A Yosemite New Year’s Eve is as wild as you want it to be. If a toast to nature in the New Year is what you have in mind, head outside into the silent, winter moonlight and join a coyote as it howls at the stroke of midnight. Or if ringing in the New Year in style is more you, dress up in your New Year’s Eve best and dance the night away with hundreds of fellow revelers inside the gorgeous ballroom of the grand Ahwahnee hotel. Either way, a “Happy New Year” yelled into the night air doesn’t sound as sweet anywhere other than when it echoes and carries off of those majestic mountains and through the Yosemite Valley.
Our family has enjoyed both low-key and more formal celebrations in Yosemite for New Year’s Eve. Yosemite in the off-season and the dead of winter is low on crowds and gorgeous. You can ice skate, snowshoe, ski and inner tube down local mountains. After a few hours of any of those outdoor activities, there’s nothing better than grabbing a comfy chair and a hot chocolate in front of the roaring fireplace in the Ahwahnee’s public sitting area and playing a board game or writing down New Year’s resolutions.
When it comes to New Year’s Eve itself, the park offers several options for celebrating, depending on your budget and whether you bring your kids. As the closest property to Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is the perfect spot for families seeking the comforts of a hotel after an exciting day exploring the wilderness. (If the falls happen to be frozen, you’ll get a glimpse of a truly unique occurrence that only winter visitors get to see.) Rooms are modest and comfortable and close to a cafeteria and The Mountain Room dining room. A New Year’s Eve package at the Lodge includes a split of wine and two keepsake glasses delivered to your room.
A two or three-nights’ package at Yosemite Lodge also includes dinner for two in the Mountain Room restaurant, followed by a live band and dancing. Kids can enjoy a special family celebration on New Years’ Eve in the Cliff Room at Yosemite Lodge. That party includes games, raffle prizes, a DJ spinning tunes, dancing, snacks and even a balloon drop at 9 p.m. Kids must be accompanied by an adult, so it’s fun for the whole family.
We stayed at the Lodge when our children were quite young. We all went to the dinner in the Mountain Room but skipped the dancing and headed back to our room early to let the kids stay up as late as they could, toss confetti and blow noisemakers.
For the adults, The Ahwahnee, Yosemite’s four-star property known for its magnificent façade and architecture, hosts an evening of dinner and dancing on the scale of any major New Year’s Eve celebration. The Ahwahnee dining room, with soaring ceilings and windows specifically designed to highlight its natural surroundings, is a beautiful spot to ring in the New Year. You’ll enjoy a delicious dinner and sit with friends or fellow revelers and enjoy big band sounds. When we celebrated here our kids were teenagers, so they stayed upstairs in our Ahwahnee room and enjoyed room service fun and making a crazy video that will help us remember their excitement that night for years to come.
Everyone should experience a New Year’s Eve in Yosemite. No matter how you celebrate there, if you step outside you’ll be reminded of what you really came for. The quiet and beauty of the winter night will remind you of nature’s power and grandeur. If nothing else, you won’t forget when and where you were when you made those New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you’ll even stick to them.