This review is sponsored by by DVC Magic Resales at www.dvcmagicresales.com (they used their DVC points to book the room and in exchange will also be posting this review and reviews of the other properties). If you’re looking to buy into the Disney Vacation Club or purchase more points for less than you’d pay Disney directly, they’re a great choice. They also take excellent care of those looking to sell their contracts independently.
Our first two Disney Vacation Club (DVC) reviews centered around the two standalone Disney Vacation Club properties, Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and Old Key West Resort. The reviews of the properties that follow will focus on the DVC wings of the resorts they’re attached to, in addition to covering the main resorts’ numerous amenities. For example, a map of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge:
The Villas wing is detached from the rest of the resort and offers its own amenities, like a quiet pool and health club, in addition to its own lobby and leisure areas . Guests staying in the Villas wing enjoy access to all of the resort’s amenities found in and around the main building, including the lounge, feature pool, restaurants, etc.
According to Disney:
Recalling the 1860’s railroad hotels of the American West, The Villas offer the comforts of home amid the rustic beauty of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Relax on the white-sand beach, explore trails through lush meadows and delight in the enchanting Silver Creek Springs Pool. Just a breezy boat ride to Magic Kingdom park, The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge celebrate American craftsmanship and the majesty of the great outdoors.
Wilderness Lodge’s Villas lobby is one of my favorite places on property to hang out – comfy chairs, fireplaces, and few other people.
While potentially not as grand as the main building, it offers a wealth of relatively private nooks and crannies:
Trains played an integral part in Walt’s life and I think that helps make the resort here at Walt Disney World feel even more real and authentic.
The main entrance to the Villas is located about a minute’s walk from the main building’s side entrance down this fun, rustic bridge.
The majority of the resort’s amenities are found in and around the main building. Whispering Canyon, the resort’s rootin’ tootin’ casual table service restaurant is located just inside the entrance across from check-in/concierge. Territory Lounge and Artist Point, the resort’s classy signature restaurant, are located further inside on the left. The resort’s quick service, Roaring Fork, is located down a walkway in the back that also leads down to the feature pool. Wilderness Lodge Mercantile, the resort store, is located just around the corner from check-in. The walkway that leads to the bus stop, Villas main entrance, and arcade is down to the right.
It’s difficult to capture the grandeur of the lobby in a single image.
Guests staying from around the Sunday before Thanksgiving through the first of the year have the opportunity to enjoy the resort’s Christmas decorations.
The same spring water you see here trickles down to the feature pool year-round.
The resort’s size is much less of a concern than it was at Saratoga and Old Key West. The Villas wing does have relatively long hallways, but they’re indoors and air-conditioned.
On the downside, the relative compactness of the resort doesn’t help those who are driving. There’s one main parking lot out in front of the resort. I timed it at 7.5 minutes from the time we left the room to the time we were at the car, which was squarely in the center of the lot. The car would have been about a minute away at Old Key West or Saratoga. It certainly isn’t a major negative, but it does make driving a bit less convenient.
On the plus side, there’s only one bus stop, which reduces Disney transportation times.
I stressed villa location a lot at the dedicated DVC resorts because a room far from the main building can have a significant negative impact on your stay. At Wilderness, a Villa further down the hall only represents a minute or two of extra walking. In fact, online check-in only offered two possible requests, of which “Near transportation,” is worth checking, if for no other reason than it puts you closer to the main Villas entrance and in turn, the main building/buses.
Before going any further, I’ll admit Wilderness Lodge is my favorite Disney resort to visit. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, it “feels” like home with the woodsy theming and rustic decor. Unlike most other Disney resorts, which either have a motel feel (All-Stars, Pop Century, Art of Animation) or the theme otherwise lends itself to the climate (Old Key West, Saratoga, Polynesian, Beach Club, Yacht Club, etc.), Wilderness Lodge decidedly has no business in Central Florida. And because of that, I think it really sweeps guests up and immerses them in the majesty and beauty of America’s Great Northwest.
