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I always thought the goal was to be home for Christmas. Turn on any radio station this time of year and you’ll hear Bing Crosby (or Michael Bublé) crooning “I’ll be home for Christmas.” It’s also the name of not one, but two holiday movies.
That said, my family recently discovered a place we’d love to wake up in Colorado on Christmas morning. It’s not our beloved house in Denver. It’s a cabin in Estes Park.
Technically, we were staying at Mountain Village in Cabin #26. But with its two decorated trees and festive decor worthy of a holiday home featured on HGTV, it may as well be called The Ultimate Christmas Cabin in Estes Park.
That said, the word “cabin” may be a misnomer. Its custom log construction and vaulted ceilings made it look like a cabin. But we were basically spoiled with a 1,600-square-foot two-story luxury home boasting two master suites illuminated by upscale lighting that more than justified the $500/night cost.
It’s clear whoever designed these cabins paid attention to the details within the details.
Christmas Cabin in Estes Park
The kitchen, worthy of any Top Chef, allowed us to make our favorite family meals together. Floor-to-ceiling windows allowed us to take in spectacular lake views. I pictured what it would be like to stay here in the summer.
We’d explore the lake via pontoon boat, or kayak. Then we’d brush up on our beach volleyball skills or go for a sunset bike ride.
Outside, our cabin boasted a spacious covered patio complete with a stone gas fireplace, BBQ grill and our personal favorite: a jacuzzi. Everett, our four-year-old, was a huge fan of the hot tub. It’s funny because he spent as much time outside it – running to touch the door in between dips – as he did inside it.
Had there been snow on the ground he probably would have rolled in it. Everett also spent a lot of time – two entire nights to be exact – camped out on the pullout sofa in the loft. He’d snuggle up in front of the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree and the warm glow of the fireplace.
We’d cuddle like we used to when he was younger until he’d drift off into dreamland. Then we’d retreat to our well-appointed master bedroom, my parents occupying the other master bedroom.
We were three generations under one roof, and a fourth-generation, my grandfather, was there in spirit.
As a child, my family spent many vacations in Estes Park. Still, I was surprised when my mom shared that Mountain Village fronted land on which my late grandfather used to own a hotel.
Simply knowing of his proximity to the property upped the sentimental value of our stay. It also made me reflect on my own childhood memories – especially the ones I could relive with Everett and his 1.5-year-old sister Alena.
For example, I told them how my family used to stop at Dick’s Rock Museum, now Red Rose Rock Shop & Dicks Rock Museum, on our trips to Estes Park. As a kid, I loved picking out a rough, gray geode – knowing when it would be sawed in half it would reveal smooth layers of sparkling crystals.
A Trip into Town
Naturally, we had to stop at Dick’s on this trip. The pile of geodes was still there! And in addition to other rockhounds looking for treasures, we met a healthy flock of ducks.
For $1 we got a generous scoop of corn which the kids divvied out to their new feathered friends. I don’t know who was more delighted: those doing the feeding or those being fed.
As for ourselves, we feasted on lobster ziti and homemade lasagna at the Dunraven Inn at Estes Park Resort. We also satisfied our sweet tooth at The Taffy Shop, an Elkhorn Avenue institution I remember from my childhood.
I think it’s impossible to walk by the window – where you can still see the colorful taffy being churned – and keep on walking past the door. Everett’s tastebuds proved pretty discerning for his age when he proclaimed his favorite flavor was eggnog.
Across the street at Macdonald Book Shop, I was able to sneak in some much-needed Christmas shopping. I’ve always loved independent bookstores. And judging by the way Everett and Alena curled up in the shop chairs with their books of choice, my kids love them, too.
Christmas Fun in Estes Park
Of course, no trip to Estes Park is complete without an outdoor adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park. So, we bundled up – braving some pretty cold temperatures and strong wind gusts – to hike the short, scenic trail Bear Lake.
Surprisingly, the ice on the trail and the harsh elements didn’t take away from the experience. If anything, they added to it! Little Alena giggled and gossiped – the way only a 1.5-year-old can – while bouncing around in the hiking bag.
Everett, who fell a few times, always landed back on his feet, laughing the entire time. And the next morning, he even inquired about the possibility of doing another hike. We said sure. But next time we’re bringing crampons.
No trip to Estes Park is complete without a stop at the Stanley Hotel, either.
The kids are too young to appreciate the fact “Dumb and Dumber” and “The Shining” were filmed here. But they were the perfect age to appreciate the locally made cherry cider they sipped on as we sat by the hotel’s wood-burning fireplace, surrounded by nutcrackers and other Christmas characters.
Everywhere we went it was neat to see different decorations. It’s fun to decorate your own house with your favorite pieces, but I think it’s just as fun to see what other people do.
Return to Denver
When it was time to check out of our idyllic cabin and head home to Denver, Everett teared up a little. He explained his feelings the way only a four-year-old can. But what he lacked in eloquence he made up for with enthusiasm.
Plus, we knew exactly what he was saying. In having a great time celebrating Christmas in Estes Park, we’d grown closer together as a family – making memories that could only be made in this special place.
Sure, there’s nothing like being home for Christmas. But there’s also something to be said for traveling, especially during the most magical of seasons. Who knows? Maybe next year we won’t be home for Christmas. And if that’s the case, I know exactly where we’ll be.
Book This Christmas Trip to Estes Park
Ready to plan your holiday adventure to Estes Park, Colorado? Start preparing with knowledge on the best RMNP hikes, hotel and VRBO accommodations, local restaurant reviews and more through TripAdvisor and Travelocity.
Make sure to keep warm on your winter mountain adventure with heated jackets, gloves, beanies and more by GOBI Heated Apparel.
Author Bio: Living across Europe and South America unlocked Carri’s passion for traveling. Never shying away from a new adventure whether swimming with the pigs in the Bahamas, bird watching in the Galapagos or Heli-Hiking in British Columbia, you never know where you will catch Carri Wilbanks next. She resides in Colorado between freelance trips with her husband and son where they enjoy hiking, mountain biking and skiing.