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May 29, 2013 12:00 PM

Any experiences with Yosemite event catering?

They seem to divide it up by Ahwahnee, Lodge and Curry Village. A lot of buffet style and appetizers. How's the food?

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  1. There is also Wawona. I have been to two catered business lunches there at the Wawona hotel and both were quite good. Salads, some grilled items, sandwich fixings. And tasty desserts. Served buffet style. There was also watermelon, a big hit with those guests who didn't manage to grab a table in the shade. They set up the tables for the group on the lawn in front of the hotel; there really isn't an option indoors there big enough for the size of these two groups (perhaps 100 persons each?), so it is only an option in summer.

    Unfortunately, my good experience at those lunches heightened my expectations for the regular Sat evening bbq that the Wawona does on its lawn. Sadly, the bbq was a miss, although in truth while the food wasn't as good as at the catered lunches, the real miss was the service, which was sadly lacking at the bbq dinner. (service at the lunches was very nice).

    1. Wedding reception at Ahwanhee Hotel a number of years ago was okay, but since then the Hotels food has greatly improved. May want to think about self-catering because handling food for a hundred is quite easy because most people don't in fact eat that much.

      Home made cookies, standard meat cheese and cracker platters, nuts and some finger fruit on a few nice trays on table cloths can be good enough with large crowd. Seriously. As long as the wine flows, most receptions are NOT about the food.

      Coffee, tea, water and punch/sodas and you are covered. Easy to get all this stuff at Smart and Final but do make the cookies at home ...from scratch. With butter.

      3 Replies
      1. re: glbtrtr

        Catering your own in Yosemite isn't likely to work at all unless you are talking about a group of under ten or so persons. First of all, no picnic areas in Yosemite are reservable for groups, and none have drinking, you could theoretically take a group to a picnic area, but unless you go at 8 am or in winter you are unlikely to find more than a few free adjacent tables, nor would it be for your exclusive use and you couldn't keep others out of the area. and then there are the food storage issues and the bears, which make it impractical to have lots of food around for any length of time unattended. (and Yosemite rules prohibit keeping coolers in your car, although that isn't necessarily enforced in the Valley. However, it isn't a good idea if you like your car...).Edited to add: to clarify, if the cooler is in a locked car and out of site, you can have it in your car during daylight hours, but not at night.

        You can get a permit for a wedding for two hours, other than on holidays and other 'high traffic' times, but the rules state that receptions are not allowed as part of the permit, no chairs or tables are allowed (except for persons with special needs), and you are not guaranteed to have the wedding location to yourself or even guaranteed a specific spot (only certain areas are permitted as locations for the wedding). A permit is required and park service monitors at a cost of $50 per hour are required for large groups to be sure that rules are followed.

        So, a picnic isn't a viable option.

        As for vacation rentals: many, if not most, of the vacation rentals in Yosemite have provisions in their rental contracts prohibiting parties (most specifically mention weddings) of persons not staying at the house (meaning it would really only work for a small dinner type party of folks renting the house with you.) They often do police this (many owners ask neighbors to keep an eye out for parties), and most of the agreements state that a violation could subject you to a fine or eviction before the end of your stay. So don't try it without permission.

        As for the hotels, Curry Village, etc., all are run by Delaware North, and their wedding planning web page states that "All food and beverage must be purchased through DNC Yosemite. A food and beverage minimum (Event Minimum) is applied to all catered functions at any DNC Yosemite location. The food and beverage minimum varies depending on the event, location, number of guests and banquet rooms used." I would guess that most folks who have done much business with Delaware North are probably not surprised by this restriction....(it is a business after all and many hotels whether in Yosemite or not have similar restrictions)...Moreover, I suspect in the case of Yosemite the Park Officials actually support the idea of restricting self-catering, probably in large part because of the issues with bear/human interactions, almost all of which involve food...

        1. re: susancinsf

          Excellent points. Thank you for taking the time to provide all these critical details. I was assuming they could just rent a gathering room somewhere, bare bones. But clearly see in this commercial monopoly called our public parks system, no can do. Thanks again for the very detailed reality check.

          1. re: glbtrtr

            You are welcome, I do have to say that, for me at least, the monopoly is a good thing in this case. Yes, it does mean more $ for Delaware North, which is annoying, but on the other hand, restrictions on where and how private events such as weddings can be held within a natural treasure do help preserve that national treasure for all. Which is a good thing, IMO....

      2. Thank you both for relating your experiences; it is helpful. I visit Yosemite once or twice a year, but mostly eat in the cafeteria if I don't bring my own food. That food is not that good. However, I have not been to the Ahwahnee.

        I do appreciate glbtrtr your suggestions about self catering, but I know it is not practical or allowed given the constraints of Yosemite valley. As a citizen, I accept the contracting of external vendors and the limitations on what we can do in the park as a way of preventing the tragedy of the commons.

        I think if we do this in the park, we're committed to the valley and either the lodge or the Ahwahnee. Thanks again.

        8 Replies
        1. re: twocents

          The Ahwahnee obviously is a beautiful setting but the budget may dictate your choice between those two. However, as a frequent park visitor (I live close by and my employer has a work partnership with the park, so I actually go there fairly regularly in connection with work, not to mention for fun), I'd urge you to at least consider Wawona, assuming it is a summer event. IMO, it is actually more 'user friendly' (if not as spectacularly beautiful, but hey: this is Yosemite, everything is beautiful): less traffic, more parking, guests won't have to take shuttles just to get around, if they don't want to stay in the park,which is expensive, there are good motel options in Oakhurst just 30 or 40 minutes away, and it is closer and easier to get to, with better roads, from the nearest airport of any size (which would be Fresno Yosemite International, aka FAT. Otherwise, guests have to fly into Sacramento, Oakland or SFO, and will have quite a long drive just to get to the park. And oh yeah: just FYI, friends don't let friends fly in and out of Merced Airport. Nor, contrary to what Amtrak would like you to believe, is there a train from Merced to Yosemite: you can take a train to Merced from Oakland, but from there it is a 2 hour bus ride...).

