Bracebridge Dinners at Yosemite

Squire Bracebridge and a Minstrel
Photo by Lani Spicer, Andrea Fulton Productions

Heraldic horns call the guests to enter Bracebridge Hall. Lord Neville Bracebridge bids you enjoy "food and riches without measure." The jester makes jokes - and sings silly songs. You feast on peacock pie, baron of beef (whatever that is) and plunge into plum pudding before ending the evening with a toast to bid your host goodbye.

You don’t need a time machine to experience that: Just a ticket to Yosemite's Bracebridge Dinners.

What Are the Bracebridge Dinners?

Yosemite's Bracebridge Dinners are the epitome of the traditional Christmas. In fact, they have been around since 1927 when the Ahwahnee Hotel first opened. 

The festivities are based on a story from Washington Irving's The Sketch Book. It describes Christmas Day, 1718 at Bracebridge Hall in Yorkshire, England. 

The cast includes more than 100 people. One minute they move diners to tears with an a capella rendition of "O Holy Night." Then they have guests howling with laughter at the antics of court jester The Lord of Misrule.

The word "dinner" barely describes the seven-course Bracebridge feast. In the past, the menu has included Savory Chevre Cheesecake, Braised California Pheasant & Chestnut Pithivier, Roasted Brandt Beef Tenderloin, hot mulled wine and plum pudding. All 300-plus servings of every course are served in a matter of minutes, a marvel of organization that can only be called a Christmas miracle.

Likes and Dislikes

The Bracebridge Dinners appeal to people who love traditional Christmas celebrations. For some, it's the treat of a lifetime. Kids may find it lame or boring (unless they're the kind who like fantasy and Renaissance Faires).

Tips for Enjoying the Bracebridge Dinner

  • Some people dress up in evening gowns and tuxedos. At the very least, you should wear cocktail party attire.
  • You must get your table assignment after you arrive in Yosemite. Dinner tickets do not include wine, but you can order it when you check in.
  • Arrive early to enjoy the Christmas caroling, but don't hang around when the line forms for dinner. Tables are assigned, but seats are not. The last people seated may have to crane their necks to see the stage. Don't let that be you.
  • Take all the pictures you like before entering the dining hall, but Squire Bracebridge asks his guests to refrain from photography during the meal.
  • Children under age three are not allowed, and babysitting services are not available.
  • You can check all your lodging options, but the best place to stay is at the Ahwahnee Hotel where you can walk to your room afterward. Buses will also take you to the event from the Yosemite Lodge at The Falls, Curry Village, and Wawona.

Bracebridge Dinner Tickets and Reservations

The Travel Yosemite website has information about how to buy your tickets and packages that include lodging and other extras.

Tickets for The Bracebridge Dinner run hundreds of dollars per person. Even so, it's well worth it if you can afford it, providing good value for money even at its high price.

Bracebridge Dinner Basics

  • The Bracebridge Dinners are held in the dining room of the Ahwahnee Hotel.
  • The dinners happen in December, with several performances between the middle and end of the month. The Bracebridge Dinner website lists this year's dates
  • The meal lasts four hours, with a half-hour of entertainment beforehand.
  • Attendance is limited to about 300 people per performance, enough to make it seem festive but not overcrowded.
  • Reservations are essential. Years ago, tickets were so scarce that they were almost impossible to acquire. Now, supply meets the demand, and with enough flexibility, you may be able to get tickets even a week or two ahead of time. However, for the most options, reserve as soon as you can after they go on sale in late March or early April.

If you like the Bracebridge Dinners (or the idea of them ) you may also like a less expensive Christmas diversion, the Dickens Fair in San Francisco.

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