The last of Wilderness Lodge’s guest rooms have been modernized, with the Boulder Ridge Villas receiving reimagined rooms that feature totally different designs, a new look, and updated layout. This shares photos & video of the redone rooms, plus our thoughts on how these compare to their predecessors and other Disney Vacation Club studios.
This is because I believe Wilderness Lodge is the pinnacle of Imagineering at Walt Disney World and has been since the resort opened. Most subsequent changes have been compromises, attempting to make the hotel appeal to those who don’t like the U.S. National Park lodge style and frankly, should simply stay somewhere else.
Whereas I might be more forgiving of thematic integrity at somewhere like Old Key West or Saratoga Springs, I’m zealous (arguably overly so) about it at Wilderness Lodge. I’ve been apprehensive about changes, mixed on past refurbishments, and against many expansions to and around the resort. My opinion of the Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge proposal is far from positive and I hate how the resort has lost trees and widened walkways over the years.
It’s a similar story with the room redesigns prior to Boulder Ridge. I’m cognizant of the reality that casual guests found them “too rustic” or “outdoorsy” and not offering luxury or quality (allegedly) commensurate with price. Balancing modern amenities with on-theme design in the guest rooms at Wilderness Lodge has been a tough needle to thread for Imagineering, and the results have been hit or miss.
While I don’t completely love them, the new hotel rooms at Wilderness Lodge do a pretty good job striking that balance. Copper Creek is a bit too shabby chic or “glamper” for my tastes, but I also recognize that it could’ve been a lot worse. Those rooms were at the tail end of a ‘dark era’ for Walt Disney World room redesigns that involved a lot of generic and very understated styles. It was an overcorrection to what came before, but thankfully, that era is over.
This brings us to the new rooms at the Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge. These come at a time when, in my view, Walt Disney World has really hit its stride in stylish yet practical accommodations that are both well-themed and comfortable, befitting both Disney and their price points. My opinion of these is probably pretty obvious from the title, but I’ll use this review & room tour to break down the why of these being my new #1 regular resort rooms at Walt Disney World!
Against that backdrop, let’s start with a view of the new standard studio rooms at the Boulder Ridge Villas…
Gone are the rustic bed frames and dark and drab color choices. The room was totally gutted for the redesign, with all-new decor, flooring, walls, panels, curtains, furniture, and beds.
While all of the furnishings and fixtures have been replaced, the most notable change is the replacement of the sofa sleeper with a pull-down Murphy sleeper that is somehow both a comfortable couch and a comfortable queen bed. There’s also a pull-down 5th sleeper below the television.
The Boulder Ridge studios offer accommodations for a party of 5-6 people, assuming some children. The rooms have 2 queen beds that can each sleep 2 guests (of any age or size), plus a single pull-down sleeper for a small adult or child.
There’s no hard and fast rule about who can use the 5th sleeper, but it’s “suitable for Sarah.” In general, you’d probably want to have someone under 5’7″ and 130 pounds use that bed. Even that might be pushing the bounds of comfort for a longer stay, but we know larger people who have used these beds.
Basically, the Boulder Ridge studios are suitable for up to 4 average American adults, plus one atypical adult or child, and an infant in a crib. At least, on paper–the size of the room and only one bathroom might make cramming that many people into them a non-starter for most parties.
On the kid-sized bed tucked beneath the Deluxe Studio TV, there’s more art–a forest on the outside and Chip ‘N Dale mural on the inside. Attached to the hidden kid-size bed is a set of built-in drawers and a pair of neatly tucked stools, adding more storage and seating to Deluxe Studios.
Functionally, the first big change as compared to the former studios at Boulder Ridge is that this 5th sleeper no longer has a fold-down table under it. (Old room pictured above; table on far left.)
From my perspective, this is a big loss. We used that table for eating meals and I used it as a desk for working. I know the trend is away from tables and desks in the hotel industry, but I feel like Disney Vacation Club is a different beast and very much should keep tables.
As a replacement, of sorts, the coffee table that doubles as a storage space now triples as a raised platform. This actually worked really well for me to use with my laptop, to the point that I prefer this to the table for a workstation. Now I can multitask and more easily watch SportsCenter while writing. (I know you all are probably watching Dr. Pimple Popper or whatever while “reading” this, it’s okay.)
The coffee table platform doesn’t work nearly as well for meals, though. Definitely don’t get the loss of the folding dining table, it didn’t take up any space and wasn’t hurting anyone. I can’t imagine there were guest complaints demanding it be taken away.
My next, mostly-minor quibble with this room is that the outside of the 5th sleeper recycles art from the feature wall of the new hotel rooms in Wilderness Lodge. I didn’t like it there due to the odd beveling and drop shadows, and think it looks out of place in these rooms among all of the other (good) art and more colorful designs.
