How to do a Yosemite Getaway

When it comes to family trips…know that there may be drama from the mamas and quibblings with the siblings, but when you are in a place as majestic as Yosemite it’s easy to let that all go and embrace the beauty around you. Regardless of your age, background, or physical capabilities there is something for everyone.

Here’s how the trip went down…


SWA doesn’t go all the way to Cal-i-for-ni-a so we had to through Midway #Chicity.  Like any native Chicagoan, everyone knows what awaits you at T1, that Potbelly’s for your potbelly! So go towards the exit but before you pass the point of no return #security, swing into the food court and get you some. If you’ve never had it before, please forget trying to read the menu and just listen to this chicity local; you need to go halfsies on two samiches:


Chicken salad sandwich on wheat with urrything and extra giardiniera <- if you don’t know what giardiniera is, oh my gatos, you have not lived.

Peanut butter jelly time on wheat – on the real, add that banana too. IDC what you think, that is the real deal childhood meal. You’ll thank me later.

*I will personally refund you the purchase price if you don’t like it (refund will be in bitcoin, offer void in all 50 states and US territories, Nigerian princes with offers to trade blood diamonds and/or transfer millions of dollars into my account are eligible).

After a quick dinner, we were on our next connection to SAC town (Sacramento). Flight was about 4 hours and rather uneventful so bring a Wi-Fi enabled device to keep you occupied with SWA free TV service.


We landed around 9:30 PM and we were pleasantly surprised to be picked up by Chris from Zeeba Vans, our car rental agency. He picked us up from baggage claim which was super convenient so that we didn’t have to get on a shuttle to the car rental garage. Great service!

Oh yeah, and there were some interesting characters filming what seemed to be a music video in the pickup area outside. The TSA let them have it about leaving their car running and trying to shoot the video walking into the airport until they sweet talked her and complimented her brushing technique. I asked her when the video was dropping to which she just giggled and offered us some beat up looking jolly ranchers from the bottom of her pocket. We should’ve got her autograph in case she ever becomes a video vixen but we forgot so we were off to our cabin in Mariposa, about 2.5 hours away.

Although the drive was long, it was mostly highway and smooth sailing. When we got out to Mariposa, you wouldn’t believe how brilliant the night sky looked. It truly looked like a painting, an unforgettable sight!! We unloaded the van quickly and went off to bed as we were exhausted, it was almost 3 am eastern time and we had been up almost 24 hours straight!


We got up relatively early and had a quick breakfast of croissants, muffins, coffee and we were out by 9 am. The drive to Yosemite is about 90 mins with no traffic and full of scenic landscapes and twisted mountain roads. As they say, it’s not always about the destination but rather the journey.

We started our journey of Yosemite in Merced Grove, a wooded area where you can hug some ginormous Sequoia trees. Although Mariposa Grove is known to be the better area to see Sequoias, it was closed for restoration during our visit.

We decided to go on an awesome hike through the Grove which was extremely calm, peaceful, and for the most part shaded- it was a hot day!!

Sequoia Yosemite

The hike was 1.5 mi each way and was super easy on the way in but much more difficult coming out since it was mostly uphill on the return. Prepare well with snacks and plenty of water. I wouldn’t recommend for people that have trouble walking or struggle with strenuous exercise.

After the hike, we stopped to eat our home packed lunch sandwiches and we’re off to Yosemite Valley Lodge to book our night tour – Starry Night.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon at the Yosemite Valley Lodge recovering from the 3-hour hike. The restaurant is less than gourmet – but what else do you expect in the park? However, it was air conditioned and had relatively clean bathrooms. 😉

After our snack at the lodge, we spent the remainder of the time driving through the park stopping at countless scenic overlooks throughout the park.


By 9:00 PM that night we were ready for our Ranger talk. I would highly recommend the Starry Night Skies over Yosemite tour for everyone – you literally lay on the ground marveling at the night’s beauty above while taking in different theories on the creation of the universe and constellations. You wouldn’t believe what you can see with the naked eye when you get away from the city lights. We were able to see Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the Milky Way and numerous stars without a telescope. The rangers do an excellent job keeping you entertained and making the experience unforgettable.

Yosemite Sky

After the ranger talk, we called it a night and headed back to Mariposa.


Saturday marked the beginning of the 4th of July holiday weekend. If you didn’t know this is the busiest time at the park so please plan ahead. Our 90 min trek the day before became 3 hours this day and there were certainly far more visitors than the day before.

By the time we got into the park, it was about 1 PM – lunch time – and we took our home-packed lunches and sat in the Yosemite Valley Lodge.

Side note: outside food is frowned upon

After Lunch we decided to split off into two groups:

  1. Those that know how to ride a bike
  2. Those that know how to ride in a motor vehicle

Fortunately, a brother can balance on two wheels so this is how it goes. Rent a bike from Yosemite Valley Lodge for $12.50 an hour and ride or die.

This has to be one of the most beautiful bike rides I have ever taken, even topping Mackinaw Island, MI and the Everglades in FL. The bike paths in the park are beautifully designed to get you amazing views of the meadows, mountains, waterfalls, rivers, and forest. The paths are very nicely paved and maintained so it’s not a strenuous ride for even the most amateur rider. A great stop on the bike path is Mirror Lake – where you can jump in and take a dip in the pristine Yosemite waters.

After the bike ride, our groups united to have a quick snack and take a family selfie.


Then it was off to Glacier Point (GP) for the sunset. GP is a must do at Yosemite with stunning views of the valley, waterfalls, and mountains. It is extremely popular at sunset so make sure you get there early to find a parking spot. After experiencing a beautiful sunset, GP is also a perfect spot for stargazing. Rangers set up telescopes pointing at the different planets and constellations for anyone that would like to take a peek. Make sure you bring plenty of snacks and water because it is a long drive down from Glacier Point.

Glacier Point Yosemite


Sunday was more of a recovery day, where everyone slept a little later and checked into the flights for the next day. We had a nice family breakfast, prepped and grilled for an afternoon barbecue and relaxed.

Our caretaker from Airbnb (shout out to Carlos!) was kind enough to provide us with a fishing 101 tutorial and lend us his poles and bait for a fun early evening activity of fishing. Everyone tried their hand at the pole but only 1 was lucky enough to reel it in. No, it wasn’t a Magikarp or Gyarados but an impressive bass #stockedlake.


After getting a little bit of cabin fever, we decided to venture out in Downtown Mariposa for our last family meal. We found a local pizza joint: Pizza Factory that just hit the spot. It wasn’t Giordano’s but made from real manos #hands.


On 4th of July, we were sky high…no literally, we were in the air, everyone traveling back to their respective homes #Illinois #California #Florida #NewYork. Some of us were lucky enough to see fireworks at Lake Michigan #Homecoming #Kanye2020

All in all, it was a trip to remember with unforgettable landscapes, never-ending car rides, and a checkmark off the bucket list.

There’s lots more to see and we’ll be back with another itinerary.

Tips to Remember:

  • Sacramento Airport is the closest you’ll get to Yosemite if you fly Southwest
  • Get to the park early on a holiday weekend
  • Don’t miss out on Glacier Point for a sunset
  • Starry Night Skies over Yosemite is a must
  • Bicycling is an excellent way to cover a lot of ground without being stuck in traffic
  • Book accommodations early – lodging in the park and surrounding areas book up very fast
  • Wear good shoes
  • Stay hydrated
  • Get a pulse of everyone’s hiking abilities so you can plan accordingly

Restaurants Recommended:

Travel & Accommodations Recommended:

Apps Used:

  • Southwest
  • Airbnb
  • Yelp