It doesn’t get much more scenic than Estes Park, Colorado, with the Rocky Mountain vistas and natural landscapes all around you. Tourism began in Estes Park during the second half of the 18th century, predating Rocky Mountain National Park by over 40 years. When you venture up to the Estes Park area with toddlers or preschoolers in tow, you’ll want to find the best family activities and hot spots to hit with the gang.
1. Amusement Parks
When the kids want some active entertainment, Estes Park offers amusement parks that will give kids what they crave. The Ride-a-Kart Family Amusement Park (rideakart.com/) sits at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park. The toddler and preschool set will find lots to do, including riding Casey’s Silverstreak Train, miniature golf, watching an exciting water war and riding go-karts and bumper boats. Kids have to be at least 2 1/2 years old to be passengers in both go-karts and bumper boats. Check out Fun City (funcityofestes.com/) for more family entertainment. This park offers miniature golf, go-karts, bump cars, bumper boats and even a giant slide suitable for preschoolers and up.
2. Hiking and Exploring
See the sights around Estes Park in a variety of different ways. Try Aerial Tramway (estestram.com/), starting from Estes Valley and moving over the trees to Prospect Mountain. Once there, you can hang out as long as you want until you jump on a returning tram to get back where you started. Kids under age 5 ride free with parents! Head into Rocky Mountain National Park (rockymountainnationalpark.com/trails/favorite-family) for a little hiking -- even with the small fry. The Coyote Valley trail is 1 mile long, follows alongside the Colorado River and is even suitable for pushing a stroller. You might see moose if you keep your eyes open.
Help the family learn more about the Estes Park area and the Rocky Mountains by visiting a museum or two. The Estes Park Museum (colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/TownofEstesPark/CBON/1251610649658) offers free admission for everyone. Once inside, check an exhibit that challenges visitors to name wild animals that call the Rocky Mountains home. Kids can also move magnetic cows around on a display to return them to ranches. Take a tour through the Stanley Museum (stanleymuseum.org/Museum%20-%20Estes%20Park%20CO.html) to give kids a short primer on Estes Park history. The museum includes steam cars manufactured from 1905 through 1916 -- F.O. Stanley used these cars to haul tourists up the mountain to visit his posh resort.
Believe it or not, kids as little as 2 years of age can climb the indoor climbing wall at EPIC Climbing Gym (estesparkmountainshop.com/climbing-gym.htm). Don’t worry -- expert employees will handle the belaying for your tot to keep him perfectly safe. How about checking out the Cowpoke Corner Corral (skhorses.com/Cowpoke.html)? Even preschool kids are big enough to ride a pony, and a kid over age 4 can ride a big horse if he’s up for it. Rides vary from short one-hour jaunts to longer rides for kids with riding experience.