Things To Do In Yosemite in Winter

Yosemite In Winter Things To Do

To ring in 2018 this year, we packed our duffle bags and drove to Yosemite National Park! Originally, we wanted to go to Tahoe to snowboard during New Years weekend, but hotel prices were just ridiculous (think at least $100/night for a Days Inn) and all the affordable AirBNBs were already booked. Plus, there were a couple of major events happening that weekend that meant too many people and too much traffic.

Then, I had an “a-ha” moment and thought–what about Yosemite?

Yosemite is a common destination year round, but so many of us have the notion that Yosemite is no fun and absolutely unbearable in the winter. Typically during winter, there is snow which makes skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing possible. Fun alternative, right?

Things To Do in Yosemite in Winter

Meadow // Things To Do in Yosemite in Winter

There actually wasn’t any snow for our trip since there had been a month-long dry spell in California. In fact, everyone was pretty concerned that our winter was going to look pretty dry like it did during the drought. Though snowboarding, skiing, and snowshoeing were basically ruled out for us, we ended up having a lot of fun hiking and exploring Yosemite Valley. In fact, the “warmer” than usual weather made it possible for us to really enjoy walking around in nature while breathing in the crisp fresh air.

I wanted to put together a list of winter activities you can enjoy in Yosemite so you can see what they have to offer during a quieter and less crowded time of year. Specifically, I’m going to focus in on the valley since that’s mainly where we were and one of the most popular areas of the park.

Bridalveil Falls // Things To Do in Yosemite in Winter

Bridalveil Falls // Things To Do in Yosemite in Winter

Hike to Bridalveil Fall

Calling this a hike is a bit of an exaggeration since it’s such a short walk from the main road and the parking lot. In fact, you can get a beautiful view from the parking lot itself, but it’s worth the short and slightly uphill trek (again, a bit of an exaggeration) to the rocky base of the falls. Here you’ll see some ambitious and adventurous hikers climbing on rocks to get closer to the falls. Depending on when you go and how much water there has been during the season, Bridalveil will look just like what you think it should look like–a bride’s veil.

Hike to Mirror Lake

The hike to Mirror Lake was well worth the view. The way we saw it, there were two ways to hike to Mirror Lake–one included taking the real trail full of stepping stones and slightly rocky terrain, and the other included walking along the street. The two diverge as you get closer to Mirror Lake, but we ended up taking the real trail which just let us immerse ourselves further into Yosemite’s beauty. Bring a snack and some water, as it’s about a 3 mile hike there. It’s a good idea to give yourself at least 2 hours to walk there and back (unless you are taking the bus) and a half hour to rest and enjoy the beauty of the lake.

Yosemite Falls // Things To Do in Yosemite in Winter

Hike to Yosemite Falls

The hike to the upper falls is much longer than a visit to the lower falls, so we just walked to the lower falls to the bridge and saw families enjoying the falls and kids climbing all over the rocks. Getting that closeup view of the waterfall was nice and it gave me a good idea of what the height of the full waterfall is like–pretty tall! If you have the time and the energy, you’ll get some fantastic views of the falls and of the valleys if you hike to the upper falls.

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel // Things To Do in Yosemite in Winter

Dinner, Drinks, and Downtime at The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (Formerly the Ahwahnee Hotel)

I felt like I was walking into a magazine when I stepped foot into this hotel. It’s conveniently located right in the middle of Yosemite Valley and offers hotel guests and other visitors a good bar to grab a drink, an upscale dining experience, and a giant yet cozy lounge you’ll never want to leave. If you plan to have dinner here, make sure to make reservations (you can make them online) and bring the right clothing as there is a dress code and your hiking gear isn’t going to cut it.

Chapel // Things To Do in Yosemite in Winter

A Visit to the Yosemite Valley Chapel

This chapel is too cute to not see in person. Resembling a tiny home, this chapel is in regular use for and has services. Other than that, there’s not too much to do or see here but I had to point it out because I loved it.

Half Dome // Things To Do in Yosemite in Winter

Ice Skating in Half Dome Village

Yes, you can ice skate just about anywhere, but can you ice skate in a place with view of Half Dome anywhere? Didn’t think so! It’s a fun winter activity you can do at Yosemite regardless of whether it has snowed or not!

