By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here.



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



Category — d. Where to Stay at Walt Disney World

Updated Review of the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World

THE FOUR SEASONS AT DISNEY WORLD

Over the past few days I’ve updated my review of Four Seasons Orlando, the only five star resort in Walt Disney World, based on my July stay here–my third stay at Four Seasons.

The  update includes additions and corrections for things that have changed since my last stays, more than 50 new pictures, and a reorganization of the material to match how I’ve been doing these reviews lately.

The first page of the review is the overview and summary, and that’s the place to start.  In total the review has six pages:

Have you stayed at Four Seasons? Let me know what you thought, using the comment form below!

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October 29, 2017   No Comments

Review: Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort

DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE RESORT

(Note 10/17: Port Orleans Riverside is now part of a dog-friendly pilot program.)

With more than 2000 rooms sprawling in two different sections around Disney’s (man-made) Sassagoula River, Port Orleans Riverside is probably Disney World’s best-loved moderate resort, and has inspired a great fan site.

I’ve stayed at Riverside ten times since I started this site, most recently in September 2017. These visits confirm that Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort remains the third best of the moderate resorts for first time family visitors.
Review - Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

(For what the moderates provide, and how they compare to the other Disney World resort classes, click here)

You can have a wonderful visit at any Walt Disney World resort.

However, this site recommends that first time visitors to Walt Disney World avoid the moderate resorts, while noting that these resorts are wonderful for visits after the first. (See this for why.)

That said, the moderates represent ~30% of the rooms of Walt Disney World, and will be sought by some because this site’s recommended resorts are sold out, because you are on return visits, or because–sensibly–you’re just not that into my rankings!

So I stay in them all the moderate resorts multiple times–in 35 different moderate rooms, ten of them at Port Orleans Riverside–and publish reviews of each.

This review has nine pages

Note that the long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly B., can help you book your Disney World vacation at Port Orleans Riverside or anywhere else–contact her at at KellyB@DestinationsInFlorida.com or 980-429-4499.

OVERVIEW: DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE RESORT

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 Port Orleans Riverside resort is the third best moderate resort for first time family visitors.

(Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is first, but see this before booking it; Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort second; and Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter is fourth; these results are very close.  The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort are ranked last, and this is not close.)

Themed to the riverine rural south, Port Orleans Riverside combines sweeping riverside vistas, manicured gardens, and accommodations themed as stately homes in its Magnolia Bend section (red oval on map)…

…with a more backwoods and wetland-themed area in Alligator Bayou (blue circle on map).

Joining the two, and containing most amenities, is the river-port themed area Sassagoula Steamship Company (gold circle on map).

ROOMS AT DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE RESORT

Much more so than Disney World’s other moderate resorts, Port Orleans Riverside has distinct areas and room types, with varied pros and cons.

There’s two areas–Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend–and three different room types.

STANDARD AND ROYAL ROOMS IN THE MAGNOLIA BEND SECTION OF PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE

The Magnolia Bend section of Port Orleans Riverside contains four large buildings themed as graceful southern plantation homes, with courtyards, porticoes, grand stairs, and fountains.

The northern-most of these buildings are Acadian House and Magnolia Terrace. These are the best-located of the Magnolia Bend options, being closer to the resort’s central amenities and more convenient to bus stops than the two more southern buildings.

Bed Side from Back Standard Magnolia Bend Room Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

Rooms here sleep four in two queens (and a few two person king bed rooms).

Floor Plan Standard Room Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort from yourfirstvisit.netTheir floor plans are typical of the moderates. For a full review of this room type, see this.

Royal Rooms at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

The two southern Magnolia Bend buildings, Oak Manor and Parterre Place, are where you’ll find Riverside’s Royal Rooms.

Royal Rooms are distinctively decorated to a Disney Prince and Princess theme, and are higher cost than options at Port Orleans Riverside. Their floor plans are very similar to those in the two other Magnolia Bend buildings. They sleep four in two queens–no king bed rooms are in the Royal Room buildings.

