By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor



Review: Disney’s Wilderness Lodge



By Dave Shute

OVERVIEW: DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE

Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

Note 3/5/2017: The Wilderness Lodge refurb should be complete by mid-summer 2017. See this.

Note 1/31/16: The impact of construction at the Wilderness Lodge itself will be much more extensive than implied below.  See this.

Our most recent stay (our eighth here, I think) in December 2015 confirms that Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is the second best deluxe resort at Disney World for first time family visitors.

Review Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.netYou can have a wonderful visit at any Walt Disney World resort hotel.

However, this site recommends that first time visitors to Walt Disney World who can afford it should stay at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, a deluxe resort, and that those who can’t should stay at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, a value resort.

(It also suggests that first time visitors should avoid the moderate resorts, while noting that these resorts are wonderful for visits after the first. See this for why.)

Compared to other Walt Disney World owned and operated resorts, the deluxe resorts are distinguished by having (on average) the most amenities, nicest views, best dining options, best transport options, largest rooms, best service, and highest prices.

Among the deluxe resorts, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge stands out for having the most stunning kid appeal, moderate convenience, smallest rooms, and lowest prices.

(See this for much more on resort distinctions by price class–value, moderate, deluxe, etc.)

This review of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge has seven pages:

ACCOMMODATIONS AT THE WILDERNESS LODGE

Floor Plan Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

Standard rooms at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are tied with those at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge as the smallest deluxe rooms on property.

Bed Side Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

The bedroom component of these rooms is smaller than even those at the moderate resorts, being almost a foot narrower and, on the long side, 2.5 feet shorter.

(On average, Wilderness Lodge bedrooms are about 9 inches shorter than moderates, counting both the moderate’s shorter and longer sides. See this for more on comparative Disney resort room sizes.)

Bunk Beds at Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

Most of these rooms sleep four–two each in two queens.  Rooms with a queen and two bunk beds are also available.  The bunk bed mattresses are 5’9″ long, and 39″ wide.  (In real life they are not so blurry.) Rooms with one king bed are also available.

You can add to this capacity of four a child younger than three who sleeps in a crib.  A crib fits well between the closet and TV credenza.

Partly because of these room sizes, and partly because it is not directly accessible from a theme park, the Wilderness Lodge is also the least expensive of the deluxe resorts.

For a photo tour of a standard room, see this, and for more on accommodations at the Lodge, see this.

(The Villas at the Wilderness Lodge are reviewed separately.)

THE POOLS AT THE WILDERNESS LODGE

The Silver Creek Springs Pool at Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

The main Silver Creek Springs pool at the Wilderness Lodge was refurbed in 2014 and remains one of the most delightful pools at Disney World.

The second smaller pool close to the Villas has been torn out for refurbishment and is unlikely to re-open until 2017.

For more on the Silver Creek Springs pool, see this.

DINING AT DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE

The Wilderness Lodge has three principal dining venues that collectively make it about average among the Disney deluxes for dining.

  • Whispering Canyon Cafe is a raucous and fun setting for family dining
  • The more sophisticated and expensive Artist’s Point is perfect for couples dining
  • The quick-service option, Roaring Fork, is among the best of its kind among the deluxes but can easily become over-pressed.

Whispering-Canyon-Disneys-Wilderness-Lodge-from-yourfirstvisit.net_1

There’s also easy access via a boat to more great dining options at the Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness.

For more on dining at the Widescreens Lodge, see this.

KID APPEAL AND CONVENIENCE AT DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE

Resorts are ranked on this site for first time visitors based first on their kid appeal, and then on their convenience.

On this basis, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is the second-best resort for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.

Kid Appeal.

Whispering Canyon Across the Lobby Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

The kid appeal of the Wilderness Lodge comes from its stunning re-creation of the grandeur of America’s great national park lodges–both inside…

At the Wilderness Lodge

…and outside.

Other wonderful elements both big and small continue the theme of the mountain west and of other western national parks, with some elements recalling the Pacific Northwest.

This is Lewis and Clark country, of great drama, history–and adventure!

Lobby Totem Pole Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

The main building and lobby of the Wilderness Lodge–modeled on the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park, and featuring totem poles from Duane Pasco–set the stage.  This lobby is jaw-dropping to kids, and also to most adults.

