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: The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge



By Dave Shute

OVERVIEW: THE VILLAS AT DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE FOR FIRST TIME VISITORS

Review - The Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

NOTE: Construction began in late October 2015 near the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge, and will extend into 2017.  I can’t really recommend these Villas until the impact of this construction is clearer. See this for more.

Most (but not all…) room options at the Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (a Disney Vacation Club resort) are wonderful places for returning visitors to Walt Disney World to stay.

Review - The Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.netFor typical first-time visitors, I don’t recommend the Disney Vacation Club resorts.

That said, these “DVC” resorts can be a great choice for first time visitors with large families, needing extra sleeping spaces, or looking for a more comfortable place to stay.

Among the Disney Vacation Club resorts, the Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge ranks first overall for first-time visitors, but specifics vary a little for larger families.

THE DISNEY VACATION CLUB RESORTS

You can have a spectacular visit at any Walt Disney World resort. However, this site recommends that typical first time visitors to Walt Disney World avoid the Disney Vacation Club resorts, while noting that these resorts are wonderful for visits after the first. (You can find extensive detail on the DVC resorts here.)

Living Dining Kitchen Space Villas at the Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net (3)

The recommendation comes from the simple fact that the distinguishing feature of these resorts–extra space and full kitchens–will not be of much value to first-time visitors following one of the itineraries on this site, as they won’t be used much.

However, the Disney Vacation Club resorts represent more than 10% of Walt Disney World’s total rooms, and are very appropriate for first time visitors with large families, needing extra sleeping spaces, or looking for a more comfortable place to stay.

Because of this, I’m providing a series of up-to-date reviews. This review is based on my half-dozen stays at the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge, and in particular stays in a Two Bedroom Villa in December 2013 and in a newly-refurbed Studio and One Bedroom Villa in August 2014.

THE VILLAS 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.

Murphy Bed Studio Villas at Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

On this basis, The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge comes in first overall of the Disney Vacation Club resorts. (See this for resort rankings.) However, there’s a little variability here for larger families:

  • Studios and One Bedroom Villas at The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are the best choice among the DVC resorts. Studios here, after the 2014 refurb, are one of only three such options that can sleep 5–the fifth on a small Murphy Bed. (Studios at the Villas at the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian Villas and Bungalows can also sleep five.)
  • There are some problems with the size and layout of Two Bedroom Villas at The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (which problems are mostly shared with Two Bedroom Villas at the Beach Club, BoardWalk Villas, and Saratoga Springs)
    • These problems suggest that for families who can’t fit into two queens and a king–that is, into the bedrooms themselves–Two Bedroom Villas at Kidani Village are the best choice.  Kidani Village Two Bedrooms can sleep up to 9
    • For families that can fit into two queens and a king, the Two Bedroom Villas at the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge are the best choice among the DVC options
  • The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are one of only three DVC resorts that don’t offer Grand Villas (The Polynesian and Beach Club Villas are the others), so for families seeking such space–they sleep 12–the Grand Villas at Jambo House are the best choice.

Lobby Totem Pole Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net
Kid Appeal. The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge share the services, resources and lobby of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, plus compatible theming. The spectacular kid appeal of the Wilderness Lodge, especially its lobby, makes it number one on the kid appeal list, and the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge share this ranking.  (For more on the Wilderness Lodgesee this.)

Convenience. The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are the fourth-most convenient of all the Disney resort hotels, and the second most convenient of the DVC resorts–after Bay Lake Tower.

OTHER DISTINCTIVE FEATURES OF THE VILLAS AT DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE

Public Space The Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge has a number of very strong positives.

  • The strongest positive is the spectacular theming of it and its partner resort Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Other shared positives include the nice variety of dining options in the Lodge, and the theming of the main pool
  • On its own, positives include the architecture of its lobby (see photo above), the new five person capacity of Studios, and the collection of railroad memorabilia in its first floor Carolwood Room–named after Walt Disney’s outdoor model railroad, the Carolwood Pacific (photo below)

Railroad Mementos at the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge also has some distinctive negatives.

Most significant of these is the layout of the Two Bedroom Villa when used by larger families.

Floor Plan Two Bedroom Villa The Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

Note in the floor plan the king bedroom on the left, and the two queen bedroom on the right.

The shared living/dining/kitchen space is in the center.

The shared living space is about a foot too narrow to be functional when the sofa bed in it is unfolded. The effect is to make the living area almost unusable when the sofa bed is open, and, given that the connecting door to the room with two queens is on the balcony side of the sofa bed, access to and from this room is limited as well.

