by Jackie Perrin
Set amidst soaring pine, cypress and oak trees in one of the most serene settings in all of Walt Disney World Resort, the Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is a peaceful sanctuary, providing a welcome opportunity for rest and relaxation, along with kid-friendly recreation and convenient access via boat to Magic Kingdom theme park fun.
Designed by noted architect Peter Dominick, the five-story, 114-unit Disney Vacation Club resort debuted in November 2000, offering nightly rentals of studio and one- and two-bedroom villa accommodations, containing all of the comforts of home.
Modeled after the Northwestern National Park hotels patronized by railroad pioneers at the turn of the century, the architecturally impressive property features a number of distinctive period details, including a historic train room and a fireside lounge with mismatched furniture, reminiscent of the era when settlers left behind belongings in order to lighten their traveling load.
In addition to access to a rockin’ rock-carved pool, a marina, a childcare center for children ages 3 to 12 and family-friendly dining at the adjoining Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (the hotel), Villa guests enjoy the use of an onsite quiet pool and a top-notch fitness center, as well as an exclusive cache of Hidden Mickeys, just waiting to be discovered.
Our Editor Loves
- Accommodations with comforts of home
- Boat access to Magic Kingdom theme park
- Rockin' rock-carved pool
- All Inclusive Rates
- Horse Back Riding
- Theme Park
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Designed to evoke a "back to nature" ambiance, accommodations at the Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge (updated in 2014) feature home-like amenities which make for a comfortable stay with kids. Carpets, linens and artwork feature natural motifs and casual furnishings, along with peaceful woods views, and help set the scene for a laid-back getaway.
One- and two-bedroom villas (727 and 1,080 square feet) sleep four and eight persons respectively, plus a crib sleeper for guests under the age of 3, and contain a king-sized bed and a flat-screen TV in the master bedroom and a Jacuzzi tub in an adjoining bathroom. A set of shutters connects the master bedroom and the whirlpool bath; those seeking a peaceful soak will need to lock two doors in order to guarantee privacy. In a separate living area, there's a queen-sized sofabed, a coffee table, another TV and a DVD player. Both types of accommodations feature a stacked washer and dryer and a compact, fully equipped kitchen. A table with two chairs and a low-to-the-ground breakfast bar provide elbow room for diners.
Two-bedroom, two-bath villas are available in a choice of two configurations: one layout features two queen-size beds in the second bedroom, while the other is a studio lockout with a sofabed and a queen-size bed as the second room option. Note that the latter features an outside entrance -- something to consider if you're traveling with little ones.
All accommodations feature either a private porch (ground floor) or balcony and a Pack 'N Play, and high-speed Internet service is available for a daily fee for rental guests. High chairs are provided in villas, and bed rails are available upon request.
For slightly more space (and money), choose a Deluxe Studio Villa, updated in 2014 to sleep five and feature a queen-size bed, a twin-size Murphy bed and a double-size sofabed. These units also have tables with two chairs, coffee tables, kitchenettes with sinks, microwaves, toasters and mini-refrigerators.
For studio guests, a complimentary self-service laundry room (key card access) is located on the first floor of the Villas building.
With regard to room location, most Villa balconies feature a woods view. For convenient access to hotel facilities, request an accommodation close to the elevators and the main building. The Villas are connected to the main hotel via a covered walkway.
I had the opportunity to stay for one evening at Boulder Ridge Villas on a very short trip to Florida. Disney did not disappoint in their customer service and the amenities in their studio room.
Room was very nice size with a queen bed, pull out couch that could also sleep to and tucked away pull down twin bed that transformed the table into the base and it had a beautiful scene from Bambi on the wall.
The room also had a kitchenette that had glassware, plates, bowls, coffee mugs, coffee pot, mini fridge, microwave and sink. The balcony was lovely to have your morning cup of coffee.
Bathroom sink area was outside the tub/shower and toilet which allowed us to get ready in the morning much more quickly.
The grounds are beautiful so take the opportunity to stroll and take it in.
I absolutely love staying at Boulder Ridge Villas at the Wilderness Lodge, Walt Disney World. The staff go out of their way to make you feel welcome and comfortable. The room was gorgeous, with attention to detail - those little touches that make all the difference. The concierge, Kirk, went above and beyond to help us get the dining and fast passes we wanted. Our vacation was truly magical. You can walk undercover to the main lobby of Wilderness Lodge. There are buses to take you to the parks and a ferry boat to the Magic Kingdom. The grounds are gorgeous.
