Imagine a large cast of talented actors performing an incredible theatrical pageant with music and character of “merry olde England.” And picture enjoying this four-hour experience over a multiple-course meal from soup to plum pudding. This is The Bracebridge Dinner as it is enjoyed in December every year.
Held in The Ahwahnee at Yosemite National Park, guests assemble in the Great Lounge for champagne and caroling before being trumpeted into The Hall. Festivities begin here, and so does the magic of the evening. The dining room of the grand lodge is alit with the glow of candles and the atmosphere one of reverence and merriment combined. In all, the music is described as rollicking, but as the play takes place, moments of awe and silence abound.
The meal is one to be savored, with seven courses of delectable dishes served one after the other. Exquisitely prepared and served by costumed characters, this is a dinner you will not soon forget.
Of course, one of the highlights of the dinner is the setting. The picturesque Yosemite National Park is the backdrop, and its beauty is one of the draws that brings people back year after year. Come to this winter wonderland and enjoy the evening of music and pageantry amongst the snowy pines. Stay longer, and experience winter camping at its best in Yosemite Valley below the towering cliffs of Half Dome and the Royal Arches.
Tickets for The Bracebridge Dinner range from $250 to $400 per person, with children’s passes being at the lower end of the scale. Choose from a dinner package and add a photo session if you would like. Packages that include accommodation at the Ahwahnee Lodge or the Yosemite Valley Lodge can be purchased as well. And of course, there is winter camping at this gorgeous National Park, too.
To attend The Bracebridge Dinner, you will head to The Ahwahnee, which sits just below Glacier Point and Half Dome in Yosemite Valley. Along the way, you may see incredible views of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. The Valley roads operate in loop form, so glance at your park map to see this in action.
Fill your gas tank before heading into Yosemite Valley; you will not find a gas station there. Tire chains are required in certain weather conditions, so have some on hand. Note that some routes will be closed in winter, but roads to the Yosemite Valley region of the park are often open when others are closed.
Monitor the regional 511 system as you travel through California for up-to-date information on the roads and weather. The National Parks Service also keeps close tabs on road conditions throughout the park.
The Ahwahnee has a parking lot, but it is tiny with a loop feature making it tricky for larger rigs to maneuver. Due to the number of people staying there and attending the dinner, even smaller spots may be limited. You can park at the day-use parking lot near the Village Store and take the Yosemite Valley shuttle or walk along the bike path less than a mile. This will prove far easier than driving straight to the event if you are not camping in the Valley.
Using the Yosemite Valley Shuttle to move from place to place within the park is not only convenient but sometimes safer, but this option is only available for the Valley areas. Road closures are not uncommon in the fall and winter months. Leaving your rig at the day-parking lot and relaxing to see the scenery on your way to The Ahwahnee is an excellent, eco-friendly choice.
While camping onsite at The Bracebridge Dinner venue is not a possibility, there are several campsites within Yosemite Park offering spectacular views and glimpses of animals. Hookups for sewer, water, and electricity are not available at this national park, but the park does offer year-round RV camping in several locations with dump-sites nearby. Food lockers keep your groceries safe from exploring animals throughout the park.
Some campgrounds in the park will be closed in December, but travelers may greatly appreciate the option to stay close with these options. Upper Pines Campground is located at the far end of Yosemite Valley and somewhat behind The Ahwahnee. Enjoy a walk along the Merced River between Upper Pines and The Bracebridge Dinner.
Excellent sites for winter stays outside of Yosemite Valley are also often available. Hodgdon Meadow, along CA-120, offers places accessible to large RV’s up to 35 feet and trailers up to 27 feet. Wawona Campground, via CA-41, is often open all year and can take RVs and trailers up to 35 feet. This campsite is ADA friendly with higher topped picnic tables and accessible washrooms nearby.
While in Yosemite, take advantage of the hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing. Bring along traction gear for your shoes and trekking poles, too. The trails will most likely be snowy, making for a fun challenge in the great outdoors. The weather and road conditions will determine if you need to use your tire chains. Keep in mind that multiple roads in the park are closed in the winter season, so be aware and flexible in your travel planning.
The traditional dress for The Bracebridge Dinner is formal attire. Bring your best and attend this elegant evening in style. Tuxedos and evening gowns are the norm, and it’s a wonderful occasion to dress to the nines. At camp, bring warm weather gear and make sure you have more than one pair of footwear. Bring hooks for the shower rod so that wet clothing can be hung to dry.
Winter camping brings its joys and its challenges, but if you are prepared, you will not have any issues. Stock the linen closets with extra blankets for cozy sleeping and consider electric blankets to keep propane use to a minimum. Before leaving home, check the RV for cracks and crevices where cold air can get in. Add insulation to keep the wind out. Bring along batteries, a flashlight, and a portable radio. Hand and feet warmers are a good idea for trekking adventures in Hetch Hetchy or Yosemite Valley.
Buy desiccant crystals and place them around the RV, out of reach of kids and pets, to absorb the inevitable moisture buildup. Have a carbon monoxide detector on board and check its efficiency every night before turning in each night. Keep your fire contained in the fire ring and remember to store food in a locked motorhome. If you are in a pop-up camper, Yosemite rules are that you use storage lockers at all times.
As you pack for winter camping, keep your cooking methods in mind. Have fire starter, paper, and extra matches or a lighter for getting the campfire going. Enjoy a batch of chili or chowder over the open fire. One-pot meals make for easy cleanup after the meal and more time for exploring the beauty of Yosemite. Stop by the Yosemite Valley Store for any items that you forgot to bring.
If you are staying within the park boundaries during this road trip, you have several options to choose from in Yosemite Valley. The use of local, organic, and sustainable products is the park’s aim. Yosemite Valley Lodge has a food court for quick meals, and there is an upscale restaurant there. Curry Village has several casual eateries and a pizza bar also.
Half Dome Village and Yosemite Village are just two of the places where you can shop for souvenirs or unique gifts to go under your Christmas tree. Embrace the venue’s Yuletide spirit and get your stocking stuffers right in the park. There is so much to do in Yosemite that once you set up your Airstream, you won’t want to leave the area until its time to go home.
The main security concern at Yosemite is easy to manage. Keep your foodstuffs securely stowed away to ensure that the animals who call this beautiful park home remain healthy. Sightings of wild animals are not uncommon, and although some people try to interact with them, this is unadvised. Doing so will not benefit the animals as being self-sufficient is best for them.
The weather conditions can vary throughout the park due to the effects of elevation on conditions. Dress appropriately when going on a ski or snowshoe excursion. Always leave information on where you are going and your expected time of return. Bring along extra snacks, but remember to pack out what you bring on your adventures throughout the park.
Avoid frostbite and don’t expose your skin when outside for any length of time. Your fingers, toes, nose, and ears can easily incur damage from over-exposure before you realize it. Keep a first aid kit in your RV, and include items like antiseptic wipes, an emergency blanket, saline solution, tweezers, and adhesive bandages.