The Wilderness Lodge - A Review

What in the World?
A weekly peek at Walt Disney World

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

As I have in the past, this week’s article will look at one of Disney’s resort destinations in detail.  During one of my previous trips to Walt Disney World, I was fortunate to spend four nights at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.  The Wilderness Lodge can be found amongst a forest on Bay Lake and is considered a Magic Kingdom Resort.  The 728-room lakeside Wilderness Lodge opened on May 28, 1994, and is modeled on the historic Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone National Park (which I've also stayed as a child). In Disney fashion, theming at this deluxe resort is completely immersive, and immediately noticeable as you walk through the front door. But before we get into the surroundings and activities of the Wilderness Lodge, lets look at the accommodations offered here.

Accommodations

There are 7 floors in the main building and 6 floors on the wings.  Most of the rooms are approximately 340 sq. feet, which can fit a typical family of four.  All rooms have one of three views available that look at different parts of the resort property. The Standard View generally faces the parking lot or driveway and sometimes the roof; the Woods View faces the woods towards the Magic Kingdom on one side and the Wilderness Lodge Villas on the other side; the Courtyard View looks out over one of the pools or Bay Lake.
 
The bathroom has a double vanity, with the shower and toilet in a closed area.   Like many rooms on property, the rooms have a small safe in the closet to store valuables.  It's big enough for your plane tickets, cash/travelers checks and maybe some jewelry, but not much more.  Most, if not all rooms, have hair dryers installed as well as a small, complimentary refrigerator, an iron and ironing board.
 
For those of you with a bit more money to spend and desire more living space for your family, you might consider a Junior Suite. They are approximately 500 square feet and offer 2 rooms; a living/kitchen room and a Large Bedroom with 2 beds. The Living Room Couch also opens into a bed. In addition to the couch, the Living Room has a TV, table, 2 chairs, wet bar and mini refrigerator. Junior Suites have only one bathroom. Junior Suites have: hair dryer, coffee maker, small fridge, iron, and ironing board.
 
When I stayed there in December, I was put up in a sixth floor Standard View room in the main building. And while the view was nothing to write home about, I was in the parks so much, I did not have a lot of time to look outside anyway.   And when I did, I could at least enjoy the trees and serene environment.  And of course, with a deluxe room, it was always nice and clean when we returned, despite the accumulation of merchandise, bags, clothes, and Mousefest swag I seemed to pile up in the room itself.  The cabin-y feel of the room was also such a treat to come back to.  There was nothing tacky or out of place - like what you can find at Disney Value Resorts.  The room felt nice and cozy, and helped me get some much needed rest.
 
Restaurants
 
Being a deluxe resort, the Wilderness Lodge offers both table and quickservice restaurants for your enjoyment. The two table service restaurants are Artist Point for fine dining in the evening and the Whispering Canyon Café for an unique, western-style meal, which serves all you can eat meals throughout the day.  While I haven't had the chance to eat at Artist Point yet, I did find my experience at the Whispering Canyon Cafe interesting, to say the least.  As I had heard the stories about asking for ketchup, I dared not, and ate my chicken without it.  The food, which tasted very similar to the offerings at Trail's End at Fort Wilderness, was decent for a buffet.  By the end of the meal, I had enough ribs and BBQ-related dishes to last me the month.
 
The Roaring Fork Snack Ship is a quick-service restaurant that offers breakfast selections in the morning, burgers, sandwiches, and snacks the rest of the day. Don’t forget your refillable mug, as this is the place to resupply. Unfortunately, this is the only place I had time to eat – but rest assured that the portions are sufficient to sustain you throughout the day!
 
Transportation
 
One of the best thing the Wilderness Lodge has going for it, is transportation. Unlike what I previously experienced over at Port Orleans French Quarter, the Wilderness Lodge transportation is efficient and quick (in terms of Disney transportation anyway). You can take a direct boat to the Magic Kingdom, which usually takes about 8-10 minutes from whent he boat launches to when it docks at the MK, or a bus, that will usually take just as long.   Buses take you directly to Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Downtown Disney, and the water parks. Depending on the destination, it might take you 10-25 minutes to get there. Boats also ferry you to Fort Wilderness and the Contemporary Resort.  And because Fort Wilderness and the Wilderness Lodge share many of their bus routes with one another, it is easy to head over to Fort Wilderness to check out the Hoop Dee Doo Review or enjoy the offerings at Trail’s End Restaurant, which I both heartily recommend. 
 
Activities to Consider
 
Many people have said that you could spend your entire vacation at the Wilderness Lodge, and they are not joking. While I won’t go over everything there is to do here, I will highlight some of the things you can do to take your mind off commando-style touring at the parks.
 

  • The first thing I would recommend is watching the Fire Rock Geyser. Modeled after, you guessed it, Old Faithful, Fire Rock Geyser erupts everyone hour on the hour between 7:00 am and 10:00 pm. Don’t miss it.
     
  • Consider taking the Wonders of the Lodge tour. Offered from Wednesdays to Saturdays at 9:00 am, this tour explores the architecture, landscaping, totem poles and paintings found throughout the Lodge.
     
  • Go to the boat dock in the evening at approximately 9:35 PM (check with Guest Services for exact times). The Electrical Water Pageant makes its way across Bay Lake nightly. This light and music show will entertain you and your family for about 10 minutes. It's worth seeing at least once.
     
  • The lobby is a great place to just explore. The 80 foot tall fireplace and rocking chairs, hidden Mickeys, totem poles, wood carvings, teepee chandeliers will definitely keep you occupied.
     

Final Thoughts
 
My thoughts about the Wilderness Lodge can be summed up in one sentence: love at first sight. I really enjoyed my stay at the Wilderness Lodge and it remains my favorite resort at Walt Disney World. However, I don’t feel I got a lot out of the resort when I stayed there for Mousefest – and not because the resort is lacking of things to do. Because I was so busy during my last trip, I was only at the resort to sleep and shower. I did not partake in the many different things the resort had to offer – and I did not get a lot of value out of this deluxe resort. I broke one of the major rules at staying at a deluxe resort – if you are going to spend that much money to stay at a resort like the Wilderness Lodge, make sure you actually enjoy the amenities it has to offer. Next time (yes, there will be a next time!) I will allot myself much more time to explore, relax, and enjoy this great and truly unique resort. 

Author's note:  While I was trying to find pictures I took of my stay there, I failed to find any that were print worthy.  In the future, i shall update this article with decent pictures that actually help convey my points.  Until then...take my word for it.