by Jackie Perrin
Grand in nearly every way that matters to families, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge offers a rockin’ rock-carved pool, a lively activities program, easy access to the Magic Kingdom via boat and an onsite childcare center for kids ages 3 to 12.
Designed to evoke the feel of famous American National Park lodges at the turn of the century, the 727-room resort debuted in 1994 and impresses guests with stunning architecture, Native American artifacts and meticulous attention to detail and theming, right down to an onsite “ranger” who leads regular property tours. Even if you can’t take in the tour, take a moment to examine the two 55-foot lobby totems, featuring spectacular animal carvings, as well as the towering Grand Canyon fireplace, depicting two billion years of colorful strata. Measuring 82 feet in height, it’s as tall as Splash Mountain’s Chickapin Hill.
If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can borrow bikes or a boat and set off on a wilderness exploration of your own, hunt for Hidden Mickey’s on a self-led treasure tour, or even put your name in the hat to be chosen as the resort’s high-climbing “Flag Family” of the day.
Dining choices range from a quick-service spot to an upscale Northwestern-themed venue, a rowdy family restaurant with all-you-can-eat skillets in-between, and if your itinerary involves a full day at the theme parks, you can schedule in-room dinner delivery in advance via the hotel’s Magical Dining service.
Bunk beds are an option for siblings looking for some elbow room, while Deluxe Rooms sleep up to six and give families Concierge Club perks, plus additional space for spreading out.
Our Editor Loves
- Rockin' rock-carved pool
- Fun-filled activities program
- Onsite childcare center
- All Inclusive Rates
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
Designed to evoke a "back to nature" ambiance, rooms received a design update in 2013, and a bunkbed option, decorative details like art-carved headboards and the lowest standard room rates in Disney's Deluxe category pack plenty of family appeal.
Standard rooms sleep four, plus an infant or toddler under the age of 3, and feature a dining table with two chairs, an armoire with a flat-screen TV, complimentary Wi-Fi, an alarm clock with an iPod docking station and either a patio or a balcony. In addition, rooms contain a small refrigerator, a coffeemaker and a Pack 'n Play, as well as a double vanity positioned adjacent to a small, but serviceable bathroom. The resort will deliver complimentary bedrails to your room upon request, and connecting rooms are available.
Whether you select a standard room, a standard room with bunk beds and a view, a standard concierge level room, or even a Honeymoon Concierge suite, the amount of space you'll enjoy (340 square feet) doesn't vary.
While most deluxe Disney properties offer upper level suites that sleep five or more, Wilderness Lodge's Vice Presidential and Presidential suites sleep just four, plus a child under the age of 3 in a crib. For larger families looking for some additional elbow room, 500-square-foot Deluxe Club Level Rooms, which sleep up to six, offer an attractive option for sticking together.
Deluxe Rooms feature two queen beds in the bedroom, a sofabed located in a separate "parlor," and a kitchenette with a microwave, a sink and a mini-fridge. The parlor is separated from the bedroom by French doors, so you can put the kids to bed early while you enjoy some downtime -- or let little ones nap during the day, while the rest of the family relaxes. Perhaps best of all -- even though these rooms aren't located on the Concierge Floor -- guests of these rooms enjoy Concierge Club service, including four daily food and beverage presentations at the private Old Faithful Club.
Of course, families looking for more space could check into the Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge next door. These home-away-from-home Disney Vacation Club accommodations offer flexible room arrangements, plus some additional family-friendly features like a washer and dryer and a full kitchen.
If your kids want to bunk in a bunk bed, be advised that top bunks are not designed to accommodate children under the age of 6. Standard rooms with bunk beds come with a woods view or a courtyard view, and some standard concierge level rooms contain bunk beds, as well.
I imagine that the sort of people who most often visit Disney are planners. I am not a planner, so maybe some of this is my fault. We changed some things last minute, and that could have added to our frustration. But the bottom line is this: the system of guest services is broken and the most important components have been lost sight of. Here are the details of our particular story.
