Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Review


Wilderness Lodge is a Deluxe resort-hotel at Walt Disney World that is themed to…the wilderness. More specifically, to the Pacific Northwest (says Disney, I think it’s themed to the West, generally) and the National Park lodges of the early 20th century. Having seen a few National Park lodges in similar style, I think Disney hit the nail on the head as far as theme and design go. Wilderness Lodge is a bit larger than the lodges I’ve seen, which actually helps better convey the cavernous and domineering feel of the lodge. In the case of real National Park lodges, the buildings were presumably built this way as a small, cramped area would have been a letdown after tourists saw the large and breathtaking natural wonders of the world. In the case of Wilderness Lodge, a smaller hotel similarly would have been a letdown after seeing the man-made wonders of the (Walt Disney) World.



Sarah and I have stayed at Wilderness Lodge several times. We fell in love with it the first time we stayed here during the Christmas season, and have returned for another Christmas trip and then during the summer. Because Wilderness Lodge is one of the cheaper Deluxe resorts, offers great location, and has quite possibly the best design and best-executed theme of any of the Walt Disney World hotels, it’s an option we almost always consider when booking a trip.

We stayed for the first time as part of our whirlwind tour trying to capture the Magic of Christmas at Disneyland and Walt Disney World (unfortunately, we only captured a talking otter named Emmet), at which time we realized it’s the perfect place to stay at Christmas. We were hooked from the get-go

It’s hardly a secret that Wilderness Lodge is incredible at Christmas. Just about every other Disney blogger and fan has already anointed it as such, so I won’t insult your intelligence by calling it the “sleeper hit” hotel for Christmas visits. However, I also don’t blindly follow hype. I don’t gush over a lot of things that are over-hyped by the Disney community (I’m looking at you, Le Cellier), as I feel a few people often get worked up over something that really isn’t that great, and things seem to snowball from there until something merely good is deemed the greatest thing ever by fans.

Wilderness Lodge at Christmas is not one of those things that’s over-hyped. It’s the absolute best resort for a Christmas visit, and is not nearly as expensive as many other Deluxe resorts. Granted, it lacks the life-size edible creations found in many of the other Deluxe Resorts, but it makes up for that with the second prettiest Christmas tree in all of Walt Disney World (I’ll give the “top tree” nod to Animal Kingdom…for those keeping score at home, Magic Kingdom comes in last place with its garish circa-1980s tree). At first blush, this tree is the heart of Wilderness Lodge at Christmas. Upon closer inspection, the true charm of Wilderness Lodge at Christmas is its rustic ambiance and tranquil feel, which is conveyed through little decorative touches around the resort, roaring fireplaces, and the most relaxing background music known to man.

Being from Michigan, I really appreciated these details and this relaxing ambiance. They remind me of winter in the Upper Peninsula or in a cabin along one of our small inland lakes. Although not all Michiganders utilize antlers so heavy-handedly in decorating (state law only requires that we use at least 4 racks per house), but it is a nice nod to a Northern-woods Christmas.

It’s deceptively simple, but that’s the true success of Wilderness Lodge at Christmas. During the winter months it just oozes that Christmas feeling. Unlike the other hotels, it could be 80 degrees outside, but it just feels right rocking back and forth in a quiet alcove near a fireplace as the soft sounds of the Christmas loop  envelope your ears at Wilderness Lodge. You are transported away from the hustle and bustle of a theme park complex in Florida to a quiet lodge in the snowy mountains of the Pacific Northwest. For this experience at its most authentic, head to the third floor alcove at around 1am after a long day in the parks while wearing some flannel pajamas. Just be sure you don’t fall asleep in one of the comfy chairs like a certain author also did not do. Wilderness Lodge at Christmas is Disney escapism at its finest.