The Ansel Adams Gallery

Paying a visit to this gallery is a must for photography fans. If you have an interest in photography, you can also partake in an Ansel Adams Photography Workshop to help you learn to use your camera better and let you know of the best spots to shoot some of Yosemite’s most popular points of interest.

Skiing & Snowboarding

We obviously didn’t do this one but we had planned on it just in case it did end up snowing magically and opened for the season. This one is a bit self-explanatory, but the Yosemite Ski & Snowboardarea is actually a bit south of Yosemite Village so if you plan to go there, make sure to note its location. You can cross-country ski, snowboard, rent snow tubes, and rent snow shoes. There are also ski and snowboard lessons for first-timers or those who want to improve on their basics before heading down the slopes.

Camping

I’m a pretty inexperienced camper, so I was shocked to see people camping in winter! But it was so popular, all of the campsites were full! If you’re open to the idea of camping in the valley which is a cold area due to it’s geography, book a campsite that will let you get close to nature and still stay close to the action.

Events

Check out the events calendar to see what’s being offered at the park! During our stay, we saw a tour of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, a photography workshop, a guided hike, and snowshoeing as just a few of the activities and events they were putting on. Plus, other activities that involve food and wine! If we had a longer stay at the park, I would have jumped on the photography workshop.

Things To Do in Yosemite in Winter

Things To Do in Yosemite in Winter

Footpath // Things To Do in Yosemite in Winter

El Capitan // Things To Do in Yosemite in Winter

Other notable spots

At the beginning of the valley loop, you’ll have so many opportunities to take photos of the valley. Be sure to stop here for some breathtaking views. It’ll be the best area to get photos of El Capitan and Half Dome at the same time. Also, some of the bridges have beautiful views. And, all of the meadows are great spots to stop by.

That’s my list! Remember that when traveling in Yosemite, if there is a slight chance of snow, it’s best to have chains for your car. Also, be mindful when planning that some sites might be closed due to weather/construction, and same with roads. Be safe and have fun! There are truly some beautiful sites to see, even if they are topped with some pretty white snow.

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My First Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

You’ve probably heard of Sketch or at the very least seen photos of the carnation pink velvet chairs in the Gallery (a part of the restaurant). As soon as I knew I would be traveling to London (which was actually only 2-3 weeks prior to going on the trip), I immediately made reservations for afternoon tea at the Gallery. The place is wildly popular thanks to Instagram, so I was pretty lucky to actually find a time open for afternoon tea. The place books up pretty quick!

It was my first afternoon high tea. Though there are plenty of tea rooms in The States, including some great tea rooms close to where I live, I’ve never really made the time to go to one. I’m kind of glad that I got to have my first afternoon tea in London since high tea is an English tradition. In a sense, it was nice to not have another tea experience to compare it to, but I also didn’t really know what to expect. I only knew what to expect based on movies, photos, and friend’s experiences. Afternoon tea isn’t exactly a wild time, but it was fun to finally experience it on my own. 

The afternoon tea isn’t exactly nominally priced (price per person starts at £58), but coming here was a nice “treat yourself” experience for myself. During my entire trip to London, I was pretty mindful about spending, except for when I was at Sketch. It was a bit of a YOLO moment since I was traveling on my own and didn’t really have to take everyone’s travel desires and budgets into consideration–only my own (perks of solo travel, friends!). 

Upon being seated in the Gallery, I was given a menu with a full list of the courses and the selections I could make. My lovely servers (really, the service here is great) kindly let me know that everything other than the initial drink ordered (you can select from non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages) and the caviar + quail egg, is unlimited. I could order as many of my favorite teas, sandwiches, or pastries as I liked. 

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

I began my tea with a non-alcoholic rosé drink, which was a nice way to settle in and start. I went with a non-alcoholic drink only because I had many drinks the night before and woke up that morning hungover. Alcohol was one of the last things I wanted at that moment. Had I not been hungover that morning, I probably would have gone with sparkling wine. 

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Next, I selected my tea. There were so many teas to pick from, but I went with a white peony tea since it’s flavor is light and gentle and goes with just about any food. 

I hadn’t noticed at this point, but a trio of musicians (all women btw!) had set up in the corner of the Gallery and began playing beautiful music! It was nice to enjoy my tea and rosé drink while listening to the music. 