Dining Table Living Dining Kitchen Space Villas at the Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

Moreover, the dining table only seats two.

TV Side Living Dining Kitchen Space Villas at the Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

More chairs can be grabbed from elsewhere in the villa, and there’s also a small breakfast bar between the kitchen and living room, but really?

This is awkward enough that I would advise a family so large that is cannot fit into the six sleeping spaces of the two bedrooms to stay in a Two Bedroom at Kidani Village instead.

Two Bedroom Villa Floor Plan Kidani Village from yourfirstvisit.net

The floor plans for these Kidani Village rooms (above) provide much more living space when the sofa bed is unfolded than that available in the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge, and a larger dining table.

Why is the Villa at the Wilderness Lodge’s living room so narrow?

The short version is that Disney has gone through three stages of design in its DVC villas.

When designing the first to be opened, Old Key West, Disney was not sure if it was designing a vacation home or a hotel suite, so it split the difference, and created much more shared living space than probably it needed to.

In the next group of DVC properties to be opened, Disney made the shared space progressively smaller, until it hit the absolute limit of smallness–and maybe even went beyond–at Saratoga Springs.

DVC One Bedroom Size Comparison from yourfirstvisit.net
See the chart. It shows the size of One Bedroom Villas at DVC resorts sorted by the date they were opened. (One Bedroom and Two Bedroom Villas have identical shared spaces.)

You can see the shrinkage since Old Key West, and the expansion since Saratoga Springs.

BEST AND WORST ROOMS AT THE VILLAS AT DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE

Map of Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net
See the map. The Wilderness Lodge itself is the larger block on the top left; the villas the smaller block at the bottom right.

Bay Lake is at the top right.

The villas connect to the bus stop and the Wilderness Lodge lobby through a curved covered wooden walkway.

Quiet Pool Villas Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

Best places to stay at the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge

The most convenient rooms are 1501-1505 and 1507.

  • These rooms are the closest to the Wilderness Lodge lobby, and accessible by an entry door that serves only first floor rooms, making for the shortest walk both there and back, and also the shortest walk to the bus stops.
  • They are a mix of studios and one bedrooms; the one bedrooms can be combined with a studio into a two bedroom.
  • As first floor rooms, they have patios, not balconies. Note: avoid 1509—though well-located for convenience, it abuts the ice machine and guest laundry and may be subject to noise from these.

Rooms with the best view:

  • Odd numbered fifth floor rooms 5533 and up have great views of Bay Lake.  The lower numbered of these are more convenient, because they are closer to the elevator.  One of these is a one bedroom; the rest are two bedrooms.
  • Fourth floor odd numbered rooms 4531 and higher also have good views, but with more studios and one-bedrooms available.  The lower numbered of these are closer to the elevator.

Best mix of view and convenience:

  • 4511, a two bedroom, has a moderately good view of Bay Lake, and is equidistant between the elevators and a stairwell that presents the shortest walk to the lobby of the Lodge and the bus stops.  You can’t use this stairwell coming back, but need to go to the elevator instead.
  • 4507, also a two-bedroom, is the next best.

Worst Places to Stay at the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge

All first floor rooms have patios, not balconies.

A certain group of even numbered rooms are in the shorter wing of the Villas, and overlook the walkway between it and the Lodge.

This walkway is planked in such a way to in effect create corrugations.  The roar of the wheels of rolling bags over these planks will keep some up at night.

Rooms with such problems include even numbers 1506-1516, 2508-2514, 3506-3514, and 4508 to 4514.

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

Disney’s room request form for these villas won’t let you get anywhere near this specific…so you’d need to communicate over the phone.

BEST FOR:

Larger families, families seeking a bit of extra privacy or more beds, families looking for a more comfortable place to stay, families looking for particularly kid-appealing DVC space.

WORST FOR:

Especially large families looking for a  two-bedroom villa for 7 or 8 people (with the exceptions noted above), families on a budget.

PHOTO TOUR OF A STUDIO ROOM AT THE VILLAS AT THE WILDERNESS LODGE

This review continues here!

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13 comments

1 Rebecca Kotsifas { 10.10.14 at 4:02 pm }

saw your review of the new studio at wilderness lodge villas. thanks! I’m wondering, how was the Murphy bed and sofa bed comfort wise? my mom and sister and I planning a 5-night stay there in feb and am I crazy to think we’ll be ok using the Murphy bed? I’m 5’2″ and 115 lbs, figuring it will accommodate me, but what do you think? thanks!

