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Dinner at the Ahwahnee

Dinner at Ahwahnee

In place of the luxury tax on the traditional Monopoly Board, the National Parks edition has Dinner at the Ahwahnee which is located in Yosemite Valley inside the Ahwahnee Hotel. This is an upscale restaurant requiring a casual dress attire or more in order to enter and be seated. There were those wishing to dine that did not have the proper dress attire of collard shirts and long pants or a dress, skirt or slacks and blouses for the ladies who were given two choices: either borrow the proper attire from the hotel or dine elsewhere.

The Entrance to The Ahwahnee Hotel with Thurman the Truck Just Off to the Side.

We had made reservations a week earlier as our schedule was tight and we wanted to be sure and fulfill this location on our board as there are no intentions of returning to Yosemite National Park before this board game is complete. As our time neared, as usual we were running a little late so I quickly made my why to the host stand to check in and let them know we were running late but were there for our reservations. The host looked at me with my t-shirt, shorts and hat just about to remind of the dress policy when I cut him off explaining that we would be late because we needed to change before being seated. Turning back towards the rest of my family we proceeded to a changing area. Many of you would call it a restroom but for us it was our changing room for the evening.

The Ahwahnee Hotel and Restuarant During the Day

Returning to the host stand waiting to be seated the host once again asked if we had reservations to which I replied yes, gave him the name and mentioned I was the one who moments before stopped by. Surprised he said he didn’t recognize me and quickly found us a table. I guess that could be considered a good thing. Once seated we were given drinks and bread along with being introduced to our waiter George. George has been at that restaurant for 42 years and is the most senior member of their staff. It seemed fitting that we should be served by the most senior member in our efforts to complete this board.

Inside This Historic Dining Room

Once inside the atmosphere was beautiful. Built with numerous windows to take in the sights of Yosemite while dining and decorated with stone and wood added to the overall experience of this park. It has been obviously updated since originally built to include electric lighting but still gives the feel of dining by candlelight for an authentic experience. A piano was softly being played to add to the ambiance of this historic dining room. During the evening we recognized many of the songs being played as the kids have practiced most of the music during their efforts to learn how to play piano.

Having looked over the menu on-line we knew ahead of time the selections available for dinner along with the hefty prices for those plates. In past experience when a meal is fairly pricey the portions are generous as well. In this case I was somewhat disappointed in the amount of food we received for the cost. Anticipated generous portion sizes we had determined ahead of time that we would share meals allowing us enough room for dessert in the end without any leftovers. Turns out we could have each had our own entrée and still had room for desert.

My Rotisserie Chicken

I indulged in the rotisserie chicken which comes in a seafood sauce. I’m not a fan of most seafood so I was living on the edge to begin with. The chicken was excellent and the sauce was to match except for the scallops and that is strictly due to the texture of scallops which I do not care for. In addition I ordered a spinach salad which was small but delicious. To end our meal we ordered a red velvet cake. This was definitely the best part of the meal! Sorry, no photos of the desert as the batteries died on the camera. We ate it to fast and didn’t think of capturing this with the camera first.

Enjoying Dinner at the Ahwahnee

Finishing desert it was time to locate the Monopoly Board to get another property signed. I made my way back to the vehicle we were using to locate our board along with the pen to be used and hurried back. Night was fleeting and we wanted to get to the top of the mountain for the sunset and take in a clear star filled sky later. Discussing our intention of our travels with people at the host desk they suggested George be the one to sign it (it wasn’t until this moment that we were informed of his tenure at the Ahwahnee). They quickly fetched him and the board was signed. Completing our experience we explored more of the hotel and headed out to witness the end of another day.

The Ahwahnee at Night

An Easy National Parks Trip?

Yosemite  Dinner at Ahwahnee     Nat'l Parks Image Map     Isle Royale

The planning for this summers Monopoly National Parks board trips are in full progress. Our destinations include Yosemite National Park which includes a stop at Ahwahnee for dinner and Isle Royale National Park.  These were expected to be fairly easy trips to plan because we’re meeting some friends in California and then heading to Yosemite for a few days. This is a somewhat familiar area for us as we have been there visiting various friends and relatives so we have a good idea of what we need to do and where to go. Isle Royale is the closest park to us on the Monopoly Board so again should be fairly easy to plan for.

As is often the case, what should be the easiest may turn out to be one of the biggest challenges. The challenges with Yosemite come in from finding a suitable place to stay. We questioned camping however that idea came a few days to late as it was a few days after campsite reservations became available. Apparently campsites fill up minutes after becoming available. Who knew? Certainly not me. A good learning experience. There’s a few options left but we probably should get it nailed down soon or there may be no more options left.

Map Showing Location of Isle Royale

Isle Royale is one of the locations I was most excited to see since it is practically in my own back yard and yet provides a very different atmosphere than I am use to. Since this is within a few hours drive time (~5 hours to be exact) we could take a quick trip to Northern Minnesota, hop on a boat for a couple of hours, tour the area close to one of the visitor centers, and get back on the boat for a return trip to our car and be done. Did I mention that this park requires special transportation since it is on an Island in Lake Superior? Interestingly this is the one place where Minnesota and Michigan border each other.

I have wanted to camp in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for a number of years and have not fulfilled that desire. Camping on Isle Royale would qualify in my opinion. Unfortunately we are restricted to 40 pounds of gear each on the boat without further costs. The boat ride already is getting more expensive than I was counting on at $67 per person per way bringing a total for 4 of us to $536 just to get there. That does not include a fuel surcharge, parking, and park fees. In order to camp on the island we are going to need full camping and hiking gear including a tent, backpacks, food, water, cooking supplies, etc.… This Tent is a Little Big for Hiking

I don’t’ think my 10 person tent is going to work very well on this trip. It could very well weigh 40 pounds all by itself. When the realization of what we are up against hit me it was very daunting and exciting. Never camping while hiking before makes me a little nervous. Now add that I’m going to be going with my wife and two younger children really added to this nervousness. I’ve been spending countless hours researching Isle Royale and what is needed in order to make this a great experience for all. My nerves have been settling after reading and looking at necessary equipment. The excitement is returning for mid-August when this trip is planned for. Fortunately I started planning for this early enough to locate what we need and practice a little before we go. Now the big question is – can I carry 40 pounds of gear while hiking for several days? Also, can we fit everything we need into the packs for me, Karen, and the kids? Okay, so there are more than just one question at this time. In addition, we are hoping to include Voyageurs National Park for a few days. This also presents challenges since much of this park requires a boat. Still much to learn and prepare for.