Families who find the added theming worth the extra ~$50-$100 per night these rooms cost may find them quite pleasant. The buildings themselves, however, are distant from the main pool and from bus stops.

A detailed review of the Royal Rooms is here.

FIVE PERSON ROOMS IN THE ALLIGATOR BAYOU SECTION OF PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE

The Alligator Bayou section of Port Orleans Riverside is on the northern and western sides of the resort. The two-story, no-elevator buildings here are themed as backwoods cabins.

These rooms are among the few “traditional” moderate rooms at Walt Disney World that can sleep 5–the only other ones are at Caribbean Beach.

Murphy Bed Alligator Bayou Port Orleans Riverside from yourfirstvisit.net

The fifth sleeping spot is in a short (66″) Murphy Bed that drops down from the TV/dresser object. (There’s also a few king rooms, also with the Murphy Bed.)

Floor Plan Alligator Bayou 5 Person Room Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

The geometry of the object containing the Murphy Bed means that these rooms have both less drawer space to start with, and also that the drawers are inaccessible if the Murphy Bed is in use. So for families that don’t need the extra bed, a room in the Magnolia Bend section at either Acadian House or Magnolia Terrace is a better choice.

See a full review of these Alligator Bend rooms here.

A room refurb is expected to kick off at Port Orleans Riverside in later 2018. No confirmed details are available, but recent refurbs at other Disney World resorts have included a shift to wood floors, the replacement of the fabric curtain separating the bath from the living area with a sliding solid door, bigger TVs, more and better organized storage, and many, many more power points. This refurb will likely be done floor by floor in Magnolia Bend, and building by building in Alligator Bayou, and should have little impact on guests.

There’s much more on accommodations and theming at Port Orleans Riverside here.

AMENITIES AT DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE RESORT

Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside has as wide a range of amenities as you’ll find at any Disney World moderate resort, falling short compared to the rest only in dining compared to Coronado Springs and in its kids pool, where you’ll find much better ones at Port Orleans French Quarter and Caribbean Beach.

Distinctive amenities here–shared with sister resort Port Orleans French Quarter–include boat service to Disney Springs and horse-drawn carriage rides.

Details on the amenities at Port Orleans Riverside begin here.

DINING AT DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE RESORT

Port Orleans Riverside has an indoor bar with a limited menu, a poolside bar with chips and such, a table service restaurant, Boatwright’s, and a quick-service venue, the Riverside Mill.

Each has its fans–especially the indoor bar, River Roost, with its common live entertainment from Yehaa Bob— but collectively they are about average among the moderates, and are particularly bested by Coronado Springs with its “real” room service menu and “real” food at its main pool.

For more on dining at Port Orleans Riverside, see this.

THE POOLS AT DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE RESORT

Port Orleans Riverside has six pools–the main pool with a fun slide, pool games, and sawmill theming at Ol’ Man River, and five smaller, un-themed “leisure” pools scattered among the accommodations buildings.

Six pools is either a feature or a bug, depending on your perspective.  There are so many because the main pool is too small to serve all who might wish to use it, and is a hike from many outlying rooms. You’ll find the same feature/bug at Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs.

The main pool, though much loved, is uninteresting compared to those at Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs, and the kids pool next to it is quite weak compared to the alternatives at Caribbean Beach and French Quarter.

There have been no hints at this, but I do imagine that the kids pool at Riverside will be replaced one of these days with a much more fun splash play area. In the meantime, Riverside guests are welcome to use the one at French Quarter.

There’s more on the pools at Port Orleans Riverside here.

KID APPEAL AND CONVENIENCE AT DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE RESORT

Kid Appeal. The southern bayou and plantation theming of this resort, while charming to many adults (especially the Magnolia Bend section, whose Georgian architecture is quite lovely), will miss most kids entirely.

