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Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the iconic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, considered by many to be one of the most haunted hotels in the United States. Freelan Oscar Stanley built the original building, which opened in the summer of 1909 as an invite-only upper class resort. The hotel is most famous (or dare I say infamous) for being the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining. King and his wife Tabitha stayed at the hotel in 1974 and his experiences during their visit inspired his idea for The Overlook Hotel. 

Fast forward many decades later, my husband and I were in Colorado for vacation and decided on a whim to drive to the Stanley Hotel. (Okay, so maybe “whim” isn’t exactly the right word to use here. I learned it was a mere hour away and I strongly hinted that we really needed to go. But I digress… ) I gasped the moment I saw this magnificent hotel in the distance: the ornate colonial-style white building with a red roof and beautiful mountains in the background nearly took my breath away.

A casual visit to one of the country’s most haunted hotels

We parked the rental car and got out for a closer look. Clearly we weren’t the only people around wanting a peek at the Stanley Hotel. People meandered all around the grounds, tour guides led groups around the property and tourists packed the souvenir shop. King fans will get a tickle to see quite a few Shining memorabilia for purchase; I was quite tempted by the REDRUM wine goblet. If you aren’t a guest at the hotel, you are only allowed on the first floor. So I didn’t get a chance to see the infamous room 217, which was a bit of a bummer. However I understand the hotel not wanting a bunch of King lookie-loos creeping around. Apparently that room number gets stolen off the wall at least once a week.

Disappointed I couldn’t go upstairs, naturally we headed to the bar to drown my sorrows. Y’all. This bar is incredible! I mean, not only did they have a ton of enticing beverage options, but the actual bar itself is such a superb mix of dark wood and ornate copper ceiling tiles giving it an elegant, opulent feel.

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Standing outside the opulent Stanley Hotel with drink in hand

Drinks in hand, we looked around a bit more then landed on the front porch to finish our cocktails. We had a picturesque view of the hedge maze and snow capped mountains in the distance. (Yes, the mountains have snow on them in the summer even when it’s 98 frickin’ degrees out.) The maze is a fairly new addition according to the plaque posted at the front. Thankfully there were no topiary animals to be found. 

For those interested in ghost hunting at the legendary Stanley Hotel, they actually list the high paranormal activity rooms on their website. Obviously, those rooms do book quickly—ghost aficionados seek these rooms out first! So if you’re planning a visit to the Estes Park area and get a hankering for some spooky stuff, make sure to book in advance!