The Stanley Hotel is currently most famous for being the hotel where "The Shining" TV miniseries (not the movie) was filmed. True, author Stephen King thought up the idea for the book while staying at The Stanley, but the only ghosts were in his imagination. In gratitude, he insisted the miniseries be filmed here, which gave the dilapidated old grand hotel the funds for a decent restoration.
Prior to King, The Stanley was most famous for being the creation of F.O. Stanley, who, along with his twin brother F.E., invented the film process they sold to Eastman-Kodak, manufactured the Stanley Steamer, the best-selling car in America around 1900, and hand crafted concert-quality violins just for fun. Stanley came to Estes Park to cure his tuberculosis, built the large hotel complex and virtually the entire infrastructure of the town. The grateful locals insisted the hotel be named after him, over his protests. The whole story can be found in "Great Lodges of the National Parks, Volume Two" by Christine Barnes. The Stanley also offers history tours that cover the same topics. The Stanley isn't exactly within the boundary of Rocky Mountains National Park, which Stanley helped found, but it's close.
We were looking forward to a true "Great Lodges" historical experience here, and we weren't disappointed. The Stanley is a complex of buildings, not just one hotel. Right next to the main hotel is a half-scale version once used to house bachelors. Lots of area in the main hotel and outbuildings is now used for conferences and events, which was the only annoying aspect of The Stanley for us. The entire complex gets pretty frenetic during the day, with historic tours, haunted tours, museum tours, fire-truck rides, etc. The Stanley was a labor of love for F.O. and his wife, and they didn't mind spending their large fortune on it. It never really made any money for any owner, so today it does pretty much anything for a buck, so it's like a Victorian Disneyland during the day. The top floor is pretty crazy at night too, with ghost tours. Still, its period architecture is beautiful, and it all feels so authentic, though almost all of the original furniture was sold off years ago.
Our "historic" room (read small) on the second floor looked a bit worn, though it had been recently repainted. We could tell because there were paint spots on everything. I guess the painters didn't use drop cloths. There is no air-conditioning in the hotel, and it can get surprisingly hot at 9,000 feet in Estes Park. We had to leave the windows open all night. Fortunately, we had them on two sides of the room. The rooms across the hall on the sunny side of the building really heated up. We saw fans in the windows of all the upper floor rooms, but our ceiling fan was sufficient. At least the tour noise subsided after 10 p.m., and no one walked into our room through the open windows, which they could have done easily. Also, no ghosts. There was no fridge or microwave, not even any information on the hotel in the room. The bed and pillows were comfy and supportive. There was also no fan or ventilation in the bathroom. As I said, it was a historical experience, but we felt at home there. It was a bit pricey for what it was, yet priceless in a unique way. Cascades Dining Room was just another Colorado sports bar, though a nice one, but with no historical feeling at all. We preferred breakfast in the basement at Steamers Cafe, the Stanley's version of a Starbucks.
If you are a history, great lodges, or Stephen King buff, this is the only place to stay in Estes Park. If you are just looking for lodging close to the national park, there are probably better options for the money.
Noisy ghost tours go by the upper floor rooms at night.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.