The Ahwahnee Hotel (See reviews and rates) is the ultimate accommodation in Yosemite in every way and is almost as much a symbol of Yosemite as Half Dome.
The hotel is a National Historic Landmark, the most expensive lodging in the Yosemite Park Area, the finest dining experience, an architectural marvel, and very important historically as well.
Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, realized that to get adequate funding, create a positive public opinion of the nation park concept and to preserve Yosemite as a natural place he would need to get the backing of wealthy and influential people.
He first sponsored luxury backpacking trips for the most powerful people in San Francisco. Then once he had some private funding he ordered the building of The Ahwahnee which was completed in 1927.
Everything was 1st class, by 1927 standards, and it was immediately recognized as an architectural masterpiece combining elements of Native American design with wrought iron chandeliers and stained glass windows into a modern take on the ultimate old-world hunting lodge.
The hotel appears to be built mostly of wood with a stone foundation but the architect pioneered a technique using molded and stained reinforced concrete that creates the look of wooden beams and siding. It was so well done that only a very close inspection reveals the truth but rest assured that the hotel is nearly fire proof.
Accommodation in Yosemite for the Jet-Set
The Ahwahnee quickly became one of the top destinations for the “jet-set” crowd of the day.
Among the rich and famous who have stayed here are:
- Eleanor Roosevelt
- John Kennedy
- Dwight Eisenhower
- The Shah of Iran
- Herbert Hoover
- Ronald Reagan
- Winston Churchill
- Queen Elizabeth
- Prince Phillip
- Will Rogers
- Charlie Chaplin
- Greta Garbo
- Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz
- Judy Garland (Lucille Ball once played the grand piano to accompany Judy here)
- William Shatner
- Leonard Nimoy
- Robert Redford (he even worked here as an employee before he was famous)
You do not have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy a visit. The friendly staff welcomes anyone to look around or stay for a meal.
The entrance to the hotel is not particularly grand and the lobby may at first seem to disappoint but wander down past the desk to the enormous main dining hall.
The 130 foot long room with its soaring 37-foot beamed ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows takes most people’s breath away.
You probably can afford breakfast or lunch in this world-class facility. Dress is casual and you should not pass up the opportunity. Sunday brunch and dinners require reservations, dressing up and start to get rather pricy.
The main dining hall is a fitting spot for the annual Bracebridge Dinner, a recreation of a renaissance Christmas feast and entertainment spectacle. It’s expensive and you need to start trying to reserve a year or more in advance.
Next wander into the Great Lounge with fireplaces large enough for an entire family to gather in, huge lounge chairs and beautiful décor everywhere.
Walk on to the Solarium at the very back of the Great Lounge and you will probably be alone with the collection of park artifacts, huge windows with soaring views and comfortable chairs to relax in while you read a book or meditate on the wonders of nature.
Up the stairs you will find the Tudor Room often in use for private functions overlooking the Great Lounge.
A less expensive option for lunch or dinner eating at The Ahwahnee is the Ahwahnee Bar just off the lobby where sandwiches and bar fare are offered along with a full range of drinks at reasonable prices. You may find yourself being serenaded by a live pianist who will gladly play your favorite songs.
The Ahwahnee accommodation in Yosemite rooms start at about $400 and go up to well over $1,000 for the luxury suites so be prepared to drop a bundle if you decide to stay here. There are also 24 luxury cabins if you want more privacy. They are a similarly high-priced accommodation in Yosemite option.
Luxury Accommodation in Yosemite
The Ahwahnee accommodation in Yosemite has all the amenities you would expect at a fine hotel including swimming pool and tennis courts and the staff will do their best to keep you happy.
Despite the prices rooms at The Ahwahnee are often booked up months or even years in advance.
In all honesty the 1920s built rooms are quite small by modern standards and the relative isolation of the park makes it hard to maintain a truly world-class luxury standard compared to most big city hotels. But those downtown hotels don’t allow you to greet a spectacular view of Yosemite out your room window in the morning.
No matter what level of accommodation in Yosemite fits your budget don’t miss the chance to at least experience a visit to The Ahwahnee.