Explore a magical ice castle; learn how to snowshoe, taste award-winning chili, and sip a variety of beer and wine at the 2nd Annual Estes Park Winter Festival, Martin Luther King Weekend, January 14 through 17. This family festival partners with the 16th Annual Winter Trails Day (held Saturday, January 15 in Rocky Mountain National Park) offering a weekend jam-packed with events.New this year is Jess Parrish’s Interactive Castle in downtown Bond Park on Saturday and Sunday. While children explore the ice maze, zoom down the snow slide and enjoy a sno-cone from the ice luge, adults can watch Jess Parrish create his intricate ice carvings. The castle also includes geo-ices, a money cube, and interactive snow & ice games. The castle is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the cost is $5 per person, which includes all Bond Park activities (pony and horse carriage rides are an additional $5 per person) and chili tasting. There is no charge for children under three.
On Saturday evening, watch six hot air balloons glow with light at the “Hot Air Balloon Glow” at the Stanley Park Fairgrounds. This event is of course, weather dependent. After enjoying the balloons, gaze at the planets and stars in Estes Park’s crystal clear skies at the Estes Park Memorial Observatory from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evening.
Learn how to snowshoe at the 16th Annual Winter Trails Day, scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 15 in Rocky Mountain National Park. Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., try complimentary snowshoes from your choice of manufacturers (Tubbs, Atlas, MSR, Crescent Moon and more). Receive expert advice on selecting and fitting snowshoes, along with other fun ideas about how to enjoy winter in the mountains. Don’t miss the igloo, a crowd favorite! Participants can attend free informational clinics, which include educational stations on winter activity basics, safety techniques, nutrition and hydration tips, essential conditioning exercises, and how to dress for winter hiking and camping. The national Winter Trails organization and REI sponsor the free event, however Park entrance fees apply.
Each day at noon (Friday through Monday), take part in a town-wide scavenger hunt with a chance to win lodging, retail and restaurant prizes. Pick up clues at the Bond Park Cabin or Estes Park Visitor Center. Friday evening from 7 to 9 p.m., be entertained with ghost stories and cowboy poetry by the fire at the Historic Crags Lodge while enjoying complimentary hot cocoa, s’mores and a dessert bar. The Estes Park Wedding Association sponsors this free event.
Spa, lodging, shopping, and restaurant specials will be offered throughout the weekend. As an added bonus, many restaurants including the Rock Inn Mountain Tavern, Lonigans Bar & Grill, Chippers Bowling Center, and Nicky’s offer live entertainment. Or just visit the heated tent in Bond Park and taste selections from Colorado wineries and microbreweries from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. As you choose your favorites, listen to live music from Kelly Aspen, ‘Ol Skool & Mira Conoway and the Dennis Tobias Band. The price is $20 for wine & beer tastings and includes a keepsake commemorative glass.
On Saturday, chefs from Estes Park restaurants compete to find out who has the “Best Chili in Estes Park.” The following day, amateur cooks must follow Chili Appreciation Society International’s (C.A.S.I.) guidelines to compete in the Chili Cook-Off. There are many awards, so don’t miss your chance to taste the best chili in town and see for yourself! Those interested in cooking chili or any other Festival questions, please contact