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Plan your next family adventure with the very best things to do in Estes Park with kids!
Estes Park is a wonderful family vacation destination because of its wide range of activities for family members of all ages!
With exciting outdoor adventures, local wildlife, a historical & friendly downtown, and thrilling outdoor amusement parks – this town is just plain fun!
Estes Park also has easy access to Rocky Mountain National Park to fill your trip with stunning mountain views, incredible hikes, and immersion into Colorado’s abundant wildlife.
In this post, I’ll share a mega list of the best things to do in Estes Park with kids!
I include kid-focused programs, family-friendly adventures, and universally-loved activities that you and the kids will love!
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Best Things to Do in Estes Park with kids
A family trip to Estes Park, Colorado is a US bucket list destination for many families.
In fact, you’ll be absolutely amazed at the number of fun activities there are to do for both kids and adults when planning your Estes Park vacation itinerary!
With its charming downtown, easily-accessible hiking trails, and beautiful river views, the mountainous backdrop of Estes Park creates an atmosphere you can’t help but fall in love with.
Do note that several Estes Park activities are only available seasonally, but no worries!
We have an entire guide on things to do in Estes Park in winter that compliments this list.
Oh, and psst…we love visiting Estes park with kids so much that we’ve written several other guides to help you plan your trip:
- The Ultimate 7-Day Estes Park Family Vacation Itinerary
- Best Things to Do in Estes Park and RMNP in Winter
- Rocky Mountain National Park Itinerary + Best Things to Do With Kids!
- 15 Easy Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
1. Tour Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is, without a doubt, the most popular attraction that Estes Park has to offer.
With several different entrance points located within 5 miles of Estes Park, it’s super convenient to head into RMNP multiple different times when visiting Estes Park with kids.
Along with enjoying incredible mountain views, we’ve compiled an entire list of the best things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park with kids as well as tips regarding trails, lookouts, and the best spots to view wildlife.
We’ve even got a guide on 15 easy hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park that are perfect for doing with children and other beginner hikers.
If you’re planning on visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, do plan ahead, however, and check out the following note regarding park reservations.
Rocky Mountain National Park Reservations
Visitation to Rocky Mountain National Park has surged within the last decade and has led to severe crowding at many park destinations.
In order to control the crowd level and improve visitor experience, a timed entry permit reservation will be required to enter either or both Bear Lake Corridor and ‘the rest of the park’ when visiting from May 26 through October 22, 2023.
It is VERY important to visit the National Park Service website to determine when you can make reservations for your desired dates as it varies per month and date.
Timed Entry Permit Reservations are available in advance online at Recreation.gov and require a $2 processing fee.
Additional planning tip: If you’re looking for the benefit of insider knowledge along with visiting Rocky Mountain National Park landmarks that are off the beaten path, consider taking a professionally guided tour through the Rocky Mountain Conservancy.
2. Go horseback riding
One of the best ways to enjoy Estes Park with kids is by way of horseback!
In fact, exploring Estes Park’s scenic trails, wildlife, and dramatic vistas on horseback has been a favorite thing to do since early visitors started going out on trail rides in the 1800s!
Estes Park is home to several reputable horse riding stables that offer guided horseback tours of different lengths and terrain.
We loved our 1-hour trail ride at Sombrero Stables where we were able to admire the spectacular views of the Continental Divide, Long’s Peak, and the Estes Valley.
Along with Sombrero Stables, Jackson Stables, and Elkhorn stables located right in the town of Estes Park, there are also two stables located within the park (Glacier Creek Stables and Moraine Park Stables).
Additional planning tip: Check the ages required to ride before booking an Estes Park trail ride. Most stables required that children are 6 or older.
3. Ride the Mustang Mountain Coaster
Estes Park’s Mustang Mountain Coaster is, by far, one of the best things to do in Estes Park with kids!