Convenience. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is much less convenient than the Polynesian Resort in carrying out the itineraries for first-time family visitors on this site.

Transport to the Magic Kingdom is by boat and by bus. The buses begin earlier, and are more reliable for scooters and wheelchairs–not all boats can take these.

Transport to the other theme parks is by bus, each of which is shared by at least one other resort.

Boat service is also available to Fort Wilderness (convenient for the Hoop Dee Doo Revue) and the Contemporary Resort (convenient for Chef Mickey’s). These boats begin much earlier than the Magic Kingdom boats, so many families seeking an early start take the boat to the Contemporary, and then walk to the Magic Kingdom.

BEST PLACES TO STAY AT THE WILDERNESS LODGE

 This site suggests that first time visitors stay in standard rooms, not preferred rooms.

This is because they won’t be spending much time in their rooms.

The single exception is visitors to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, who should always pay for savanna views.

However, during the current renovations, Wilderness Lodge guests should avoid the lowest-priced views and target a Courtyard View instead, to avoid construction views and noise.

Map of Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

Rooms in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are found in a connected set of six to seven story high buildings, in a “Y” (or “U”) shape.

(See map–the long extension in the lower right is the Disney Vacation Club resort the Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, which have their own review here.)

While the current renovation strongly suggests you should pay for a Courtyard view, otherwise more so than most Disney resorts, there are no bad rooms at the Wilderness Lodge.

Those furthest from the main lobby, restaurants, and bus stops are closest to the main pool and boat dock to the Magic Kingdom, and vice-versa.

The opening of the “Y” (or “U”!) as it approaches the pool means pool noise tends not to be an issue, and noise surprisingly isn’t really as much of a problem as you’d think for the rooms that open onto the main lobby.

That said, booking a Courtyard view room and requesting an upper floor near an elevator is probably the best choice.

Disney's Wilderness Lodge Online Check-in from yourfirstvisit.net

This lets you avoid the worst of the refurb views and noise, and shortens your walks within the building.

BEST FOR:

Any first time family visitors who can afford it, but can’t get into or can’t afford Disney’s Polynesian Resort.

WORST FOR:

Families too large to fit its 4 person rooms.   See this for more on large families at Walt Disney World.

PHOTO TOUR OF A STANDARD ROOM AT DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE

This review continues here.
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56 comments

1 Paul { 03.19.14 at 5:07 pm }

Dave, your review mentions the boats from the Wilderness Lodge may not be as convenient for scooters or wheelchairs. Does this apply to strollers also? Do strollers have to collapse or can they be rolled on, such as the ferry to and from the TTC?
Thanks!

2 Dave { 03.20.14 at 7:57 am }

Hi Paul, strollers work just fine! Some of the smaller boats have a step up, needing thus a collapse…

3 Rachel { 03.21.14 at 10:40 am }

Hi Dave,
So initially we were staying @ AOA in a LM room. Now because of the summer deal we have upgraded to a pool view @ POR. To be honest our “dream hotel” has always been Wilderness…. We can upgrade for approximately $300…do you think it’s worth it or will we be just as happy at POR?
Help!

4 Paul { 03.21.14 at 5:01 pm }

Thanks, Dave! Good to know about the strollers. Also, though, what is the bus schedule like from Wilderness Lodge? We are planning MK for 2 days and plan to take the boats, but then one day each in HS and AK or a day in EPCOT in October. Does Wilderness Lodge share buses with any other resort? About how long is the wait from there?
Thanks!

5 Dave { 03.22.14 at 2:35 pm }

Rachel…you’ll be much happier at the Wilderness Lodge!

6 Dave { 03.22.14 at 2:43 pm }

Paul, buses at WL are like those at the other deluxes–on average every 20 minutes, and shared with one or two other stops…

7 Rachel { 03.22.14 at 8:18 pm }

Thanks, Dave! Going to call my TA and make the switch on Monday….now to convince my husband its a great idea too 😉

Any suggestions on what room to request? Almost positive we will be booking a garden view room.

8 Dave { 03.23.14 at 11:27 am }

Rachel, suggest you ask for “near elevators”! Halls at WL can be long…

9 Linda { 04.06.14 at 11:53 am }

Hi Dave. Fantastic site, thanks for all your tips.
Planning our 2nd trip in May 2015 with our 2 sons (10 & 8). Stayed AKL last visit (loved it!!). Thought we would have a change this time but worried we could be disappointed. Our boys love Hollywood Studios and we all love Epcot so our current plan is to book one week at the Beach Club (boys love to swim but QS food options sound poor), followed by one week at Wilderness Lodge? Good choices in your opinion? Thanks!

