Debbie Croft: Looking ahead to unique holiday events in foothills and beyond

Holiday preparations are already underway with sumptuous menus and intriguing productions in the foothills and beyond. For this year’s Christmas feasts, now is the time to reserve a spot — or two — at these festive holiday events and celebrate in style:

• The spectacular Bracebridge Dinner at Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel was first held almost 90 years ago. Based on Washington Irving’s tale of Squire Bracebridge’s Yuletide celebrations, a cast of more than 100 characters still delights guests annually. Gentlemen, ladies, servants, a court jester, minstrels and more contribute to an evening of pageantry lasting four hours.

The hotel dining room is transformed into the great hall of a 17th-century English manor. Music, comedy and theatrical performances take place throughout the seven-course meal. Each dish is prepared by the world-renowned culinary staff of the Ahwahnee.

The holiday menu features items such as dungeness crab, peacock pie, boars head, baron of beef and, of course, plum pudding and wassail. Tiny bite-size pastries, called Mignardise, conclude the meal. Vegetarian, gluten-free and nut-free menus are available upon request.

Originally the dinner was held only once during the holiday season. But with its increasing popularity, this event is now presented on eight select evenings during the two weeks before Christmas, including Christmas Day.

Dining and lodging packages are available. More information may be found at the website,, or by calling (801) 559-4884.

• An elegant Victorian Christmas feast awaits guests at the City Hotel Restaurant in Columbia’s historic state park. A five-course meal, fine wines, songs of the season and a dinner theater production fill the evening. This marks the 31st year for the distinguished event.

The gourmet feast includes courses of Blue Point oysters on the half shell, duck and veal paté, Springfield Farm trout and standing rib roast with Yorkshire pudding.

Personalities from a previous era, hotel owner George Morgan and family, will provide entertainment, as well as Mark Twain, Dave Rainwater on the fiddle, the Sincerely Carolers and others.

This event is held for five evenings, Dec. 11-15. The price of the dinner is discounted for guests of the hotel.

Formal attire is appropriate, but period dress is traditional for the occasion.

Call (209) 532-1479 for details or go to

• In December, Lamplight Tours also take place in Columbia. Park docents Floyd and Danette Oydegaard will lead visitors on “A Merry Mystery” for the 30th anniversary of the tour. Taking place Dec. 6 and 7, tours begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. The meeting place is Eagle Cottage, next to Fallon House Theatre.

Wilkie Collins’ works were used as inspiration for the composition of this year’s script, written by the Oydegaards. Collins was a favorite author during the late 1800s.

For a Gold Rush-era holiday experience, the interactive tour leads participants through town, as they locate clues for solving the mystery. Main Street will be decorated for Christmas and refreshments will be served at the close of the evening.

Proceeds from the event will fund interpretive and educational programs with Friends of Columbia, a nonprofit organization. For more information, call (209) 588-9128 or visit, and click on "Events."