Fewer people are there this time of year, so the only rush you get comes from the water: Vernal and Nevada Falls are in thunderous form, Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls are surging, and so are the poppies in the valley meadows.
Pro tip: Get to Yosemite Valley by way of Mariposa. Formerly a gold rush town and just an hour from the valley, Mariposa is lively and friendly, with a fantastic craft brew scene, food ranging from wood-fired pizza to daring and delicious Cajun, and an A+ live music and patio culture.
Bonus: The scenic drive from Mariposa to Yosemite Valley parallels the flowing Merced River as canyon walls swoon with waterfalls.
Lodging: Book a cabin, hotel or B&B!