Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Review
Wilderness Lodge is a Deluxe Resort at Walt Disney World that is themed to the Pacific Northwest and U.S. National Parks. This hotel review features room photos, restaurant info, details on amenities, if it’s worth the money, and whether it’ll work well for your vacation. (Updated April 3, 2022.)
For starters, Wilderness Lodge is essentially three distinct resorts. There’s the main building, which encompasses the normal hotel rooms and the Copper Creek Villas. Outside of that, there’s a separate building that’s home to the Boulder Ridge Villas, which are a Disney Vacation Club resort. In front of Boulder Ridge–but not part of it–are the Cascade Cabins along the waterfront.
We have stayed in all of the different areas of Wilderness Lodge several times. This includes the New Rooms at Wilderness Lodge, which are less than one year old. Personally, Wilderness Lodge is my favorite resort in all of Walt Disney World, the place I could stay over and over again, and the hotel I’d choose over everything else. However, Wilderness Lodge is very much a taste-specific resort and is not right for everyone. This review will help you determine whether Wilderness Lodge is right for YOU!
We fell in love with it the first time we stayed here during the Christmas season, and have returned for several other Christmas visits–and stays other times of the year, as well. For more gushing about the holiday season, see Wilderness Lodge: Walt Disney World’s Best Place at Christmas. We’re not going to fixate on that too much in this review since you might be booking Wilderness Lodge one of the other ~10 months of the year.
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.
Thematically, Wilderness Lodge is one of the strongest hotels at Walt Disney World. It’s inspiration is an amalgamation of Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park and Ahwahnee Hotel at Yosemite National Park, with amply artist liberties taken so that the end result isn’t merely a mixture of those two famous lodges and, rather, is something new and distinct.
This was a savvy approach, as the grandiosity of Wilderness Lodge’s lobby and its wow-inducing appearance is unique to Disney. The many National Park Lodges at which we’ve stayed feature similar details, but they’re more intimate. None have the same epic scale and polish of Wilderness Lodge.
When it comes to the details of Wilderness Lodge, we could do an entire blog post. The most iconic is the Grand Canyon Fireplace, an 82 feet tall, three-sided fireplace that represents the Grand Canyon’s strata deposits from over 1.6 billion years–represented via over 100 colors and layer tapers. You’ll find rows of cozy rocking chairs around this fireplace, as well as display cases with rocks and fossils from the Grand Canyon.
Another big one we’ll highlight is the towering totem poles in the lobby. Each of these two totem poles, the Raven Pole and the Eagle Pole, is 55 feet tall and tells its own story that can be read from bottom to top. These took over 6 months to carve by the totem artist and their team.
Again, details abound throughout Wilderness Lodge. Not just detail and “stuff” for its own sake, either. Almost everything has meaning. The Native American Carpet floor pattern is comprised of four types of wood, and depicts the unity among four seasons, wildlife, humans, and the cosmos.
Murals and items on display are nods to Lewis & Clark and Teddy Roosevelt. Furniture in the lobby is varied and gorgeous, of the American Craftsman movement.
Our coverage of Wilderness Lodge’s thematic details only scratches the surface. The result of such rich design is that 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 1 a.m. 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 is Disney immersion at its finest.
In addition to brilliant U.S. National Park Lodge thematic flourishes, there are also plenty of Disney touches to give a sense of funny and whimsy to the resort.
Let’s take a look inside the guest rooms.
It should come as no shock that the rooms at Wilderness Lodge have the same type of theming found in the rest of the resort. Lots of woods, Native American patterning, rustic details, and more.
Above is the new room, below is how they used to look. Personally, I preferred the prior style, but they were starting to show their age and had a bit too much wear and tear. The new rooms have a lot of functional improvements and definitely appeal to more mainstream tastes.
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.
Bedding is incredibly comfortable, and the pillows are perfectly plush. Bed runners would be nice, but doing away with them is a hospitality industry trend that doesn’t appear will reverse itself anytime soon.
The new rooms at Wilderness Lodge are undeniably more upscale and refined. The interior design features are generally low-key and restrained, but offer subtle sophistication, good uses of texture, and upgrades throughout.