Of course, this is a review of Wilderness Lodge: the hotel, not Wilderness Lodge: awesome Christmas fun zone. My point, though, is that you should stay in Wilderness Lodge at Christmas. It’s better than the circus that is Grand Floridian around Christmas, and it’s better than every resort with edible displays. It’s closest competitor is Animal Kingdom Lodge, but it just fails to capture the same charm. You should still check out all of these hotels at Christmas, but instead of staying at them, do what Sarah and I do, and take a (free!) self-guided Christmas resort tour and visit the others for an hour or so one day during your trip.

Anyway, I assume the rest of you probably sleep in your rooms rather than random rocking chairs near hotel fireplaces, let’s talk rooms. It should come as no shock that the rooms at Wilderness Lodge have the same type of woodsy theming found in the rest of the resort. Despite the theme, the rooms are modern and generally look nice. I know I harped on this in my review of the Grand Californian, but in the case of Wilderness Lodge, I’m more accepting of this style, simply because the rooms are substantially less expensive than those you’ll find at a flagship resort.

Wilderness Lodge is in the process of refreshing its rooms, so expect them to look different during your visit.

This style isn’t for everyone, but chances are that you’ll know whether the Wilderness Lodge rooms will appeal to you simply by looking at the lobby of the Lodge. If you don’t like that, you won’t like the rooms. If you do like that, chances are that you will like the rooms. I would place them a rung below Animal Kingdom Lodge’s rooms, and they could probably use a slight refresh, but I still enjoyed our room.

Transportation at Wilderness Lodge seemed solid while we were there. Although it’s not on the monorail loop, it is a Magic Kingdom area hotel, and there is boat service to the park. This is, by far, my favorite way of getting from Wilderness Lodge to the Magic Kingdom, and I highly recommend this mode of transportation. There’s also bus service, and I’ve heard that sometimes Wilderness Lodge shares buses with Fort Wilderness, but we did not experience that when we stayed at Wilderness Lodge, nor have we ever experienced that when we’ve visited Wilderness Lodge. Perhaps during slower seasons this shared transportation scheme goes into effect.

With regard to restaurants, Wilderness Lodge is also similar to Animal Kingdom Lodge. With Artist Point, Whispering Canyon Cafe, and the underrated Roaring Forks (click to read our dining reviews), Wilderness Lodge has great dining options and great variety of options (excellent counter service, great moderately priced table service, and a signature restaurant). These restaurants don’t quite stack up to Jiko, Boma, Mara, and Sanaa, but no other resort-hotel has restaurants as good as Animal Kingdom Lodge. We still haven’t tried Territory Lounge at Wilderness Lodge, which I’ve heard is one of the best lounges on property.

It regularly gets high marks for interior design and dining, but one aspect of Wilderness Lodge that is frequently overlooked is its beautiful outdoor area. The pool is nice (but nothing special), but it’s the trails and little touches out there that really make the resort. Plenty of flower and plant life, oh, and geysers. That’s right, Wilderness Lodge actually has a (man-made) geyser modeled after Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. One day I stood near this geyser for about 20 minutes waiting for it to erupt, and it never did, so I’m not entirely sure that it is always on or working, but when it does erupt, it’s pretty cool. Via these trails that meander around the Lodge, you can walk all the way to Fort Wilderness if you want to do some serious exploring.

As is the case with all Walt Disney World on-site hotels, Wilderness Lodge is fully integrated in the MyMagic+ system, which means that guests receive MagicBands and can make FastPass+ reservations. Learn more about this in our MyMagic+ FAQWilderness Lodge has the standard amenities of other Deluxe resorts, like a playground, health club, babysitting, bike rental, etc. We aren’t exactly avid playground enthusiasts, nor did we test these other amenities. I guess you get what you pay for with this review! ;)