That said, its extra amenities bump it slightly ahead of its sister resort Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter. (French Quarter visitors are encouraged to use these amenities; the difference is that for Riverside guests, they are immediately present.)

Moreover, the Royal Rooms will have great appeal to some kids–though they are more expensive, and less convenient, than alternatives.

Main Pool Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

Now, I get comments all the time along the lines of “We stayed at Riverside and it had great appeal for my kids!” Of course it did. All the Disney resorts have great kid appeal. My point is that some have even more than others…

Convenience. Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside is in the middle of moderates IN convenience.

While often thought of as out of the way, it is in fact just across the street (or two) from Epcot, and along with Port Orleans French Quarter is the closest of the “traditional” moderates to Magic Kingdom. It also shares with French Quarter a slow boat to Downtown Disney.

The principal convenience frustration is that, since it commonly shares buses with Port Orleans French Quarter, it has in effect 5 bus stops. The Magic Kingdom bus is the exception–it has only four stops, as it skips Port Orleans French Quarter.

Buses sometimes fill before they get to their final stop (although this is much less common than it used to be), and the first day or two of a visit, it can be hard to identify from inside the bus whether one is at the West, North, or East Bus Stop.

Getting off at the wrong stop matters, because Port Orleans Riverside is pretty darn big, and can be a challenge to get around.

While at my pace no room is more than a ten minute walk from the central service area and pool, this is assuming you take the most direct path, and don’t get lost. Getting lost–especially at night–in the far reaches of the Alligator Bayou section is easy. Or at least it is for me…

It’s not widely noticed, but the texture of the concrete paths in the Alligator Bayou section is meant to help with wayfinding. Where there are groups of buildings, the main path through them is textured to look like a plank road.

The texturing is meant to indicate to you that you are on a main path, and keep you from wandering off accidentally onto a building-specific path.

The image on the right side shows the texture of such a plank road.

As a final convenience point, the two story buildings in the Alligator Bayou area have no elevators.

Other distinctive features. One of only  two traditional moderates that can sleep five, in the Alligator Bayou section. (Caribbean Beach is the other, and its five person rooms are slightly more livable.) These Alligator Bayou rooms provide two queen beds and a short Murphy bed. With Port Orleans French Quarter, the only moderate with no lake, and with the French Quarter the only moderate with boat transport to Downtown Disney.

BEST PLACES TO STAY AT DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE

This site suggests that first time visitors stay in standard rooms, not preferred rooms (because they won’t be spending much time in their rooms, or going to the main resort food area often; the single exception is visitors to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, who should always pay for savanna views.)

Unless you need the bed for the 5th person, stay in a top floor (quieter) standard room in building 85– “Magnolia Terrace” –in the Magnolia Bend section. This area is much lovelier than the other section, Alligator Bayou, and the storage is more convenient. And of the non-Royal options, Building 85 is the best choice–lovely, closer to the pool and central services, and with a nearby bus stop.

If you do need the fifth person bed in Alligator Bayou, shoot for a ground floor room (no elevators) in buildings 16, 17 (close to the amenities and bus stop at Sassagoula Steamship Company) or 38–better views, close to the main pool.

Room request forms for Riverside are particularly thin on options. If you booked a Royal Room you’ll automatically be put in Oak Manor or Parterre Place, the buildings that include them; if you booked five people three or older, you’ll automatically go into one of the Alligator Bayou rooms.  Beyond this, call to express your preferences.

The long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly B., can help you book your Disney World vacation at Port Orleans Riverside or anywhere else–contact her at at KellyB@DestinationsInFlorida.com or 980-429-4499.

THEMING AND ACCOMMODATIONS AT DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE RESORT

This review continues here.

