Yosemite National Park is a year-round destination with something to offer nearly every adventurer, from rock climbing to bird spotting. But deep within its depths (or within the Ahwahnee Hotel), there is an exclusive, annual holiday dinner held in a grand hall with huge windows that overlook snow-capped mountains — The Bracebridge Dinner. This is more than just an epic feast; it is dinner theatre that waxes nostalgic for Christmas traditions of centuries ago.
For four hours, guests are transported to the majestic English hall of Washington Irving’s fictional character Squire Bracebridge, for a loose reproduction of “Christmas at Bracebridge Hall.” A candlelit table is outfitted with hearty, seasonal dishes like savory chèvre cheesecake with root vegetables, smoked salmon and Dungeness crab timable, braised California pheasant, and roasted beef tenderloin, while a pianist plays the evening’s soundtrack from the corner of the room.
The night begins with dinner guests, clad in their Sunday best, and characters from the evening’s production, wearing period costumes, who all gather together to sing Christmas carols before dinner. The evening’s program, which dictates the carols and chorale songs sung, as well as the antics of the “court jester,” was originally written by Ansel Adams and is still followed to his word today. These historic and truly merry dinners have been held for nearly 85 years, since the hotel opened in 1927, and for $400 per person, it’s an experience that most will not repeat year after year, but will savor for its unique holiday spirit.