Este’s Mountain Coaster is an alpine slide ride in which riders load into a 1-2 person alpine slide cart and are transported via an automatic motion to the top of the mountain.
Riders then cruise down the alpine slide via gravity, controlling their own speed by way of a brake bar.
Purchase a 3-ride pass (1 ride is never enough!) to this unique alpine coaster and enjoy both the epic scenery and the exhilarating ride experience!
For prices, age requirements, and other FAQs, visit the Mustang Mountain Coaster website.
4. Go on a kid-friendly rafting excursion
Another one of the best things to do in Estes Park with kids is to spend time on the Colorado River by way of a family-friendly rafting experience.
Though there are several options in the area, we loved our experience with Rapid River Transit on the Colorado River Full-Day Trip.
The experience begins in Estes Park early in the morning with a drive (via charter van) over the scenic Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park.
Upon arriving at the river launch site, life-jacket fitting and paddling lessons take place before starting the 12-mile scenic float down the Colorado River.
This trip offers a mild whitewater experience in class I, II, and sometimes class III rapids – suitable for first-time and experienced rafters.
You’ll be on the water for 4-5 hours and stop for a picnic lunch provided by the rafting company, followed by a chartered ride back to Estes Park.
(Our group consisted of family members ages 7 through 75, all of which who had never rafted before – and we all had a great time!)
For more info and FAQs visit the Rapid River Transit website.
5. Find endless fun at Fun City
For endless fun, guaranteed, you need to take the family to Fun City.
It’s the perfect place to bring kids with ample energy to get it all out!
At this Estes Park amusement park, you can experience exciting attractions, including:
- Bumper boats
- Bumper cars
- Miniature golf
- Giant slides
- Bungee trampoline
- Gemstone panning
- Water walking balls
6. Take an aerial tram ride
The Estes Park Aerial Tramway provides one-of-a-kind experiences, with aerial trams transporting you to Prospect Point Mountain’s summit.
Along with fantastic, panoramic views, there are hiking trails, a snack shop with gourmet coffee, and a gift shop with souvenirs at the top.
While the views are sweet, the tram ride itself is just as exciting.
Kids will be thrilled by this tramway, provided they aren’t nervous about heights!
Though the tram is open daily from 9 AM to 6 PM, it may close early if maximum capacity is reached.
7. Try indoor rock climbing
Colorado is famous for its climbing, though open climbs aren’t exactly kid-approved.
You can still enjoy a bit of Colorado climbing culture at the Estes Park Mountain Shop indoor climbing gym.
Kids and adults alike can enjoy rock climbing in a safe environment, no matter their skill level.
Additional planning tip: The minimum age for rock climbing is 5 years old, with kid-friendly climbs designed specifically for them!
8. Explore downtown Estes Park
A trip to Estes Park isn’t complete without a stroll through the downtown area.
Downtown Estes Park is the best spot to find delicious restaurants, homemade ice cream, local shops, and artisan-made goods.
The ‘can’t miss’ shops that kids will love include: The Taffy Shop, The Old Fashioned Candy Store, Brownfields (for quality t-shirts and sweatshirts), Rocket Fizz (for old-time candy and unique soda pop), and Water Wheel Gift Corner (fun clothing and souvenirs!).
9. Go to Cinnamon’s Bakery
Start the morning off at Cinnamon’s Bakery – a popular must-do, fresh-baked cinnamon roll experience in Estes Park!
Visitors and locals start lining up 30 minutes before opening, as they sell out daily within a few hours.
These cinnamon rolls are the best!
10. Take a spooky tour at the Stanley Hotel
You might recognize the Stanley Hotel as the backdrop of one of Stephen King’s most famous adapted horror novels, The Shining.
Here, guests can experience a spooky ghost tour of the historic Stanley Hotel.
If spirits aren’t your thing, you can also opt for a historic tour of the property.
11. Become a Junior Ranger
During the summer months, kids can become junior park rangers through free programs put on by the Junior Ranger Headquarters.
