Known as a fun city, Estes Park is located at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park. Outdoor adventurers will love to visit year-round, as some of the best things to do in Estes Park, Colorado in December include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. As for unique things to do in Estes Park, CO, go horseriding with National Park Gateway Stables, or challenge yourself at Open Air Adventure Park.
When you want to chill, the mountain town’s downtown district is home to the scenic Estes Park Riverwalk and the best Estes Park restaurants. Here are a few more fun things to do in Estes Park.
1. Estes Park Aerial Tramway
One of the best things to do in Estes Park in summer is to take a trip on the Estes Park Aerial Tramway. Ride up to the Prospect Mountain summit on one of the country’s only European-style cable cars. Established in 1955, the cars travel on a set of wires connected by stations at the top and bottom. Over three million people have taken a spin on the tramway since its inception, to enjoy mountainside hiking trails and panoramic views.
2. Estes Park Visitors Center
When you first arrive in the city, head to Estes Park Visitor Center. Conveniently located downtown near the intersection of Highways 34 and 36, the visitor center is stocked with helpful brochures and their official visitor guide. There is also free WiFi and guest computers. The staff at the visitor center, which is open year-round, are always happy to share their top picks and recommendations for the best restaurants, shops, and activities in the area.
3. Estes Park Museum
Learn more about the city’s history at Estes Park Museum, which has a collection of over 30,000 objects. Its interactive exhibits include Stories Under the Stars, where you can listen to pioneer stories, and Call of the Wild, where children have to identify Rocky Mountain animals. The museum is also home to the Cobb-MacDonald Cabin from 1908, and hosts downtown walking tours in summer. This is one of the most family-friendly things to do in Estes Park.
4. Beaver Meadows Visitor Center
Beaver Meadows Visitor Center is one of seven visitor centers located in Rocky Mountain National Park, which the National Park Service manages. At the visitor center, you can watch a 20-minute film about the park; ask a ranger for recommendations and advice; purchase souvenirs, and use the free WiFi. The center’s building was also designed by Taliesen Associated Architects and constructed in the Frank Lloyd Wright-style, with earth tones that match its surroundings and straight lines.
5. Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the United States. In fact, over 4.6 million people visited the park in 2019 alone. Encompassing 415 square miles, Rocky Mountain National Park is home to looming peaks, a plethora of wildlife, over 300 miles of hiking trails, and scenic views galore. Near Estes Park, you’ll find places like Moraine Park, Deer Mountain, the Kruger Rock Trail, and the Gem Lake Trail.
6. Peak to Peak Scenic Byway
A designated Colorado Scenic Byway, the Peak to Peak stretches for 55 miles – from Estes Park to the I-70. Pardon the pun, but the Peak to Peak is at its peak in fall.. Some of the top things to do along the way include stopping in the cute mountain towns of Nederland and Allenspark; exploring Golden Gate State Park or the Indian Peaks Wildness Area; and visiting the ghost towns of Hesse and Apex.
7. Riverwalk in Downtown Estes Park
The Riverwalk starts at the local visitor center and follows the Big Thompson and Fall Rivers as they wind their way through the city’s downtown. George Hix Riverside Plaza is the heart of the Riverwalk, and it’s located at the confluence of the Big Thompson and Fall Rivers. The plaza is home to many fountains, interesting sculptures, bridges, and benches where you can listen to the rivers run. Along the Riverwalk, you’ll also find several shops and restaurants.
8. Downtown Estes Park
The Riverwalk is just one of the many things to do in Estes Park’s downtown district. It’s home to more than 200 independent businesses, including boutiques, restaurants, and art galleries. Head to Estes Park Mountain Shop if you need outdoor equipment, or visit Earthwood Artisans for artwork, jewelry, photography, and handcrafts from over 200 artists. As for restaurant recommendations, locals love Big Horn Restaurant, Ed’s Cantina, and Munchin House for its array of ice cream flavors.
9. Lake Estes Marina
Lake Estes is one of the city’s most scenic spots. It’s where locals and visitors alike go fishing, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and boating in summer. It’s also surrounded by the 3.75-mile aptly named Lake Estes Trail. The store at Lake Estes Marina is your one-stop shop for all rental equipment. You can rent kayaks, paddleboards, pontoon boats, rods and reels, and bikes to ride along the trail. The store is also stocked with souvenirs, snacks, and fishing licenses.
10. National Park Gateway Stables
National Park Gateway Stables is a seasonal attraction. Located at the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park next to the Fall River Visitor Center, it offers a range of horseback riding adventures for the whole family. This includes pony rides for children and everything from two-hour to full-day rides. National Park Gateway Stables also organizes a two-hour dinner ride, which includes a discount at Trailhead Restaurant. Visit their website for more information and to make a reservation.
11. Open Air Adventure Park
Open Air Adventure Park is the city’s first aerial adventure park, and one of the first of its kind in Colorado. There are 32 exciting challenges to face during your 90-minute adventure on the 840-ft course, including moving platforms, swinging logs, rope bridges, and aerial tightropes. Open Air Adventure Park also has an ax-throwing course, where guests have 30 minutes to throw as many axes as they can. This is one of the most fun things to do in Estes Park.
12. Patterson Glassworks Studio & Gallery
One of the more unique things to do in Estes Park is to visit Patterson Glassworks Studio and Gallery. The local gallery makes and sells many products handmade from blown glass in a rainbow of colors. This includes bowls, pitchers, platters, seasonal decorations and ornaments, vases, and assorted paperweights. Visitors can see products being made firsthand by professionals in the onsite glass blowing studio as well. Head to Patterson Glassworks Studio and Gallery to purchase a unique local souvenir.
13. Rapid Transit Rafting
Outdoor adventurers should definitely check out Rapid Transit Rafting. Operating for over 35 years, it’s the only local rafting company that offers rafting trips that include transportation from the city. You’ll pass many attractions on their Colorado River full-day trip, including Rocky Mountain National Park, Trail Ridge Road, and the continental divide. They also organize half-day tours on the Cache la Poudre River, which is a fun adventure as it’s Colorado’s only “wild and scenic” designated river.
14. Colorado Mountain School
Learn from the best at Colorado Mountain School. Colorado’s largest guide service, the company offers both courses and professionally guided activities in the iconic Rocky Mountains. Firstly, you can participate in ice climbing, rock climbing, skiing, and mountaineering courses at Colorado Mountain School. On the other hand, they offer guided ice climbing, hiking, backcountry skiing, and rock climbing adventures. Check out their website to book in for the adventure of a lifetime in Estes Park.