It is the grandest hotel I have thus far stayed in, beating out the St. Francis in San Francisco when I was eleven.
It was also a pilgrimage. I have been fascinated with The Shining since seeing the Stanley Kubrick movie as a young child. Then I read the book by Stephen King when I was in my pre-teens and found out that the Overlook Hotel was based on a real hotel King and his wife Tabitha stayed in.
The hotel is called The Stanley, and it is located in Estes Park, Colorado, not far from Boulder. It is a 140-room Georgian built by Freelan Oscar Stanley, of Stanley Steamer fame. At the turn of the 20th century, the Rocky mountains in Colorado was the to-go place for those with lung problems, like tuberculosis, which is how Freelan found the place. He built a hotel and opened it in 1909. It catered to the rich and famous and such names as Margaret “The Unsinkable Molly” Brown, Theodore Roosevelt, the Emperor and Empress of Japan, and later on, Jim Carrey, would grace the hallways of this majestic jewel of the Rockies.
But it was Stephen King who would make the hotel famous for tourists of the late 20th and early 21st century. After writing “Carrie” and “Salem’s Lot”, King was looking for a new environment. The family moved to Boulder after King pointed to a random spot on the map. Around Halloween of 1974, Tabitha decided that she and Stephen needed a small vacation away from the kids and asked locals of a good place to go. They recommended the Stanley Hotel.
There was a snag in their plans. When they arrived they noticed the place was virtually empty, save for a few straggling customers and employees rushing around. Turns out the Kings had arrived on the last day of the season, before the Stanley closed for the winter months. They were the only customers that night. They ate in the abandoned dining room, which had all the chairs set up on the tables. A lonely jukebox played. The halls were empty and silent. The Kings stayed in room 217.
“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”. — Stephen King
With Tabitha in bed, Stephen wandered around the hotel and went to the grand bar and was served by a guy named Grady.
The Kings returned to Boulder the next day, and King got started on The Shining. The hotel now caters to the spooky paranormal aspect. Stephen King’s own remake of “The Shining”, as a miniseries in 1997, was filmed at the hotel and parts of “Dumb and Dumber” were filmed there as well as the “Hotel Danbury”. Earlier in 2013, the hotel started its own film festival, featuring receptions, student competitions, film screenings, and Jack Nicholson.
It took my best friend and I ten hours to travel from Kansas City to Estes Park, in July of 2013. I had never been to Colorado before, except for the Denver airport and maybe the other side of Hoover Dam. When we left the temp was in the 90s. The temp began to drop steadily the higher we climbed the mountains, averaging in the 60s when we parked.
The photo above shows the back of the hotel, which is where the majority of people park. I couldn’t believe I was here. It had been a small dream of mine to come here since I was fourteen.
It wasn’t a cheap trip for me. Our one night there was in the $200-$300 range, up on the third floor. I was able to pay for it after winning $1000 back in February at the casino.
Near the back entrance is a nice little sculpture garden, complete with pools and ponds. No hedge animals though.
We walked in and to the left of me was the Grand Staircase. The same one Jack Torrance knocks Wendy down from with his roque mallet.
Other views of the ground floor are:
The fireplace where Danny finds the perverted clock.
The check-in counter.
Old fashioned elevator that eventually spits out confetti.
And the Haunted Gift Shop!
We made our way to the third floor by way of the elevator and got lost as to where our room was, as all the floors and all the hallways pretty much look the same.
Haunted Ice Machine!
We found our small room and began to curiously snoop through it, as customers are apt to do when first entering a hotel room.
You better believe I took home that, in the end, $200 bottle of water home.
There wasn’t going to be much TV watching during our short time there, too much hotel to explore. But what’s this, on channel 42?
Yes, “The Shining” plays on channel 42 at the Stanley Hotel 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
After I took a photo of Room 217, we wandered to the bar. No Lloyd, but I did have an overpriced Caesar salad.
The next morning turned out to be beautiful. Weather forecast had predicted some rain, which I worried about because I wanted some sweet shots of the building with my camera. But blue skies welcomed us. The air was pleasantly chilly and thin, a far cry from the humid 100 degrees in KC we would experience later that evening.
I wandered around the grounds.
The porch the Torrances stand on while the rest of the employees leave the Overlook.
I went back inside to check out the lower level, after sitting near the fire place and looking through a coffee table book.
The last thing we did before we left was check out the Steamers Cafe.
I ended up just getting a latte or something and my friend bought a gigantic bacon topped donut:
One night was too short a time to spend there, but I’m not made of casino winnings so we left that morning. If I had had a proper vacation I would have explored Boulder and the other surrounding areas.
It turns out that fortune had been on our side. If we had waited just a few weeks more to go, this is what would have met us:
The ares of Estes Park and Boulder would suffer from catastrophic flooding.
Oh, and before anyone asks. No, I did not see any ghosts. I did not see anything unusual except for the outrageous prices of the salad I had. No famous people either. Next time I ever go there, I will fly. 20 hours in the car is too much for me.