Anway, above that sleeper and below the television there’s a ledge for devices and outlets. There are actually a ton of power outlets and USB ports (A and C) all around the room. For a while, Walt Disney World hotel rooms had not “caught up” to the proliferation of devices that need to be charged each night, but that’s no longer the case. There are plenty of power outlets and USB charging ports. Even more are conveniently located on the nightstands flanking each side of the bed.
While reasonable minds may differ about pretty much every other aspect of room designs, there’s near unanimous agreement about the new pull-down Murphy beds. They’re much more comfortable that sofa sleepers thanks to having a normal mattress, and the space freed up when converted into a couch makes the room feel larger.
The Inova Murphy beds have been a big hit with just about every Disney Vacation Club member we know. This style has spread to every single Disney Vacation Club room (and beyond!) that has been renovated in the last few years, and for good reason, member satisfaction surveys give these rooms very high marks.
I love everything about how this functions and looks. The Southwestern pattern in the carpet is presumably inspired by Native Americans but not based on any particular tribe; I like that it uses a variety of different colors that match the couch, curtains, and art around the room.
I could see others disagreeing, finding this to be visually busy or garish. But I love the woods and the colors, and think there’s enough that connects the choices around the room to make it work. It’s definitely a sharp contrast to the old Boulder Ridge rooms, though!
I also really like that there’s both art behind the sofa, and then more art on the inside when the bed is pulled down. I love the art featuring Huey, Dewey, and Louie as the Junior Woodchucks. These characters have made a minor comeback in the last several years in the parks, most notably with Camp Woodchuck Kitchen.
As you can see on the left of the above photo, the curtains are also themed with nods to characters, history, and outdoorsy Disney locations, such as Grizzly Peak. Lots of little Easter Eggs that longtime Disney fans will likely find satisfying. The designers of these rooms actually seem to know their target audience and what they want!
Another great example of this is the art that pays tribute to animated movies, shorts, and spots around Wilderness Lodge. This proves that synergy isn’t always a bad thing–this is the perfect marriage of Disney and the U.S. National Parks visual style!
In aggregate, this gives the room a lot of textural depth and personality, while never being overly busy or chaotic. The rooms still look relatively relaxed and subdued, with calming colors. All in all, I think the Boulder Ridge rooms look fantastic–a great job balancing theme with contemporary conveniences.
So long as you don’t have a large party, there’s a sufficient amount of storage example. There’s storage in the dresser below the television, under the elevated queen bed, in a closet across from the bathroom, under the coffee table, and other places I’m probably forgetting.
No matter how much storage space Walt Disney World adds, it’ll never be enough for some parties. I get that, but the counterpoint is that these rooms are only so big, and everything is a tradeoff. What’s an appropriate amount of space dedicated to stage? In my opinion, this is it.
One thing that I found interesting is that the bathroom has not being totally modernized. The vanity, mirror, and lighting changed…but it’s pretty much all superficial. I was a bit surprised that this didn’t get the vessel sink and brightly illuminated treatment like other bathrooms. I’m fine with this, just surprised.
The biggest change here is that the vanity is more enclosed, with shelf space and storage has also been added. Aesthetically, I preferred the old ‘metal twigs’ mirror and sconces, but like the new counter and vanity. But really, no strong opinions either way on any of this.
As before, the toilet and bathtub are in a separate room, also separated by a pull-out door. More art is above the toilet, and this area has also been redone. There’s now a glass door in the shower, and rainfall shower fixture in addition to the standard one.
Many parents of small children find the glass door and its track uncomfortable–or downright painful–come bath time. This has been an ongoing issue starting with the New Rooms at Pop Century, and is now increasingly standard. It’s unclear why Walt Disney World hasn’t found a better solution for this.
The defining feature of DVC studios as compared to standard hotel rooms is the kitchenette with a mini-fridge (not just a beverage cooler), sink, microwave, and coffee maker.
I put leftovers from the exceptional new dinner entrees at Roaring Fork in the fridge, along with desserts acquired in World Showcase to serve as breakfast the following mornings. Normally, I’d also do grocery delivery, but opted to skip that this trip.
One big pleasant surprise with the new Boulder Ridge room is the dual-use Keurig machines, that can either brew a single cup via pods or entire cups of coffee.
This is a tremendous upgrade from the normal Cuisinart coffee makers, and I almost wonder if it was in the studios by mistake. I could see this being standard in the larger rooms, but was surprised that it’s offered in studios. Regardless, I loved this.
Aside from the above quibbles, I don’t have any major complaints about these new rooms at Boulder Ridge. To the contrary, I think these are a huge step forward that will likely accomplish the rare and impressive feat of being more appealing to both casual guests and diehard Walt Disney World fans.
The old rooms at Boulder Ridge were nothing special. (You saw the photo above!) Personally, I liked them–they had a quaint charm to them–but I also didn’t think they were exemplars of themed design. I suspect most DVC members who lament their loss will be doing so on the basis of rose-colored memories or nostalgia.