TOPICS IN THIS REVIEW OF DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE RESORT

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October 18, 2017   No Comments

Review: Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

OVERVIEW: DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE

In July 2017 Disney’s Wilderness Lodge completed a major refurb.  Half of its rooms–those in the southeast wing–were converted into Copper Creek Villas. The old quiet pool was completely redone into the delightful new Boulder Ridge Cove pool. The old quick service, Roaring Fork, was refurbed, and a lovely new counter service option and bar, Geyser Point, opened.

The overall impact is that Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, already a great option, gained upgraded and additional amenities, but lost capacity–so fewer people are using the better amenities. In other words, it’s an even better choice than before.

Details follow…

Our most recent stay (our twelfth here–four in the main Lodge, six at Boulder Ridge, and two in Copper Creek) in July 2017 confirms that Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is the second best deluxe resort at Disney World for first time family visitors.

You 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.)

In addition to the standard accommodations in the northwest wing of the Wilderness Lodge, the Wilderness Lodge also has additional room types in the two Disney Vacation Club offerings associated with it–Copper Creek Villas in the southeast wing of the main Lodge, and Boulder Ridge Villas in its own building outside Copper Creek. These areas are available to anyone to rent–you don’t have to be a member of the Vacation Club. These Villas have their own detailed reviews, at the links.

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. 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 dresser.

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

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

(The Copper Creek Villas and Boulder Ridge Villas at the Wilderness Lodge are reviewed separately.)

THE POOLS AT THE WILDERNESS LODGE

The main Copper Creek Springs pool at the Wilderness Lodge was refurbed in 2014 and remains one of the most delightful pools at Disney World. (It was renamed in 2017, from “Silver Creek Springs.”) For more on the Copper Creek Springs pool, see this.

The second pool re-opened in July 2017. Now named Boulder Ridge Cove pool, it has been transformed into a delightful themed space that adults will particularly like. For more on the Boulder Ridge Cove pool, see this.

DINING AT DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE

The Wilderness Lodge has four or four and a half principal dining venues that collectively make it above 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 old quick-service option, Roaring Fork, has been renovated, and remains among the best of its kind among the deluxes, but can easily become over-pressed
  • The new Geyser Point combines an upscale waterside bar with new quick service options, one set from the bar menu and one set from a walk-up window, that’s particularly convenient to both pools

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 Wilderness 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!

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.

On the map, the Lodge is the green-roofed connected set of six to seven story high buildings, in a “Y” (or “U”) shape.

The main lodge buildings are in the upper left northwest wing of the Lodge. The new Copper Creek Villas are in the southeast wing.  The  Boulder Ridge Villas  are in the separate orange-roofed building.

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 pools, Geyser Point, and boat dock to the Magic Kingdom, and vice-versa.

Disney is currently booking two room types–Courtyard views and Standard views.

Courtyard view rooms look into the middle area of the Lodge–overlooking either the Copper Creek Springs pool, the stream and waterfall that leads to it, or Bay Lake itself. 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.

Standard view room overlook anything else–but because so many trees were cut down on the northwest side of the Lodge for the Cascade Cabins here…

…a vast number of them now have truncated and distant views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks. Truncated and distant means this is no substitute for seeing these fireworks in the park…but it is pretty cool!

However, not all standard rooms have this view–some are too low, some blocked by trees, and some are just unlucky…

So pick the view you want–or hope for–most, and request an upper floor room (quieter, and better views).

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.

THEMING AND ACCOMMODATIONS AT DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE

This review continues here.

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August 13, 2017   2 Comments

Theming and Accommodations at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

For the first page of this review of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, click here.

THE THEMING OF DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE

Entry Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge opened in 1994, and its standard rooms were last renovated in 2012. A major refurb and redo that ended in 2017 shifted half of its old rooms into Disney Vacation Club rooms, and added many amenities. A redo of its standard rooms is rumored to start in 2018.

It is officially described on Walt Disney World’s website as

“…inspired by the Great American Northwest National Park lodges from the turn of the 20th century…an architecturally grand Disney Deluxe Resort hotel honoring American craftsmanship and artistry, and celebrating the majesty of the unspoiled wilderness.

