Having lived in the Midwest most of my life, I previously could not imagine a desire to “escape the heat” of Arizona summers. I mean…hot weather is FAR superior to cold weather IMO (thus why we live here now) so why would I ever need to leave?
Flash forward seven years into our residency here and we were more than ready to seek out cooler climate and different scenery.
With four kids, air travel is not only costly, it is also logistically more challenging for our family dynamic (why do kids have so much stuff?). So, when presented with the idea to road trip to a drivable destination that offered us both a significant temperature change and new landscape, we jumped at the opportunity, especially as a fun way to spend the Fourth of July weekend. And after our recent stay at an all inclusive dude ranch outside Tucson, this checked all the boxes for us.
Read on to learn more about this not-your-average YMCA experience.
Where We Stayed
Most of the time when we travel, we are looking for centrally located, family friendly options that don’t break the bank.
Little did I know, YMCA of the Rockies offers all of this and so much more. If you’re like me and right now you are thinking, the YMCA? Like the place to get yourself clean and have a good meal and do whatever you feel? YES! That YMCA!
I truly believe this is a hidden gem for families.
With two locations, Estes Park and Snow Mountain Ranch, you could easily make this a year-round destination of choice. Not only does your stay include lodging, daily breakfast, and beautiful surroundings, the majority of the activities offered are completely free (and even those that do have a charge associated, the fee is nominal)
Pulling up to the property, we were blown away by the beautiful, expansive grounds. Situated in Rocky Mountain National Park, you have direct access to the park and everything it has to offer.
Our family stayed in their hotel style lodging – modest, but accommodating and comfortable, the rooms were large, the beds were comfortable, and the views could not be beat. One of my favorite features: no TV!
This encouraged us to stay outside and when downtime was needed, the kids opted to read, color, or just rest. Like a hotel, they have pack n plays and roll away beds available for your convenience and a station for water/coffee/tea and a microwave in the lobby.
Each room is also equipped with a fridge which we stocked with snacks (and adult beverages) of our own.
What We Did
I could probably write a whole separate post just highlighting the activities offered at YMCA of the Rockies. Though we did spend some time exploring the town of Estes Park (adorable!), we honestly easily could have never left the property and felt just as fulfilled.
We took advantage of Trivia Night (second place, thank you very much!) and had blast coming together to try to answer some of the tricky questions.
I enjoyed a yoga class nestled in a cabin in the pines with my mom. The kids played at one of the many playgrounds on the property every day. They also enjoyed mini golf and sand volleyball.
When it rained on our plans to swim, we took advantage of the expansive craft center where the girls got Fourth of July face paint and each picked out a fun craft to bring home as a souvenir.
But the highlight of our stay was the guided hike we took through Moraine Park. As we brought our two older girls and Nani along, we chose a less strenuous (albeit still challenging) option while the younger kids stayed back with Grandpa.
Accessed right off the YMCA property, a knowledgeable and friendly team of guides took us through the coolest nature walk – educating our family on glaciation and the flora and fauna of the park. Definitely a must do! Seriously! I was still telling my gym friends about this a week after we got home!
A recommendation: familiarize yourself with the activity offerings prior to arriving on property, especially if you are going in peak times such as a holiday weekend like us. Some of the more popular activities (axe throwing, archery) book up quickly. Again, there is SO much to do, we just subbed in a different activity, but if your heart is set on something specific, I would book in advance of your stay.
How We Ate
Reservations, timing, travel to and from restaurants are just an added element to our already complex itineraries, so I was thrilled to hear that breakfast was included each day of our stay and there were many food options on property for use to choose from.
The buffet each morning offered lots of fresh fruit, eggs, proteins, cereals and more. There were grab and go options (which we took advantage of for our early morning hike) and things that appealed to each family member individually.
There was a pizza delivery option we took advantage of one night and soft serve ice cream available in the main hall which the girls loved.
As there are also cabins available to rent on the property, the YMCA also offers a convenient grocery delivery service so if you wanted to cook but not waste time shopping, they have you covered!
A big thank you to YMCA of the Rockies for the lasting family memories made on this trip! All thoughts/opinions of this experience are our own and we cannot wait to come back!