Overall, Wilderness Lodge is one of our favorite resorts at Walt Disney World. At ~$300 night (rack rate), it’s pricey, but still much less expensive than some other Deluxe Resorts. Plus, after discounts, it’s not uncommon to score rooms for around $180-200/night here, which is a lot more palatable. Still pricey, but not bad all things considered. The theme of Wilderness Lodge is wonderfully executed year-round, but at Christmas, it really shines, when it’s the best resort at Walt Disney World. This theme won’t appeal to everyone, but those to whom it does appeal are sure to love Wilderness Lodge. While other resorts make trips more convenient (Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, Disney’s Contemporary Resort), the only other resort that offers a comparable combination of theme, quality, and value is Animal Kingdom Lodge (or Port Orleans Riverside if you weight value more heavily). It’s an all-around great resort, and one that we highly recommend. Even if Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Wilderness Lodge were priced the same, I’d recommend Wilderness Lodge. That’s high praise.

Considering booking Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort? Visit Expedia for current promotions and discounted rates at Wilderness Lodge!

Not sure which Walt Disney World hotel is right for you? Check out our Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews page, which offers quick-hit capsule reviews of the strengths and weaknesses of every Walt Disney World hotel, plus links to our reviews and photo pages for every hotel we have reviewed.

Looking for comprehensive Walt Disney World vacation tips? Make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.

Your Thoughts…

What do you think of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge? Do you enjoy the back-woods Pacific Northwest theme, or is it not your style? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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32 Responses to “Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Review”

  1. Awesome work and photos. I miss this place so much. It’s the only place at WDW that we’ll stay at.

  2. Betsy says:

    Oddly enough the Wilderness Lodge, at discounted rates, is a better deal than most of the national park lodges in the Pacific Northwest which can be very expensive. On many a summer road trip, I find myself gazing longingly at those grand lodges from my tent at a nearby campsite… That being said, as someone who has spent many summers exploring the real Pacific Northwest, the WL is definitely on point. To me it seems most similar to the lodges in Glacier, Crater Lake, and Yellowstone Nat’l Parks. Disney really hit it out of the park with this one. Thanks for the review and the Christmas photos!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      If I recall correctly, when we stayed in Olympic National Park, our cabin was around $300-400/night. Granted, it had a view of the Pacific Ocean and is about the coolest place I’ve ever stayed (and was worth it), but I was shocked at how much it cost.

      If you consider Yellowstone in the Pacific Northwest (and I guess it is…for some reason I always considered it in the regular ole West), then I think Wilderness Lodge hits its “Pacific Northwest” N’tl Park mark well.

      • Betsy says:

        Sounds like your accommodations were better than mine at Olympic. My husband and I paid about $10 to hunker down in a tent in the Hoh Rainforest. Incredible scenery, but a bit too wet for my taste. I guess I should have known what I was getting myself into – I did agree to camp in a rainforest after all. Because I love the Pacific Northwest and all things National Parks, (not loving them would be distinctly unpatriotic) I am a huge WL fan. Lastly, if you like the Olympics and haven’t been to Glacier, I implore you to visit there asap!

  3. Natasha Baus says:

    Awesome review and love the pics.. When visiting Disney we either stay at the Port Orleans or Saratoga because the grounds are so lovely but I think on my next trip in the spring,I will venture out and give the Wilderness Lodge a try.

  4. Randy Crane says:

    Wilderness Lodge at Christmas is glorious. There’s no other word I can use. I love the resort at any time of year, but right now the decorations and special touches make it truly magical.

  5. Amber says:

    We stayed here on our first and only Disney Christmas trip 2010 (which was pop warner week – cheerleaders at Epcot drove is crazy one day!). My husband and I absolutely fell in love with this resort! One evening, I curled up by a fireplace in an alcove reading one night. We had breakfast and dinner at Whispering Canyon. Loved the breakfast skillet. The resort was simply beautiful! The CM were amazing, especially after leaving my key to the world card at Coral Reef one evening. So when we finally bought into DVC earlier this year, we knew our home resort had to be Wilderness Lodge!

  6. Larry says:

    We LOVE Wilderness Lodge. The setting, the transportation options, all make it a great place to stay.