“The theme of being in harmony with nature winds through the lodge—inside and out. Authentic decor and genuine artifacts pay homage to ancient Native American cultures and the pioneering spirit of early American explorers.

“From its stunning 7-story lobby, built from 85 loads of Lodgepole Pine, to its 82-foot-tall lobby fireplace, the Resort is as beautiful as it is impressive. Its 727 Guest rooms offer themes of wildlife, nature and Native American designs, and include Honeymoon Suites featuring marble whirlpool tubs.

“On the Resort grounds, look for the bubbling spring that flows into a creek, tumbles over a sparkling waterfall and empties into the swimming pool. Catch the eruption of Fire Rock Geyser, fashioned after Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful, with its plume of water jetting 120 feet into the air.”

The description of the Wilderness Lodge as being “inspired by the great American Northwest,” though presented by Disney itself, and widely repeated in guidebooks and the internet, is a bit of a crock.

The Wilderness Lodge does have elements from the American Northwest–Washington and Oregon–ranging from the stunning totem poles in the main lobby to the menu provenance of its signature restaurant, Artist Point.

And it also celebrates other remarkable western areas, such as the Grand Canyon in the southwest.

That said, the Wilderness Lodge is in fact largely inspired by, and is in homage to, the Mountain West–the basic architecture, the look of the lobby, and the “Fire Rock Geyser” area are all based on Yellowstone, which is not part of America’s Northwest by a long shot.

Yellowstone is principally in Wyoming, but also in Montana and Idaho.  This area is best described as the “Mountain West,” not the Northwest.

Native American Art Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net (683x1024)

The second most significant influence on Wilderness Lodge theming after Yellowstone is the art and artifacts of Native Americans.

Native American Art at Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net (683x1024)

Tribes represented in the Lodge cross the country from the southwest (the Navajo and Apache) to the northwest to the great plains to the southeast (Cherokee.)

The third most significant influence is the Grand Canyon in general, and in particular Mary Colter’s masterwork Bright Angel Lodge there, from which the lobby fireplace was adapted and expanded (to 82 feet!!).

(I have always thought that Colter’s work at the Grand Canyon made her the first Imagineer…years before Walt Disney ever thought of the term!)

Painting Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net (670x1024)

Additional theme influences include the great vernacular styles associated with westward expansion and its later re-interpretations–ranging from Frank Lloyd Wright to Thomas Molesworth to the Mission style.

The simplest, but still largely accurate, description of the Wilderness Lodge’s theme would be that it honors the mountain west; a longer but more accurate description would be that it is based on the great National Park Lodges of the early 1900s, and honors the Native Americans who first lived in this land, as well as later explorers and their descendants–hunters, trappers, guides, woodsmen, cowboys, etc.

The Wilderness Lodge was designed by Peter Dominick, who also designed the next-most stunning Disney resort, the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

In an obituary of Dominick (he died in 2009), it was noted that Dominick “understood the building traditions of the Rocky Mountain West…his specialty was wonderful buildings that celebrated the landscape he loved.”

ACCOMMODATIONS AT DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE

Upstream at Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net

All Disney deluxe resorts have standard rooms; concierge rooms, which Disney calls “club” rooms; and suites. (See this for more on suites at Walt Disney World.)  The Wilderness Lodge has, in addition to these, club-level “deluxe rooms.”

All the Disney deluxes except the Yacht Club also have one or more Disney Vacation Club offerings on property, offering even more room types. These Vacation Club rooms can be booked by anyone just like any other Disney World room–you don’t have to be a member of the Club to do so. I have separate detailed reviews of the two at the Wilderness Lodge, Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek, elsewhere on this site, but will also comment a bit on them below.

