One of the great United States Park Service hotels is undoubtedly the Ahwahanee located in Yosemite National Park. Opened in 1927 it is considered to be a masterpiece of U.S. Park Service Rustic architecture and hospitality but it has also served its troops well too. Back during WWII the Ahwahanee served as a rehabilitation hospital for Naval troops with a skiing program put into place to help the soldiers regain their strength. But its greatest honor occurred in 1987 when it became one of the premier destinations on the National Historic Registry.
It really doesn’t matter what season you visit you will always find the service impeccable and the views breathtaking. Yet, if I were planning a vacation here I would avoid the summer when the place is packed and the weather is often uncomfortably hot. Personally, my favorite time to venture here is in the winter when the Ahwhanee is all decked out for Christmas. Using ornaments and decorations from a bygone era it is step back into history. And perhaps the most coveted ticket in this neck of the woods is the one to the annual Bracebridge dinner held during the holiday season. Here fortunate guests travel back to Christmas past, feasting all evening on delicacies and local wines while enjoying entertainment that might have been served up in a manor in the 1600’s. So alluring is the show that people sign up years in advance for a part in the production and famed photographer Ansel Adams was once one of the performers.
One thing I love to do while here is to sign up for the Ahwahnee Tour and History walk. Here hotel experts will fill you in on how the hotel was constructed and you’ll learn interesting Hotel tidbits like the fact that the chairs in the drawing room were made to purposely tip you up towards the windows so you always have an amazing view.
As you can plainly see the Ahwahnee Hotel is an amazing place of natural beauty and even if you cannot get reservations you can certainly stop in for a stroll and a cool glass of ice tea. But more importantly, take the time to wander outdoors. Cross over a bridge or two and watch the mist from the waterfalls soar into the sky. And if you are lucky, you might just see some of these beautiful creatures…but don’t get too close… because Momma bear is near and she would be happy to have you for breakfast.
Finally, one of the biggest disappoints regarding the Ahwahnee is the despicable behavior of the Delaware North corporation which operated this park until it lost its lease bid to a rival company. Unfortunately, this greedy corporation is claiming rights of ownership to the names of all of the buildings in the park and today the Ahwahnee is being renamed after almost 100 years. It is a disgrace and I refuse to refer to this hotel by anything but its original name. In fact, I urge you to join me in a boycott of Delaware North properties and airport concessions. You can also let this malicious corporation know about your displeasure of their name grab of our historic buildings by contacting Victoria Hong Director of Corporate Communications at the corporate headquarters at this email address:email@example.com
One of my absolutely favorite places for strolling along the canals is Strausbourg, France. These waterways are alive with small boats trolling their waters and swans gliding along. The occasional big-gun tourist boat also enters the locks,passing by the many outdoor patios that line the canals.
Of course history plays out everywhere you turn. In the heart of Strasbourg lies the Petit-France district where you will find the half-timbered houses that centuries ago were occupied by millers and tanners but are now home to fabulous restaurants and shops.
From old bridges that cross the city and ancient houses that line the waterways there is always something of interest along the way. And the flower boxes strategically placed here and there make the canals burst with riots of color. Of course, one cannot forget the magnificent Strausbourg Cathedral which sits just forward of the canal.
During the summer Barrage Vaubin (part of the city’s ancient ramparts) are transformed into giant works of art that change as music plays through loud speakers lining the venue. From trains and clocks, sea monsters and spectacular buildings this light show is just plain amazing.
The canals of Strausbourg should be on your “must-see” list. Unlike the canals of Venice, which are dirty and strewn with litter, these canals are pristine and even more picturesque. These waterways are the heart and soul of medieval France so be sure to take advantage and follow the canals to find the place of your dreams.
Okay, all you railroad buffs, today we are going on an adventure extraordinaire. It’s time to climb aboard the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, California. This 26 acre site offers a freight depot with an incredible roundhouse which you can explore until your hearts content.The original turntable still works and there are many passenger cars along with other interesting and rare railroad equipment. But best of all there are several powerful steam engines, including the famous Engine #3, which has appeared in many movies and TV shows including Little House On The Prairie, Gunsmoke, Bonanza and Lassie.
Railtown 1897 is a place to venture back to days gone by. It’s a place to bring young and old a like. Here you can climb onto steam locomotives, stroll vintage passenger cars, and walk the floors of the waiting room at the depot. And if you are really lucky “Grandma Jean” will give you a personal tour of everything you need to know about this unique and exciting State Park including these tidbits:
- The drier the steam the more powerful the engine
- The taller the wheels the faster it goes
But perhaps one of the most interesting things about this State Park is the fact that it has a fully functioning engine repair and restoration facility and you can actually watch as they fix the old engines that arrive for an overhaul. That is worth the price of admission alone!
If you want to ride the trains the best time to visit is in the summer for summer time brings wildflower train rides and steam train excursions. From April to October, trains operate every Saturday and Sunday, departing from the Railtown Depot at 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Excursion tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for youth 6-17 and children 5 and under ride for free.
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You are going to love this place!