My mom came to visit and wanted to take me, my wife, and my two sons (5 and 1) to Disney. She told me to book the hotel. We planned to go up on a Tuesday morning (we live in Florida) go to Magic Kingdom, stay the night, go to Magic Kingdom on a Wednesday, and then drive home. I first booked a Villa at Boulder Ridge, but later got a better price on adjoining rooms in the Wilderness Lodge.
When we showed up, Cora had both reservations, even though one had already been confirmed as cancelled. She was from the Philippines and seemed to have as tough a time understanding us as we did her. We probably stood at the desk trying to get things straightened out for close to 45 minutes. First, I blame Expedia for setting up the confusion. The Villas reservation was cancelled. But even still, I'm not sure why it takes so long and what in the system takes such an inordinate amount of time that the person behind the desk can't cancel the one reservation and check us in to the other one. In fact, the system should be set up so that we can be checked in to the correct reservation *first* and then let us deal with the other one at our convenience. Still, it was Cora's inability to understand what it was that we really wanted that seemed to be the biggest hurdle.
Once we finally got that straightened out, we got to our rooms with our Magic Bands and everything was as two adjoining hotel rooms should be. Cute Disney stuff everywhere. Plenty of space. It was nice. We went back down to the concierge to get park tickets which were linked to our Magic Bands. Then we went to the buses until we realized that the quicker route was going to be by boat (again, something we could have planned, but it would have been nice if someone would have warned us).
I should tell you, at this point, my mom does not walk well. She has one knee replaced and needs to do the other. It's tough to get around. I feel for her more and more, honestly. So walking from the buses all the way to the boat dock (before doing all the walking required at Magic Kingdom) took awhile and probably caused more pain than it needed to.
The most frustrating part was that we didn't get to the park until about 1 o'clock, the boys were already tired, and we really didn't get to do that much before it got too cold and it was time to get some rest.
We got back to the hotel, and my 5 year old and I went down to the arcade for some fun time. Cool little game room with some classics. I played a lawn dart game that's similar to the golf arcade games. We had fun. After I took him back up to the room, I went down to the Territory Lounge which is a pretty nifty little Lewis and Clark inspired bar. They've got a small but decent selection of bourbon and they do bourbon flights for $16. I had an Angel's Envy pour that night, and the bartender, Brucie, was cordial and easygoing.
The next morning, we were slow-moving, but agreed that breakfast in the hotel was a good idea, to make sure the boys were fueled up for the day. The 1 year old was fussy and not feeling his best, so that made the meal a little stressful. But kudos to the wait-staff for reading the table. The cafe is one of those restaurants that really likes to interact with their guests and we were not in interactive moods. So they didn't do much in the way of trying us. The food was alright. It was pretty standard breakfast food with nothing to write home about.
We had decided through the night that we'd like to stay an extra night, and in order to do so, we found out that we'd basically have to re-book through Expedia. I found out that they didn't have availability in the Lodge, but they did in the Villas. So I booked the room and, after breakfast, we went about the work of checking out of our hotel room, and checking in to the new room.
Hey look, it's Cora again! The same woman helped us the next day, and we had the same struggles, compounded. My mom, not the most patient person (in part because she was in pain), was pretty confused (rightfully) as to why it was such a big to do to check us out of one room and into another. We were aware that we probably weren't going to be able to move in yet, as it was still morning, and that was fine. But at least get us to the place where we can get our luggage out of the old room and into storage until we can get to the new room.
One thing this involved was issuing us new Magic Bands because apparently that information couldn't just be transferred to the old ones. Which would have been fine except our park tickets were on the old Magic Bands. So we were sure to ask about that, and were assured (again 45 minutes later) that we were good to go. We got our luggage together, put it in storage, and off to the Magic Kingdom we went (this time, we knew to head to the boats directly).
When we got to the park, we of course didn't have our tickets linked to our Magic Bands. Luckily the folks at the Magic Kingdom took care of us, though it took them some time, and we wound up scoring some FastPasses out of the ordeal.
After the park, we got back to the Boulder Ridge Villas which I'll talk about in a separate review.
But here are some essential points about the whole experience.
