Published on November 12, 2020

The best holiday getaways bring family and friends together in places that honor the occasion. With breathtaking scenery and larger-than-life natural landmarks, the Yosemite Mariposa region sets the stage for epic Thanksgiving vacations. Yosemite’s iconic granite walls put nature into a breathtaking perspective, and with Yosemite National Park’s return to its standard no-reservations required day entrance policy, Thanksgiving getaways are a snap. Here are the top five Thanksgiving vacation ideas to jump-start your long-weekend holiday in the Yosemite Mariposa region, an elevated realm where national park outdoor recreation meets small-town charm.

Fall for the Magic of Yosemite Mariposa

Late autumn in Yosemite Mariposa is magical. Cooler temperatures, fewer travelers, brilliant fall colors, and that golden light make it glorious. Leaf peepers will gape at the stands of shimmering aspen, brilliant dogwood, white alder and big leaf maple growing in and around the park. The way autumn sunlight plays upon the reds, yellows, oranges and purples ““ you won’t even need to use your vivid filter! Check out our fall photography guide for where to capture the best images.

Activities abound outside the park. Take a road trip on historic State Highway 49 flowing through the heart of Mariposa County. Along the way, stop by authentic Gold Rush towns like Mariposa, Hornitos, and Coulterville.

The Wonders of Walking

Everyone knows the rhythmic joy of putting one foot in front of the other. Walking is great for mood elevation, blood pressure, balance, coordination and digestion (Thanksgiving!) ““ it’s an activity that checks all the wellness boxes.

Add to that the diverse terrain and beautiful vistas of Yosemite Mariposa, and you have Thanksgiving getaways made for the art of the walk. There may be no better season for hiking and other outdoor activities in Yosemite National Park. A favorite fall amble is the easy Yosemite Valley Loop Trail, where you’ll be in the company of vibrant Big Leaf Maples and Pacific Dogwoods, granite monoliths overhead. Family portraits are in season!

Check out our guide to Yosemite Mariposa’s best places to hike before and after your Thanksgiving feast!

Harvest Heyday

June Bug Cafe
June Bug Cafe’s Outdoor Patio

Thanksgiving is America’s traditional festival of family dining and football. So your chefs have the holiday main event covered ““ how about the rest of your Thanksgiving getaway? Mariposa County is a renowned Sierra foodie destination with homegrown chefs as well as new faces who have traded big-city restaurants for a more relaxed foothill lifestyle. Mariposa locals Jake and Hanna Wackerman’s 1850 Restaurant pairs house-brewed beer with a menu of elevated pub fare; Irish nachos, anyone? Cool merch, too, for holiday shopping. Midpines’ June Bug Cafe at the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort has become known for its yearly Thanksgiving dinner. Take a look at the video below to learn more about the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort’s owners, Doug Shaw and Caroline McGrath.

Looking for a Thanksgiving feast for the family? Check the Yosemite events page to learn about Thanksgiving dinners that the whole family will love at places like The Ahwahnee, Tenaya at Yosemite and the June Bug Cafe.

Staying in? Need trail snacks? Pioneer Market in Mariposa is a gold mine of a grocery with many locally sourced goods, butcher, bakery and deli. Snag a copy of the Mariposa Gazette on your way out ““ California’s oldest weekly newspaper, published every Thursday.

Libations are key as well, and Mariposa County is Sierra wine country. Local wineries like Butterfly Creek and Casto Oaks are crushing the Sierra Foothills terroir. Stop for a wine tasting (visit the winery websites for details) or pick up a bottle at the Pioneer Market, which carries a nice selection of local wine, cider and beer. Local restaurants do, too.

See our “Yosemite Mariposa Yelp” dining guide to Yosemite Mariposa and get your game on.

Meet the Miwuk

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to deepen your awareness of the original denizens of Yosemite Mariposa. Native Americans have lived in this area for thousands of years with a vibrant tradition, spirit and culture ““ quite a feat given their challenging and often tragic history with California’s European and Gold Rush settlers.

Miwuk heritage and culture is celebrated at the Mariposa Museum & History Center, a showcase of Native American life in Yosemite Mariposa. The museum’s native plant garden includes an umacha, the traditional teepee-shaped house covered with cedar bark. Next to the umacha are grinding holes that were used to grind acorns for food. The Miwuk exhibit contains a compelling collection of baskets, artifacts, and images that represent Southern Sierra Miwuk heritage and culture.

The illuminating 2019 documentary Miwuk is told through the eyes of people whose ancestors lived here in Mariposa County. The film, produced by veteran television editor Bill Lowe, tells the stories of seven Miwuk members who grew up in Yosemite Mariposa, with inspiring accounts of their strong traditions as well as the heartbreaking adversity their people have endured.


Bonus Tip: Where to Stay

For Thanksgiving vacations, Mariposa County has you covered with quality digs ranging from luxury hotels and resorts such as Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, one of the most heralded family retreats in California, to vacation home rentals where everyone can stay comfortably under one roof.

Safety is a priority for Mariposa County’s businesses. Enhanced cleanliness standards are in place, and it’s the shared responsibility of visitors and residents to ensure a healthy and safe experience for Thanksgiving vacations.  Mariposa County continues to urge visitors to do their part to stay well by maintaining a safe distance between yourself and other groups, wearing a cloth face covering, washing hands and avoiding touching your face.

Whether you’re gathering around a crackling fire or a fully-laden holiday dinner table at the end of a magical Yosemite day, sharing legends of the fall or dreaming of the future, holidays are forever the time when family is celebrated and friendships are forged.  So add to your legacy with a Thanksgiving getaway that brings everyone together beneath the deep blue Yosemite Mariposa sky.

Categories: Autumn and Fall, Family and Kid Friendly, Holiday, Lodging, Winter