Join us on a quick tour of Yosemite National Park hotels and food options, including a detailed look at historical Ahwahnee Hotel.
I hope you enjoyed my 4 day tour of Yosemite Park, and now I’ll share my lodging and eating experience.
Before when I visited Yosemite with my American host family or friends, I typically stayed at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge or High Sierra Camps that are incredibly popular with hikers and difficult to reserve. The accommodation in High Sierra is only available for a short period of time each year.
Tuolumne Meadows from Lambert Dome
By The original uploader was Mav at English Wikipedia (Image taken in June 2003 by Daniel Mayer) [CC BY-SA 1.0, GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
As this was our first family trip to Yosemite, we stayed in the hotels inside the valley for 2 nights, at the Lodge by the Falls and the historical The Majestic Yosemite Hotel. And we stayed outside the park on the last evening when we visited Mariposa Grove, near Yosemite’s South Entrance.
Even though there are quite a few options for staying at Yosemite, please remember to reserve way ahead of time regardless of which lodging you end up choosing.
The current reservation system allows you to reserve your room 1 year in advance and in most cases, there is no penalty as long as you cancel 7 days prior to the reservation date. Due to this, people often reserve their rooms (especially the popular rooms) a year in advance. We booked our rooms about 1 month before our trip and it was painful as we had to check each night to see if rooms had become available.
I’ll cover the hotel and rooms first, then share the food we enjoyed in the park later on in the post. Come on, let’s go!
Yosemite National Park Hotels
As I mentioned earlier, there are many options for staying in Yosemite:
- Bring your own tent: Camping in Upper and Lower Pines – reservation required with National Park Services.
- House Keeping Camp – Located in the center of Yosemite Valley, each unit consists of a three-sided structure with bunk beds. You don’t need to setup your own tent and there are campfire rings that allows you to grill outdoors.
- Tent Cabins – Half Dome Village, Tuolumne Meadows, White Wolf Lodge – Canvas tent on wooden or metal frames. Tuolumne Meadows and White Wolf Lodge are only available seasonally.
- Lodges – Yosemite Valley Lodge – traditional rooms similar to a motel room in 1 to 2 story buildings.
- The Majestic Yosemite Hotel – grand and historic hotel of Yosemite Park.
Tent cabin at Hald Dome Village
Yosemite Cabin with Bath
Yosemite Valley Lodge
We booked the first night of our stay at Yosemite Lodge, and the main reason is that all rooms have their own bathrooms. Yes, for most of the other accommodations you would need to share public bathrooms with other visitors. It’s not such a big deal for me but it’s easier to have your own bathroom with little ones. The price of the room was quite high, nearly $250 a night.
The “newly remodeled” room photos looked charming when we were bookings the hotel on the website. Our room was on the second floor of the Hemlock building and first thing that comes to mind as we made our way down the hallway were the thin walls. You could hear everything going on in the rooms, and especially lots of children’s voices (we figured out why and I’ll explain later).
Of the buildings, Hemlock, Maple, and Cedar have internal hallways and the rest have outside stairs which are not as convenient during raining seasons.
Part of the reason we booked the lodge was the really cool looking bunk bed. All the bunk beds are located in the Hemlock building and it makes sense for families to stay in these rooms as you can sleep 4-5 (2 adults + 2-3 small children) comfortably (thus the noise).
The room was clean and rustic, very similar to a typical motel room.
The room setup is very basic. As you enter the room, there is the sink, bathroom, and closet to the right.
As you look back at the door after entering the room, there is a large gap below the door (see the photo above), which explains all the noises we heard in the hallway.
There is no AC in any of the rooms so summer could be a bit hot during the day. When we visited, it was still chilly and we felt cold air coming into our room even with the all the windows and doors closed. We found the reason, there was a cardboard taped against the wall to seal up an openings.
Would I recommend staying at the Lodge? It is definitely overpriced, but then there aren’t many options in the valley if you want the privacy of your own bathroom. Here is a detailed Yelp review I find really help on the Yosemite Lodge for more info.
The Ahwahnee Hotel
For the second night, we splurged and stayed at the grand Ahwahnee hotel. It is by far the nicest accommodation among all the Yosemite National Park Hotels.
The primary reason is to share on Just One Cookbook the experience of staying there and share with the readers. The second reason is because I’ve never stayed there before and wanted to try at least one time. After all it’s the nicest hotel in my favorite park in the world.