1) I appreciate that Cora has a job at a Disney Resort, and I do not want to talk about her value or worth as a person. I hope she's paid well and that she enjoys her job. But she was inefficient in her position as a Guest Services agent, and the amount of time we spent trying to explain our situation (which wasn't much of a situation; "We have this reservation. Here's the confirmation number," should be simple enough), was little less than ridiculous.
2) Disney is renowned for its guest services, and their goal, it would seem, is to always leave the customer feeling "at home" or at the very least, cared for. They have people walking around smiling and saying, "Welcome home!" And it's nice, if only a little insincere. However, on the things that really matter, such as the actual interpersonal conversations that need to take place, I did not feel cared for or "at home", and I just felt like I was tied up in bureaucracy, like I was at the DMV, waiting on the right combination of numbers to be called so that I could finally have the services promised to me provided. I don't think this was Walt's vision, and I don't think it should be the standard for any hotel in terms of greeting or dealing with guests.
If they could redistribute their charm to areas that are most important, it would change this rating from "average" to "magical".
We came down to Walt Disney World for Marathon Weekend 2019 and booked a little late, so we were unable to stay close to Marathon action! Well, that didn’t matter! Disney provided us with all the transportation we needed!
The Wilderness Lodge has great grounds, with that real northwest lodge type feeling. “The grandeur of American parks!” The theming here is on point! It’s a classy rustic feel, but very well done. Fireplaces, campfires, todems.... everything well placed. We dined at Geyser Point one night and went back again for cocktails! The pools are fantastic, top 3 for me in WDW.
If you are looking for an escape while not in the parks, this is your place here at WDW!
Silver Creek Springs Pool Area
Overlooking Bay Lake and seemingly carved out of the rockscape, the resort's showcase swim area includes a feature pool with a slide and a sizeable sun deck, an adjacent kiddie pool, and both hot and cold tubs. Nearby, there's a geothermal zone featuring a regularly erupting geyser. From around 2 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 & 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 (open 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 lifeguards are on duty from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
On the pool deck, your kids can get a colorful hair wrap 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.
Hidden Springs Pool
Behind the Villas at Wilderness Lodge, the Hidden Springs Pool (no lifeguards on duty) provides a peaceful retreat from the crowds. Hours are 7 a.m. to midnight and towels are provided.
Beach and Playground
On the shores of Bay Lake (swimming prohibited), you'll find a white-sand beach with a playground (recommended for ages 3 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. 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 ($20 to $22), and bikes are $9 per hour or $18 for the day. 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 are worthwhile for anyone interested in architecture or Disney history. Highlights include the story of the lobby's two 55-foot hand-carved totems -- the Raven and the Eagle. Efforts are made to include kids (Hidden Mickey tips are provided), but this tour is best suited to adults and older teens. No reservations are necessary. Meet in the Main 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 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 will likely feel constrained. You can check out the staff and the facilities -- and bring kids of all ages along for the fun -- when the Club hosts complimentary Craft Time from 2:30 to 4 p.m. daily. Club hours are 4:30 p.m. to midnight. The cost is $11.50 per hour, per child, and dinner is included. 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, and for those ages 16 and up, backwoods Segway tours depart daily.
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. For those using refillable mugs, this is the place to fill up on hot and cold beverages. Hours are 6 a.m. to midnight, and the Grill is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Disney Quick Service Dining Plan credits are accepted.
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.
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.
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, a secret train room 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 for consideration 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 in the Villas at Wilderness Lodge, 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 (Value Season) 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. Plan on about $3 in tolls.
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
Pull up a signature Stickley rocking chair in the Main Lobby and take in the resort's dramatic details, from a bubbling hot springs color pool to four colossal torch-cut teepee chandeliers, each weighing 600 pounds. Alternatively, a pleasant outdoor sitting spot provides prime views of Bay Lake and the Fire Rock Geyser. Reminiscent of Old Faithful, the geyser "erupts" at regular intervals and is computer programmed to adjust to wind drift.
You can also check the kids into the Cubs Den for the evening, and enjoy a date night dinner at Artist Point. Afterwards, stake out some chairs on the sandy beachfront and watch the Electrical Water Pageant and the nightly fireworks show.