Q: We will be visiting Yosemite National Park at Christmas for the Bracebridge Hall Dinner. What areas of the park are accessible at that time, and what activities are available?
A: You are lucky to be attending the Bracebridge Dinner, the old-English-style Christmas pageant and lavish meal served at the Ahwahnee hotel. As many as 60,000 entries are submitted in a lottery for the total of 1,800 guests accommodated at the five dinners on Dec. 22, 24 and 25.
Yosemite Valley is open all year, as is the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias, in the southern end of the park. Closed are the Tioga Pass road, which crosses the park east to west and leads to the high country, and the Glacier Point road, from Badger Pass, about 25 miles above the Valley, to Glacier Point. For weather and road conditions: (209) 372-4605.
In addition to the regular wintertime interpretive walks led by park rangers there will be special programs Christmas week. These last about 90 minutes and are held rain, snow or shine. Those topics will include "Christmas Trees and Mistletoe" and "Walking in a Winter Wonderland." On Dec. 24 at 7 p.m. there will be an hourlong stroll; reservations required. Walk topics and times are listed at the Yosemite Valley visitors center.
In the Yosemite Theater near the visitors center, one-person shows about John Muir or the life of a pioneer woman, films on Yosemite and a musical program will take place at various times during the holidays; admission is $3 or $4.
At the Pioneer Yosemite History Center, a collection of historic buildings from the park's past at Wawona near the park's south entrance, a daylong traditional Christmas celebration will take place Dec. 23, featuring stagecoach rides, tours and nighttime caroling by lantern and candlelight.
The Badger Pass ski area, (209) 372-1330, in the park, about 25 miles from the valley, will be in operation for downhill skiing. One-day lift tickets are $21 midweek and $25 on weekends. There is also cross country skiing in the valley and the areas above it. At Badger Pass the Yosemite Cross Country Ski School, (209) 372-1244, rents skis, boots and poles for $12.50 a day. Two two-hour lessons are $35, including equipment. Badger Pass is about a 40-minute drive from the valley (chains may be needed in snowy weather); there are free shuttle buses from the Yosemite Lodge.
Hourlong snowshoe walks, $1, are offered at Badger Pass by the National Park Service at 11 a.m. every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Ice skating is available at the Curry Village outdoor rink in the valley. The rink is open weekdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. On weekends the hours are 8 a.m. to noon, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Four-hour sessions are $4.50 for adults and $3.75 for children. Skate rental is $1.75.
Q: How can I find out about bed and breakfasts in or around Washington?
A: Here are two services that represent a number of bed and breakfasts -- by local zoning, a room in a private house where the owner lives -- in and around Washington.
Bed & Breakfast League/Sweet Dreams & Toast, P.O. Box 9490, Washington, D.C. 20016, (202) 363-7767, two reservation services combined, represents about 60 bed and breakfasts, most in Washington and a few in nearby Maryland and Virginia. Most homes are within 10 minutes of a subway stop, the company says. Prices are $45 to $115 with two in a room, including breakfast, which is usually Continental breakfast.
Bed 'n' Breakfasts Limited, P.O. Box 12011, Washington, D.C. 20005, (202) 328-3510, represents about 70 bed and breakfasts, including 10 to 15 apartments within private houses. Rates for two people are $50 to $100. The agency also represents about 10 inns, which go up to $185 a night. Apartments are $75 to $100 a night, with a three-night minimum.
The Washington, D.C., Convention and Visitors Association, 1212 New York Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005; (202) 789-7000, will mail a free accommodations guide that includes some bed and breakfasts.
Q: I have heard of a ship that takes passengers from Florida to New York. Can you give me any information?
A: Each spring American Canadian Caribbean Line moves its ships from Florida, base for its Caribbean cruises, to Rhode Island as its base for Montreal cruises, and passengers can take these repositioning cruises, which are said to fill up well ahead of time. In the fall, the ships move back to Florida. The Caribbean Prince will leave Palm Beach Gardens May 8, arriving in Warren, R.I., on May 22; closest ports to New York are Baltimore and Newport, R.I. The fare starts at $1,949 a person with two in a cabin. The Shoreham II leaves Palm Beach Gardens May 11, arriving in Rhode Island May 25; fare starts at $1,499. The Caribbean Prince makes its return trip from Rhode Island Nov. 1, arriving Nov. 22. A new ship, the Mayan Prince, will sail from Warren Nov. 1, arriving in Florida on Nov. 15. Plans for the Shoreham II are not yet set. More information: American Canadian Caribbean Line, P.O. Box 368, Warren, R.I. 02885; (800) 556-7450.
Q: I hope to spend the July 4 weekend in Boston next year. Are the Boston Pops concerts an annual event? Are they free?
A: Free July 4 concerts have been held on the bank of the Charles River since 1929 (in the bicentennial year of 1976, the Boston concert took place July 5; the Pops appeared in New York on the Fourth). Independence Day 1992 will be no exception: The orchestra will perform at the Hatch Memorial Shell beginning at 8 p.m.
The Boston Pops consists of the Boston Symphony Orchestra without its 12 principal players, but the Symphony Orchestra plays at Tanglewood, Mass., in the summer. The July 4 ensemble is made up of free-lance musicians and is called the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra.
The oval seating area in front of the shell holds about 10,000 people. Last year there were 40,000 people at the site by noon and 300,000 by concert time, orchestra officials said.