1-Bedroom Villas at Wilderness (730 square feet) are nearly identical in size and layout to Saratoga Springs (715 Square Feet) and Beach Club (730 square feet). Pricing is in between Saratoga and Beach Club. On the night of our particular stay during Regular Season (2/22/15), the cash price would have been $508 at Saratoga Springs or Old Key West, $586 at Wilderness Lodge, or $610 at Beach Club.
The living room area should look familiar and includes the sleeper sofa, table, chair, television, Blu-ray player, and breakfast bar area.
Villas here were extensively refurbished throughout 2014, bringing gorgeous hardwood floors and considerably larger flat screen televisions than the other properties, in addition to new furniture, stainless steel appliances, and other upgrades.
I appreciated all of the little details from the Bambi pillows, to the paintings, to the rug, to the chairs at the breakfast bar.
The kitchen area isn’t as wide open as Old Key West, but the compact layout might increase productivity, even if it means whipping around a bit more.
Everything you’d expect to be here is here:
Even if you’re not planning to prepare Thanksgiving dinner, a number of the kitchen amenities might come in handy, from being able to reheat flatbread pizzas from the food court in the oven, to popping popcorn in the microwave, to opening a bottle of wine with the provided corkscrew, to pouring coffee into a real coffee mug.
And the chime underneath the lamp works. I would not tell the kids.
The entryway with the mirror and thermostat.
A closet right inside the entryway houses the vacuum, mop, broom and dustpan, hangers, high chair, and extra blanket.
Another closet hides the washer and dryer.
Even those without plans to do a load of laundry will likely find themselves using it, whether it’s to wash an unexpected spill off junior’s favorite Mater shorts or quickly dewrinkle a shirt in the dryer.
The straightforward bedroom layout should look familiar.
King bed, two bedside tables, two lamps, phone, and a newer iHome that still doesn’t work with an iPhone 6.
Flatscreen television, dresser, chair, and sliding glass door out to the balcony.
A luggage bench next to the dresser and like the other properties, there’s a sliding divider/window between the bath area and bedroom. A door outside the bedroom leads to the shower/toilet area, which means nobody will have to knock or open the door to the bedroom to use the facilities. It adds another level or privacy for those staying in the bedroom that we didn’t have at Old Key West.
The bathroom includes the whirlpool tub and an additional vanity/storage area before opening up to a large closet.
With the door to the shower/second vanity/toilet area open.
More storage, the Pack ‘n Play, hangers, iron, ironing board, and safe.
The shower area.
The sofa couch folds out to a bed as wide as a queen, but about five inches shorter.
There’s plenty of space in between the bed and the television to move around even with the bed made up.
We were on the fifth floor and our somewhat private balcony stretched a good way from the living room space all the way to the bedroom with four chairs and two small tables.
Looking out at Bay Lake, we had a partial view of the Villas’ pool and main building.
At 730 square feet, 1-Bedroom Villas are more than twice as large as standard rooms (340 square feet) or Studios (356 square feet), though they still sleep just four adults. Villas are well appointed with much more livable spaces than standard rooms, in addition to the many amenities the villas provide.
Activities and Things to Do
The Lodge’s feature pool is located behind the lobby and restaurants and about a three minute walk from the Villas’ side exit.
According to Disney:
Discover a whimsical heated pool surrounded by pine trees and boulders. Follow the bubbling spring that begins in the Lodge’s lobby, flows under a window wall and transforms into a waterfall plunging into Silver Creek Springs Pool.
Breeze down the exciting waterslide built into the rocks, and relax in the hot and cold whirlpool spas. Children can even splash about in their own kiddie pool.
A hot tub sits right behind it.
The pool is usually much busier – I “lucked” into visiting the resort a couple days before our stay when the high was 53 degrees.
The kids’ splash area just behind the feature pool is new.
Hidden Springs Pool is located in between the feature pool and Villas wing – a minute or two walk from either. If crowds and noise become too much at Silver Springs or you prefer a calmer atmosphere, this provides a nice respite.
While Wilderness Lodge doesn’t have a Community Hall on site, it does offer a wealth of scheduled activities, in addition to a babysitting service at the Cub’s Den:
The movies are a nice mix of new and classic.
Don’t miss magic cookie hour!
