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Sunday, 04 October 2015 15:15

Celebrate the Holiday Season at Yosemite

Vinters Holiday at Ahwahnee 2 PicmonkeyA lighter moment at Vintners Holiday tastingTASTE News Service October 5, 2015 – Winter in Yosemite and Mariposa County is an especially beautiful time to be outdoors enjoying a range of activities from horse-drawn sleigh rides, skiing at Badger Pass Ski Resort, ice skating, snow shoeing and photography.

The area is home to many holiday traditions, too. Among these are the annual Vintner's Holidays and the Bracebridge Dinner held at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite National Park. Other events, many with a family-friendly orientation, include gingerbread house decorating workshops, kids’ dinner with Santa, and Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve at the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, as well as many outdoor activities.

Saturday, 27 June 2015 19:08

There’s More Than Just the Outdoors

John Stewart Duskie Estes PicmonkeySonoma County chefs John Stewart and Duskie Estes have fun at Chef's Holiday

TASTE News Service June 27, 2015 - Yosemite is approaching its 125th anniversary of becoming a National Park and, while justly famed for its natural beauty, the Park and surrounding area also justify a gustatory reputation. Here are some aspects that our culinary-oriented readers might enjoy:

Chef's Holidays at The Ahwahnee

Yosemite's Chefs' Holidays at The Ahwahnee, held each year in January and February, feature some of the world's most innovative and acclaimed chefs. This Northern California cooking adventure provides a showcase for the range of styles, personalities and trends that characterize the American culinary scene. Each 3-4 four day session includes an intimate Meet the Chefs reception with wine and hors d'oeuvres, behind-the-scenes kitchen tours, cooking demonstrations with tastings, all culminating in an exquisite Chefs' Holiday Gala Dinner, prepared by the visiting chefs, in The Ahwahnee Dining Room. A range of lodging packages are available, as well as dinner only options.

Mariposa Taps Liquid Gold at Area Breweries

California is fast becoming the next brewing hotspot with more than 500 microbrews, brewpubs and craft breweries already established in the state and more opening each year. While better known for Gold Rush-era history and culture, Mariposa, a town just on the western edge of Yosemite National Park, has caught the gold fever again a big way. Local breweries are gaining a following and even setting sights on regional distribution. Mariposa's first brewery, Prospector's Brewing Company, was established in 2011 and has quickly grown to two separate tasting room locations. Visitors here will find a pub crawl can be done in Mariposa's Old Town, with full tasting flights at distinctive microbreweries and brewpubs that feature a broad range of regional Northern California microbrews – all with easy walking distance of several area hotels.

Farm-to-Table: Experience the Real Food Movement

Grass-fed and sustainable isn't a new trend, our ranchers have been doing it that way for generations. While in Yosemite National Park you can enjoy Open Space Meats, grown within the same county, at both The Ahwahnee and Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. Restaurants such as 1850 and the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort offer diners a chance to enjoy a steak that was produced just a few miles away on native grasses with plenty of sunshine. Local nonprofits such as the Sierra Foothill Conservancy work to preserve large tracts of land for traditional farming and sell the produce to support their conservation efforts. These types of programs support traditional ranching, preserve lands from development, and provide a healthy alternative to industrially-produced beef.

Bracebridge Dinner at The AhwahneeBracedbridge Dinner Picmonkey

You can celebrate the yuletide season in elegance at The Ahwahnee. Celebrated annually since 1927, the Bracebridge Dinner transforms The Ahwahnee into an 18th century English manor for a feast of food, song and mirth. The most time-honored Yosemite tradition, the Bracebridge Dinner, brings together more than 100 players to delight diners as they enjoy a meticulously prepared seven course feast. Multiple performances throughout December with lodging and dining packages available.

Editor’s Note: In the High Sierra sections of Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory, you will fill find links to the websites of many Lodging and Dining options, including the Ahwahnee.

Yosemite FallsYosemite Falls

TASTE News Service, April 8, 2015 – Yosemite/Mariposa County, home to Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove, is blooming for the springtime. The waterfalls are flowing and the wildflowers are blossoming.