  7. Christy says:

    Great photos. What I would give to be curled up in one of those chairs by the fire right now! I’m freezing!

    Love the Wilderness Lodge. We stayed there many times in the 90’s when I was with my parents. Last year, I made sure to make a breakfast reservation at WCC so my daughter could see the gorgeous interior all dolled up for Christmas. (And btw, we’re in MI…and no antlers are to be found in our house! But we’re yuppies in A2…)

  8. Michelle D says:

    During my College Program and my first Christmas away I would visit the lodge frequently for a taste of real Christmas. The other deluxe resorts offer nice atmosphere, but a northerner needs a fireplace. I love that you highlighted the upper fireplace, which I have not nodded off at while reading a book.

    I am surprised by the garish colors of your room. Mine two years ago was much more muted and updated looking. The colors were more hunter green and suede tan. Maybe my favorite thing about being in a two bed room is having more banister carvings. In my unofficial testing, Wilderness also has the second warmest pool temperature on average after Grand Floridian.

  9. Michelle D says:

    During my College Program and my first Christmas away I would visit the lodge frequently for a taste of real Christmas. The other deluxe resorts offer nice atmosphere, but a northerner needs a fireplace. I love that you highlighted the upper fireplace, which I have NOT nodded off at while reading a book.

    I am surprised by the garish colors of your room. Mine two years ago was much more muted and updated looking. The colors were more hunter green and suede tan. Maybe my favorite thing about being in a two bed room is having more banister carvings. In my unofficial testing, Wilderness also has the second warmest pool temperature on average after Grand Floridian.

  10. Charliecoy says:

    Unbelievable,Amazing, Really its fantastic resort for family it’s every ones dream paradise at weekends.enjoyyyyy.

  11. Dave says:

    Was your room in the main area of the resort or the villas? Yours just looked quite different than ours did, we didn’t have the kitchenette.

    We had stayed at the Polynesian for our previous 3 trips to Disney World, first for our honeymoon (1995) and twice since, and we love it there. WL had opened a year or less before our honeymoon, so we visited and thought it was fantastic. We’ve made an effort each trip to visit, even if we weren’t staying.

    Why didn’t we stay if we loved it so much? The monorail. It was the trump card each time, to us, it was worth the higher price to not wait around for buses.

    Our last family trip to WDW was Christmas 2011. Unfortunately, a tummy virus made the rounds of the female members of our group, so they were out of commission 3 of the 10 days we were there. I felt pretty bad that my wife didn’t have a great time on that trip, so I decided to surprise her for Valentine’s day and planned a trip for April back to WDW with a stay at WL. It was sensational! The relaxing vibe is great and we found we didn’t miss the monorail as much as we thought we would, and taking the boat was a pleasure. I think there is an excellent chance that we’ll be staying there again for future visits, because as much as we love the Poly, the WL felt even more like we were home.

    I don’t know if this is the case across the board or not, but the room we stayed in at WL definitely wasn’t as big as the Poly’s. This was not a big deal for us, but it was noticeable. What made up for it was the view. We had a view of the pool area, geyser and lake, and it was breathtaking from our vantage point. I definitely agree with your review. Don’t forget to check out the Carolwood Pacific room in the Villas if you are into Disney trains. It’s just a quiet recreation/gathering room (they have checkerboard tables and a fireplace instead of videogames), but has some interesting history of Walt’s love of trains, like this:

    Dave

  12. Katie says:

    Hi!
    We have the choice of Bay Lake Towers (which we have never stayed in) or Wilderness Lodge in September. We love the Wilderness Lodge and have stayed there twice before.
    Which would you choice? Just an FYI we are staying on DVC points, if that makes a difference.
    Thanks!

  13. Michael says:

    Tom, excellent review of my favorite resort! I just wish I could stay there more often.

