This Walt Disney World resort report covers our recent experience staying in the Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge. We share photos & video of our room, decorations, lobby, Electrical Water Pageant, and commentary on why it might be a good option for “buying low” into DVC.
It’s no secret that Wilderness Lodge is my favorite place at Walt Disney World during the Christmas season, in large part because it’s the only place that’s fully transportive and feels like a “real” Christmas. Since we couldn’t head home to the Midwest for the holidays this year, Wilderness Lodge for Christmas Eve was a must. It didn’t have the snow or our families, but it was a close as we could get to slice of Michigan in Florida.
We had planned on forgoing a report for our stay at Boulder Ridge given that 95% of my photos are of decorations that are now “stale,” but a few of you mentioned wanting to hear about it. That was literally all it took to give me an excuse to revisit the holidays and edit some photos (less than a month later, and I already miss Christmas!) for this post. It doesn’t hurt that a new angle for the report came to mind…
Not only is Boulder Ridge the lowest-priced DVC resort at Walt Disney World (Hilton Head, Vero Beach, and Aulani are all cheaper–but also less desirable for most buyers), but its average resale price offers the biggest percentage savings over buying direct, at 44% off. Moreover, the per point difference between Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek is a massive $43.
In the past, my assumption has been that the price difference between Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek is largely attributable to the former expiring in 2042 and the latter ending in 2068.
It would make sense that the properties nearing the end of their contract duration would start declining in value. However, that’s simply not happening with many other older resorts–at least to this great of a degree.
While I still think that’s part of the calculus for some or manyprospective buyers debating which “side” of Wilderness Lodge to purchase, it would also seem that other factors are at play.
Copper Creek is likely more attractive because it’s in the main building, offers the allure of the Cascade Cabins, and still has that “new resort” smell. On that note, the rooms are probably a pretty big consideration for many potential buyers.
The good news there is that at last year’s DVC Condo Association Meeting, Disney announced plans for a top to bottom hard goods refurbishment of the Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. This was originally slated to begin last year, but has been delayed until 2022.
Disney Vacation Club has not shared concept art for the new rooms at Boulder Ridge. Our guess is that they’ll be stylistically similar to Copper Creek, but with the functionality of the new rooms at Saratoga Springs and Riviera Resort.
Emulating the approach of the Saratoga and Riviera rooms would be a huge win for Boulder Ridge. 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.
These new rooms seem 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. To that point, Disney Vacation Club has indicated that guest satisfaction scores have increased 20% among guests who have stayed in new rooms at Saratoga Springs.
It’s thus probably not a coincidence that Saratoga Springs Resort also saw the largest year over year gain in value, increasing by $8 per point last year. That’s a huge leap in normal times, but is even more impressive against the backdrop of last year and also that 2054 expiration.
We’ve been fairly bullish on Saratoga Springs Resort recently, but I wouldn’t have guessed the significantly better rooms would already move the needle on pricing by that much given that the overhaul isn’t even close to complete. Saratoga’s rise will likely continue as the refurbishment wraps up and Disney Springs continues to improve.
You can probably guess by now where we’re going with this. If not, it’s that Boulder Ridge could follow a similar trajectory, seeing its price “outpace” other Disney Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World as its new rooms start to debut.
Whether this means the price of Boulder Ridge increases between now and ~2023 or just decreases by less than the other resorts remains to be seen. In general, we’re still bearish about buying into Disney Vacation Club right now–we ourselves would not purchase this year given the economic uncertainty and looming DVC point pool problem.
However, if you’ve already decided you’re going to take the plunge in the next year or two, Boulder Ridge seems like one of the savvier options. You’re likely better off buying low at Boulder Ridge than buying high at Bay Lake Tower or Beach Club Villas.
Of course, that only makes sense if you like Wilderness Lodge. But we’re giving our readers the benefit of the doubt and assuming that you have good taste. 😉
Joking aside, Wilderness Lodge is not for everyone and you should definitely stay at Boulder Ridge–or literally any resort–before buying there. The location, transportation, atmosphere, layout, or other elements may not appeal to you.
You also might want to check out the rooms at Copper Creek, as they’re probably a better window into what the new rooms will look like than the current Boulder Ridge rooms. (Below is a video of the current rooms shot by Sarah to give you a better idea of how they look right now.)