As you park your car in the parking lot, you head towards the entrance of hotel through a long corridor. I can’t describe to you how excited I was.
The exterior of the hotel was well maintained and you can’t tell it opened in 1927 and almost 100 years old. As the cost of the room was $500, it rivals the Four Seasons and Ritz of the world so the my expectation was really high.
Right next to the corridor was a beautiful green lawn with towering trees of all colors.
Near the entrance door at the end of the hall, there’s a sign that says the hotel was recognized as National Historic Landmark in 1987.
The lobby of the hotel was fairly traditional kept it’s original character. After entering through the doors, make a right towards the counter to check in for your room. Around the registration area, there was also the concierge desk as well as a small snack shop and gift shop.
As our room was not quite ready, we decided to have some refreshment at the Ahwahnee Bar.
We still had a bit of time so we roamed around the hotel grounds and take in the scenery.
The building was quite impressive, with large stone columns supporting the structure with rocks and large wood panel making up most of the exterior.
The building itself is set in front of the Royal Arch Cascade and the stone facade blends really well into the post card like background.
As we wondered back into the hotel, we explored the interior. The building is made up of 3 wings. As you make your way past the registration you’ll be in the center of the building where the 3 wings connect. One of the wing is the dining room which I’ll review later. The second wing is the registration and Ahwahnee Bar, and the 3rd wing contains the great lounge and the solarium.
Let’s go take a peek inside the great lounge. Do you see the giant fireplaces? I absolutely loved them! They were so big I could walk inside of them. Can you imagine all the interesting conversations and storytelling that’s happened over the 100 years in this room at night with the fireplace burning?
With floor to ceiling windows, this room receives large amount of light.
The sunlight accentuates the intricate and pretty artworks in the stained glass windows.
As you walk towards the solarium, you can visit and view the Mural Room and Winter Club Room.
Finally, here is the solarium at end of the wing.
We’ve been told our room was just about ready, so let’s head up. There is only 1 elevator in the hotel and it’s a bit fickle due to its age. It did breakdown a few times when we were there and some folks were stranded for a bit on the first floor with their luggage.
The intricate stained glass were also placed in ceiling of the elevator.
Yay! We’re finally at our floor. As we exited the elevator, the hallway smelled a bit musky which is not too surprising for an older building. However the feeling is definitely not as grand as the exterior of the hotel or the great lounge downstairs.
Ta da! Our room! What?? As we opened the door, I was a bit shocked that the room was so basic. I was not expecting extravagance but for the price we paid ($500), I was a bit disappointed by the average-looking room.
The room is pretty much just 2 beds and a sitting area.
There was a book on the history of the Ahwahnee Hotel for you to enjoy on the coffee table.
The bathrooms were clean, but feels a bit dated as well. They probably try to keep it look antique on purpose?
We did get a killer view of Yosemite Falls from our room. But is it worth $500? I’ll let you be the judge of that. 🙂
One positive note, the hotel does have a heated pool, and our children had a lot of fun playing in it. The pool is just for the hotel guests, but you can enjoy almost every part of The Ahwahnee without staying there and I highly recommend checking out the gorgeous and grand historical hotel.
Best Western Plus Yosemite Gateway Inn
For the last evening, we stayed near Mariposa Grove but outside the park. To be honest, it was really expensive staying 2 nights inside the park and the Best Western was a bargain at around $120 a night. With the indoor pool for the kids, it’s a no-brainer.
This is by far the largest Best Western I’ve stayed at; the hotel is made up of 13 separate buildings built on a large hill.
The rooms were very large with plenty of space next to the beds, and also very clean.
The bathroom was pretty standard and minimal, but well-kept without signs of wear and tear.
Lastly, children agreed the indoor pool was awesome.
Eating in Yosemite National Park
Papa Urb’s Grill
Driving to Yosemite from the Bay Area takes anywhere between 4 to 6 hours and you’re likely to stop on the way to grab some food. We stopped by Papa Urb’s Grill (a Filipino Restaurant) in Tracy that was highly reviewed on Yelp and it was so amazing good. This will be our stop going forward when we visit Yosemite Park.
Deep fried marinated milkfish – My first time trying it and I absolutely loved it. Deep fried to perfection.
Chicken adobo quesadilla, such an simple dish but filled with so many different flavors.
The sisig fries – these fries are so good they should be illegal. I think I ate most of it by myself.
