Family Vacation Estes Park Style

Last month we road tripped to Estes Park, Colorado. It’s  a family tradition that’s existed even since my dad was a little guy. Every summer growing up we would load into the family van at 6:00am and make the eight hour drive from Omaha to Estes Park. All the memories from vacations past make me giddy the night before in anticipation for the trip. The road trip in and of itself is part of the experience—I love the moment when the faint outline of the mountains starts to appear in the distance.

Colorado Mountains

Part of what excited me most about this trip was taking Lindsay, now four, to do some of the things I used to love. She wasn’t exactly ready for it all during her first trip…

Estes Park 2007

In the months leading up to the trip I made a list of all the places to go to and things to do in Estes with our now much larger family. There’s a lot of things I expected but many more that I didn’t.

For example, as parents, my big sis Jen and I now have to stop occasionally to do things like this…

Jen changing a diaper in the car.

And instead of magnet road bingo like I remember, the in-car entertainment was more like this…

ipad car entertainment

The fact that we could find a cabin that all eight of us could fit in comfortably was a bit surprising…

The cabin came with a hot tub for the “neighbors.” Sidestory: Last time in Estes my mom was checking out our condo and glanced out of her window to see a hot tub below. “Look, the neighbors have a hot tub,” she said. It was actually our hot tub. We totally blamed the loud rowdiness that ensued in the hot tub that night on “the neighbors” though. There’s a few other stories like that, but they’ll have to wait :)

The cabin came equipped with a fabulous view of the river (a requirement).

By the River

Back to unexpected things.

Sassiness to the max during impromptu photo shoots on morning walks…

Binz Mountain Photo Shoot

Coming up on “the neighbors” eating breakfast after our walks…

Encountering very dangerous wild life…


Actually being excited to buy lots of rocks at Dick’s Rock Shop (yes, buy rocks). Extra info: We have our own name for this place which involves switching some words around. Better yet, we’ve done it since we were eight. Completely appropriate.

Dick's Rock Shop

Seeing the two littlest ones playing and poking each other (okay, just my child doing the poking)…

Lily & Rex

Then watching Lily show Rex she’s not going to take poking from her older cousin…


Seeing my parents rocking it as “Ami” and Grandpa….

Ami & Gpa

Getting a glimpse at how the big sista and my brother-in-law (aka BIL) are going to handle two kids under two — baby H2 coming April 2012!

Jen, Toby, Lily & Rex

Watching Rex open his first birthday presents in the mountains (mostly unexpected because some were in Princess wrapping paper :-P).

Rex's 1st Bday

Taking Lindsay to the taffy shop to see how they make it… Confession: I really don’t like taffy but it wouldn’t be the same to come to Estes and not get some.

Taffy Shop Estes Park

Finding the ultimate winter accessory at the place we used to buy tons of airbrushed shirts…(and fyi, you can no longer get airbrushed shirts. They must have died with the 80s.)

Linds Pig Hat

Seeing my dad enjoying the sounds of the river with the first boy in the family (not counting the son-in-laws)…

Kurt & Rex

Lindsay demanding that we buy her a Husker cheerleading uniform on the way to watch the game (I, of course, jumped at the chance). Don’t worry, she also has one for the Hawkeyes). If only she had been happy to have her picture taken…

Binz not being scared at all on THE big slide…

THE big slide

And then getting in on the bumper car action…

Bumper Cars

Taking the ride up the mountain to see the gorgeous views and take a few family pictures…minus one sleeping four-year-old.

Fam in the Mountains

Sadly, we didn’t manage to get one picture of us all together. How does that happen??

The dinner table and time around the fire pit beat any activity though. My family is a fun one with great stories.

Fam around the firepit

And because still images can’t always tell the whole story, here’s some video clips from throughout the trip that I threw together a few weeks ago:

Realization of the trip? Memories are nice but it’s a lot more fun to live in the moment and make new ones.

Has anyone else been to Estes Park, Colorado? What are some of your favorite spots and things to see? I’d love to have a whole new list of place to check out for our next trip. Or better yet, what are some other great all-American family vacation spots??