Visiting Estes Park and curious what there is to do? Maybe you’ve seen the movie, The Shining and want to see the hotel that inspired Stephen King. Either way, a tour of the Stanley Hotel is sure to give you a couple of hours of entertainment.
The Stanley Hotel was built in 1909 by inventor and businessman Freelan Stanley and is a famous landmark in Estes Park, Colorado. Famously known for being the location where Stephen King imagined the plot for The Shining, the Stanley Hotel offers 60-minute historic, paranormal, and Shining tours. The Stanley Hotel is a real working hotel where guests can stay and is believed to be haunted.
Curious if a tour of the hotel is right for you? Read on to find out a bit about the history, types of tours available, and other entertainment offered at the Stanley (spoiler… it’s crazy stuff!)
I’m Cheryl and I live in the Rockies. My husband Matt and I are full-time travelers and we write travel guides to help people have an amazing trip to the West.
*We pay for our travel experiences on our dime (including our tour of the Stanley Hotel) so we are free to give our honest opinions.
What is the Stanley Hotel?
The Stanley Hotel was built in 1909 by the inventor, Freelan Stanley. He and his brother, Francis, earned their fortune by inventing the dry plate photographic process and the Stanley Steamer, a steam-powered car. He and his wife, Flora, moved to Estes Park, CO because he was dying of tuberculosis and the doctor recommended he relocate to the mountains to get out of the dirty city air.
Not only did he survive, but he and his wife fell in love with the area and decided to build the magnificent Stanley Hotel. They built it so that their rich friends from the east would have somewhere nice to stay when they visited.
The Stanley Hotel architecture was modeled after old New England buildings but contained state-of-the-art facilities (well, for back then) like electricity, running water, and a telephone in every guest room. This place was fancy with 11 contributing structures surrounding the main hotel including a lodge and a concert hall.
The Stanley Hotel got its real break when author Stephen King decided to stay here one evening as he was trying to get past his writer’s block. That night, he had a nightmare that led to the idea of the plot for his famous book, The Shining.
Although the movie, The Shining, wasn’t shot here, the mini-series was. The Shining is what put the Stanley Hotel on the map and made it a tourist destination.
Dumb & Dumber
Another notable movie shot here, and the whole reason my husband insisted we go on a tour, was Dumb and Dumber. Scenes that were filmed here include the famous race to the top of the stairs (“I won!”), the bar scene (“we landed on the moon!”), and the scene where they pull up in Lamborghinis and hand out money.
The Stanley Hotel is often believed to be haunted. When we went on our tour, the guide said that the rocks beneath the hotel made it especially appealing for paranormal activity.
Whether you believe the ghost stories or not, thousands of guests flock to the Stanley Hotel every year to learn the history of the Stanleys, The Shining, or to have a ghost encounter of their own.
What Kinds of Tours are Available?
|Day (Historic)||~$25||Lobby, Concert Hall, Hedge Maze, Billiard room. Mostly covers |
the history of the Stanleys with some ghost stories and The Shining
and Dumb & Dumber history mixed in. These tours usually happen during daylight hours.
|Night (Ghost)||~$30||Guests visit the most haunted areas of the hotel and listen to ghost stories. |
These tours usually happen after sunset.
|Shining||~$30||Guests learn the history of The Shining and get to |
see some sets from the movie…and of course, the door of room 217.
These tours usually happen after sunset.
Other Things to Know…
- Must be 8 years old or older. Also, consider if your child will find the stories scary. No babies in arms.
- Accessible. You can count on walking a little over a mile on each of the tours going both inside and outside the hotel. Each tour is wheelchair accessible.
- Purchase in advance. Tours go every 30 minutes for most of the day but they do regularly sell out.
- Tour group size varies from 12-20 people.
- Tours don’t go in guest rooms. I know, everyone wants to see the inside of room 217 but your tour will only take you to the door (even the historic tour will take you to room 217). The Stanley Hotel is a real, working hotel so tour guides are careful not to interfere with the guests.
- Paid parking. On top of the price of your ticket, you’ll need to pay for parking. It was $10 when we visited.
What Else is at the Stanley Hotel Besides Tours?
The Stanley Hotel actually has a few other (and very interesting things) to offer.
- 13 A Late Night Seance- Led by Hannibal the apparitionist, guests have the opportunity to communicate with the dead. Limited to 13 people, up to 2 shows an evening, ~$100 per person
- Underground Magic Show– presented by Felix Jones who charms audiences with his quick humor, mind reading, and illusions. Held under the hotel. Evening show, ~$60 per person
- The Vault– Experience the “other spirits” of The Stanley with this whiskey-tasting activity. Learn about the history, classifications, and best way to enjoy it. ~$50 per person.
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Should You Visit the Stanley Hotel? (Our Review)
As mentioned earlier, I paid for my own tour and receive no compensation if you book a tour for yourself. That being said… The Stanley Hotel is a great activity for almost anyone.
I visited with my family (kids and teens included) who had never read or seen the movie The Shining. None of us put a lot of stock in ghost stories either. I honestly had low expectations.
But to my delight, I was fascinated by our historic tour. We loved seeing the cool architecture and learning the history of the Stanleys. Seriously, they were amazing inventors and were key to establishing Estes Park!
I actually loved learning about The Shining too. My husband came straight home and watched the movie.
We also heard a fair share of ghost stories. Our guide was a wonderful storyteller. The stories weren’t scary (unless you find the possibility of ghosts appearing scary). The belief is that the ghosts at the Stanley Hotel are former guests and employees coming back for a visit because they enjoyed their time here during their mortal lives. They were described as “happy ghosts.“
Our guide showed us pictures of apparitions she had caught on camera and taught us where ghosts normally show up and how to take pictures of them.
The spookiest part of the tour was when she took us outside the door of room 217 and told us about Stephen King’s nightmare that led to the creation of the plot of The Shining. The hotel is old and it felt a little creepy. We think we saw the door handle jiggle during the story.
My younger children (and myself!) had chills but my teenagers and husband thought the whole thing was funny.
Our tour also took us beneath the hotel where we were surrounded by pipes and rocks which was also a little spooky. Our guide showed us pictures of ghosts in the very place we were standing.
We ended the tour outside in the re-created hedge maze from The Shining.
Overall, I think anyone visiting Estes Park should do a Stanley Hotel tour. I’m sure The Shining tour and night (ghost) tour are even more exciting, but even the day tour was enough to keep all members of my family interested.
|Go if you like..||Don’t go if you…|
|*Find stories about the paranormal complete hogwash|
*Find the price of parking and the tour a little steep
The Stanely Hotel is just one of the cool things to do in Estes Park. Curious about how to spend a day there, read our article One Day in Estes Park for some other fun activities for your whole travel group.
If Estes Park is part of a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, we have tons of trip-planning resources on our website including a step-by-step itinerary to take the stress out of planning your trip and get you to the best places at the best times.
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