BBQ pork belly, enough said! The pork belly were juicy and super delicious. I can’t wait to go back to Papa Urb’s Grill soon!
Mountain Room Restaurant
By the time we finish touring Glacier Point after arriving at the park (read Yosemite Part 1), it was almost dinner time and we had our dinner at the Mountain Room Restaurant at the Yosemite Lodge.
The restaurant had a cool interior, with vaulted high ceiling and wooden beams.
Some of the dishes we tried included onion soup gratinee, rainbow trout amandine, and eggplant lasagna.
The atmosphere was fun but the food was average. The other dining option at the Lodge was the food court but since it was our little princess’s 7th birthday we wanted somewhere we could sit down and celebrate.
Yosemite Lodge Food Court
The next morning, we picked up some breakfast at the Food Court inside the Yosemite Lodge before heading to Yosemite Falls (read Yosemite Part 1). They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, offering hot breakfast, Italian pastas and pizza, grilled items, pre-made salads, fruits, vegetarian and non-vegetarian entrees, and desserts. You can grab your coffee in the morning at the Coffee Corner inside.
For the second night when we stayed at the Ahwahnee Hotel, we had dinner in the Ahwahnee Bar downstairs because the Dining Room requires a dress code. As we packed mostly hiking clothes, we were too lazy to pack the proper attire just for one meal. The Ahwahnee Bar offered a decent selection of salads, sandwiches, and other bar bites.
The food was not bad and we were able to relax and enjoy the sunset from the patio.
Ahwahnee Dining Room
We stayed the Ahwahnee Hotel on a Saturday night and enjoyed the Sunday brunch the next day (no dress code). It was exciting as we got to enjoy brunch in the massive Ahwahnee Dining Room.
Even though the ceiling is more than 30 feet high, the generous use of wood and stone pillars made the dining feel intimate. We had an early brunch at 8 AM before heading out to hike in the morning, and the room was a bit dark when we sat down even with the large windows.
I increased the exposure on the image quite a bit so you can also enjoy the details of the dining room…
In the right side corner of the room is where all the brunch buffet dishes were laid out. Let me show you what they offered.
Ingredients for make your own omelette station.
Carving Station with prime rib.
Salads and veggie stations.
Seafood Bar with raw oysters and other shellfish.
Various kinds of fresh seasonal fruits.
The station for antipasto.
Lastly the desserts! We thought the food was also average but the atmosphere in the dining room was really cool. Now I can mark another item off my to-do list!
Meadow Grill & Pizza Patio
When we were riding our bike on the trail and walking around (read Yosemite Part 1), we ate a few times at the Meadow Grill and Pizza Patio near Curry Village.
At both places, you place an order at a stand.
The pizza was quite delicious and probably one of the best meals we had in the park.
Curry Village Pavilion
The Curry Village Pavilion serves breakfast and dinner but we didn’t get a chance to try on this trip.
South Gate Brewing Company
While visiting Mariposa Grove, we enjoyed a really delicious dinner at South Gate Brewing Company near the Best Western.
The menu was quite creative and had a better selection than your typical brewery restaurant.
It was pretty crowded with tourists and locals.
We had kale salad, brick oven pizza, fish tacos, fish & chips, and house brewed beer.
Wawona Dining Room
After hiking in Mariposa Grove (read Yosemite Part 1), we enjoyed lunch at Wawona Dining Room at the historical Wawona Hotel nearby.
The interior of the hotel looks like it hasn’t been updated for a while.
Here is the dining room. From the big window, you can see the front of the hotel.
The lunch menu was mostly salads, soups, and sandwiches.
We had Smoked Turkey Avocado Club, Traditional French Dip, kid’s Spaghetti, and kid’s Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. Once again, the food was really average.
Yosemite National Park Hotels Conclusion
To summarize our trip, I would honestly say the Yosemite National Park Hotels are e a little too expensive and the food is too average although I know we were in a national park. Maybe my expectation could be too high. Maybe camping and cooking your meal could save you money. However, we were too busy to prepare everything ahead of time and we chose for the easy and comfort route.
For our trip next year (yes we already booked our room), we’re staying at the Lodge again as it’s the most convenient. I’ll try to discover some good food spots to share within the park and update the post then. I hope you enjoyed our stay and brief food review in the park.
Our kitchen remodel is almost done. I’m unpacking all the boxes and organizing them, so we’ll start sharing delicious recipes again soon!
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