Kids will enjoy educational, nature-focused activities, including a scavenger hunt and more!
This is a great way to get kids interested in both nature and wildlife conservation.
Pick up a free Junior Ranger activity booklet at any Rocky Mountain National Park visitor center or contact station.
There are 3 different activity books for kids ages 5 and under, 6-8, and 9 and up.
12. Awe in wonder at wildlife sightings
Estes Park, Colorado is surrounded by protected lands that offer natural habitat to hundreds of animal species.
With Rocky Mountain National Park on 3 three sides and the national forest on the fourth, you’re almost guaranteed to spot wildlife while driving through town.
For us, the most jaw-dropping sightings were seeing multiple elk (both babies and adults) walking through the city park, resting on the lawn by the local library, and walking down the middle of the road on the town’s main street, for instance.
During our 7 days in Estes Park, we saw elk on a daily occurrence. It was a beautiful thing!
Similar to elk, mule deer sightings are very prevalent in Estes Park as well as chipmunks, ground squirrels, and rabbits.
Other large animals in the area include moose, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and bobcats.
No matter where you’re going or driving to, always be prepared for animal sightings and have your camera close by.
13. Go fishing
Estes Park has ample fishing opportunities for all ages with plenty of local outfitters where you can rent fishing gear and bait.
You can fish for rainbow trout at the Trout Haven Fishing Pond or go fly fishing at Big Thompson River, among others.
The Trout Haven Fishing Pond is a great place to introduce children to fishing, with gear and bait provided.
Additional planning tip: The Trout Haven Fishing Pond is open seasonally for fishing.
In the winter months, it transforms into an outdoor ice rink!
14. Go for a hike
Estes Park and nearby Rocky Mountain National Park have some of the best hikes in all of Colorado!
In Estes Park, you’ll find a pleasant, multi-use, family-friendly trail called Lake Estes Trail, which offers great views of the valley.
This easy, 3.75-mile loop around Lake Estes takes approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete.
For family-friendly hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, I recommend the Lily Lake Loop or Bear Lake Trailhead.
If you’re looking for some stunning waterfall views, I recommend hiking to Adam Falls or Alberta Falls.
Additional planning tip: A little over a third of the park is considered alpine tundra, which makes for strong winds and lower temperatures.
15. Find thrills at Open Air Adventure Park
If your kids always seem to find something to climb, Open Air Adventure Park is right up their alley!
Here, you’ll find activities for almost all ages (and skill levels), including ziplining, aerial course challenges, axe throwing, and more.
Open Air Adventure Park is located just minutes from downtown Estes Park.
16. Catch a flick at the Historic Park Theatre
One of the best things to do in Estes Park with kids is to see a movie at the Historic Park Theatre.
It’s a great way to keep your family entertained, particularly on rainy days when outdoor activities aren’t ideal.
Enjoy a movie or local performance in this vintage-style theater located in the heart of Downtown Estes Park.
17. Tour a museum
Touring a museum is one of my favorite things to do in Estes Park with kids because you get to learn a bit of the history of Estes Park while enjoying fun displays that kids will love.
This is also a great idea for a rainy day to raise spirits and keep everyone dry.
18. Take an old-time family photo
Also, consider getting a monumental family photo taken at either Memories Old Time Portraits or Real West Old Time Portraits, both located on Elkhorn Avenue in Downtown Estes Park.
19. Picnic by a lake
After a long day of exploration, take a load off with a picnic by the lake!
Lakes Estes is a beautiful freshwater lake located in central Estes Park that you’ll definitely want to check out!
While there, consider renting kayaks, paddle boards, or even a pontoon boat from the onsite Lake Estes Marina.
Nearby Rocky Mountain National Park also has several lakes to enjoy, including:
- Grand Lake
- Emerald Lake
- Nymph Lake
- Lily Lake
- Sprague Lake
- Bear Lake
- Dream Lake
Additional planning tip: Some of these lakes are more easily accessible than others.
