It costs a bundle to spend the night, but there’s no charge for wandering inside, taking in the splendor of this 1920s-era hotel. This National Historic Landmark in Yosemite Valley has several “public rooms” where visitors can soak up its 1927 architecture, designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood. Everything in The Ahwahnee (recently called the Majestic Yosemite Hotel) is built on a grand scale, from the massive hand-stenciled timber beams to sandstone fireplaces so large you could hold a tea party inside. Adorning this hefty structure are colorful stained-glass windows, Native American tapestries and baskets, Turkish kilim rugs, and Yosemite-inspired 19th-century paintings depicting the park’s waterfalls and giant sequoia trees.
Many famous people have slept in The Ahwahnee Yosemite, including John F. Kennedy, Greta Garbo, Queen Elizabeth II, and Winston Churchill. It’s a worthy splurge to stay in one of its 123 rooms, suites, or cottages, but even if you don’t, you can still book a table for the sumptuous Sunday brunch at The Ahwahnee Dining Room, or simply sit by the fireplace in the Great Lounge, look up at the wrought-iron chandeliers dropping from the dining room’s 34-foot, richly painted ceilings, or enjoy a cocktail at the bar. Free one-hour guided tours of The Ahwahnee Yosemite are offered throughout the year; check with the hotel's concierge desk for a current schedule.