When it comes to function, there should be little surprise that these rooms are fantastic. That’s pretty much a given at this point, as all new rooms are emulating the approach of the Riviera Resort rooms, which were more recently replicated at the Polynesian and Grand Floridian Villas. No surprise there, as Disney Vacation Club leadership previously indicated this would be the new room blueprint going forward.
Disney Vacation Club has even indicated that guest satisfaction scores have increased by 20% among guests who have stayed in new rooms at Saratoga Springs. The new room style seems like the culmination of a lot of lessons learned by DVC over the last decade–iterating on past successes and disregarding past failures–into something that coalesces perfectly.
Suffice to say, Imagineering really got the rooms right with Disney’s Riviera Resort and have applied those lessons elsewhere. Those designs make significant strides in space-saving design, while adding innovative features like the pull-down Murphy sleeper that is somehow both a comfortable couch and a comfortable bed. (I do wish they retained the table, which I guess will be my new ‘hill to die on’ now that bed runners are a lost cause.) Basically, every DVC room since then has been a variation on that design, so it really comes down to which you prefer aesthetically. As is probably obvious, I favor these!
There’s a lot to love about the new rooms at Boulder Ridge. There’s a ton of art that pays tribute to Disney history, characters, and locations. The designs are on theme, with Native American art and influences. There’s a ton of depth via textures, patterns, and even things like subtle wallpaper. There’s a ton of color–making this a significant departure from the rustic and drab designs of the prior rooms–but it’s utilized effectively and these rooms still have an outdoorsy sensibility to them.
In short, I’d rather stay in these new rooms at Boulder Ridge Villas than any other regular accommodations at Walt Disney World. They’re at the top of all those categories, and my #1 overall. Given how many times I used the word “love” in this review, that verdict shouldn’t come as much of a surprise!
Beyond the rooms, I’m a huge fan of Boulder Ridge as a whole. Some fans contend that it’s not as convenient as the main building, but it’s also not that much of a walk. I love this wing because it’s much quieter and more tranquil. Some of the rooms at Boulder Ridge really put the wilderness into the lodge, with balcony views of nothing but trees.
The common areas of Boulder Ridge also deserve their due. Often overshadowed by the grandiose main atrium (and understandably so), there’s a ton of detail and charm on the lobby level of Boulder Ridge. There are several little nooks and crannies, the highlight of which is the Carolwood Pacific Railroad Room. This is one of the hidden gems in all of Walt Disney World; it pays homage to the American West, golden age of railroad travel, and is a lovely tribute to Walt Disney himself.
Wilderness Lodge’s main building is magnificent, and I love spending time there (especially late at night and early in the morning), but it’s a tad too raucous and loud during peak hours. That’s seldom the case at Boulder Ridge. There’s almost always a secluded spot by a fireplace or an overstuffed chair where you can relax with a book or laptop to do some work.
Every inch of Wilderness Lodge is meticulously and thoughtfully designed–and that now extends to the new rooms at Boulder Ridge. We like staying in a variety of locations depending upon the priorities of each trip, but Wilderness Lodge is the one resort I cannot resist. We are not in the market for more points right now, but I really wish we owned at Boulder Ridge.
Speaking of which, this Boulder Ridge room review should NOT be construed as a recommendation to buy DVC. As discussed in our Disney Vacation Club Buying Guide, there’s a lot to consider when determining whether to join DVC, and if so, which home resort to choose. The location, transportation, atmosphere, layout, or other elements of any resort may not appeal to you.
There’s a reason “try before you buy” and “buy where you want to stay” are popular adages among DVC Members. Not only that, but Disney Vacation Club is not right for everyone in the first place. Definitely do your research!
Ultimately, it’s no secret that Wilderness Lodge is my favorite resort in all of Walt Disney World. If I could only stay in one resort for the rest of my life, Wilderness Lodge would be my pick. The key to Wilderness Lodge is the mood its theme evokes, and the way it transports you to a world away from the busy theme parks and Central Florida. At Wilderness Lodge, all it takes is a walk outside on the walkway through the thick woods and past the geyser, or sitting in an alcove by a fireplace, and you are instantly someplace else.
It could be 98° outside (and it was!), but Wilderness Lodge makes you feel like you’re worlds away from that. Between the weather and this fantastic new room during this stay, I found myself wanting to spend even more time than normal in the Boulder Ridge Villas. There’s a lot to love about Wilderness Lodge, and it’s truly my “happy place” at Walt Disney World…which is why this room reimagining was such a big deal to me. I could sit beside a fireplace for hours, simply soaking up the ambiance, listening to the background music, pretending I’m up north and it’s snowing outside on a cold winter day. And now, I want to spend time in these amazing new rooms as much as I want to be in the common areas at Boulder Ridge Villas!
What are your thoughts on these new rooms at Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge? Have you stayed in at both Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek? Which do you prefer? What do you think of the rooms? Anything you don’t like about the redesign? How would your review differ from mine? Want to stay at Wilderness Lodge during the Christmas season? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!