If you know our family personally, you know that we love Estes Park. We are extremely fortunate to have a family home there and we love escaping to the mountains. We typically go as a family about 3 times a year. In the summer, we stay as long as we can to escape the Dallas heat!
There are two ways from Dallas to get to Estes Park. You can go west through Amarillo and New Mexico or north through Oklahoma and Kansas. We prefer the the Oklahoma/Kansas route. We always stop on the way there.
*Mom Hack Travel Tip – When we travel like this, I always have my kids pack their swimsuits, toiletries, pjs, and two outfits in their backpacks. That way, when we stop, they just have to take in their backpacks and you’re not unloading the whole car.
Usually when we stay in Amarillo, we try to get somewhere for dinner around 4:45/5, which means we leave Dallas around 11. We eat an early dinner, swim at hotel, and then get to bed early. We usually grab lunch on the way out of Dallas or we have lunch packed. I try to pack lunch but that doesn’t always happen.
Pros – Prettier drive, fun stops along the way
Cons – You go through a lot of little towns that require you to slow down. In New Mexico, there is a solid stretch, you have no cell service and there are no gas stations.
Places to stay in Amarillo
We always stay right on I-40, so in the morning, we can hope right on the interstate.
Some of our favorite spots are:
- Springhill Suites– This hotel is new, each room has a sitting area with a pull out sofa and beds. They also have free breakfast which we always like for road trips because you can eat quick and get on the road.
- Residence Inn– This hotel has bigger rooms and suites available for families. It is a little old and our room could have used some improvements but it is one of the only places our whole family fits in one room. They also offer free breakfast.
Just make sure to stay right along I-40. Also, if going in the summer, Amarillo surprisingly books up fast. It is a common stop for lots of destinations, so don’t stall booking a room. One year I forgot to book a room until a week before, we ended up at a pretty gross hotel.
Things to do in Amarillo
Cadillac Ranch – This is a must do at some point, just so you can say you did it. Couple of things to note:
- Make sure you have spray paint.
- It is a little bit of a walk to the actual Cadillacs. In the summer, it is really hot. Make sure to have water. When we went, it was super muddy. Just be aware, it is in the middle of a field in Amarillo.
Palo Duro Canyon – This is a little drive from Amarillo but well worth the stop if you have time. You could even go after you leave Amarillo and spend the night at Palo Duro the next night. It’s gorgeous and often forgotten.
Places to Eat in Amarillo
We have several favorites in Amarillo.
Big Texan Steak Ranch – If you haven’t done it, you need to do it. It’s fun. The food isn’t bad (we actually think it’s pretty good). It’s great for families. Make sure to get there early because it gets packed fast.
Coyote Bluff Cafe – This is a true hole in the wall restaurant. You also have to get here early because there is about 8 tables in the whole place. Great burgers, fries, and cold beer.
When we take the Oklahoma/Kansas route, we always stop overnight in Salina, KS. We usually try to leave Dallas by 10, we try to not stop until we get to Norman.
Pros – Straight interstate, set the cruise control and go. If there’s an emergency, you are able to easily get help.
Cons – Drive is fairly boring, the wind when you are driving across Kansas is sometimes brutal
Places to stay in Salina
Holiday Inn Express and Suites – I like this hotel because it’s right on 70, so in the morning, you can just hop on 70 and go west.
We’ve also stayed at the Courtyard Marriott several times.
Things to do/Places to Eat in Salina
Salina is small, so there’s not a ton to do. We love their Main Street.
There are two places we love to eat on Main Street:
Blue Sky Brewery – This is a great place to relax after a day on the road. It’s fun, easy, and the service is always good. My kids love watching them make pizzas there. It’s a good place to go after being in the car because people kind of roam and watch the pizzas or socialize. You don’t feel like everyone has to sit still in their seats the whole time.
Martinelli’s Little Italy – We stopped in this place one night in December, it was snowing and this place was the only place on Main Street still open for dinner. We had the best meal and terrific service. One thing this place does is a family style, all you can eat meal. We had tell them to stop bringing us food.
We love walking around Main Street after we eat. There’s cute shops and fun murals.
We try to get back to hotel to swim before bed and then hit the road by 8. There have been times we have hung out in Salina, then driven on to Hays to spend the night there. Hays is about an hour from Salina.
So here’s your start to plan your trip to Estes Park!