August 31, 2017

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel - The Ahwahnee Hotel

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite, California USA



Brief History:

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, formerly named The Ahwahnee® Hotel, opened on July 16, 1927, as a first-class hotel for wealthy visitors to Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Mountains of Central California. Today it is still a top-rated hotel with an architectural beauty that fits well in the magnificent setting of Yosemite Valley. While some changes have been made through the years, the hotel remains much as it was in the days when wealthy industrialists, Presidents and royalty were guests. Today the doors are no longer guarded to keep out the "undesirables", and anyone can visit. You can even stay the night in the luxury of the Ahwahnee®. During your stay you will be hobnobbing with the wealthy and famous, as well as plain common folks who have saved up for a special treat! Even if you can't afford to stay at the hotel, the National Park Service, who owns the building, invites you to visit and look around this working museum of art and architecture.

Majestic Yosemite Hotel Historical Time Line:
  • 1925 - Design work starts
  • 1926 - Construction begins
  • 1927 - Ahwahnee Grand Opening
  • 1928 - 6th floor ballroom remodeled into penthouse
  • 1931 - Dining room roof reinforced to handle snow load
  • 1933 - Prohibition ends, El Dorado Diggins Bar added
  • 1943 - Becomes Naval Hospital - World War II
  • 1946 - Reopens as hotel with major remodel
  • 1950 - Indian Room Bar added
  • 1963 - Elevators automated, swimming pool added


Our visit to the Ahwahnee Hotel, when most of these photos were taken, was on February 14, 2006 (a Valentines Day present from my sweetie!)  That was back before it was renamed The Majestic Yosemite Hotel so you will see the old Ahwahnee Hotel name a lot.  To be honest, most people still call it The Ahwahnee and are pretty upset with the name change.  You can read plenty on that elsewhere, just do a search for "Ahwahnee name change" if you want all the sad details of the change.  The rooms have been remodeled since our visit and, especially the bathrooms, are a little different now.  OK, let's get on with the virtual tour, and yes, there will be ghost stories!

(Click on the photos to enlarge.)



As you drive up the narrow road from Yosemite Village to the Ahwahnee Hotel, you pass along the edge of a large meadow. At the far edge of the meadow, the road passes through the Ahwahnee's stone gates and narrows even more, as you plunge into an area where forest encroaches hard on both edges of the road. The road then curves to the right and through the trees you first glimpse the impressive center tower of the Ahwahnee Hotel.



To your right is the parking lot for day visitors, but for hotel guests a sharp left turn brings you into the porte-cochere (the covered guest drop off area). Here the hotel bellhops will assist you with your bags, while you get out of your car and breathe in the fresh mountain air.



On one side of the porte-cochere is a pond; on the other side is the hotel, although from here it seems less than impressive. The porte-cochere is not right up against the hotel as is the case with most hotels, but stands about 120 feet away from the hotel walls. From the porte-cochere a covered walkway, with a roof supported by polished log columns and beams, leads to the doors of the hotel. On your left as you pass through the walkway is a small meadow with a flagpole. To your right is the wood back wall of the hotel´s service yard. The wall has lighted display cases mounted into it to provide some visual relief. Nevertheless, it is not what you would expect of a grand hotel entry.


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Tips for Planning a Visit to Yosemite:

NEVER GO TO YOSEMITE EXPECTING TO STAY THE NIGHT WITHOUT ADVANCED RESERVATIONS! This applies to all accommodations, including camping.
For the Majestic Yosemite / Ahwahnee Hotel: holidays and special events generally require booking a year and a day in advance. Booking at least 6 months in advance is generally necessary for weekends in spring and summer. Weekdays in summer and weekends in fall and winter often need to be booked 3 months or so in advance. Reservations may not be made more than a year plus one day in advance.  There are several other lodging accommodations in the park, ranging from nice hotels to tent cabins.  All are less expensive than the Majestic Yosemite Hotel.
Dinner at the Ahwahnee Dining Room is expensive by most folk's standards, but worth it if you can afford it. Breakfast and lunch are less expensive alternatives that will still give you a chance to enjoy eating in the elegant grand dining room. There are many other dining choices close by, with a very wide selection of food types and prices.
Yosemite National Park is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the east side of central California. There is a substantial per car entrance fee to enter the park, the entrance fee is NOT included in your room charge.  The park roads are narrow and slow, expect travel times to be longer than you might think, especially in summer when the mountain roads may be crowded with slow-driving sightseers and RVs chugging slowly up the steep grades. Once in Yosemite Valley, free shuttle buses provide transportation between the hotels and other facilities in the Valley. Day use parking is extremely limited, once you find a space, park the car and take the free shuttles. Yosemite has frequent road closures and vehicle restrictions, these can cause delays or the need to reroute your trip, so always check. Check the current Yosemite Road Conditions before traveling to Yosemite. Road closures can occur at any time of the year due to snow, rock slides, construction, or accidents! Call (209) 372-0200  for the most up-to-date road conditions.
The free shuttles make Yosemite Valley a great location to visit with teenagers. They can roam on their own, and they may quickly find new friends. The Valley is not crime-free, in fact there is enough crime in summer to support the presence of a magistrate and courthouse in Yosemite Valley. So be sure your kids use common sense regarding whom they hang out with, and understand that the rangers do not put up with any misbehavior. They are particularly intolerant of under-age drinking of alcoholic beverages (21 is the minimum age) and any illegal drug use. One place I do not recommend you visit is the Yosemite Courthouse holding cell.

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