Rooms in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are in a connected set of six and seven story high buildings, in a “Y” shape. On the map, the Wilderness Lodge is the green-roofed building at the top center.  Standard rooms are in the wing at the left; accommodations on the right wing of the main Lodge are part of the Copper Creek Villas. The red-roofed area below and to the right is the Boulder Ridge Villas.

At Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, standard and club/ concierge rooms sleep four, in two queen beds, or a queen and bunk beds. The floor plan above is for a two-queen standard or club room.

There’s a photo tour of one of these rooms here.

(See photo for an old view of the bunks, the mattresses of which I measured as 5’9″ long and 39″ wide.)

A few standard rooms with a king, sleeping two, are also available.

Standard rooms are sold with “standard” and “courtyard” views.

Courtyard views look into the center of the Y–to the waterfall, pool, or Bay Lake. Standard views–less expensive–look to something else…e.g. a parking lot.

However, a number of standard view rooms on the northwest side of the Lodge look across the new Cascade Cabins and a few trees towards the Magic Kingdom.

All but the lowest or most unlucky of these rooms have a limited but fun view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks. This image from July 2017 shows folk watching the Happily Ever After fireworks show from their balconies.

Some shots taken from the third floor of this wing of the Magic Kingdom fireworks:

Though these standard rooms are tied with the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s rooms as the smallest standard deluxe rooms on property, the space rarely feels cramped; it just has no more space than it absolutely needs.

Club rooms–which the rest of the world calls concierge rooms–all on the key-access 7th floor of the northwest side of the Lodge, have the same layout as standard rooms but have various services and amenities added on, as well as a substantial extra cost.

Here’s the club lounge from across the lobby.

The outside balcony half-wall in many of these rooms (as well as other top-floor rooms in other areas of the Lodge) is solid, not railed–limiting views except for standing adults.  Some of these rooms also have sloped ceilings.

Club rooms are not worth the extra cost for most first time family visitors. However, they may be well worth it for families intending to spend more time at the Wilderness Lodge than implied by this site’s itineraries. TikimanPages.com has a great discussion of the value of concierge rooms here. Though focused on the Polynesian, it applies to any deluxe resort.

Deluxe rooms (which used to be called “junior suites”) are suite-like club rooms, although they are found on many floors, not just the 7th.  They sleep 6–four in two queens in the bedroom, and two in a fold-out couch in the sitting room. (See floor plan at right.)  For an ancient review of these rooms, click here.

Suites sleeping 2 to 4 people are available for families seeking a particularly comfortable visit–see this for more on suites at Walt Disney World.  The Yosemite Vice Presidential suite, with 885 square feet, sleeps 4–two in the bedroom in a king, and 2 in a queen sleeper sofa in the parlor. The Yellowstone Presidential Suite has the same sleeping arrangements in 1000 square feet.

There are also many more room types in Copper Creek Villas and Boulder Ridge Villas, sleeping from four to twelve, many with full kitchens. Among them, “Studios” are most comparable to Wilderness Lodge standard rooms. Copper Creek Studios sleep four, and Boulder Ridge Studios sleep five.

(To each of the capacity figures above, you can add one more kid under 3 at time of check in who sleeps in a crib.)

The Wilderness Lodge inspires devotion among its fans–of which I am one.

Families who have stayed at it once will have difficulty understanding why they should ever go to a different Walt Disney World resort hotel.

The Wilderness Lodge’s strengths for first time visitors are its unsurpassed kid appeal and its reasonable prices.

The Wilderness Lodge’s principal negatives compared to other deluxes are its small rooms and relative inconvenience for parks other than the Magic Kingdom.

…and speaking of the rooms:

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

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August 8, 2017   No Comments

Review: The Boulder Ridge Cove Pool at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

For the first page of this review of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, click here.

THE BOULDER RIDGE COVE POOL AT DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge came out of a major refurb and rebuild in July 2017. Part of the rebuild was the gutting and re-do of the old quiet pool here into what is essentially a brand-new pool, which has been named the Boulder Ridge Cove pool.

