It’s fun to stay at the YMCA (Estes Park)

By: Casey Chapman Ross
June, 2021

It’s fair to say we didn’t handle stay-at-home orders during the pandemic so well with three kids. Each age has its own unique set of needs, and we found with recreational businesses being closed and activities on hold, after almost a year, it became increasingly difficult to meet those needs.

In an effort to keep our sanity while still respecting the ordinances that are designed to keep us all safe, we did a little traveling during COVID successfully thanks to a few tricks.

The YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park boasts stunning views. Photo by Casey Chapman Ross

Our best advice is to plan, plan, plan and stay outdoors. Plan your route and stops and pack a camping potty with toilet paper and cleaning supplies as well as masks, back-up masks, sanitizer, plenty of road games, books, devices and healthy, light snacks and meals. We packed our own food for almost the entire trip (not just the one-way drive), although we had to lean on take-out once or twice.

RELATED: Traveling this summer? 10 tips for road tripping with the kids

After getting comfortable with our travel plan, we looked to nature for the answers and found ourselves returning to our favorite place, the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. We love it in normal times, so it’s no surprise that in pandemic times the property has really stepped up and done everything possible to provide a safe place to play and connect. It has everything in nature you could possibly want but also so many privately hosted indoor activities that make a kid’s heart sing.

Mountain biking is among the activities offered at YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. Photo by Casey Chapman Ross

The cabins are all free standing, spaced apart and meticulously cleaned between guests. Check in is quick and easy and check out is contactless. If you wanted an escape aimed at not seeing another soul, it could surely be accomplished here.

We spent the days (and sometimes the nights, too) ice skating on Dorsey Lake, which is on property and available for skating at no extra charge if you are lodging at the YMCA. Just across the street from Dorsey is the Y’s sledding hill, which was also terrific. Both spots were sparsely attended and mask wearing was more common than not. Ice skate and sled rentals are both available at the Sweet Memorial Building.

Ice skating is a favorite pastime at YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. Photo by Casey Chapman Ross

When we tired of the cold or were just ready for something new, we made a private appointment to do archery, rock climb or play in the gym or the game room. My kids loved the rock climbing wall, which offered “cosmic climbing,” a climbing by blacklight experience. The Longhouse Gym is roughly the size of a football field but indoors and the kids reveled in having their run of the place.

“Cosmic climbing” is a blacklight experience offered at YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park. Photo by Casey Chapman Ross

Quieter days were spent playing games like Chutes and Ladders and Farkle or reading books we borrowed from the library. On New Year’s Day, we made gingerbread trains, created vision boards for 2021 and did arts and crafts painting projects, all either purchased or borrowed on property. While busy with projects, my husband would head out on his mountain bike, the property offering miles and miles of mountain bike trail and bike rentals at the Boone Family Mountain Center as well.

Downtown Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are both just down the road, so although there’s plenty to keep you busy on property, there are lots of amazing options for things to do if you venture out of the YMCA as well.

RELATED: For every season: A house divided over Estes Park, Colorado

We were lucky enough to spend nine nights at the YMCA this winter and stayed busy the entire time, with more still on our list for next time. Our getaway gave our family a much-needed change of scenery, a safe escape from reality and a peace of mind that was hard to find this past year.

There are activities for all ages at YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. Photo by Casey Chapman Ross

Follow Austin Travels

Austin Travels is a women-owned, Austin-based travel magazine committed to highlighting destinations in Texas and beyond through the lenses of diverse and talented writers.