Wildflowers in the area appear according to elevation, with earliest blooms starting in April at the lowest elevations and gradually emerging at the highest elevations as late as July. The first displays at low elevations are dramatic bursts of tufted poppies, spider lupines, and redbud, bursting out along the Highway 140 corridor of the Merced River. While plenty of sightseeing can be done by the roadside, hikers at Hite Cove can stroll through whole fields of wildflowers. This is also the perfect time to cycle or drive from the Gold Rush-era town of Hornitos via Highway 49N and Old Toll Road to Bear Valley, just outside the town of Mariposa. This drive in the country presents grassy, rolling foothills and lovely arrays of wildflowers. By May, Yosemite National Park has scores of delicate white dogwoods blooming all over the valley floor. Climbing out of the valley floor, visitors will find snowplants emerging from a frosty slumber and later corn lilies and monkey flowers begin to pop along the trails.

In the springtime, the snow starts melting and the waterfalls are flowing at full force. Early season visitors can see the ephemeral falls that are typically dry by the time summer arrives. Among these brief, but stunning attractions, are Horsetail Fall and Ribbon Fall. The multiple cascades of Yosemite's most iconic waterfall, Yosemite Falls, can be seen from numerous places in the valley. The Yosemite Falls “moonbow,” or lunar rainbow, is visible on a clear spring night with a full moon.

Yosemite/Mariposa County offers plenty of family-friendly activities that kick off in the spring and continue throughout summer season and into the fall. The Ahwahnee Hotel features fireside storytelling in the hotel's Great Lounge and families can also explore Yosemite under the starry sky on the Night Prowl guided adventure, taking place April through November, with permitting weather conditions.

Editor’s note: More information on can be had by visiting YosemiteExperience.com. The Resource Directory of Taste California Travel is also worth visiting before you go. It contains links to the websites of hundreds of nearby Lodging and Dining options in the area, as well as links to wineries and craft beer purveyors. 

Yosemite USA PicmonkeyYosemite Valley in June as captured by Guy Francis

TravMedia April 30, 2014 —Yosemite National Park in Northern California is popular year round, but in summer and autumn its popularity swells with full hotels, campgrounds and queues at entrance points.  Many visitors aren't aware of the abundance of lodging options in communities at three of the park's main entrances. 

The park and its surrounding Gold Country communities offer visitors easy access to attractions such as El Capitan and Yosemite Falls, and offer insight on lesser known, yet worthwhile experiences both inside and outside the park.  The communities to the north, west and south of Yosemite provide visitors a local perspective and helpful tips on great places to stay, best times to visit and other visitor services such as vacation planners and maps. 

Dispelling a major myth--cars are allowed in Yosemite National Park.  Visitors are welcome to drive to the park and within it, including the Yosemite Valley.  For those who prefer not to drive, transportation companies, like Yosemite Areas Regional Transit (www.yarts.com) and private tour companies provide a round trip to and from the park for visitors staying at various gateway lodging locations. In an effort to reduce entrance wait times and parking issues during peak season, the National Park Service is recommending that motorhomes use designated Park and Ride locations outside park gates or in selected campground facilities and ride YARTS or tours into and out of the Park.

When visiting Yosemite during the peak summer season, it's a good idea to plan on early entry through the park's gates to avoid queues.  Head to the Yosemite Valley floor either early or later in the day (busy times are between 10 am and 2 pm, especially on weekends).  Park in the day use area and take advantage of the free Valley Shuttle to see all the iconic sites like Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Merced River, Vernal Falls and Yosemite Chapel.

 

Tuolumne County – North Entrance – Highway 120Groveland Main Street PicmonkeyGroveland's colorful Main Street

Tuolumne County is the North entrance (Highway 120) to Yosemite National Park.  Highway 120 is the shortest route to Yosemite from San Francisco and all points north.  Driving time from San Francisco to the Yosemite Valley floor is approximately four hours, traffic dependent. Visitors heading to Yosemite via the Highway 120 entrance can stop by the Tuolumne County Visitors Center in Chinese Camp to the latest information on activities in around the Park as well as on Tuolumne County and the surrounding Gold Country.