Campfires and movies are held out on the beach directly behind the feature pool, which is otherwise open all day for lounging, sandcastle building, sister pushing, etc.
There’s also a scenic playground area along the water.
Around 9:35pm nightly, come down to the beach to enjoy the Electrical Water Pageant.
Fishing excursions can be booked at Teton Boat & Bike Rentals, in addition to a number of other rentals:
The nature trail would lend itself well to bicycle exploration. I’m not sure where you’d go in a surrey bike other than into the pool.
Buttons and Bells arcade is located just outside the side entrance to the main building:
It’s not a huge space, but it has a decent variety of games and is rarely busy.
Sturdy Branches Health Club is located in the Villas building with entrances/exits indoors and out for easy access. Inside, you’ll find complimentary access to exercise bicycles, treadmills, ellipticals, free weights, and weight machines, in addition to paid services like massages and facials. Pricing and appointment details are available here.
Location and Transportation
Wilderness Lodge is situated along Bay Lake across from Magic Kingdom. That’s the Contemporary Resort underneath the fireworks on the right.
Watercraft transfer guests to the Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness Campground on one line and Magic Kingdom on the other. The Contemporary/Fort Wilderness boat starts running at 6:45am, making it a good choice for early breakfast reservations at Chef Mickey’s. It usually stops running at 11:30pm, so you can take the boat to Fort Wilderness for Hoop Dee Doo Revue or another activity. The Magic Kingdom boat runs from 30 minutes prior to Park open to 1.5 hours after Park close. That’s a late start for guests trying to make Magic Kingdom rope drop/the opening show. You’d either want to take the Magic Kingdom bus, which begins running before 7am, or take the Contemporary boat and walk.
The Magic Kingdom boat drops guests off closer than the monorail or buses. This was taken from the boat with the red roofed dock right in front of us and the train station/main entrance just a few feet in the distance.
Transportation is otherwise via Disney bus with the stop located about a minute from the main lobby’s side entrance or about five minutes from our Villa on the 5th floor. Depending on your destination, buses are occasionally shared with the Grand Floridian.
Roaring Fork is the principal quick service, located in the main building closer to the pool.
The menu isn’t particularly robust, but it has a nice selection of salads, sandwiches burgers, and flatbread pizzas.
The Mickey Waffles for breakfast are some of the best as well with your choice of Bananas Foster, Strawberry, or Chocolate Lovers with bacon, in addition to the usual pancakes and Bounty Platter with scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, pancakes and a biscuit.
Those with smaller appetites can order the kids’ portion, which comes with two waffles instead of three.
A look around:
There’s a small toppings bar in the indoor seating section with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and onions, in addition to coffee creamer, condiments, lemons, and toasters for bagels and such.
Outdoor seating is available just outside.
I ordered the $11.19 Roast Beef and Blue Sandwich with Lettuce, Grilled Onion and Buttermilk Chive Dressing on Focaccia Bread served with Cucumber Salad or House-made Chips.
This is one of the more proficient cold sandwiches on property with a heaping portion of deli-quality roast beef on fresh herb-y foccacia with lettuce and a creamy buttermilk chive dressing. It’s also larger than most sandwiches – you could conceivably cut it in half and still have two large portions, perhaps shared with the Wilderness Salad.
Lisa ordered the $9.69 Tomato Basil Flatbread. which might not look like much, but it had a thick layer of perfectly melted cheese. The only problem was it seemed to be missing a tomato slice with only about 2/3 of the flatbread covered with toppings.
I went back later in the evening to pick up a S’mores Cupcake. I would love to say I loved it…but the graham cracker flavored cake was dense, grainy, and dry. The whipped marshmallow topping was better and the flavor overall was more interesting than most, but I’m not sure it works.
Our late night Buffalo Chicken Flatbread wasn’t much better – overcooked with a thin layer of cheese and a generic, mildly spicy buffalo sauce. You might have better luck during prime eating hours as we did earlier in the day.
Artist Point is the resort’s signature restaurant. According to Disney:
Celebrate the culinary heritage of the Pacific Northwest with seasonal specialties and stunning waterfront views.