The Boulder Ridge Cove pool is nestled between the re-done wing of the main Lodge, which is now the Copper Creek Villas, and the older Disney Vacation Club offering that has been renamed Boulder Ridge Villas. It’s open to all Wilderness Lodge guests–you don’t have to be staying in one of the Villas to use Boulder Ridge Cove.

On the map, the new pool is in red, and the main pool, refurbed in 2014 and renamed in 2017 the Copper Creek Springs pool (it used to be the Silver Creek Springs pool), is in yellow.

The former pool here was largely an un-themed concrete pool surrounded by trees.

The new pool (seen above from the top floor of Boulder Ridge Villas) is larger than the old one, deeply themed, and has extensive amenities. For adults, it’s perhaps even better than the main Copper Creek Springs pool because of its deeper theming–mining and railroad-related–and additional amenities. Kids will likely still prefer the main Springs pool with its slide, games, and water play area.

There’s several entries to the fenced-in pool, including this one from near the new Geyser Point bar and grill, which provides quick service food and a refillable mug station.

Here’s a walkabout of the new pool beginning at that entrance.

In the distance on the far right of this shot is the zero-entry point of the pool.

Boulder Ridge provides the backdrop to this side of the pool. Note the steam crane, the principal theming object of this pool.

This side has a wall–a quarry wall?–that separates the pool from the nearby new Cascade Cabins.

A better view of the steam crane, backed by the Copper Creek wing of the main Lodge.

There’s a delightful variety of seating options that you won’t see at most other Disney World pools.

More from this side of the pool.

The zero-entry area is at the opposite end of this image.

A closer view of the steam crane. Geyser Point is the one story peaked-roof building at the right.

There’s a few cabanas here…

…plus more shaded seating on the Copper Creek side.

Also on the Copper Creek side is this hot tub.

DINING AT DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE

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August 8, 2017   1 Comment

Review: Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

OVERVIEW: COPPER CREEK VILLAS AND CABINS AT DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE FOR FIRST TIME VISITORS

Copper Creek Villas and Cabins is the newer of the two Disney Vacation Club resorts at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

Opened in July 2017, it adds studios and many multi-bedroom options to the Vacation Club inventory (all available to anyone to book, just like regular rooms) that already existed here in the former villas, now re-named Boulder Ridge.

Most of Copper Creek was rebuilt into what had been half of the Wilderness Lodge, its southeast wing.

But Copper Creek also includes 26 new (and wildly expensive) “Cascade Cabins,” 12 to the north along the waterway between the Wilderness Lodge and the Contemporary Resort, and 14 south along Bay Lake.

Most room options at Copper Creek Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are wonderful places for returning visitors to Walt Disney World to stay. But for 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 Copper Creek Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge ranks first overall for first-time visitors.

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.)

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 two stays at the Copper Creek Villas at the Wilderness Lodge the week it opened in July 2017.

THE COPPER CREEK 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.

On this basis, The Copper Creek Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge comes in first overall among the Disney Vacation Club resorts. (See this for resort rankings.)

The two Wilderness Lodge options–Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek–have the best overall kid appeal among the DVC options.

Because the glory of the Wilderness Lodge is the architecture of the main building and in particular its lobby, and because Copper Creek is in the main building, Copper Creek generally wins out over Boulder Ridge–although the separate building of Boulder Ridge really does have its own unique charm and a much more coherent theme. (Copper Creek simultaneously fully participates in the glorious theming of the Wilderness Lodge itself, but is largely themeless on its own.)

However, there’s a little variability here for some families in the Studios. Pick between the Copper Creek and Boulder Ridge based on your sleeping needs. Copper Creek studios sleep four on a queen and a fold-out bed that’s as wide as a queen but four inches shorter. Boulder Ridge studios sleep five on three beds–those two beds and a third bed that folds down from the wall, and eliminates the room’s table when it does so.

