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This summer our crew embarked on the longest road trip we’ve ever attempted – 14 hours from Dallas TX to Estes Park CO via Amarillo. I think I’ll do an entire post on road trip tips with kids (it went REALLY well) but for today I wanted to share some of the outdoor adventure highlights from the trip (the kids favorite part), the beautiful hotels we stayed in (my favorite part), and how you can bring the modern mountain look home.
If you're a skimmer, be sure to scroll to the end for the Get The Look details!
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Our trip was just shy of a week and we packed a lot in! Here's the overview of what we did.
Day 1 - We started out in Dallas and took the 6 hour drive to Amarillo. We explored Palo Duro Canyon and Cadillac Ranch.
Day 2 - The next day we departed Amarillo for another 6 hours to Colorado Springs to check out the Dinosaur Resource Center and then drove on 1.5 hours to Denver where we explored Union Station, downtown, and had an Indoor Mini Golf dinner.
Day 3 - We left Denver for the short 1 hour drive to Ft. Collins. We dropped our kids to hang with family and Steven and I explored downtown Ft. Collins.
Day 4 - Day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park
Day 5 - Day trip to Estes Park
Day 6 - The 14 hour power-through-drive straight from Ft. Collins back to Dallas
WHERE WE STAYED
The outdoor activities were mostly for the husband and kids, but the hotels were for me. Don't get me wrong, the views on our trip were incredible, but these GORGEOUS hotels were totally worth the trip in their own right. They are all Marriott properties because that’s how we roll.
Amarillo TX – The Barfield. This turned out to be our favorite hotel. It had a 1930’s ritzy charm to it, mixed with a modern cowboy vibe. The room was large and luxurious in a classy old-world-meets-modern way.
Denver CO – The Ritz Carlton – the splurge hotel wound up being the kids’ favorite, and while it was ‘schmancy and lovely, design-wise it wasn’t anything particularly unique. Nothing about it screamed “Colorado” but mostly just “this looks expensive.” It could have been in any city. The boys thought the Chihuly glass chandelier was awesome.
Fort Collins CO – The Elizabeth – This lobby was to die for. The rooms were nice, but not quite as spectacular as The Barfield. The hotel is music themed; each room has its own record player and you can check out vinyl to listen to in your room. Also the Sunset Lounge bar had the most incredible views of the sunset over the Rockies.
Estes Park CO – The Stanley – This is the hotel that the horror film The Shining is based on. We didn’t stay there overnight on this trip; we only went for drinks and explored the grounds. Steven has stayed here in the past and had a great (and only somewhat eerie) experience. I would love to have gone on one of the ghost tours, but I wanted my kids to be able to sleep at night.
Pictures are great and all, but I HIGHLY recommend you check out this video highlight reel of everywhere we stayed!
WHAT WE DID
We woke up super early and hit the road before 6 AM towards Amarillo. It's basically just 2 roads to get there from our house - 380 to 287, and this mural was right at the intersection. So clearly we had to stop.
We packed a picnic lunch and went straight to Palo Duro Canyon outside of Amarillo. This is the 2nd largest canyon in the USA (second only to the Grand Canyon).
The views were incredible and there were lots of easy hike options for the kids.
Every travel blog we read said that we HAD to go by Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo. It's an art installation of 10 vintage Cadillacs that you can spray paint. The photos on Insta were awesome. In our real life experience, though, it was hot, crowded, and completely underwhelming. BUT the kids thought it was amazing, so probably still worth the trip.
We brought our own spray paint, FYI, but there was a truck there selling paint. Also people mostly only use half a can and then get bored, so there were dozens of half-empty cans around and available for use.
It was insanely windy and I lost my hat at least a dozen times. Hence why I'm holding it in this photo, but also it makes me look like a fancy instagram influencer. LOL.
Then onto downtown Amarillo to check into the hotel and wash the paint off our hands. This is the cutest little Art Deco era downtown. We ate at Six Car Brewery across the street and the food was awesome. I had a short rib grilled cheese and Steven had a Nashville Hot chicken sandwich that we won't soon forget.
The next morning we left bright and early for Colorado. Our kids are dinosaur fanatics, so we spent a couple of hours outside of Colorado Springs at the Dinosaur Resource Center. We worried that with the world class Perot museum here in Dallas this might be disappointing, but the boys ate it up. There are actual dinosaur bones, not just reproductions, that you can touch!
Once we arrived in Denver, I checked off an architectural bucket list item when we walked to Union Station. The interior is insanely gorgeous. Marble and molding everywhere. Also the wine is nice.
For dinner, we walked to Urban Putt where the kids got to play indoor mini-golf and eat dinner. The food was great and the golf course itself was so far beyond what I imagined. So many lights and unique holes. If you're thinking Putt Putt but inside, dial that up about 1000 notches.
This clearly used to be a Spaghetti Warehouse that they converted into a golf course. I don't know this for a fact, but I'm sure I'm right.
The cocktails were delicious.
Look over Henry's shoulder below - the high top tables have golf balls in resin as the table top. Cute.
Also please check out this plaid upholstery behind me!!!!
The next day we let the kids run some energy out at City Park in Denver. The blogs I'd read raved about this incredible park. Guys, it wasn't that great. You can totally skip this, but it's great if you do want your kids to burn off their wiggles.
Then it was a short 1 hour-ish drive from Denver to Ft. Collins. We dumped the kids off with their aunt and uncle (THANKS GUYS) and Steven and I hung out downtown. This is quite possibly the most vibrant little downtown I've ever seen. It is what all other downtowns aspire to.
We had the best meal of the trip - dinner at The Emporium - and drinks at the Sunset Lounge, both located inside the Elizabeth Hotel. I took exactly zero photos of this as I was too busy enjoying myself. I did manage to grab a video of our divine drinks and fried fontina.
The next morning it was onto The Big Show for the kids - Rocky Mountain National Park. We took a trip to Glacier National Park last fall and have officially become National Park People. The scenery is incredible. There were lots of easy hikes for the kids, and more challenging ones that the adults and our oldest (age 11) went on. There was still snow on the ground in June, which blew my Texan mind.
On our last day, we made a day trip to Estes Park. As an FYI - you drive through Estes Park to get to Rocky Mountain National Park, but it deserves a day on its own. Lots of shopping and food to be enjoyed here. All the trees have scarves around them for some reason? We never could figure out why.
We ate at Penelope's World Famous Burgers. Steven and I split a BLT, everyone else got burgers, and we all left quite happy.
Not on the menu - this hambone.
We rode on the free trolley, which was cute for the kids. They got a kick out of it.
We ended our trip with drinks at the Stanley hotel. A very relaxing and enjoyable end to an amazing trip. We ordered cocktails (which were amazing) and the kids ordered what has been dubbed by them "Rich Drink" aka a Shirley Temple. It's rich because we usually make them drink water. HA!
The grounds of the hotel are great to explore. There is a hedge maze that the kids enjoyed running through. This hotel was THE PLACE to stay for the rich and famous for a long time, and it shows.
On our way out, we spotted this massive elk just hanging out off the main road. This photo does zero justice to his sheer size. He was massive.
GET THE LOOK
The old world beauty + a modern edge of the hotels we stayed at along with all of the beautiful nature gave no shortage of inspiration.
Here's how to get the mountain modern look at home!
I swear, every time we take a trip I a little bit want to redo my whole house. And while that’s not a sustainable or wise choice (ha!) I do love incorporating bits of our travels home to remember our trips in a non-kitschy way. Okay sometimes a little kitschy, but just the right amount.
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