When Yosemite's grand Ahwahnee Hotel opened in 1927, a special event was held to attract guests to the park in the winter. One evening in the grand dining room, actors brought to life a 17th century Yule celebration based on a book by Washington Irving, accompanying a Christmas meal prepared by the park's cooks.
Eighty-seven years later, the Bracebridge Dinners have become a Yosemite tradition featuring world-renowned actors, musicians and chefs.
“It's a feast for the eyes, a feast for the ears and a feast for the palate,” said performer Bill Pickersgill.
Originally held as an annual single event, the Bracebridge Dinners now encompass 13 evenings in December. Each features an elegant and artistic pageant of carols, Renaissance rituals and entertainment of the Middle Ages featuring more than 60 singers, dancers, jugglers and even a court jester.
Guests enjoy a seven-course dinner over three and a half hours, with musical performances accompanying each course.
This year the dinners will begin on Dec. 13 and conclude on Dec. 25. Tickets cost $389 for the dinner and show. There are also several packages that include lodging. To enjoy the dinner and stay a night at Ahwahnee costs $634 (per person based on double-occupancy). Less expensive options are available at Yosemite Lodge and Wawona Hotel. Full details are posted at yosemitepark.com.
Despite prices as steep as the park's sheer granite cliffs, the dinners sell out every year and are called a “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” and Yosemite's magnificent snow-covered scenery is a free bonus.