Visiting the Ominous Hotel ‘The Shining’ Is Inspired By

In 2021, I went on a trip to Colorado with my best friends! On our way down from The Rocky Mountains, I visited the famous hotel ‘The Shining’ is based on!

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Image of The Stanley Hotel

I am always the friend that votes “no” to the scary movie and hides behind their hands if I’m forced to watch one. However, The Shining is actually one of my all time favorites. My favorite part about both the film and Stephen King’s novel is the slow build. You’re aware something suspicious is going on the whole time, but it slowly starts to reveal itself over the course of the film and novel. Here’s what happened when I visited the hotel Stephen King based his novel on.

The Stanley Hotel

In 1974, Stephen King and his wife, Tabitha, spent a single night at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Just as the family arrives in the dead of winter, so do the Kings. They are one of the only guests staying at the hotel upon their arrival due to the hotel shutting down for the winter season.

When they check in, Tabitha went to bed while King walks the halls all night. He even stopped at the hotel bar to be served by a bartender named Grady. This is inspiration for Mr. Grady in King’s story. King became inspired by many aspects of the hotel during their brief stay. They stayed in room 217, which is the infamous room in the novel where many supernatural instances take place. His imagination spiraled due to the hotel’s desolate location, large size, and eerie energy.

Poster of "The Shining" movie at the Stanley Hotel
Image via Olivia Salamone

The hotel opened in 1909 and contained many old fashioned features including antique bathrooms and grandiose decorations. It also contained a music room and many gathering spaces. It was known to be a home for the supernatural prior to Kings arrival, but this fact only furthered his horror novel.

The hotel cultivated the perfect environment for an imaginative man like King. He grasped onto all natures of the hotel and ran with the madness that could occur while staying there for months on end alone in the Rocky Mountain wilderness.

Image of the typewriter and the infamous "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" page from "The Shining"
Image via Olivia Salamone

My Journey

However, on my journey to the Stanley Hotel, I debunked some of the hotel’s similarities. Upon arriving in Estes Park, it is not as desolate as King describes. The hotel is on top of a hill looking over a well populated town. This may not have been the case when King visited in 1974, but it definitely shifted the energy from ominous to quite welcoming.

The inside of the hotel is just as ornate and beautiful as I imagined. I felt eerie energy in the air, but it felt nothing like how I imaged. I didn’t come across a room as large as the one Jack used to write in, but the lobby looked vast.

The biggest difference regarding the 1980 film and reality is the lack of a gigantic maze. In 2015, the hotel planted a small maze in the courtyard. I walked it myself! It is quite brief and the hedges only came up to my knees. This is no where near as ominous as the maze Jack gets lost in in the film.

The front entrance of the Stanley Hotel
Image via Olivia Salamone

No matter the discrepancies, if you enjoy The Shining as much as me, I would plan a trip to Colorado immediately. There is not only a room dedicated to some of the film props, but there is also a Spirited Shining Tour you can take to learn more about the hotel’s creepy history and King’s inspirations!

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