We have never paid >$500 for a hotel room for the two of us, but an Ahwanhee cottage was the only room available in the park for 10/1 when we booked in mid-June, so I was thankful to be able to stay in the park and save myself the hour drive in. Based on the mixed reviews on TA, I was a bit apprehensive about shelling out so much $$, but my husband & I were taking a long kids-free weekend to celebrate my 40th birthday, so we justified the splurge. After all, if the Ahwahnee was good enough for Queen Elizabeth II and many presidents, it should be fine for me :) . So after a busy fun day hiking in the park, we pulled into the Ahwahnee just after sunset, not sure what to expect. There was no parking available in the lot, but valet parking is free for guests, so we unloaded our luggage, and had a quick, easy pleasant check-in. It was a short lamp-lit walk to our cottage (#706), and we were not disappointed with our unit. We have stayed in a "more updated/modern" (and significantly pricier) 2 bedroom 2 bath ski-in & out condominium in Colorado with our kids as well as historic rooms in the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone NP. Of course I would have preferred to pay less for my cottage, but given the fabulous location, history, and relatively low amount of hotel rooms in Yosemite Valley, I can understand the high price.
Our cottage was immaculate, roomy, and beautifully decorated with a Native American motif. There is a screen door and tasteful screens to cover all the windows, and we did not feel any lack of privacy. Our king bed was very comfortable, and we did not use our large flat screen TV with satellite nor our DVD player. The bathroom shower & tub were fine, and I liked that the sink was separated from it & the toilet. There was a small shelf across from the sink, extra towel hooks, and a separate vanity desk, large well-lit mirror, and chair for cosmetics. There was a large full length mirror, a safe, a refrigerator, coffeemaker, table for two with chairs both inside the room and outside of the cottage, and a large upholstered chair and ottoman. The only downside we experienced was a somewhat noisy generator that I slept through but somewhat bothered my husband. My overall impression was that this unit would sell for a similar price as a ski-in/out unit in Taos, Colorado, or Utah and that people would not complain about the price or quality.
What really made the Ahwahnee special was all the little details of this historic resort in a beautiful remote place. We loved being able to walk through walking and bicycle trails with great views, and were delighted to see a few deer on the grounds. We enjoyed free hot chocolate in our luxurious bathrobes and had no problems getting wireless service on our I-pad (ask the front desk for the password, which is good for 24hrs after 1st logging in). We really enjoyed our casual dinner at the historic bar (ate inside, about a 10 minute wait at 8pm on a Saturday night). The chili and fish soup special were thick and delicious, and the spinach-artichoke crab dip was wonderful, plus the ambiance of the piano playing was great! The concierge was very helpful Sunday morning planning our hikes and navigating the shuttle system before our brunch reservation (which was very good, see my separate review). I enjoyed reading guidebooks in the large chairs outside as well as in the amazing historic great lounge. We checked out without any problems before our brunch and left our car in the valet area until after our final hike. The valet let us go out to our car to get a change of clothes & our backpack for our hike after brunch. We took advantage of the sweet shop and bought an individual sized bottle of champagne & two chocolate truffles, which were delicious & reasonably priced. It was very easy & convenient to use the shuttle and get around the valley area.
I felt very pampered on this trip and would highly recommend the Ahwahnee to anyone willing to spend the $ to stay in this beautiful, historic location. We will be returning to Yosemite in 2-3 years with our four kids and my parents, and plan to stay in the Yosemite Lodge due to price concerns, but we will definitely stop by to visit the Ahwahnee as a day visitors. Yes, you can pay less for more modern rooms outside of the park, but I would prefer to avoid the long drives in & out of the park (it took us 1.5 hours to get to Oakhurst the night we checked out, and I can't imagine how long it would take on a busy summer weekend). As a side note, we did spend our 1st two nights at the Yosemite West High Sierra B & B (which we loved as well), and I am glad we split up our stay between the two locations. I would love to return here in a few years during wintertime without my kids. Overall it is pricey, but worth the splurge.