Walt Disney World Wilderness Lodge review

A little about the resort

The Wilderness Lodge is a deluxe resort located near the Magic Kingdom and is a great resort for families with small children who plan to spend a good deal of time at Magic Kingdom.  As you drive up to the resort, one is struck by the magnificence of the evergreens and the wooded areas surrounding the resort.  Disney definitely paid attention to details with the main gate area constructed of logs with an arch decorated with designs inspired by Native American art.  The lodge itself is reminiscent of those found in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900s, and in fact, reminds me a great deal of Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful Inn. For those who have visited Disneyland, it is very similar in its theme to the Grand Californian. While the theming is rustic, the accommodations and services are not rustic.

The lodge itself stands 7 stories tall.  As you drive up you are greeted by cast members who appear to be “park rangers.”  Walking into the lobby be sure to look towards the ceiling, the architecture is breathtaking. The lobby is encircled by wooden balconies and with animal carvings on logs that reach towards the roof.  Two totem poles face each other and vault towards the ceiling.  They are decorate with carved/painted images. The totem poles themselves are great “picture taking spots.”  The décor itself in the lobby area highlights Native American art and includes stone inlays, teepee-shaped light fixtures and iron works with Native people on horseback.  The massive stone fireplace in the lobby is also a piece of art, in and of itself.  If you are there on a cold evening, be sure to stop a few minutes and enjoy the warmth.


Also part of the theme, and unique to this resort, is the “hot-spring” bubbling up from the floor of the lodge lobby … forming a stream which leads to the outside where it flows over a waterfall into the swimming pool area.  Outside by the swimming pool one will find between the pool and Bay Lake, a geyser, very similar to Old Faithful, that regularly blows off steam (except at night when guests are sleeping).


There are two sections to this resort:  the Wilderness Lodge and the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge which are a Disney Vacation Club property but can be rented by others. In the lodge, itself, has 725 rooms with several different views.  The standard view room is the least expensive and faces the parking lot and driveway.  The woods view rooms face the woodlands and the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge.  Courtyard view rooms typically have a view of the pool, waterfall, or the lake. All rooms have two queen size beds, table/chairs, a writing table, a vanity area with 2 sinks and a private balcony/patio.  What is unique about this resort is that it offers Bunk Bed Rooms which instead of two queen size beds have one queen-size bed and one bunk bed (at a higher price, of course). This is almost always a hit among younger children.  However, if you have teenagers, we found they tend to prefer the queen size beds.


As is the case with all deluxe Disney resorts, The Wilderness Lodge also offers a club/concierge level where you will receive personalized planning services, continental breakfast, midday snacks, evening wine and cheese as well as dessert.  The club level gives you access to the Health Club and the ability to experience Wildlife Discovery Excursion at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. For larger families, there is the deluxe room – club level which has 2 queen size beds and one queen size sofa sleeper – sleeping 6 instead of 4.


The Villas have 136-units consisting of studio, one- and two-bedroom vacation villas.  They are five stories tall. The studio Villas are 356 square feet and have one queen bed and a full sleeper sofa.  The one-bedroom villas are 727 square feet and have a bedroom with a king-sized bed and its own whirlpool tub with a TV.  It also has a living room where you find a queen-sized sleeper sofa and a TV plus a full bathroom and fully equipped kitchen, dining area, stacked washer dryer and a private balcony/patio area.  The Two-bedroom villas are 1090 square feet and are a Studio and a One-Bedroom villa connected with a door.  These are very popular and tend to book early.


Even though this is considered a Magic Kingdom Resort, it does not have access to the monorail.  However, transportation options are numerous and it seems to be very good.  A boat is available to the Magic Kingdom as well as to the Polynesian and Fort Wilderness.  Bus transportation is also available to the Magic Kingdom as well as the other theme parks, Downtown Disney, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.


We have stayed here numerous times and really like the resort.  We enjoy the proximity to Magic Kingdom.  The downside was that it did take a bit more time to get to Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney since it was at the far end of Disney’s property by the Magic Kingdom.  In the evening, when it got late, we did take a cab from Downtown Disney to Wilderness Lodge to save time since we were tired and ready to get back to the room.  We have been known to do this from Animal Kingdom, also, when our son was younger.  But, overall, the transportation, even in busy times, seems to be good.


As far as the rooms go, they tend to be a bit smaller than some of the other deluxe resort properties at 344 square feet although larger than the moderates which range between 260-314 square feet.  For families desiring a little more space, this may not be the best option.  But, if you are looking for a resort close to the Magic Kingdom but not quite as expensive as the Polynesian, Contemporary or Grand Floridian, this is a nice hotel.


While the décor is rustic the amenities are very nice.  There is  small refrigerator in the room as well as an in-wall safe. Each room has a private balcony or a small patio area with a table and two chairs.  There was adequate room for 2 adults and 2 children.  We found that when our son was younger the bunk bed room was a nice option as he took the top bunk and we were able to put suitcases on the lower bunk.  Now that he is a teenager, we find the two queen beds are a better fit for the family.  Some tend to say the rooms appear dark …this is often what guests have commented about the Animal Kingdom.  We did not notice this and it wasn’t an issue for us.  But, I can see where it could be if you like light colors and an “airy” feeling.  We expected the room décor to be a bit darker since we were expecting the rustic, wilderness theme.  We found this resort to give us a “warm and cozy” feeling, as many others have commented.  I do have to say it is one the prettiest resorts at Christmas.  There is just something about how Disney decorates this hotel.  It is truly spectacular.


The resort also provides several options when it comes to dining.  We enjoyed the quick service restaurant – Roaring Forks – and thought they offered a nice variety.  It can get quite crowded though when you go at peak dining times and the inside seating is limited at those times.  However, there is a large outside space where you can take your food during times when the weather is nice – or you can take it back up to your room.


If you desire a more upscale dining experience, Artist Point is also located at the Lodge.  This is a Signature Dining Experience and requires two table-service meal credits for those on the dining plan.  It is famous for its Cedar Plank Salmon.  The Whispering Canyon Café is a western themed restaurant and popular among younger families – so be sure to do advanced dining reservations.  Be warned this is a noisy restaurant with dinner bells and forward/loud servers.  Some even say they border on obnoxious.  If you are looking for  a place to let go and have some fun – this is it.  If you are looking for a spot to unwind after a day filled with much excitement, this would probably not be my first choice.


The club level here is similar to that of the other resorts.  However, the lounge tends to be a bit different.  It isn’t a specific room but instead has seating on the top floor –looking down on the lobby area.  This does provide quiet sitting areas but for larger groups trying to dine together can present some challenges.  The food here was good – not spectacular.  The service was really nice.  A warning to those having stayed club level at other deluxe hotels, the ambiance here is rustic, thus the check-in desk, etc. reflect this theme.  For us, it just didn’t seem as upscale as those at the Yacht Club/Beach Club and even the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  But, the service was excellent.


One special thing about the resort is the fact that you can watch the Electric Water Pageant from the beach or boat dock as well as the fireworks from Magic Kingdom.  You can also catch a quick boat over to Fort Wilderness where you can attend the Hoop-Dee-Doh Revue.  Finally, the resort offers boat rentals at the Marina.


We enjoyed this resort and it is one of our favorites.  We love the theme (especially at Christmas) and the proximity to Magic Kingdom.

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