10 Dave { 04.07.14 at 6:57 am }

Linda, those are both great choices, other than the QS issue you note

11 Linda { 04.08.14 at 7:30 am }

Thanks Dave. I have another couple of questions for you (hope you don’t mind). As we are visiting from the UK we need to book early to get the best flights, do you think the Star Wars weekends will continue to be in May/June in 2015 as this is our main reason for choosing this time of year? And could you recommend any websites which would be useful for planning trips to Sea World, Universal and The Space Centre whilst we are there? Many thanks!

12 Dave { 04.08.14 at 4:19 pm }

Hi Linda, on the first point, yes–the second half of May and first half of June. On the second, other than this for Universal http://www.orlandoinformer.com/#axzz1TKXH3fnt I don’t feel qualified to offer you a site…

13 Linda { 04.09.14 at 12:07 pm }

Hi, thanks yet again, that site looks to be just what I need! Linda

14 GrumpyDad4 { 04.19.14 at 8:33 am }

Dave, Do you have a floor plan for the Deluxe Room? Can’t wait to see the book.

15 Dave { 04.19.14 at 8:46 am }

Yo Grumpy, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/29/review-deluxe-rooms-at-disneys-wilderness-lodge/ We are almost done with the copy for the book…

16 GrumpyDad4 { 04.19.14 at 8:04 pm }

Thanks, Dave.

17 Tim { 06.28.14 at 10:16 am }

Dave,
We were just informed (by our wonderful Destinations Florida agent!) that the pool at Wilderness Lodge will be closed for refurbishment from 9/3 – 11/27. We arrive on 11/29. A few questions:

– What’s your experience with Disney staying on schedule?
– Who would I call to see if they are on schedule? (Is this even a good idea?)
– What are the other pools like? We are being offered the Leisure Pool at the villas, and the pools at the Contemporary and Fort Wilderness with free transportation.

Little nervous here…..thanks!

18 Dave { 06.29.14 at 8:50 am }

Hi Tim! Yeah I need to post about this. Disney is pretty good when it announces an end date about getting stuff done by then. It’s when the end date is vague (e.g. “Winter”) that problems emerge. And there’s honestly no one to call. You’d think calling the WL would help–but that call actually is routed to a distant call center, not to the front desk, and the call center folk both don’t always know and work to scripts.

The Contemporary has two large pools, both fine for adults but dull for kids. Fort Wilderness’s pool is even duller, plus also a bus ride away from the boat dock.

19 Jennifer { 07.31.14 at 7:18 pm }

Hi Dave,

Glad I found your site. We have been to Disney three times and we are (family of 5) going again in August 2015. I am trying to decide between Beach Club and the Polynesian. It would be about a $250 difference for the 8 nights. Is Polynesian worth the extra money? We loved the Boardwalk location last year and the pool at BC sounds amazing. I have read that the BC rooms are dated and the hotel needs a refurbishment while the Polynesian should already have been refurbished. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

20 Dave { 08.01.14 at 7:36 am }

Jennifer, first I expect that the BC rooms–which have needed a refurb for years now–will be done by your visit. Second, have you ever stayed at a monorail resort? There’s something special about that and it’s worth a try–unless MK is not a favorite…

21 Dack { 08.26.14 at 4:45 pm }

Dave,
This is a great site!! I have a family of 6 (3 adults and 3 children). We are looking to come 12/13/14. Would you still suggest staying at the Wilderness Lodge? We are first timers and will probably only be going to the Magic Kingdom. Our children are 8, 4, and 2 all girls! So any other suggestions you have for activites would be great! I will continue to search around the site while I wait to hear back.

Thank you,
Dack

22 Dave { 08.27.14 at 8:01 am }

Hey Dack– what are you thinking about rooms? Standard WL rooms hold only 4 people older than 2, plus one more younger than 3 in a crib. On what to do–take a look at the MK parts of this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2014/05/20/basic-december-fastpass-itinerary/

23 Dack { 08.27.14 at 11:52 am }

Dave,
We would love to stay in the same room if possible. We would like to save as much as we can though on room costs, so if 2 rooms are cheaper, we would look at that route. We are thinking of staying a week. I am thinking we will spend a majority of our time at Magic Kingdom. I am not sure the other parks would appeal to our young girls. We have also considered visiting Legoland and Universal. I can’t imagine our girls lasting more than 3 days at Magic Kingdom.

