Keith, the boys, and I spent the weekend of April 26 in Estes Park, Colorado. We were thrilled to have gorgeous weather!
Friends had told us great things about the YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center, a rustic, family-friendly resort right outside Rocky Mountain National Park. So when the YMCA offered to have us stay there for free so that I could write about it, we jumped at the chance!
Estes Park Center has a great military special for active-duty military and their families. It includes a two-night stay in a lodge room, with all meals and most activities included, for $149. (The special is also available at the YMCA’s Snow Mountain Ranch in Winter Park, Colorado.) We were given the military package for free.
We arrived at the resort early Friday evening and checked in to our room in the Emerald Mountain Lodge, which would typically cost $99 per night during springtime without meals included. It was a pretty bare-bones room with two queen beds and a small bathroom. There was no TV, but I guess you’re supposed to be too busy having fun to watch TV! The resort also provided us with two rollaway cribs for the boys. There was no mini fridge, so Keith called the front desk and was told that fridges are typically reserved for people with medical needs. He told them we only needed it for the twins’ milk, but they were kind enough to send us one anyway. Our room also had a pretty sweet view:
Now, here are the pros and cons of the YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center:
It took us under 10 minutes to drive to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is breathtaking. We were able to get an annual national parks pass for free because Keith is active-duty military. Score! At the park, we went on two very different, but equally gorgeous, hikes.
On Saturday, we hiked around Bear Lake. Even though it was about 60 degrees outside, the lake was still frozen. The snow around it was so deep, we could have snowshoed it! But it was worth braving the snow to take in the beauty of Bear Lake and the mountains surrounding it.
On Sunday, we hiked to the Alluvial Fan. Because it is at a lower altitude, there was hardly any snow there. This waterfall was one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen, though the photos don’t come close to doing it justice:
There are a ton of activities to do at Estes Park Center, which is why it’s such a popular place for family reunions and retreats. There’s an indoor pool, a library, a game room, a rock-climbing wall, a zip line, and a miniature golf course. There are all sorts of sports, including basketball, volleyball, and even archery. There’s horseback riding, fishing, roller skating, and ice skating. And there is lots more, including weekly programs for adults and kids that offer Bingo, scavenger hunts, classes, and more.
Unfortunately, most of those activities are geared toward older kids, not toddlers. I think if Matt and Nate were a few years older, we would have taken advantage of more of them. We did, however, visit the Craft and Design Center, which is really cool! You can make jewelry, paint ceramics and wood objects, tie-dye shirts, and more. You do have to pay to do the projects, and the costs vary.
Matt picked out a wooden fire engine to paint, and Nate picked out a wooden airplane. They cost $5 each. It was the first time the twins painted something other than paper, and though it took them a while to get the hang of it, they had a blast! They were so proud of their creations. I almost don’t want to let them play with them so I can keep them forever!
The boys also had fun playing at a quirky little playground outside the Craft and Design Center, where they met this guy:
When you stay at Estes Park Center, you’re surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. Really, it doesn’t get much prettier than that!
On our first evening, we headed to the Aspen Dining Room with our meal card for our free dinner. I have to say—the food is definitely not one of the highlights of staying at the YMCA. It was served cafeteria-style: You grab a tray, get in line, help yourself, and find an available table. The food also tasted like cafeteria food. We managed to scrape together a meal, but decided to skip our free dinner the next night and go to a restaurant in downtown Estes Park. (There are some great restaurants there!) If we had paid the regular price for the meals—$14 for adults—we would not have been happy.
Breakfast the next morning was actually good, though! It was nothing fancy, but exactly what you’d expect—scrambled eggs, sausage links, bagels, muffins, an assortment of fruit, etc. We wouldn’t have even minded paying the usual price of $8 per adult. I can’t comment on the lunch offerings because we ate lunch in our room.
Note: Estes Park Center does have a fine-dining restaurant called the Pine Room, as well as a cafe that serves to-go meals. So, there are other on-site food options.
The Lodge Rooms:
Our room was small and very basic, the beds weren’t very comfortable, and the thermostat didn’t seem to be working: It was sweltering in there and we couldn’t cool it down. That being said, you don’t go to Estes Park Center to spend much time in your room. Also, at such low prices, we weren’t expecting a luxurious room. Instead, we sort of felt like we were away at sleepaway camp—and it was a fun feeling!
All in all, we had a wonderful family weekend in Estes Park, and the twins had just as much fun as Keith and I did. The best part? Other than the $10 we spent on the boys’ art projects and our inexpensive dinner out on Saturday evening, we did not spend a dime the whole weekend. Even if we hadn’t been given the military package for free, we still would have spent only about $200 for the trip.
So if you’re looking for a low-cost family resort with lots of activities, the YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center is a great option. And if you’re part of an active-duty military family, it’s also an incredible deal! You may just want to make a pit stop at the local Safeway for some non-perishable food. 😉