A major selling point of newer guest rooms at Walt Disney World is their improved functionality and finishings.
That continues to be true with Wilderness Lodge, which offers smart design elements that improve the quality of a stay. Things like storage space, power outlets, USB ports, and more.
The biggest upgrade in the new rooms at Wilderness Lodge is the lighting, which is true in both the bathroom and the bedroom. The highlight is the illuminated window between the bathroom and bedroom, which evokes Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park.
The backlit mirror provides ample lighting in the bathroom. In the bedroom, the lighting is now a lot less harsh and customizable. In addition to the bedside sconces, there’s also uplighting from the headboard itself. Then there’s the lighting on the decorative window between the spaces.
Transportation at Wilderness Lodge is generally good. 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, which is generally efficient. Wilderness Lodge has a relatively convenient location for accessing Epcot and Hollywood Studios; only Animal Kingdom is a long commute.
With regard to restaurants, Wilderness Lodge is also similar to Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Artist Point, Whispering Canyon Cafe, Geyser Point Bar & Grill, Territory Lounge, and Roaring Fork (click to read our dining reviews) are all great dining options that offer a variety of options. The case could be made that several of these are underrated or hidden gems–that’s especially true of Geyser Point Bar & Grill, which is home to one of the very best burgers in all of Walt Disney World.
With that said, not every restaurant at Wilderness Lodge is a hidden gem.
The most popular princess meal in all of Walt Disney World is Story Book Dining at Artist Point, a new Snow White character dinner. Then there’s the fan-favorite Whispering Canyon Cafe, which is a zany table service option that’s fun for all ages. Suffice to say, the dining scene at Wilderness Lodge is very strong.
Wilderness Lodge gets high marks for interior design of the common areas and dining, but the most important aspect of this resort that is sometimes overlooked or taken for granted is its beautiful outdoor areas.
It’s the trails, trees, and little touches out there that really make the resort. Albeit to a lesser degree than Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge feels like its light years away from the chaos of the Magic Kingdom…despite being only a short boat ride away. The highlight of this, for me, is that Wilderness Lodge actually has a (man-made) geyser modeled after Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful.
Wilderness Lodge has a couple of nice pools and water play areas for kids. These are not among the best pools at Walt Disney World, but they’re not weak, either. Perhaps that’s a blessing in disguise; unlike other pool areas, those at Wilderness Lodge are never as overcrowded.
Wilderness Lodge also has the standard amenities of other Deluxe resorts, like a salon, health club, babysitting, bike rental, etc. At night, you can also see the Electrical Water Pageant, which is a charming, old school Walt Disney World offering that we recommend watching if you’re at the resort. It’s cute.
As a Deluxe Resort, guests staying at Wilderness Lodge have access to a couple of perks. First is Early Theme Park Entry, which gives ALL on-site resort guests a 30-minute head start at any Walt Disney World theme park, every day before normal operating hours begin. Learn more strategy in our Guide to Early Entry at Walt Disney World.
Second, there’s Extended Evening Theme Park Hours, which is exclusively for guests staying at Deluxe Resorts, Deluxe Villas, or other select hotels. This second perk is incredibly advantageous, as crowds are usually low during these nighttime hours. See our Guide to Extended Evening Hours at Walt Disney World for taking advantage of this perk, eligibility, and more.
Overall, Wilderness Lodge is one of our favorite resorts at Walt Disney World. With an incredibly well-executed and transportive theme, plus newly-remodeled rooms, relaxing boat transportation to Magic Kingdom, efficient bus service, a great and well-rounded dining slate, and nice pools, it’s a really well-rounded resort. It’s one that sneaks up on people, especially those who might not expect such high quality from a “rustic” hotel.
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. And those who give it a chance just might be pleasantly surprised.
At over $400 per night rack rate starting prices, Wilderness Lodge can be expensive. However, it’s still much less expensive than almost all other Deluxe Resorts, making it a “value” comparatively speaking. Plus, after discounts, it’s not uncommon to score rooms for around $300 per night, which is a lot more palatable. Relative to the other Deluxes, Wilderness Lodge is usually cheaper because it’s not on the monorail loop or within walking distance of Epcot.