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

The first food that came out was the quail egg + caviar. I became a little nervous at this point. I’m not much of a seafood person, but I was willing to try the caviar. The part that made me nervous was figuring out the proper way to eat everything. Also the table next to me just finished their tea and were waiting for their check, meaning they could stare at me oddly eating my food. My solution was to quickly eat everything and slowly add the caviar to the quail eggs one bite at a time. I hope I did it right, but to be totally honest I’m still not sure! 

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Next, the tiered stand of finger sandwiches and pastries made their way to my table. Though it doesn’t look like a lot of food, I was stuffed fully after eating all of it. It’s pretty damn filling. I didn’t place a second order on any of the finger sandwiches or pastries, just so I could stuff myself full with more tea and the scone that came next. I do wish I had some extra room though–I loved all of the finger sandwiches. Again, I’m not a big seafood person, but I still ate the smoked salmon finger sandwich and found it to be quite good. The pastries were all great, too. I’m not big on cheesecake or fruit filled pastries usually but I found all of them to be quite tasty. My line of thinking was to try everything on the tiered stand, even if it wasn’t something I usually liked. Often when food is prepared in a phenomenal way, it doesn’t really matter if you usually like it or not. 

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

I ordered another tea, a hibiscus one this time, which had a deeper flavor than the gentle white tea I began with. It was a great tea to pair with the scone I had next. Warm and delicious, I had my scone with the fig and strawberry jam. 

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Finally, I was served a traditional Victoria sponge cake. It made my taste buds sing, but my stomach was so full I couldn’t finish the cake. I began to take small bites here and there but at some point I just let go and decided that if I ate anymore I would just get sick. 

After my meal and taking in the posh pink environment, I was soon on my way to some of the stores in the area for a nice-post meal walk. Or as some friends call it, the digestion walk.

Overall, I loved the afternoon tea and definitely think it’s worth the experience. Be ready to pay for the experience (it’ll be about $100 USD/person including the service charge depending on what you order), but also come ready to have a good, relaxing time and enjoy yourself. 

Sketch also has other beautifully decorated rooms and serves more than just afternoon tea. Take a look at their website and their menus for a good idea of what they have to offer. 

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Afternoon Tea at Sketch London

Build Your Own Birchbox (BYOB) at Birchbox

While strolling through SOHO (strolling may not be the right word…I had tired arms with heavy shopping bags hitting my knees) on the lookout for Ladureé and Dominique Ansel for afternoon snacks, I came across the Birchbox flagship store and decided to step in to see what they had in stock!

Birchbox Soho Store
View of the store from the BYOB area

Upon walking in, the bright white walls were neatly lined with shelves of beauty products familiar to Birchbox subscribers, like COOLA sunscreen, BeautyBlender, and other favorites. A quick walk downstairs leads you to a nice selection of women’s hair products and a wide selection of men’s products.

But we have to talk about the best part of the store. The most notable part of the flagship store? The coolest, most exciting, you-have-to-visit-if-you’re-a-Birchbox-fan-because-this-is-way-too-cool part? The Build-Your-Own-Birchbox or BYOB section.

The BYOB section has a wide selection of samples with everything you see on Birchbox (dry shampoo, nail polish, moisturizers, you name it). For only $10, you get to add 5 samples of whatever you would like!

BYOB (Build Your Own Birchbox) at Birchbox Flagship in SOHO

You can see in the photo above that they have men’s and women’s products separated and categorized, with sample offerings in hair, makeup, body, nail, skincare, and fragrance.

Even though I’m an ongoing monthly Birchbox subscriber, I found the BYOB section to be AMAZING! Why, you ask? You can try out products that maybe wouldn’t be recommended to you based on your beauty profile, and you can physically hold the samples and view them before you add them to your box.

I loaded my box with these five samples:

Since I was traveling, I thought picking up dry shampoo and cleansing waters would be the best idea for me.

Birchbox BYOB Samples

Usually, a monthly Birchbox includes a variety of products––a perfume sample, skincare sample, cosmetics sample, etc. At the BYOB section, you don’t have to pick one product within each category. You could take home 5 mascaras, 5 dry shampoos, or 5 of whatever you want…well, I’m not sure that’s the policy BUT they didn’t stop me from picking up three cleansing waters/makeup removers!

There’s someone behind the counter who will give you more information on the samples and answer any questions, but there wasn’t anyone behind the counter when I went…which was totally okay by me because I wanted to take my sweet time touching all the samples!

So If you’re in SOHO and you’re a Birchbox fan, stopping by the flagship store (even if just for the BYOB section) is totally worth it!