. Hmm? We loaded up the car, chuckling about our fun, but odd stay.
So What was Notable?
The hotel was so impressive and large that I'll never forget it. I love the history of Mr. Stanley as well as the connection to the scary book and movie.
But I think I would have been happier had there been more ghosts and less guests. It was hard to sink in and relax when I felt such a buzzing tourist vibe... almost a Disney-feel. It just made me want to go back and visit... in another era.
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My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!