Copper Creek Springs Pool
Overlooking Bay Lake and seemingly carved out of the rockscape, the resort's showcase swim area includes a feature, heated pool with a 67-foot waterslide, an adjacent kiddie pool, and both hot and cold tubs. Nearby, there's a geothermal zone featuring a regularly erupting geyser. From around 1 to 6 p.m. daily, enthusiastic recreation leaders pump up the energy on the main deck with music, games and prizes.
Towels and swim vests (available at Teton Bike and Boat Rental) are complimentary and restrooms have space for changing. Swim diapers are required for non potty-trained children while using resort pools. You can purchase these and other baby and toddler supplies at Wilderness Lodge Mercantile (7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.), along with swim gear, sunscreen, souvenirs and limited groceries. Chairs are in short supply at peak times. Pool hours are 7 a.m. to midnight and lifeguard and slide hours are seasonal.
On the pool deck, your kids can get a colorful hair wrap (fee) and in the lobby, a pin-trading cart is a fun stop for guests of all ages. Just outside the gift shop, a Caricature Artist creates playful renditions of parents and kids enjoying their favorite sport, hobby or occupation from 6 to 11 p.m. daily.
Boulder Ridge Cove Pool
Nestled within the villas at Wilderness Lodge, this outdoor, zero-entry pool and hot tub provide a peaceful retreat from the crowds. Hours are 7 a.m. to midnight and towels are provided. There are six shaded seating areas too that are available on a first come, first serve basis.
Beach and Playground
On the shores of Bay Lake (swimming prohibited), you'll find a white-sand beach with a playground (recommended for ages 2 to 12), as well as plenty of chairs for lounging. It's a great spot to watch the Electrical Water Pageant pass by (9:35 p.m.), as well as the site of afternoon games of football, hockey, soccer and tug-of-war led by recreation staff. Sand toys are available at Teton Bike and Boat Rental. When the sun goes down, you can enjoy star-lit showings of popular Disney movies (screened daily).
Teton Bike and Boat Rental
At the resort marina, you can rent a boat and sail around Bay Lake (and the Seven Seas Lagoon), or borrow bikes and take a leisurely ride around a peaceful three-quarter mile path to Fort Wilderness. Along the way, you might even spot wildlife like deer, rabbits and armadillos. Surrey bikes can be rented in 30-minute increments, and bikes can be rented hourly or daily. Baby bike seats, training wheels and lockers are available. Rental boat options ($32 to $45 for 30 minutes) range from Sea Raycers to SunTrackers and Boston Whalers, and chartered specialty cruises (including fireworks excursions) are available. Hours vary by season. Boat rentals begin at 11 a.m. and bikes may be borrowed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., weather permitting.
Wonders of the Lodge Tour
Offered on Saturdays at 9 a.m., free ranger-led tours (best suited to adults and teens) are worthwhile for anyone interested in architecture or Disney history. Highlights include the story of the lobby's two 55-foot handcarved totems -- the Raven and the Eagle. Hidden Mickey tips are provided for both the Lodge and the Villas building, and in the Villas portion, participants can learn a little bit about railroad history and the tale of Westward Expansion. Meet in the hotel lobby.
Buttons & Bells Game Arcade
At this small arcade located between the hotel and Villas, guests can try their luck at around 30 games. It's open 24 hours (but don't tell the kids)!
Compact and friendly, the onsite childcare center for kids ages 3 (must be potty-trained) to 12 offers playthings for little ones, like cars, building toys and an outdoor sandbox, as well as board games, puzzles, crafts and computer games for older kids. Due to its small size, those over 10 years old will likely feel constrained. You can check out the staff and the facilities -- and bring kids of all ages along for the fun -- during complimentary Craft Time held from 2:30 to 4 p.m. daily. Club hours are 4:30 p.m. to midnight. Call 407-824-1083 for reservations.
At Disney's campground resort nearby, kids can take an archery lesson, ride a pony or sing along with Chip and Dale at a nightly campfire with S'mores. Older kids can take a guided trail ride (ages 9 and up) or a backwoods Segway Tours (ages 16 and up). Call 407-939-7529 for archery, guided trail ride and Segway tour reservations.
Carolwood Pacific Room
At this themed room located off the Villas lobby, you can play checkers or board games, and view railroad memorabilia, including scale-model railroad cars from Walt Disney's California home. Twice per month, there's an educational session hosted by a Walt Disney World Steam Train Specialist. Visit the front desk for a current schedule.
