Around The Parks: Bracebridge Dinner in Yosemite, Wolf Watching In Yellowstone

Take your pick: A bracing winter wolf-watching expedition in Yellowstone, with lodging at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch, or a lavish dinner theater production in Yosemite. Top photo by Kurt Repanshek, bottom photo via DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite.

If you're trying to figure out a winter vacation to a national park, here are two ideas: A lavish dinner theater in Yosemite National Park, or a bracing wolf-watching expedition in Yellowstone National Park.

Holiday Mirth in Yosemite

Now, the Bracebridge Dinner at The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite isn't for everyone, in large part due to its cost: packages start at $929 for two. But that doesn't stop this traditional holiday festival from selling out year after year after year. Here's how the folks at DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite describe the affair:

Amidst snow-capped mountains and majestic cedars, the vibrant holiday spirit of centuries past awakens. And as the heraldic horns sound, a magical transformation to 17th-century England begins. A tradition for 84 years, The Bracebridge Dinner at Yosemite National Park's four-diamond hotel, The Ahwahnee, has served up a seven-course feast of food. Glorious song and mirth. And table-surfing jesters. Join us for the most sought-after holiday event in the country. And make this spectacular holiday tradition a part of yours. Performances are held December 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24 and 25 at 6 p.m.

Packages range from the aforementioned $929 for a couple for dinner and one-night stay in the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls to $1,718 for dinner and a two-night stay in The Ahwahnee. If you just want dinner, that's $425.

Winter Wolf Watching In Yellowstone

For something a bit more invigorating, at least weather-wise, consider signing up for one of the Lamar Valley Wolf Week programs the Yellowstone Association Institute is debuting this coming winter.

The weekly programs, to be offered in December and March, are based at the association's Buffalo Ranch field campus. The programs will be a mix of classroom learning and field trips to look for wolves.

This winter marks the 15th anniversary of the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone after an absence of 60 years. Since the wolves were reintroduced in two phases in 1995 and 1996 they have flourished and represent a true conservation success story, the association notes.

The program also marks the introduction of new services at the campus – catered meals in the main “Bunkhouse” and bedding in the facility’s cabins. If space is available, participants may also book the cabins privately instead of sharing with other participants.

Lamar Valley Wolf Week will be held Dec. 13-17 and 20-24, 2010 and March 7-11 and 14-18, 2001. The programs will be limited to 19 participants, and the minimum age will be 12. Rates are $570 for members of the Yellowstone Association. Participants can rent a sleeping bag and pillow for $20. Cabins are $30 per person per night for persons willing to share. Private cabins are $75 for one or two people or $90 for three people.

The program begins with dinner followed by an orientation on the first night. Participants will then begin each morning by searching for wolves in Lamar Valley – the world’s premier location for observing wolves in the wild.

As the sun rises and the wolves settle down for the day, participants will switch gears with snow excursions into wolf habitat under the guidance of an Institute instructor. Afternoons will be unstructured, allowing for participants to peruse the ranch’s library, relax in small groups or nap in preparation for the early mornings. Dinner each evening is followed by a presentation, guest speaker or the opportunity to head out into the night with the group to listen for wolf howls under the stars.

The program also features hikes on snow-packed trails, or snowshoe trips of up to three miles per day with climbs up to 250 feet. This program includes instruction, snowshoes, and three catered meals a day. Meals begin with dinner on Monday and end with breakfast on Friday.

Reservations for the Lamar Valley Wolf Week can be made by calling 1-406-848-2400.