Every year my parents host (along with two other couples) their grandkids for something they call 'Gramp'. They plan activities, outings and games for the kids over a long weekend. Sounds amazing, and it is, but not everyone can possibly contrive such an involved event. For those who want to have that incredible bonding experience, but without the stress of hosting, a grandparent vacation may be just the trick.
Traveling with grandparents is an incredible opportunity for the whole family. Even better? When grandma and grandpa take the kids and leave you at home to catch up on projects, tend to your relationship or just revel in a little 'me' time. Either way, getting into the mountains to connect the generations is valuable time spent. Here are some recommendations on how to make the most of your grandparent trip to Estes Park.
See the Sights
This may seem obvious in a place like Estes Park, but sometimes we need to remind our youthful companions that there is magic in time away from Minecraft, We may even need to remind the grandparents that they can keep up with the kids on the trail - just be sure to pick a trail or route that is good for both age sets. I recommend choosing one that takes you somewhere - a waterfall (try Alberta Falls or Ouzel Falls) or an incredible alpine view or lake (Bierstadt Lake or Deer Mountain, which has multiple route options). NOTE: We recommend taking the hiker shuttle during the summer and fall to avoid having to navigate or search for parking.
Learn Something Together
Taking adventures can also mean learning something new. Multiple places around Estes Park offer guided trips, programs and classes where the old and young can come together over a new activity. Learn about geocaching with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. Check out a ranger program or complete the Junior Ranger booklets together. Book a guided fly fishing lesson or create something special (like fused glass or silk paintings) in the YMCA's incredible craft house. Once again, the key here is to get out of your comfort zone and step away from those screens!
Cruise the Village
With a variety of bike trails and the scenic Riverwalk downtown, there are many routes to fun in town. Rent a bike from the marina or the Estes Park Mountain Shop and ride the Lake Estes Trail. Meander along the river to shopping, dinner and sweet treats in one of the parks. If you have little ones and their legs get tired, treat them to a ride in a pedicab - a very fun thing for the kiddos! Oh - and if the grandparents (and parents, if you are tagging along) are ready for an adult treat, head to one of the family-friendly craft beverage houses in town - Rock Cut Brewing and Snowy Peaks Winery both have a selection of board games, as well as sodas or juice for the kids. Don't forget to take home a bottle of wine or growler to enjoy later.
We all hit that point in a trip where we just need to relax and have a little quiet time. That's even more true when traveling with kids. Most of the lodges have games or movies to play in your cabin or condo - add a little hot cocoa and some local cookies and you have yourself the perfect night in. (Grandparents - now is when you break out that special vintage or brew you got earlier!) If you're looking for a slower pace during the day, try the Estes Park Museum. Entry is free and offers a look at both the Western and native American histories of the Estes Valley.
If you have older kids, or just want to treat the little ones to something special, stay up for the stars. With the low light pollution and high elevation, Estes Park is one of the most perfect places to go stargazing. Pack a thermos of cocoa, a constellation map, pillows & blankets and spread out under the sky in an open meadow or the back of a pick-up truck. For a more refined experience, book a viewing at the Estes Park Memorial Observatory where you can learn from local experts and see the stars and planets up close.
Bottom line, every generation will have plenty to keep them busy and wear them out here in Estes. Planning a vacation or weekend getaway to Estes Park with grandkids doesn't have to be daunting. Having a good mix of booked activities and free-form exploration is wise to keep everyone happy. And don't forget the snacks. Hangry kids are never fun. Anywhere.
Oh - one more thing. Remember that Pokemon Go works in the mountains - just in case you really need a break.