9 Ways to Save Time and Money in Estes Park, Colorado

  • Take advantage of the free seasonal shuttle service in downtown Estes Park. Click the link above to learn more about 2020 policies (for example face mask requirements) and route information.
  • There are 415 free parking spaces at the parking structure located off of North Saint Vrain Avenue. You can get real-time parking lot availability for all public parking in town here.
  • You can save money by bringing your food instead of eating out every meal. There are grocery stores on your way into the mountains in nearby towns of Longmont and Loveland. These stores are likely less busy than grocery stores in Estes Park. If you want to shop in Estes Park, there is a Safeway, Country Market, and Dollar General. We recommend shopping early in the morning or late at night to avoid crowds. Safeway reserves time for at-risk shoppers on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7am to 9am, so avoid shopping at the store during these time blocks. We have a Safeway card and find that we save a lot of money using it at the grocery store and at the Safeway fuel station.
  • Follow your favorite vacation properties on social media. They will sometimes post specials and discounts. Solitude Cabins (where we have our cabin) was recently promoting ‘buy 2 nights, get 1 free’. That’s an amazing deal!
  • Plan your trip during off peak season. A good rule of thumb is if school is out of session, the town will likely be busier and more expensive to stay in.
  • If you want to go to a sit down restaurant, consider going for lunch instead of dinner. You can often get the same quality and experience, but lunch menus are often less expensive.
  • Our favorite inexpensive souvenir gifts from Estes Park are postcards. Our girls love picking out cards and mailing them to friends and family back home.
  • Love a bargain hunt? Head to Cliffhanger Used Books. In July they are selling nature and travel used books for $1-$2. Proceeds benefit the local library.
  • 2020 Free Days in Rocky Mountain National Park include August 25, September 26, and November 11. Park reservations ($2 online fee) are still required. You can find more details about park fees on the national park’s website.

Our New Estes Park Art

How do you bring the feeling of vacation home with you? This blog is one way. I enjoy writing about our experiences and often re-read the hikes we went on when the girls were babies. Another way we are savoring these moments is through the art work we are slowly collecting and displaying in our home. We have blown up pictures I’ve taken of the girls walking around Lily Lake. We’ve purchased professional landscape photography from Images of Rocky Mountain National Park gallery. And just recently, I commissioned my first painting from an Estes Park artist.

Last summer we attended an art fair in downtown Estes Park, Colorado. Walking around the stalls, I fell for a painting of two young deer curiously peeking out of the aspens. I didn’t purchase the painting right away, but I kept thinking of the piece. It reminded me of a hike we went on with our two little girls in the East Meadow. During the hike we were quietly followed by a mother deer and her two young fawns.

Hike in to the East Meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park

The artist is Liz Zornes. I’m glad I grabbed her contact information even though I wasn’t ready to buy at that moment!

After months of internal debate, I decided to ask for this piece for Mother’s Day/my birthday in May. I reached out and learned the original painting I spotted at the show was already sold, but Ms. Zornes graciously said she would paint another one for me.

I’m excited to say that it is now hanging here in our home. Every time I walk by, I smile. I love the colors, texture, and the happy memory it evokes from our magical hike.

I’m not sure how many art fairs will be taking place this year, but another great way to see local artists is walking through galleries in downtown Estes Park. Here is a list of the galleries to visit the next time you are in town, Estes Park Art Galleries.

Renting a Boat on Beaver Lake in Arkansas

When is the last time you smiled so much your face hurt? For me it was Father’s Day weekend when we got to explore one of the beautiful natural attractions in Northwest Arkansas – Beaver Lake.

Our girls woke my husband and me up at sunrise, bounding into our bedroom already dressed in their swimsuits. They excitedly helped us pack a cooler of snacks and drinks. We stuffed another bag full with beach towels and sunscreen.

They had been counting down the days ever since we announced our plan to rent a boat. We made an online reservation at Lost Bridge Marina in Garfield, Arkansas for a 19 foot ski boat which was the perfect size for our family of four (full capacity is six people).

The rental came with life jackets for our family.

Besides ski boats, Lost Bridge Marina also rents a variety of pontoons and fishing boats. We added a tube to our rental for an extra $10 per hour.

You can rent boats for a half day or full day. A half day (four hours) was the perfect amount of time for our three and five-year-old daughters to enjoy boating, tubing, snacking, and swimming.

Once you are on the boat, being out on the lake is a great activity during this crazy time when we are all dealing with COVID-19 concerns. At the marina social distancing can be a bit harder, but I thought the marina staff did a great job at balancing good customer service and safety. You can check their website for availability and more information. Reservations fill up quickly.

Another marina on Beaver Lake that offers boat rentals is Starkey Marina in Eureka Springs. Starkey’s rental fleet includes pontoons and tritoons. Prairie Creek Marina in Rogers, Arkansas also rents pontoons and deck boats. Float Eureka isn’t a marina, but they rent stand up paddle boards, kayaks, and canoes.

Even though the grey clouds above warned of rain, we were lucky that the storms held off. The water in Beaver Lake is incredibly clear. My husband was amazed at how far down into the water he could see the anchor when he was dropping it in the cove where we swam. The temperature was also pleasant. This was our first excursion to Beaver Lake. We can’t wait to return!

We found several beautiful coves to swim in. I love this pink boat that was parked in a peaceful spot.

Blueberry Picking – Outdoor Summer Fun in Northwest Arkansas

Last week our neighbor invited us out to pick blueberries at a local blueberry farm. We’ve picked strawberries and apples in the past, but this was our first time picking this super fruit. We headed to Bearing Fruit Farms which was easy to find right off of Highway 45, just east of Fayetteville.

A full bucket of berries is $20 U-Pick. My daughters and I picked a quarter of a bucket, so the total price was only $5.

The owner explained that the different varieties of blueberries they grow vary in taste, size, and growing season. The last to ripen will be available through mid-July. Check their facebook page for hours and picking times.

We’ve been enjoying our berries for days. I found a healthy blueberry muffins recipe here. The girls had fun making the muffins and liked eating them even more!

If you are on the look out for fun summer activities in Northwest Arkansas, I definitely recommend blueberry picking. I think this will become an annual tradition at our house.