          Just my two cents :-)

          1. re: susancinsf

            Thanks for those points. I've thought about each of them, but it's nice to have it here for the reference of others. The lodging issue is a big one, which makes Oakhurst/Wawona attractive but let's face it, holding an event in Yosemite isn't particularly convenient for most people.

            I'm something of an air travel nerd, so already worked out the airport situation. Given the practical requirement for a rental car, I am guessing most would want to fly into SFO/OAK/SJC/SMF for other visiting/tourism purposes.

            Food wise, Oakhurst has the most restaurants too. The only other villages worth mentioning are Groveland/Big Oak Flat on the 120 and El Portal on the 140, both which have a few lodging and restaurant options. Living in Oakland I mostly go in via 120.

            1. re: twocents

              Mariposa does have a few good hotel and restaurant options also, and is closer than Groveland to the Valley (at least I think it is? worth looking at anyway if you go that route?) There are more choices in Mariposa than in El Portal and not *that* much further west...140 is a bit further from the east bay than 120 (not sure it is further from San Jose when you head out over Pacheco Pass) but it is an easier road if any of your family and friends are nervous about mountain driving....Besides, if they head through Mariposa they get the pleasure of stopping at Jantz Bakery for breakfast goodies! :-)

              But I've always thought that Yosemite would be a great place to get married, *other* than the hassles that lodging would create. (and I'd love a wedding at the Ahwahnee if I could afford it. Perhaps hubby and I can have a 25th wedding anniversary there :-) The only folks I've known who got married there was my aunt (and uncle) and she was from Mariposa, which solved much of the locale issues, and folks who had very small weddings and thus didn't have to worry about lots of relatives having to deal with the logistics....

              1. re: susancinsf

                Thanks again. Do any places pop into your head as candidates for a 75-100 person event in any of the towns? Though if a group is willing to relocate from the valley floor your Wawona suggestion rejoins the conversation.

                I need to look at the Ahwahnee prices in more detail but my impression is that it would be 60-80% more expensive. Actually there's a wedding package that provides some extras like facility fee, cake and sparkling wine plus coordinator and valet. I wonder if there are similar packages for non-wedding events? But I think you're still looking at ~$140 pp including gratuities and tax without alcohol. So say 45-55% more.

                1. re: twocents

                  Uhhhhh .....Is this the time when one considers a down payment for a house for the young couple, instead of a wedding reception?

                  1. re: glbtrtr

                    This is definitely not a low budget option. That said, it looks like it can certainly price out below an average wedding cost which I think I heard was $28k last year. Not that I would recommend spending that much...

                  2. re: twocents

                    Not much that I know of, unless they will let you do weddings at Camp Mather (owned and operated by City and County of SF, near Hetch Hetchy)?

                    The only place that comes to mind for me would be the Tenaya Lodge in/near Fish Camp, which is definitely big enough and does a lot of weddings and events. However, I've heard mixed reports (used to be great, possibly has gone down hill, haven't heard good things about the food), and in any case I suspect it would be almost as expensive as the Ahwahnee and not as good. Besides, if you were going to do Fish Camp you might as well do Wawona as you point out (Fish Camp to Wawona is less than a thirty minute drive; twenty minutes perhaps.)

                    However, if you can convince your friends and family that Merced is really 'the Gateway to Yosemite' as we like to claim in these parts (please don't believe it, other than in the sense that you turn off to 140 here :-)), I've heard really good reports about weddings at a relatively new place outside of town (on the road to Yosemite, 140), called Vista Ranch, and while I haven't attended a wedding there I've been to some nice events there with good food. Too hot for an outdoor event in summer, however, at least IMO:


                    1. re: susancinsf

                      I have to give an update on this thread to say that after a poor dinner where the service was the worst I've ever seen in Merced (and among the worst I've ever had anywhere), Visa Ranch is off my list and I can't recommend it for any reason, even in nice weather. Issues on our recent visit included: some of our dishes were not fired (it took 1.5 hours to get most of our order, and over 2.5 hours to get one of our pizzas, after all other dishes were served and consumed and all neighboring tables had eaten and were heading home: when we went up to the pizza oven area to inquire about the long lost pizza, which was for a child who hadn't had much other than a salad (at this point the server had gone MIA), we were told they had no record of our order and were about to close up for the night, 'but oh all right, we will make one more'...). Some of the dishes that were served did not include key ingredients that were listed on the menu and other dishes included significant ingredients that were *not* listed on the menu. Nor did the evening start on a good note: when we ordered beer, the runner brought beer bottles that were not twist-off and were unopened, with no glasses, and then, when,10 minutes later, we were finally able to get his attention to tell him that we couldn't open the beer, he shrugged, insisted they had to be twist off, we demonstrated they most definitely were not, he shrugged again and said he didn't think there was anything he could do about it, and walked off (!)...we then went to a counter to request an opener, where the counter person also shrugged and said she didn't have one and wasn't sure there was one on site (!). I then asked that counter person to send over our main server or the manager, and 10 minutes later our server came over, took the beer away, and brought it back opened about 5 minutes after that..(yes, that would make 25 minutes to get a beer to drink *after* the beer arrived on the table, for those keeping score at home, and no, we never did get glasses, although I suspect drinking from the bottle is considered the norm and part of the casual ambiance of the place).

                      I doubt if I will ever go back, and would not hold an event there. If you do go, bring a swiss army knife or bottle opener with you. I was kicking myself for not having one in my purse....