Relax in the warm ambiance of this charming restaurant, inspired by the dining rooms of cherished National Park lodges. Dramatic murals capture the spirit and romance of the American frontier, and ornate iron lanterns are suspended from tremendous timber columns.
Dine indoors as you enjoy panoramic views of Bay Lake and Silver Creek Falls, or retreat to the outdoor terrace to soak in the beauty of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
It’s an apt description. This post covers dinner at Artist Point in detail. Those looking for an intimate meal, expansive views, and some of the best food on property should look no further. Request a window table.
Whispering Canyon Cafe is the resort’s casual table service restaurant, located right inside the main entrance on the left. As Disney describes it:
We Like to Horse Around
Gallop on over to this Old Western eatery for games and good eatin’ served with attitude.
Tether your trusty steed and mosey into this log-cabin lodge with rough-hewn charm and colorfully named Cast Members who have a reputation for sassing customers. Take your seat in a cowboy or Indian chair and get into some finger-lickin’ vittles. There’s plenty to go around! Just be careful what you wish for, especially if it’s ketchup.
For better or worse, nearly all of the restaurant’s shenanigans have been retired, not unlike 50’s Prime Time. The sass is supposed to be part of the experience, but a lot of guests either aren’t aware that the server throwing the straws and napkins on the table isn’t “rude” – it’s part of the show, or are too uncomfortable being put on the spot.
The cast member that seats you at your table will provide you with this token that indicates whether or not you’d like to participate in the harassment.
Breakfast is served from 7:30am to 11:15am:
Breakfast items enjoy a lot of barbecue influence with the pork, sausage, candied bacon, etc. Even the hollandaise on the eggs benedict is barbecue flavored. An all-you-care-to-enjoy skillet option is also available for hungry guests for less than most buffets.
I ordered the $10.99 Slow-smoked Pulled Pork, Over Easy Egg Sandwich with Pepper Jam and Western Home Fries.
This is a sizable sandwich with seven or eight ounces of smoked, sweet, and tangy pulled pork on a fresh brioche roll topped with an egg. The western home fries had a nice bite to them with some spice from the pepper and onion. I’m not sure it would be my choice at 7:30am, but it was a nice brunch-y sandwich for our 11am reservation.
The sandwich is nearly identical at lunch, omitting the egg and substituting the sides.
Lisa had been looking forward to the $11.99 Doc Willis’ Egg White Omelet with Spinach, Goat Cheese, and Chipotle Pico served with fresh Fruit and a Biscuit for some number of days. Unfortunately, it was too heavy on unadvertised onion and too light on the goat cheese, despite being prepared well otherwise. The fruit was ripe and the biscuit was freshly made.
We visited a few days earlier for lunch, which is served from 11:45am-2:30pm:
Lunch pricing is in line with other resort restaurants that serve lunch like Kona Cafe and The Wave.
Lisa ordered the $18.49 Skillet-fired Red Quinoa Cakes with Edamame Salsa, Organic Greens, and Cucumber Yogurt.
This is an impressive and well-balanced vegetarian dish consisting of four large quinoa cakes topped with a cool and refreshing mildly flavored cucumber yogurt that wasn’t unlike a Greek tzatziki sauce. The cakes were light and soft with a very slight crunch. The edamame salsa resembled a succotash more than your usual salsa and provided fresh flavors that complemented the quinoa well. Altogether very good.
I ordered the $13.49 House-smoked Turkey Sandwich on Toasted Multigrain Bread with Arugula, Tomato, and Cranberry Mayonnaise served with your choice of House-made Idaho Potato Chips, French Fries, Sweet Potato Fries, or Cucumber Salad.
The turkey had a nice smoky flavor and the bread was nice and thin, which I appreciated. There was a nice amount of the cranberry mayonnaise as well, which provided a nice pop of flavor. The tomatoes and arugula were fresh and added some crunch. Altogether, a proficient sandwich.
This variety of “house-made chip” is only becoming more ubiquitous around property, but Whispering Canyon’s were above average with a nice crunch and an appropriate amount of salt.
The $17.99 Smoked Chicken Quesadilla is also very good – packed with bbq chicken in a sweet and tangy sauce with some arugula for some crunch.