This quick-service spot offers reliable favorites like burgers, sandwiches and salads (try the enormous chopped chicken version), as well as a few soups, yogurt parfaits and a small selection of grab-and-go items. The dining room itself is small, dark and lacks a view, but highchairs are plentiful and additional seating is available on a pleasant outdoor patio near the pool. Hours are 6 a.m. to midnight, and the Grill is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Featuring the cuisine of the Pacific Northwest, this pleasant spot sports an upscale menu and sedate surroundings, with tables both inside and outside. Choices for kids range from baked salmon to a hamburger. For dessert, a White Chocolate Mickey Puzzle is served with a paintbrush, along with a personal "Artist Palette" with tinted icing for painting. Dining hours are 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. and advance reservations are suggested. Next door, the Territory Lounge (open 4:30 to 11:30 p.m.) serves a similar selection of regional wines, as well as light bites.
Whispering Canyon Cafe
Playful exaggeration is the running theme at this Old West-themed venue, where it's hard to decide which takes center stage -- the staff-initiated antics or the tasty grub that's dished out in all-you-can-eat portions. Guests can get on the bandwagon and join in on a stick pony parade during dinner or shake their hands in a group Hokey Pokey dance before dessert. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call ahead for priority seating or make reservations online.
Geyser Point Bar & Gril
Located by the pool, this new snack and grill spot features patio seating or families can enjoy their meal poolside. Burgers, salads, and small plates are available here.
Kids can enjoy Mickey waffles or a Moose Stampede sundae in their pajamas, or choose from a selection of the usual favorites like cheeseburgers, PB&J sandwiches and grilled cheese. Whole pizzas, sandwiches and snacks are available from 4 p.m. to midnight. Breakfast is served from 7 to 11 a.m., dinner service is from 5 to 10 p.m. and pre-scheduled delivery is available via the resort's Magical Dining service.
Trout Pass Pool Bar
Great views and cold refreshments are the draw at this ultra-casual watering hole, located poolside. Hours vary by season.
Purchase a refillable mug and receive unlimited hot and cold (non-alcoholic) drink refills at the Roaring Fork.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Besides some of the friendliest cast members you'll encounter at Disney resort, the Wilderness Lodge offers a number of unique experiences for families, like cookie decorating and a Hidden Mickey Scavenger Hunt (ask for a free guide at the Front Desk). Each day, one group of guests is selected to serve as honorary "Flag Family," ascending 66 steps to the roof to hoist the Lodge's five flags. If this sounds like fun, submit your family's name at check-in time.
Overnight guests enjoy a number of special perks, like early-entry and late-stay theme park privileges (Extra Magic Hours), free onsite transportation, free parking, the ability to make FASTPASS+ reservations 30 days in advance and the opportunity to participate in a Disney Dining Plan with a Magic Your Way Package. Additional family-friendly privileges include online room check-in (up to 10 days in advance), resort airline check-in and airport transportation service via Disney's Magical Express.
Kids Nite Out, an independent agency, provides in-room resort childcare. Rates are $16 per hour for the first child, with a four-hour minimum and a $10 caregiver transportation fee.
Sturdy Branches Health Club
Located on the first floor of the Villas, this well-equipped fitness spot is staffed from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, and 24-hour access is available with a venue-activated resort keycard.
The Art of Smart Timing
When traveling to Walt Disney World Resort, it's best to avoid peak travel periods. Generally, these times include holidays and the summer months -- in other words, any time schools are out of session. If you do opt to visit in summertime, pack sunscreen, hydrate frequently and, unless you want to squander your souvenir money on ponchos at the parks, don't forget your raingear.
Fortunately for travelers on a budget, the least expensive times to visit Walt Disney World theme parks tend to coordinate with dates when crowds are the lightest. If your kids aren't in school yet, September is a great time to visit. Another prime time is after Thanksgiving through early December, when parks and resorts are decked out in holiday splendor.
From Orlando International Airport (MCO): Free roundtrip airport transportation via motorcoach is available to guests (advance reservation required; limited hours) via Disney's Magical Express. To reach the resort by car, take the South Exit Road from Orlando International Airport to SR 417 Toll Road (GreeneWay) West and follow signs to Walt Disney World/Disney's Wilderness Lodge.
Free transportation to and from the Magic Kingdom, Disney's Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness are provided by boat. On some boats, you'll need to collapse your stroller. Transportation to and from Walt Disney World theme parks and water parks is provided by bus.
For Mom and Dad
Check the kids into the Cub's Den and claim a lounge chair on the beach to view the nightly Electrical Water Pageant. Alternatively, enjoy a night out at Artist Point, followed by a soak in the Hidden Springs spa.