Continuing south from Chinese Camp on Highway 120 towards Yosemite for approximately 30 minutes you will encounter the quaint town of Groveland. The Groveland Hotel offers comfortable accommodations with each room dedicated to a famous, and sometimes infamous, character of the past.  The hotel's Cellar Door Restaurant has held the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 2011.

A stop at the Groveland Museum will give visitors insight into the colorful past of this Gold Rush town.  Just a couple minutes south of Groveland on Highway 120 (towards Yosemite) is the popular Rainbow Pool swimming hole.

Madera County – South Entrance, Highway 140

The south gateway to Yosemite National Park, on Highway 41 in Madera County, is the most traveled year round entrance for visitors who wish to self-drive, or sight-see on a tour bus, to experience this awe inspiring region of California.  From Los Angeles, drive time is approximately 5 hours.  Madera County offers convenient and affordable lodging options from full service resorts to local hotels/motels, vacation rental homes and bed & breakfasts.

Papagni tasters PicmonkeyBevy of tasters at Madera's Papagni WineryWhen you're leaving Yosemite plan to depart in the early afternoon and take advantage of the long summer days to explore the many south gate attractions like the popular Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.  Ride back in time on the one-hour narrated tours that depart several times a day and enjoy the Thornberry Museum, gold panning, gift shops, and more. 

More popular south gate attractions include the Madera Wine Trail, art galleries, museums, Fossil Discovery Center and an abundance of outdoor recreation.

 

Yosemite Mariposa County --   West Entrance, Highway 41

This region of the Gold Country offers access to Yosemite National Park from Highway 41 through the West gate is one hour north of Fresno, and is the shortest distance to the popular Mariposa Grove, a square mile home to the Earth's largest and oldest living organisms. 

More than 500 Giant Sequoias keep the grove cool on even summer's hottest day.  You can explore the area on foot or take a 75-minute guided tram tour from May through October, with programming in English, German, Japanese, French and Spanish.  Tip:  To avoid parking lot jams, visitors may park their car at the historic Wawona Hotel and take the free Wawona-Mariposa Grove shuttle to see the Sequoias.

Model A at Yosemite Falls PicmonkeyFord Model A at Yosemite Falls The town of Mariposa, first settled in 1849, is the southernmost in the Gold Rush chain of towns.  The streets follow the original street grid laid out by John C. Fremont in 1850.  Several disastrous early fires convinced settlers to rebuild with stone, brick and adobe.  Consequently, many of today's existing structures in the historic downtown had been built by the late 1850s, with most of the remaining ones completed by 1900.  Because they have always been in use, the old buildings haven't had to be restored or recreated.

The old west is historically represented on Main Street with the wooden sidewalks, a tour of the oldest court house west of the Rockies still in continuous operation since 1854 and the Mariposa Museum and History Center at 5119 Jessie Street, named one of the best small museums in America by the Smithsonian Institute, where you can see remnants of the gold rush, a Sheriff's office and miner's camp, early Miwok Indian life, early frontier furniture and player piano and one-room school house.  (Open daily year round, Adults $4, children under 18 are free.) http://mariposamuseum.com.

The Mariposa area has vineyards and wineries where you can taste or pick up a bottle to accompany your afternoon picnic.

A unique way to explore the area is in an historic, original Model T automobile with the top down. Visitors may choose from a variety of vintage vehicles, from a 1915 Touring car to a 1929 Model A Roadster with Rumble seat for children (www.driveamodelt.com).

 

Editor's note: To help you understand California better, we identfy our features as relating to one of a dozen separate regions of the state. Sometimes these regions have exact boundaries such as Los Angeles and San Diego Counties. Sometimes they are more general, such as “North Coast” or “Deserts.” At Taste California Travel we define Gold Country as that foothill land between California's great Central Valley and its High Sierra Mountains to the east. Since there is not precise dividing line, we consider our High Sierra section to start somewhere above 2500 to 3000 feet. Yosemite National Park would fit that definition. Other attractions mentioned in the article above might be at lower elevations in areas we call either Gold Country or the Central Valley.

In any case, we suggest you check out the Central Valley, Gold Country and High Sierra sections of our Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to area wineries and craft beer specialists.

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