Overall, Whispering Canyon is a nice casual spot with good food, relatively reasonable prices, and the potential for fun service.
Territory Lounge is the resort’s bar, serving daily from 4:30pm-midnight. It’s located right next to Artist Point just off the main lobby above Roaring Fork.
In addition to the standard bar menu, it serves Redhook ESB, Widmer Hefeweizen, and Moosehead on draft, in addition to food.
Nine bucks buys you a huge pile of freshly steamed edamame with a nice sprinkling of sea salt. It’s a great, potentially healthy snack and you get a ton of it for the money – easily five times the serving size as Tokyo Dining at Epcot for $3 more.
The $11 Oregon Pinot Grigio Fondue – Artisan Breads and Fruit of the Season is kind of fun. You get a basket of stuff.
The fondue base changes – sometimes it’s wine…other times it’s beer. Either way, it’s warm cheesy goodness and a somewhat reasonable price considering the portion.
The “Banh Mi” Flatbread – House Smoked Bacon, Sweet Chili BBQ, Kimchi and Citrus-Garlic Crema is a little out there with the sweet barbecue sauce seemingly clashing with the acidity of the kimchi and the saltiness of the barbecue sauce. There’s probably a reason why more flatbreads don’t come topped with lettuce as well. It might come together better for you than it did for me and it’s a lot of quality food and ingredients for the money.
The nachos are a great value, reliably arriving with heaps of toppings and plenty of fresh chips.
The Crispy Chicken Wings with Celery and Bleu Cheese Dressing – $9 were a heaping portion of 12+ large, plump, freshly fried and crispy wings. They had a natural, acute spiciness that didn’t particularly linger – by far the best wings I’ve had on property and a tremendous value compared to what’s available elsewhere, including the chicken nuggets downstairs at Roaring Fork that would cost you more money. The highest recommendation.
Trout Pass Pool Bar is located behind the feature pool:
There are a few seats around the bar with a couple televisions, but most people will be taking their drinks elsewhere. There are a ton of lounge chairs and tables behind the bar.
Drinks are otherwise standard. The $9.75 Moscato Colada – Skyy Infusions Moscato Grape Vodka and Blue Curaçao blended with Piña Colada Mix and topped with a Passion Fruit-Mango foam is a refreshing frozen cocktail with a lot of sugar and not a lot of alcohol.
The $10.50 Grand Margarita – Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila, Grand Marnier, fresh Lime Juice, and Sweet-and-Sour is your standard, reliably weak margarita.
The $10.25 Island Moon-Shine – Troy & Sons Platinum Moonshine, Blue Curaçao, Coconut, Pineapple Juice, and Coconut Water seems to fit the theme of the resort. It tastes overwhelmingly like blue curacao and pineapple juice.
You’re not going to taste the alcohol in any of these drinks, which may or may not be a good thing.
Wilderness Lodge Mercantile carries a variety of items:
How much everything costs (or in a PDF):
On the plus side, the 24-packs of 12-ounce Dasani waters are now priced at $6.39, probably because bell services was tired of people shipping in cases for delivery.
Wilderness Lodge resonates with a lot of guests and because of that, the resort offers more branded merchandise than most. A sampling of what’s available:
The store also carries a variety of mostly generic theme park merchandise and apparel.
The water as it flows down to the pool in the back of the resort.
Overall, Wilderness Lodge is perhaps the most fully immersive resort on property. It “feels” far removed from the hustle and bustle of Magic Kingdom, but is convenient enough that you’re only a six or seven minute boat ride away from the main entrance or the Contemporary Resort, where you can easily hop on the monorail and visit the Polynesian or Grand Floridian. The recently refurbished Villas are nicely appointed and the size and amenities are similar to the other DVC properties not named Old Key West. Prices are also cheaper than the Villas at Bay Lake Tower, Polynesian, or Grand Floridian. Anybody looking at a Magic Kingdom area resort should strongly consider The Lodge.
Contact Rachel Thompson at www.dvcmagicresales.com for more information on selling or purchasing a DVC contract for Wilderness Lodge or any other Disney Vacation Club property. With 10 years experience on the resale market, you will be in good hands.