Any advice would be much appreciated!

Dack

24 Dave { 08.28.14 at 8:08 am }

Dack you will need two rooms, which will be expensive.

25 Stephan { 12.11.14 at 11:37 am }

Hey Dave, awesome thread!
Just one question, me and my spouse are staying at the wilderness lodge for our first time next week, we wanted to catch the welcome show(7:50 am) at the magic kingdom.
Do you know if the bus/boat transportation run early enough to allow us to catch the show?
I know the transportation from the lodge coincide with extra magic hours, but the day we are going (Dec 20th) has extra magic hours for night time only, not am.
Any help is much appreciated, happy holidays!

26 Dave { 12.12.14 at 11:39 am }

Stephan, if the regular boats aren’t running, take the first boat to the Contemporary (it starts earlier) and walk from there.

27 Stephan { 12.12.14 at 12:36 pm }

Ah okay thats right, i’ve read somewhere that people do that a lot – thanks for the reminder!
Happy holidays to you and your family!

28 Tammy { 01.14.15 at 9:12 pm }

My husband and I are taking our 3and a half year old grandson to Disney the end of Feb. We are torn between the WL and the Contemporary. He might need a nap around one and then we would go back around 3. The WL seems so much more fun but is it easy to get back and forth?we will go to Animal Kingdom the next morning Please let me know your thoughts.

29 Dave { 01.15.15 at 8:15 am }

Tammy, the Contemporary is certainly the easier, but WL does fine–boats run about every ten minutes and take about ten minutes.

30 Carolyn { 02.03.15 at 9:28 am }

Good morning Dave,
My question to you, We are going to run in one the race’s Nov. 7-8, 2015.. I haven’t been here for about 25 years! We would like to stay inside Disney, but were thinking about Hard Rock! We are still kids at heart, but don’t need all the ‘kid’ thing’s, as we are in our 50’s!! We enjoy nice places and area’s! Walking is not a problem! Hope you can point us into the right direction! Enjoy your day!

Thanks
Carolyn

31 Dave { 02.05.15 at 8:42 am }

Hi Carolyn, Hard Rock is at Universal, not Disney. Take a look at the Yacht Club and the Contemporary Resort. Reviews are linked to from here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/04/26/walt-disney-world-resort-hotel-reviews/

32 Ashley { 05.05.15 at 11:06 pm }

Hi,
We are making our first disney world trip in October and I have reservations at poly dvc studio but I’m scared to stay there with all the reno’s going on. Would you recommend us switching to WL or do you think we will be fine in the poly studios? Thank you!!

33 Dave { 05.06.15 at 7:41 am }

Ashley, while the renovation that is left at the Poly is minor compared to what’s been going on there, go ahead and switch to WL if you are worried!!

34 Ashley { 05.06.15 at 8:10 am }

Thanks Dave! If you think the construction won’t be a huge problem I will probably just leave our stay at Poly. I don’t mind the construction as long as it’s not major. We will not be returning to disney for another 4 to 5 years and I really think the Poly will suit our family better.

35 shannon { 07.29.15 at 10:02 pm }

My family of three stayed in the villa of wilderness lodge last March. I Slept really good on their king size mattress. What brand are the mattresses at wilderness lodge? And what model? Thanks in advance.

36 Dave { 07.30.15 at 9:10 am }

Sorry, Shannon, I dunno!!

37 Dayna { 01.21.16 at 3:20 pm }

Hi! Our trip is coming up and we took your advice and booked a courtyard room. If we want a quiter room with a great view of creek and lake, what area/requests do you suggest? Naps will be taking place with our little ones….
Thanks so much!

38 Dave { 01.22.16 at 8:14 am }

Dayna, all the Courtyard view rooms have good views, but typically not of Bay Lake except from the side of the balcony. All are pretty quiet, but requesting “near elevator” should put you further from the pool and its noise.