This review has five pages

Lobby Totem Pole Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net
Kid Appeal. The Copper Creek 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.  (For more on the Wilderness Lodgesee this.)

Convenience.  Both sets of 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. Boulder Ridge is a little more convenient to the bus stop, which serves Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios.  Copper Creek is a little more convenient to the boat dock that serves Magic Kingdom.

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

The Copper Creek 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 and of the new smaller pool Boulder Ridge Cove

Another positive compared to many other DVC villas is the size of the dining room table.

See the Two Bedroom Villa floor plan.

The shared living/dining/kitchen space is in the center–it’s the same in both One and Two Bedroom Villas. The dining table can seat six–which does not seem like a lot compared to the eight people a Two Bedroom Villa here can sleep…

…but it’s much bigger than the dining table at Boulder Ridge, shown above, and also bigger than the equivalent tables in most other DVC resorts.

Moreover, also in 2017 a number of other refurbed or new amenities opened at the Wilderness Lodge. While any guests–those staying in the Lodge, in Copper Creek, or in Boulder Ridge–can use them, these amenities were added as part of the Copper Creek project, and collectively present a step-change improvement in the amenities at the Wilderness Lodge.

The new Geyser Point Bar and Grill adds a lovely waterside bar…

…with wonderful views of Bay Lake (your rainbows may vary).

Nestled among Geyser Point, Boulder Ridge, and Copper Creek…

…in the space of the old plain quiet pool here is the completely re-done Boulder Ridge Cove pool, richly themed to an abandoned mining railroad, and probably overall better than the main pool itself.

Also re-done were the other quick-service option at the Wilderness Lodge, Roaring Fork, and the boat and bike barn.

Still to come is the spa, “Salon by The Springs,” which will go in the old main pool bar.

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


See the map. The Wilderness Lodge itself is the larger, green-roofed block on the top left–the Copper Creek Villas are in the Lodge, on its right–southeast–side. The Boulder Ridge Villas are the smaller, reddish-roofed block at the bottom right. The Copper Creek Cascade Cabins are the small buildings along the water.

There really are no bad rooms at Copper Creek. Both sides of Copper Creek have pool views. Rooms closer to Bay Lake are also closer (via stairs) to Geyser Point, both pools and the boat dock that takes you to the Magic Kingdom. Rooms closer to the lobby are closer to the elevators and to the bus stop for the other theme parks.

Best places to stay at the Copper Creek Villas at the Wilderness Lodge

So long as you are able to use the stairs, the best Lodge rooms will be upper floor (because quieter) villas and studios closer to Bay Lake. If you aren’t comfortable on stairs, ask for Upper Floor and Near Elevator.

Among the Cascade Cabins, the northern ones (numbered 8001-8012) have partial, distant views of Happily Ever After, and are closer to the main lobby via the passageway that goes near Roaring Fork, but suffer from lots of boat noise.  The southern Cabins (8013-8026) have a quieter, more tranquil location–although they do get some boat noise–but are distant from all services except Geyser Point and the Boulder Ridge Cove pool.

Worst places to stay at the Copper Creek Villas at the Wilderness Lodge

All first floor rooms have patios, not balconies. On the Boulder Ridge Cove side, this at least makes the new pool and Geyser Point pretty easy to get to–just walk off your patio and you are steps away.  But they will be noisier, less private, and not have as nice a view.

All seventh floor rooms–and some others–have solid-walled balconies, rather than the open railings you’ll find in most lower-floor studios and villas. This quite limits the view you get while seated. Standing views are fine, and seventh floor courtyard view rooms can get truncated views of Happily Ever After over the opposite wing of the Lodge.

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, families wanting to get into the Wilderness Lodge but finding its regular rooms to be sold out.

WORST FOR:

Families on a budget.

THEMING AND ACCOMMODATIONS AT THE COPPER CREEK VILLAS AT THE WILDERNESS LODGE

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August 6, 2017   4 Comments