Bear Lake, Lily Lake, and Sprague Lake are the most accessible options.
More accessibility information is available here.
20. Dine & dance at The LazyB Chuckwagon Show
Experience the spirit of the West when visiting Estes Park with kids!
The LazyB Chuckwagon Dinner Show is an indoor dinner show that features an authentic BBQ dinner served at 5:30 PM, followed by a Western Show featuring family-friendly humor and songs of the old west.
Kids ages 4-12 are only $18/person, and children under age 4 are free.
21. Get a YMCA Day Pass
Even if you’re not staying overnight at the Estes Park YMCA, you can still enjoy the many activities there by purchasing a day pass.
YMCA Day Passes can be purchased for $29 for adults, $14 for children 6-12, and children 5 and under are free.
Activities include roller skating, mini golf, basketball courts, hiking trails, biking trails, disc golf, an indoor pool, and free family programs and films.
Other activities, that require registration and additional fees, include an escape room, indoor archery, axe throwing, an indoor climbing wall, arts & crafts, horseback riding, skiing, and sledding.
Advance registration is not available for day pass users but may be made the day of if there is availability.
22. Play a round at Meadow Mini Golf
If your kids like mini golf, head to Meadow Mini Golf and enjoy their traditional 19-hole miniature golf course
Favorites include the Alligator hole on #2, the famous windmill hole on # 11, and the water hazard on hole #12.
Meadow Mini Golf is Open from Memorial Day weekend through mid-October.
23. Feel the speed at Ride-A-Kart
Ride-A-Kart is a popular family-owned business that has been around for years in Estes Park!
They pride themselves on attractions geared toward the whole family including go-karts, bumper cars, bumper boats, a miniature railroad, mini golf, batting cages & more.
At Ride-A-Kart, there is ample free parking and awesome views of Longs Peak and many other mountains surrounding the Estes Park area.
More Things to Do in Estes Park With Kids
- Go bowling – Head to Bull Pin for 8 lanes of bowling, pool tables, an arcade, and a full bar.
- Go swimming – Check out the large indoor pool at the Estes Valley Community Center.
- Be adventurous – Take a Rocky Mountain Safari via a Green Jeep Tour.
- Paint! – Get creative at Creativity Cabin by painting ready-to-paint pottery (ceramic) items.
Best Places to Stay in Estes Park With Kids
There are dozens of exciting overnight accommodations in Estes Park, Colorado.
Where you end up staying will depend on your personal preferences, prices, and availability.
- Cabins and cottages
- Hotels, lodges, and resorts
- Vacation homes and condos
- Bed and Breakfasts
- Campgrounds and RV Parks
Our favorite convenient, family-friendly Estes Park hotels include:
- Murphy’s River Lodge – Located on Fall River 2 blocks from Downtown Estes park, an indoor pool and hot tub, free breakfast, and friendly staff.
- Silver Moon Inn – Located in Downtown Estes Park on Fall River, outdoor pool and hot tub, free breakfast, free nightly s’mores, family owned and operated.
- The Ridgeline Hotel, Estes Park – Large indoor pool area and hot tub, onsite bar and restaurant, kids’ game room and movie screen, rustic-chic decor.
- YMCA of the Rockies – 9 lodges and 206 cabins, great for big groups, dozens of free onsite activities (i.e. roller skating, mini golf) plus extra activities for a fee (i.e. horseback riding, axe throwing).
- The Historic Crag’s Lodge – Incredible mountain views, outdoor pool and hot tub, onsite restaurant, and a game room.
Final Thoughts: Things to do in Estes Park With Kids
Estes Park is a perfect vacation spot for family adventures because of its ample outdoor and family-focused activities.
Whether you’re looking for a fast-paced getaway filled with active ventures or prefer a laid-back vacation with scenic strolls and waterfront views, Estes Park has it all.
*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*