A Bracebridge Holiday

AKA Bracebridge Bucket List
AKA You Win Some, You Lose Some

The Bracebridge Dinner is an extravaganza and theatrical performance in Yosemite Valley’s Majestic Hotel’s dining room during the month of December. A tradition since 1927, for a few weeks, the grand dining room is transformed into a Renaissance scene of Bracebridge Hall patterned after Washington Irvings writings. The four hour event includes a stunning array of singers and actors who tell the story of Lord Bracebridge and people of his household. A number of the cast are from the San Francisco Opera company. All this happens during a 7 course feast. The Wall Street Journal noted in 2006: “Bracebridge is, without much doubt, the country’s, if not the world’s premier Christmas dinner.”

I have long wanted to attend the Bracebridge Dinner at the Ahwahnee (recently renamed the Majestic Hotel) in Yosemite Valley. In times past it was so popular, you could only get in by lottery, but now can just make reservations. My wife had never heard of it, so educated her a bit about it, and we decided it would be my somewhat extravagant birthday present.

The official website is here, but you can also read about it here, but the most informative and excellent weblog first hand experience is here.

We booked a package deal, two nights at Yosemite Lodge, the Bracebridge Dinner, and a portrait package, for Wednesday Dec 13-Friday Dec 15, with the dinner on Thursday night.

Monday night prior, I woke up in the middle of the night with what appeared to be a mild case of food poisoning. It continued into Tuesday, and I was afraid I was coming down with something, so took it easy all day. I didn’t want to miss this as it is all prepaid with no refund, and quite pricey! By Tuesday evening I was doing better, and Wednesday morning felt pretty good, so we made our way to Yosemite Valley arriving late afternoon, and checked into Yosemite Lodge.

The late afternoon sun on El Capitan
The late afternoon sun on El Capitan

Thursday morning, I originally was planning on painting, but was still recovering a bit from whatever hit me Monday night so I didn’t want to sit in the frigid cold. The big dinner was tonight and I did’t want a relapse, so just a morning walk was in order. Josie joined me in the 40 degree cold for a walk from the Lodge to Swinging Bridge. Click on the below thumbnails for larger pictures–

I have been to Yosemite dozens and dozens of times, and I have never seen it this deserted! We encountered not one person on our mid morning walk!

That afternoon, I drove over to the Majestic to get our tickets, and they also gave us two souvenir menus for the event–

If this lounge gives you a bit of the creeps, you might be right. It wasn’t filmed here, but reproduced in the studio for the movie ‘The Shining’. The Majestic Lounge.
If this lounge gives you a bit of the creeps, you might be right. It wasn’t filmed here, but reproduced in the studio for the movie ‘The Shining’. The Majestic Lounge.

I also drove around the valley and took more pictures–

It’s a formal affair, so after getting gussied up, we headed to the Majestic late afternoon to get our portrait taken, and wait to be seated.

At our table were couples from the SF Bay area, Chicago, and Orlando. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the four hour feast, as there is a good write up here which was similar to our experience. We sat at the very back, facing the stage. This is actually a good seat in the house as we were right by the entrance where the performers would enter and exit, plus much of the action was right by us.

No pictures were allowed during the dinner but we could pose with the cast members afterward. There are lots of official pictures on the above mentioned websites.

It was about everything I expected. The performers, costumes, vocals, and everything else was spectacular. The food was wonderful, and was reminiscent of a nice cruise ship dinner, although slightly better. There were lots of courses, but they were all small portions spread out over hours, so by the end of the evening, was just full enough.

Friday morning, once again I passed on painting as it was even colder, below freezing, so took a short walk prior to packing up and heading home. I didn’t get any painting done on the trip, but gathered a few photo studies which would make good studio paintings.

So, I won with the Bracebridge Dinner, but lost on the painting endeavors!

If you are seriously considering going…my overall impression is, if you can afford it and Yosemite fairly accessible, it is a once in a lifetime event to do. It is not for everyone, as it attracts an older crowd and most younger people may not enjoy it. If you are interested in going, the weblog found here is very informative, plus many of the comments are worth reading.