Guests will enjoy the rustic decor and cozy ambiance at Tenaya Lodge. // © 2016 Tenaya Lodge
Feature image (above): The 302-room Tenaya Lodge is a AAA Four Diamond resort in Yosemite, Calif. // © 2016 Tenaya Lodge
I’ll begin with an adage that everyone can relate to: Relationships are hard work. Though perhaps well-worn, it’s a platitude that continues to ring true particularly in today’s world, as most of us struggle to balance work, family, a social life, relationships and time for ourselves.
A couple’s getaway is a favored pastime for lovebirds looking to make quality time for each other, but sometimes the effort it takes to pull it off can outweigh the rewards. So, it can be a huge relief when a third party can successfully do the heavy lifting, allowing twosomes to enjoy each other without the stress of planning, cooking or coming up with ways to entertain themselves. In my case, it was Tenaya Lodge that took over that hard work for my partner and me.
The AAA Four Diamond resort in Yosemite, Calif., helped us set up a romantic weekend that took into account our personal definition of romance: being in nature. Of course, it’s hard not to get outdoors at a property located just 2.5 miles from the entrance to Yosemite National Park. And while the lodge wants its guests to explore one of America’s first national parks, it offers plenty of temptations for clients during their downtime.
Some of these include on-site outdoorsy activities — such as hiking, archery, a climbing wall and mountain biking, available for a nominal fee — that allow guests to discover the surrounding Sierra National Forest, which borders the property. After giddily sipping on champagne and noshing on fruit delivered by a smiling staff member shortly after check-in, my boyfriend and I ventured out on a nighttime flashlight-equipped hike. Though it was drizzling, the rain amplified the fragrant smell of the pine, fir and cedar trees that surrounded us as we followed our guide, John, through the crisp night. During the leisurely hike, he stopped to explain facts about the local flora, and even had us taste particular plants. (Fun fact: Hyssop is delicious.)
While most of the activities available are great for families — who also love the 302-room property for its kid-friendly amenities such as an Adventure Club, a Kids Camp, a winter ice rink, an outdoor summer barbecue, “dive-in movie” nights by the pool and more — they’re perfect for couples looking to bond in nature, too.
The lodge also offers specific accommodations for those seeking alone time, including Garden and Contemporary suites, located on an adults-only level with a private, ground-floor entrance; chic, rustic Cottage Rooms and Suites set just slightly away from the main lodge among evergreens; and Spa Rooms, the largest and most luxurious of the standard Lodge Room category, which recently received a $5 million remodel and refresh.
The latter was where we called home for the weekend — a 550-square-foot Spa Room that includes a king-size bed, a sitting area with a pullout sofa bed, a full wet bar and refrigerator, a private balcony and, best of all, a large bathroom with a separate shower and a spacious whirlpool bathtub. After a full day of venturing into Yosemite and tackling a hike to the top of Vernal Falls, the tub proved a well-needed feature, where we recounted the day’s adventure and soaked our aching legs.
The property also offers the 10,000-square-foot, Double Silver LEED-certified Ascent Spa, where lovebirds can get pampered together — with treatments such as the Cedar Couples Spa Package, which includes a couples massage and his-and-her facials — or simply make use of the sauna and steam rooms, to which all guests have complimentary access as part of the resort fee.
Couples looking to add a little extra “oomph” to their romantic getaway can book the Escape to Romance package, offered year-round, which includes one night in a Deluxe, Premium or Cottage Room; breakfast; welcome strawberries and champagne; and a turndown service with chocolate kisses and rose petals.
Of course, lovers cannot subsist on sweets and bubbly alone, so a dinner in the lodge’s intimate, elegant Embers restaurant is a must. We began with a Caesar salad prepared fresh tableside before feasting on pan-seared scallops with corn pudding, baby turnips and bacon vinaigrette; and miso-yuzo glazed arctic char with bok choy and a soba noodle salad. Other popular options include steak, duck breast and roasted tempeh. For more casual dining, guests can try Sierra restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; the low-key Jackalope’s Bar & Grill for pub fare; and Timberloft Pizzeria. Parkside Deli offers to-go options such as premade sandwiches and salads, as well as snack bars, fruit and coffee drinks.
After dinner, we couldn’t help but take one more soak in our luxe tub before cuddling up to dream about Yosemite’s majestic splendor.
On our last day, the great outdoors was still calling us, so the concierge arranged a half-hour archery lesson, where our teacher, Hailey, helped us channel our inner Katniss. It was our first time trying archery, so we giggled plenty at our failed attempts to impress each other with “The Hunger Games”-worthy skills.
We requested a late checkout in order to squeeze in one more hike — this time, roaming through the Sierra National Forest by daylight, where we were dazzled by the changing pink, yellow and orange leaves.
Though we were reluctant to leave such a magical place and face the responsibilities of the real world, we departed Tenaya Lodge hand in hand and feeling renewed.