The first hotel opened in Yosemite National Park in 1864, the same year President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant, the harbinger of the national park system. The first-class Ahwahnee Hotel, the brainchild of Steven T. Mather, the National Park Service’s first director, opened in the summer of 1927.
Designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood, a Harvard graduate who had gained notoriety through his designs of the Union Pacific Railroad as well as lodges in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, the Ahwahnee underwent numerous renovations over the years. During World War II, the U.S. Navy used the hotel as a convalescent hospital. Beginning in the 1950s, the Ahwahnee was modernized, with amenities including alarm and fire suppression systems, automatic elevators and an outdoor swimming pool.
Interestingly, the famed Yosemite hotel was reportedly the inspiration for the hotel in the Jack Nicholson movie “The Shining.” And “The Caine Mutiny” also featured the Ahwahnee. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987, the hotel has welcome royalty such as Queen Elizabeth II and several U.S. presidents, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama. Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Walt Disney, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and numerous other celebrities also have enjoyed the Ahwahnee’s hospitality.
Even if you’re not staying at the Ahwahnee, you’re welcome to explore the grounds, browse the Gift Shop and Candy Shop and dine in the hotel’s award-winning restaurant, which features floor-to-ceiling windows and a beamed ceiling that is more than 30 feet high. This is fine dining at its best, American cuisine served on exquisite china on beautiful linen tablecloths, under sparkling chandeliers.
Because the dining experience at the Ahwahnee is special, the hotel requires proper attire for dinner. Women must wear full-length pants with a blouse, a dress or skirt. Men must dress in long pants and a collared shirt. And this dress code includes all children over the age of four. So leave your flip-flops and baseball caps at home and prepare to step into the past with class when you visit the Ahwahnee Hotel at dinnertime.
Otherwise, your attire can remain casual for a visit or stay at the Ahwahnee, one of Yosemite’s most memorable experiences.