I headed to Denver to see friends and as luck would have it, an afternoon in Estes Park was in the books for me. I would have about 3 hours to spend in Estes Park so I checked TripAdvisor for some quick ideas on what to see while there. I had driven through Estes Park multiple times a couple of decades ago when I spent two summers in Boulder, Colorado to get to the Rocky Mountain National Park but I had never stopped in Estes Park. I had no memory of it.
So, The Stanley Hotel came up in the search and it offered a 1.5 hour tour. My local friends briefly shared about the hotel so I made up my mind and bought my ticket ($23 since I was not a guest at the hotel) for the 11 AM tour.
I made it with barely a second to spare before the tour began. Scary Mary saw me walk in and asked if I was Mr. Pino. I said yes and immediately asked her if I could run to the restroom – I could not fathom an 1.5 hours waiting to go… (did I share too much?) She allowed the extra minute and I was glad.
Scary Mary, her self-proclaimed name, was funny and quirky and made for a great tour guide mixing deep knowledge about the place with humor and the dramatic touch when it came time to talk about ghosts and other supernatural stories.
The Shining and The Stanley Hotel
The hotel is more famous not for the quaint story of its birth but because of its ties to the movie “The Shining” with Jack Nicholson.
It seems the hotel was the inspiration Stephen King needed when he stayed at The Stanley back in 1974. The hotel was about to close for the season but King convinced the staff to let him and his wife stay overnight. Maybe they pranked him when they placed him in the haunted room 217… (We also hear Jim Carrey should be asked about his stay in this room…)
While the hotel was the inspiration for the movie, it was not the actual location where that movie was filmed. Most was filmed in a studio set and exterior shots were done at a lodge near Mt. Hood. Of lesser fame than The Shining, perhaps, is that the hotel was featured in “Dumb and Dumber” – especially a run up its main staircase by the two principal characters of the movie!
A little of the history of the place
The tour begins with the story with how Freelan Oscar “F.O.” Stanley and his wife Flora got to settle there. The Stanleys were an East Coast couple who had taken a trip to Colorado to help F.O. recover his health. He was pretty much almost at the brink of death as he left Denver for a time in the mountains at Estes Park. He made an incredible recovery and proceeded to build the hotel there as a way to have something comparable to the East coast life they were used to when they came out West, a place they had grown to love.
There are a few stories about supernatural events but those are best heard from Scary Mary, not me But I will say there is a special force right smack in the middle of this staircase on the 217-side of the building… Some kind of vortex if I understood right.
The Stanley Hotel today
The lobby clearly retains a feel for the past with the heavy woods and furniture arrangements. While the setting of the hotel is spectacular, and the lobby and its spaces feel special, the main guest room floors do feel a bit drab.
The maze in front of the hotel was an ‘add’ to the grounds after throngs of visitors kept asking about the maze that shows in The Shining. The hotel owners, I suppose, decided to play along and installed one (in its early stages of vegetation growth at the moment…).
The views from the front porch – and I presume, the rooms – are pretty spectacular with the town below and the mountains beyond. A key selling point to the hotel, I am sure!
The bar is pretty cool in its design, decor and feel. There is an outdoor restaurant in the back. I did not get to try neither the food nor the drinks so that may be left to a future visit! I would love to stay there in the dead of winter sometime!