Personally, I think the current rooms at Boulder Ridge are fine. They’re older, a bit tired, and lacking the usability improvements of their newer counterparts, but they have thematic integrity. There are obvious improvements that could be made, but they’re better than many resorts.
I’m almost certainly in the extreme minority with this view, but I’d take the current rooms at Boulder Ridge over those at Copper Creek. The latter are superior from the perspective of functionality, but feature an aesthetic that is trying a bit too hard to be chic and trendy. With that said, I’d hazard a guess that most Walt Disney World guests favor Copper Creek’s rooms by a wide margin. To each their own.
In my view, Wilderness Lodge should lean into its National Park lodge character and rustic roots. Guests who don’t like that should buy and stay elsewhere. Making everything modern and “on trend” also makes everything bland and less distinct.
If you’re a big fan of the current Boulder Ridge rooms and the current style is important to you, waiting to see concept art or a model room before buying might be smart. My view is that the inevitable thematic erosion of the rooms will likely be offset by functionality improvements.
Also a matter of personal preference, but I’m a huge fan of Boulder Ridge as a whole. Some might argue that it’s not as convenient as the main building, but it’s also not that much of a walk. Our room for this stay was at the far end of the Boulder Ridge building, and we didn’t find it to be even remotely inconvenient.
To the contrary, we specifically requested this location because it’s much quieter and more tranquil. I sat out on our balcony listening to the leaves rustle and watching squirrels–it was delightful. Really put the wilderness into the lodge, and made for a significantly better experience for me than a view of the pool.
The common areas of Boulder Ridge also deserve their due. While understandably overshadowed by the grandiose main atrium, there’s a ton of detail and charm in the lobby of Boulder Ridge.
In particular, the Carolwood Pacific Railroad Room is one of the hidden gems in all of Walt Disney World. This area pays great homage to the American West and the golden age of railroad travel–and is a lovely tribute to Walt Disney himself.
When not squirrel spotting from our balcony, I spent a lot of time in the Boulder Ridge lobby.
Although I love the main building (especially late at night and early in the morning), 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.
Although somewhat beside the point, I’d challenge anyone who thinks that Disney’s Riviera Resort is well-themed or designed to visit Wilderness Lodge and the Boulder Ridge Villas and pore over the attention to detail and quality of finishing.
I’ve fixated on the shortcomings of Riviera Resort a lot, but the difference is quite stark when visiting both in quick succession.
Walking around Riviera Resort, it’s easy to see where corners were cut and details were glossed over–it’s literally plainly visible inside and out.
By contrast, every inch of Wilderness Lodge is meticulously and thoughtfully designed. It may not be to your personal tastes, but there’s no denying that it’s a high water mark for Imagineering.
That’s my pitch for Boulder Ridge and Wilderness Lodge in general (and against Disney’s Riviera Resort, I guess). None of that is particularly new, save for the forward-looking prospects of the Boulder Ridge Villas.
Let’s cover a couple other random tidbits from this stay…
Electrical Water Pageant is back, and it’s…more popular than ever?!
We watched from the seating area behind Geyser Point, and despite really cold weather, this area was packed. We had literally never seen this many people watching it before. Additionally, we saw an armadillo–only a few feet from us in the waterfront brush–which I suspect was the highlight of the entire stay for Sarah.
It’s a few months old now, but we never highlighted this awesome mug featuring the Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Donald, and Humphrey Bear totem pole that’s outside Wilderness Lodge Mercantile. There’s a similar mug at the Grand Californian featuring that hotel’s iconic craftsman stained glass doors.
We absolutely love to see merchandise like this that is not only resort-specific, but in a style befitting of Wilderness Lodge.
That’s it for this Boulder Ridge Villas resort report slash sales pitch. It was another great stay at Walt Disney World, but that’s pretty much a given for Christmas at Wilderness Lodge.
Even if you aren’t interested in buying into Disney Vacation Club (it doesn’t make sense for a lot of people!) hopefully this has at least convinced you to do a Christmas-time stay at Wilderness Lodge. It’s truly my “happy place” during the holiday season–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.
What are your thoughts on Wilderness Lodge? Have you stayed at both Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek? Which do you prefer? What do you think of the rooms, both currently and the likely outcome of the refurbishment? 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!