There are countless ways to slice and dice a travel budget. Thanks to Brian’s work travel we are usually able to use his reward points for airfare, hotels and rental cars, which can account for a significant portion of a trip’s expenses.
With those items out of the way, the bulk of our expenses tend to be allocated to experiences and food—both of which we thoroughly enjoy, making them easily justifiable.
While I have yet to pay more for a specific airline or rental car experience, I have on occasion splurged on a certain place to stay because it somehow became more than just a bed and instead an integral part of the overall experience. A few examples that come to mind are the Kybele Hotel we stayed at in Istanbul, the Riad Le Calife we stayed at in Fez, and the glassed-in rainforest bungalow where we stayed on Hawaii’s Big Island.
Our trip to Yosemite National Park added another to the list—the Ahwahnee (also previously known as the Majestic Yosemite Hotel–its original name has now been restored thanks to a longstanding lawsuit being resolved!). This longstanding gem was built in the 1920s and has maintained its glory.
The park had just experienced extensive snowfall prior to our visit, and when we attempted to check into the hotel we were asked to come back later due to downed powerlines that needed to be secured. After parking and exploring the nearby visitor center, we returned and were able to check in to our room.
We only stayed one night, mostly because it’s quite expensive. The hotel is located right in the heart of the Yosemite Valley section of the park, making it a perfect place to stay if you want to easily access acclaimed sights like Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Horsetail or ‘Firefall’ Falls, and Half Dome.
However, we also found our accommodations the night before at the Yosemite Cedar Lodge just outside the park perfectly suitable as well for a MUCH more reasonable price. I would stay at both places again—spending one night at each location allowed us to balance out our hotel budget. All things in moderation.
At the Yosemite Cedar Lodge, we had a very nice room with a patio looking out toward the nearby foothills and river and an on-site restaurant/pub that saved us from having to trek to civilization late at night. Everything was clean, the staff were friendly, and it had all of the amenities we needed for a reasonable price. I would definitely stay here again.
We had quite a different experience at the Ahwahnee, as you will see below. I won’t give a play-by-play of the premises, but I do want to share a few photos from our experience.
From our room to the great hall to our dining experience—everything was grand and memorable, and I have no regrets about splurging to stay there one night during our trip.
Entry, Main Hall and Dining Room
After entering, checking in and dropping our things off in our room, we set out to explore the main hall. This beautiful room had a massive, walk-in fireplace at one end with seats on either side of the fire and plenty of seating throughout for hotel guests or others visiting the park who needed to stop in and warm up.
It was bustling in the evening but we managed to find a spot to share our apertifs while we waited for our dining reservation. We were eventually led into the gigantic dining hall where we had a delicious meal accompanied by a wonderful pianist.
Small Hall and Foyer
Beyond the main hall was a smaller one that was rented out for a wedding the night of our stay. The next morning we sneaked over to check it out and take a few pictures, and I’m glad we did! In addition to the small hall, replete with fireplace, were some well-appointed rooms in the wings–one had photos of people enjoying the lodge through the years, and another had a huge copper pot and hood in one corner.
The foyer beyond was a two-story space with a chandelier and impressive views of the mountains, forest and snow.
Our suite had a private balcony out back that was covered in snow–nevertheless, we spent some time outside admiring the breathtaking scenery visible not only from our patio, but each window in our suite.
In addition to our large bedroom, we had a spacious front room and bathroom, and our entire unit was on a second floor that overlooked the main hall shown above. It was truly lovely.
Due to snow, most of the park was closed during our visit, restricting us to this one area and the two hotels we selected. I look forward to returning during a different season and exploring other areas of the park.
Where else have you stayed in the park/where else do you recommend?