39 Dayna { 01.27.16 at 11:26 am }

Thanks Dave! Another site said that there are rooms closed off above lobby (under construction and closed off) as well as the lobby elevators? I’m getting nervous about these new updates and didn’t know if you could speak to this at all and if the courtyard view rooms are also being affected? We’ve never stayed here before and don’t know how layout is. Thanks so much for your help and time!

40 Dave { 01.29.16 at 8:47 am }

Dayna, I’m at WDW now, toured the Wilderness Lodge yesterday, and will go back today. I’ll be doing a post about my findings Sunday or early next week, so look for that!

41 Dayna { 01.29.16 at 11:15 am }

Awesome! Thank you! I’ll check this site next week! Take care and have fun!

42 Dave { 01.31.16 at 11:47 am }
43 Jon { 05.18.16 at 10:01 am }

Hey Dave,

How do your recommendations change during the free dining plan promotion? The values only get a quick service plan vs a full dining plan at a moderate.

44 Dave { 05.19.16 at 7:16 am }

Jon, not following your thinking–why would I change my recommendations?

45 Eric { 05.19.16 at 12:50 pm }

Hi Dave, more of an FYI than a question…I asked a similar question to an agent (as Jon did above)…but only for the mathematical answer. Your rec’s are for convenience & kid appeal which you ultimately break up between two budget brackets. In terms of dollars, the difference in cost between a) Value hotel + QS plan and b) Mod hotel + Regular dining is relatively small, and diminishes as you increase the # of people per room. For my family of 4 (two kids) it would only save me about $100, net-net, to upgrade to a Mod hotel & receive upgraded free meal plan. $100 is not chump change to me, but considering the Mods have no convenience or kid appeal advantages, I’m going to stick with the Values….Unless I can afford to get a Deluxe!

46 Dave { 05.20.16 at 8:02 am }

Got it, Eric. The mods have three distinct advantages over the values: larger bedroom spaces, queen beds, and pool slides. At some price point even those who care a lot about kid appeal will find the effectively reduced prices from free dining too much to ignore, and those who care little about kid appeal and a lot about queen beds/space/slides will be even more attracted to the moderates!

47 Anett { 02.09.17 at 11:45 pm }

Hi Dve I really have my heart set on Wilderness Lodge now. We are first time Disney visitors. Do you think construction will be done by November of this year?

48 Dave { 02.10.17 at 1:21 pm }

Anett, I would think so!

49 Amanda { 02.17.17 at 12:30 pm }

Hey Dave, Amanda again! Staying at WL at the end of April and hoping to make it to each park (visiting all four at least once) a decent amount of time before rope drop. Even have an ADR for Crystal Palace one morning at 8 AM before MK opens. Just wondering what your thoughts are on the best transportation options to get to each park. Will the buses run early enough? We will not have a car, only Disney transportation at our disposal. Thanks in advance!

50 Dave { 02.19.17 at 9:21 am }

Amanda, for MK you want to take the boat, but the regular WL-MK one does not start early enough, so you would take the other boat to the Contemporary and either walk or take the monorail from there to MK. All other parks are by bus, and begin early enough.

51 Kassie { 03.18.17 at 9:03 pm }

Hi Dave, my family of 4, 2 adults and 2 girls ages 5 and 2 are planning a first time trip to Disney. Can you link me to planning recommendations and where to begin. Thanks

52 Dave { 03.19.17 at 10:07 am }

Kassie, start either with the home page or my book.

53 George { 05.03.17 at 2:36 am }

Hi Dave I’m traveling to disneyland in 2 years with my mum and my younger brother Joe mine and my brothers ages at that time will be 13 and 10 what are your estimated prices when in the year should we go and how close is it to Epcot? thanks

54 George { 05.03.17 at 2:38 am }

Oh I’m also traveling from England

55 Dave { 05.03.17 at 8:41 am }

Hi George!! For 2017 princes, see this. Add ~20% for two years from now and currency changes. Note how much nightly prices change over the course of the year.

I don’t have a 2019 calendar on the best times to visit out yet–I likely will by October–but see this for general advice.

There are UK specific deals and flight options. Check the UK Disney forum The Dibb for more specific advice than I will have!

Disney World is very large. Wilderness Lodge guests ride a bus to Epcot, which takes ~20 minutes.

56 George { 05.03.17 at 12:07 pm }

Thank you

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