Something you may not know about me is that I love psychological horror movies. That’s one of the reasons why I was incredibly excited to visit The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Stephen King used The Stanley Hotel as the inspiration for his horror novel The Shining, which was later turned into the famous 1980 Stanley Kubrick film of the same name. Whether you’re a fan of The Shining or not, The Stanley Hotel is a fascinating place to visit with an incredibly interesting history.
We took The Stanley Tour, which is their daytime 90 minute tour. What I liked about doing a tour is that it allowed us access into certain parts of the hotel that we wouldn’t ordinarily be able to see. More on that later.
The Stanley Hotel fully embraces their connection to The Shining and their reputation for being haunted. The office where you buy your tour tickets is filled with nods to the book and movie.
I watched The Shining for the first time about a year ago and I’m glad that I did because having knowledge of the plot made being at the hotel that much more interesting. If you’re planning on touring The Stanley and you’ve never seen The Shining, I definitely recommend watching it before you visit. Fun fact: if you stay at The Stanley, you can watch The Shining on channel 42 in your room, where it runs on a continuous loop!
While we waited for our tour to begin, we ate lunch on the patio of the Cascades Restaurant, the main restaurant at The Stanley. Since we were there in late September, the weather was still nice enough to eat outside. The food was good and I loved the atmosphere of sitting out on the covered patio. If you want a snack but don’t want to eat at a sit-down restaurant, they also have a grab-and-go café where you can buy things like pastries, sandwiches, smoothies, and coffee.
After lunch, it was time for our tour to begin. It started off with an overview of the history of the hotel. The Stanley Hotel opened in 1909 and was built by Freelan Oscar (F.O.) Stanley, a self-made man and inventor of the Stanley Steamer car, among many other things. F.O. and his wife, Flora, lived in Massachusetts, but came to Colorado in 1903 in hopes that the mountain air would help F.O. with his tuberculosis. After spending a summer in Estes Park, F.O. made what has been described as a miraculous recovery. The Stanley’s were grateful to Colorado for what it did for F.O.’s health and decided to build a hotel in Estes Park, so that more people could enjoy the area as well.
The first place that we went to on our tour was the Concert Hall, which was actually in a separate building next to the hotel. This is where the Stanley’s would entertain their famous friends, such as the Rockefeller’s.
It was pretty cool to think about how many famous and historical figures have spent time in the building. Today, the Concert Hall is used mostly as a venue for parties and wedding receptions. The Stanley is a very popular wedding venue. In fact, a wedding was taking place on the hotel grounds while we were there.
I thought that one of the most interesting things that we saw on the tour were the underground tunnels for the servants throughout the hotel. Back in the early 1900’s, the hotel workers were not allowed to walk through the same halls as the wealthy, upper-class guests. The solution for this was to build extensive underground passageways for the servants to use in order for them to get around the hotel. They had an entrance to one of the tunnels in the basement of the Concert Hall and we were able to go inside. I know that I would be creeped out if my job required me to walk through an eerie tunnel every day. I felt like I was in Downton Abbey or something. Thankfully, as you can imagine, the hotel employees don’t use the tunnels anymore!
After checking out the Concert Hall, we walked back to the main building. The front of the hotel is just so grand. It feels like going back in time. The architecture is stunning.
If you’ve seen The Shining, you remember the famous and terrifying scene in the hedge maze. After decades of not having a maze at The Stanley, earlier this year they planted one. Right now the plants are still pretty small, but I’m sure that it will only look creepier as they grow taller! I’m excited to come back again and see the progress.
I had been to The Stanley Hotel once before back when I was a little kid. Since I was so young, I didn’t remember much about it, except for the main staircase. As soon as I walked in to the lobby, I recognized it.
The lobby is really beautiful. I love the hardwood floors.
The front porch also has some classic wicker furniture for you to sit in while you enjoy the amazing view of Rocky Mountain National Park in the distance.
As we went up the stairs, we saw tons of old paintings of F.O. and Flora Stanley, along with many of the other people connected with the hotel. I almost expected the eyes of the people in the portraits to follow me as I walked by.
One of the things that I was the most excited to hear about on the tour was how Stephen King became inspired to write The Shining while staying at The Stanley. Our tour guide showed us the room where Stephen King stayed during his time there.
Most of Stephen King’s previous novels were set in Maine, so he was looking for a change of scenery that might inspire a different setting for his next book. On October 30th, 1974, he ended up coming to Estes Park to stay one night at The Stanley. According to Wikipedia, King said, “When we arrived, they were just getting ready to close for the season, and we found ourselves the only guests in the place — with all those long, empty corridors…” King and his wife ate dinner in the grand dining room, totally alone with no other guests around. He said, “Except for our table all the chairs were up on the tables. So the music is echoing down the hall, and, I mean, it was like God had put me there to hear that and see those things. And by the time I went to bed that night, I had the whole book in my mind.”
A common misconception about The Stanley Hotel is that the famous Stanley Kubrick version of The Shining was filmed there. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was set in Colorado, but was filmed at multiple locations including a soundstage in the UK, Glacier National Park in Montana, and The Timberline Lodge in Oregon. Stephen King wasn’t a fan of the way that Stanley Kubrick directed the movie however, and he played a big role in the 1997 TV mini-series Stephen King’s The Shining, which was filmed at The Stanley.
Another fun fact we learned on our tour was that a few years back, someone snuck into the hotel and wrote “REDRUM” on the ceiling of a creepy, hidden attic passageway (if you’ve seen The Shining, you know what “REDRUM” is all about). If you look closely at this picture, you can see it.
After our tour was over, we walked back outside and I took a few more pictures of the beautiful grounds of the hotel.
I recently read that actors Elijah Wood and Simon Pegg are on the board of directors for a brand new horror museum that will be built at the hotel soon, called The Stanley Film Center. The center will feature not only a museum, but also an auditorium, soundstage, and production space. I’d definitely like to check that out once it’s finished being built.
We loved our trip to The Stanley. Estes Park is only about two and a half hours away from Colorado Springs, so we’re planning on coming back as much as we can and I’m sure we’ll drop by The Stanley every once in a while. There’s a lot of interesting history at The Stanley and many exciting things happening in the future there. I definitely recommend it.
Today, I’m linking up with Malinda (from the My Brown Paper Packages blog) for the Wednesday Wanderlust Link Party and also the Weekend Wanderlust Link-Up with A Brit & a Southerner!
Thanks for reading and happy traveling!