    Just a quick clarification on the architectural style. While I agree the lodge fits in the general “Parkitecture” style that was established for the great lodges of the National Parks by architect Robert Reamer, The Wilderness Lodge pulls most of its design elements from two lodges; the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone and the Ahwahnee in Yosemite.

  14. mitch says:

    Didn’t realize you were from Michigan! I am from Novi, MI. Anyhow, great review! My wife and I went there in Feb. 2011 and by some chance got a free upgrade to club level, and I think we paid less than $200 a night. Gorgeous place. Room was just okay.

    Sadly, during the time we were there the lodge had bats flying around all night and day. At one point, a bat flew down the corridor and my wife and I slammed the door leading to the courtyard just in time to see it slam up against the glass. They were so obnoxious that we had to cancel our dinner plans at artist point (since they were getting in there as well) and my wife will never go back to the lodge because of that. I posted about our experience on the disboards, and at first nobody believed it until some cast members confirmed it in the thread.

  15. LissC says:

    Thanks for the review, this one is my top resort to try next. We love AKL, but also have a heart for cabins and western theming, so I can’t wait to stay there!

  16. James N says:

    We just got back from a short trip and visited the Wilderness Lodge for a little bit. Also being from Michigan I agree that the lodge is reminiscent of a cold winter day even when it’s 80 degrees outside. Your pictures make it look better than it does in real life too.

  17. Laura says:

    Great review! We love the Lodge. Since we first stayed there, we’ve only managed to stay elsewhere twice (Contemporary and the Beach Club). Other hotels are fun to visit, but nothing beats the theming of WL. Especially when you are a Florida native, it’s nice to stay somewhere where you can pretend you’re on the other side of the country.

  18. Lisa Naberhaus says:

    We just stayed at WL for the first time at the end of August. Absolutely loved it! Can’t wait to go back. We were told the geyser erupts every hour on the hour – we did see it and that appears to be true.

  19. Robyn Fischer says:

    I love the Wilderness Lodge! We ate at Whispering Canyon one trip during Christmas and got to experience the incredible decorations and the bell choir in the lobby. There was a photopass person in the lobby also and we got our pictures in front of the tree

  20. CaraGianine says:

    Hi Tom! How does the pool here rank compared to Stormalog Bay? I know – not a fair comparison, but you have me 99% persuaded to stay here in May vs. the Beach Club. The only hold out for me is the pool.

  21. Ben B says:

    First stayed at Wilderness Lodge in 2010 and immediately felt right at home. In 2013 we were able to go twice once in June at Polynesian and then the week before Christmas at Wilderness Lodge and the Christmas feel was great. The Lodge just feels comfortable and cozy.

  22. Peter Mosca says:

    I just stayed at the Wilderness Lodge for 5 nights with my wife and 2 small kids. The service was embarrassingly bad – nobody there knows anything about the lodge, the parks, transportation, or food. It’s all trial and error by the guests.

    It isn’t clean. Upon check in, we had to step over bags of garbage to enter our room for the first time. The view was of a pond with garbage floating in it.

    This is easily the worst managed upscale hotel I have ever stayed at. Just terrible.

  23. Jennifer M. says:

    We are booking a reservation at WL for the week before thanksgiving- will at the Christmas decor be up???

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Christmas decor in the hotels typically goes up the day after Thanksgiving. You might be lucky and see some of it.

  24. Jeff Thomas says:

    I know that it is a bit more work, but can taking the boat to the MK, and then hopping on the monorail be a decent option for the getting to EPCOT from this hotel? That is based on the slowness of bus transportation, and the more fun of boats and monorails. By the way your pictures and reviews are great, and really make me miss getting to the World more often.

  25. Janette says:

    As this is one of our choices for Dec 2015 I was interested to read it’s the place for Christmas. Will have to let my husband read this as he is set on AKR It has however swayed me away from GF!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      AKR…do you mean Animal Kingdom Lodge? That’s also a good option for Christmas, but definitely not as festive as Wilderness Lodge.

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