2 Dave { 10.10.14 at 5:26 pm }

Rebecca what a cutie you must be! You will be fine at that size and weight. The fold-out couch is also fine for one adult who is not too heavy or tall.

3 Rebecca Kotsifas { 10.13.14 at 10:03 am }

thanks, Dave! we are really looking forward to it. my sister is running the 5k and I’m running the princess half marathon, so bed comfort is going to paramount while we’re there. thanks again – your site is fantastically helpful.

4 Dave { 10.13.14 at 5:33 pm }

Thanks so much for the kind words, and good luck with the running!!

5 Dan { 10.26.14 at 8:36 am }

Hello!

First off… Love the website! Always a great resource when I’m planning our many different trips to the World :)

So my question: my son and I have stayed at WL in one of the newly remodeled studios this past spring. Loved it! My wife and I will be taking our two kids, plus one friend (so 3 kids total) in February. Currently have a 1 bedroom at Kidani booked (our home resort through DVC); however, considering changing to a split stay so that the girls can experience the Wilderness Lodge for a few days too, since they’ve never been. I see that the one bedroom can accommodate five… But with that caveat about no extra bedding/linens/ towels are provided.

So my question is: where does that fifth person sleep? I don’t see the sleeper chair provided in some other resorts, or the Murphy bed… So I’m trying to figure it out. Thanks!

6 Dave { 10.26.14 at 10:36 am }

Hey Dan, thanks so much! The short answer is I dunno! Bringing your own twin-sized air mattress, pump, and sheets and blanket seems the best bet–it’ll fit parallel to and in front of the TV…

7 Nicole { 05.05.16 at 2:28 am }

hi dave! you have the best site. i have been on it ever since we decided to go to WDW for the first time. we are a family of 5….2 adults, and 3 kiddos 5 and under. after reading your site, we booked a 7 night stay at AKL/Kidani, 2 bed room over the 4th of july. you said the jambo had more kid appeal, but that the kidani had more room and the layout was better, so we booked it!!
my question is that we wanted to visit another resort a few days before kidani. i REALLY want to visit the villas at WL, but i am worried about staying there. what do you think? we wanted a 2 bed villa….but i want the kids to really experience great theming like you talk about. is it worth the money to stay here a few days before kidani? do you think a lot will be done by july?

8 Dave { 05.05.16 at 9:51 am }

Nicole, I don’t have inside knowledge as to what it will be like in July, but here are my forecasts:

The rooms will be fine, and the Wilderness Lodge lobby (which is the glory of the place) is likely to be at least 80% as stunning as without the refurb. The area around the villas themselves is a mess and will continue to be a mess…

9 Nicole { 05.05.16 at 11:38 am }

Thanks Dave…this is Nicole again. Thank you for the candid information! Do you have any other recommendations? your site says poly is great, but we need a king sized bed, and really looking for the space. that is why we went for the 2 bedroom at kidani. your personal favorite for dvc is Old key west i read. but it does not have the kid appeal. can you recommend another place for us to stay for a few days before kidani, or do you think we should just stay put at kidani. i know you said the beach club villas only has the pool going for it and not much kid appeal. :)

10 Dave { 05.07.16 at 6:03 am }

Nicole, the pool at the BC is great. Bay Lake Tower would also be a good choice. While it has no particular kid appeal itself, it’s kinda nice to be in the heart of the Magic Kingdom area, and to be able to walk to and from there.

11 Nicole { 05.10.16 at 6:18 pm }

Thanks Dave….what about standard connecting rooms at poly? I hear one of the rooms could be a king size bed if requesting. Do you think poly would be a good option for our split stay? Thinking of 3 days at the poly before we head over to our booked kidani 2 bedroom. we are a family of 5…2 adults and 3 kids, under 5! first time to DW…coming from California!

12 Dave { 05.11.16 at 12:37 pm }

Nicole, there are very few king beds at the Poly, and they are not (I think) a separately reservable category.

Here’s a thought: if a king is the issue, connecting rooms at the Four Seasons? Book a king with a queen sofa bed, and a connecting two-full rooms? See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2014/09/22/review-four-seasons-resort-orlando-at-walt-disney-world/

13 nicole { 05.11.16 at 1:52 pm }

Thank you Dave. I think we are going to keep the connecting rooms at Poly for our split stay, even though we may not get a king bed. we have heard so many wonderful things about the poly, and everything they have for kids. it will be for 3 days, and then off to kidani. thanks again.

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