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.
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What do you think of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge? Do you enjoy the back-woods Pacific Northwest theme, or is it not your style? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
As of today, there is a significant price difference between the Wilderness Lodge vs the Animal Kingdom Lodge (and really all other Deluxe Resorts). That holds true throughout most of the year (I checked dates in September 2017 to confirm.) However, I just received a price quote for two different weeks in February 2018 from a Disney Vacation Advisor, and that is most certainly no longer the case. One week the difference is approximately $20 in favor of Wilderness of Animal Kingdom and the second week Wilderness is $5 MORE per night than the Animal Kingdom. That’s a sharp change from things as they currently are in which the Wilderness Lodge is $150 less than Animal Kingdom per night.
I’m just curious as to your thoughts on this. Is it due to the renovation and expansion?
Have you ever stayed in a DVC studio villa with a view of wishes? Researching for a honeymoon trip.
We stayed there during the Christmas season in ’08, before the tree went. We woke up on our last day to see that it had gone up overnight! Our room was near the atrium, but we didn’t hear a peep! Talk about Disney magic! We had temperature control issues in our room, however, which took some luster off an otherwise great visit.
Hello. What a great review. This is my absolute favorite hotel. I have stayed at the Wilderness Lodge Hotel and the Villas numerous times. I stayed there right after the hotel first opened. The nighty rate at that time was less than $100. Of course that will not happen again.
Where do i get discounts for the this hotel?
Did u like the villas
My daughter and I just got back from our first stay at Wilderness Lodge. I LOVE it! The lobby is incredible, the landscaping gorgeous, the walking path much used by me, and the lodge even smells great! They must use some sort of scent there- it always smells the same. I’ve always stayed at Coronado Springs, which I still love, by Wilderness has surpassed CS as my favorite!
Hey, Tom with reference to the above question I asked! I’ve just booked breakfast at the WL so hopefully we can park there all day, go and visit the other hotels then come back for the sleigh ride?
First of all I just want to say what an amazing blog this is, I’ve already told a few friends about it so they can plan their WDW vacation. I’m starting to book and plan things for our trip in December, and have already booked a sleigh ride at Wilderness Lodge. My question is…..if I park there in the morning, would I be able to “get into the system” to be able to visit the other hotels and see the Christmas decorations, then come back to WL for our sleigh ride later that night as we are not staying in Disney hotel?
Thank you for the incredible job you do! This site has given me lots to think about and has helped me plan for our trip over the holidays. We booked Wilderness Lodge for Christmas with the free dining package. Since we live in Washington, it will feel like home. I have made several dining reservations and am looking forward to trying many new restaurants that we did not get to go to on our last trip a year and a half ago. Since our children are older (13 & turning 20 while at Disney), they know that this trip IS Christmas and will be a big splurge for us (we have stayed at Port Orleans french Quarter in the past and loved it). We are looking forward to many wonderful memories!
Hope you have a great trip! 🙂
I was all set to book the Grand Floridian for our Christmas break as we will be staying Christmas eve and Christmas day, however after reading this I think I will try for Wilderness Lodge.
Do they do any special activities/events or dining on Christmas eve/ Christmas day.
We did have a courtyard view room booked in February, our room was at the end of the building. We walked in and saw Bay Lake right in front of us. We were able to see the geyser, lake and unobstructed view of the water pageant.
We just stayed there again in July(again a courtyard view), this time our room was closer to Roaring Forks. We were on the 5th floor. We could see the lake and pool from our balcony. Trees blocked the view of the water pageant and geyser from our balcony.
Not sure what to tell you about the construction. From what I understand, the lobby is absolutely beautiful around the holidays. The lobby is beautiful anytime! If it is your first time staying there, the construction may bother you because you will not be able to take advantage of all the resort has to offer. I have read where people have booked woods views and have been able to see wishes from their balconies. If you really want to stay there, the woods view rooms may not be as impacted by construction as the courtyard view rooms are.
I have always dreamed of staying at the Wilderness Lodge and have finally managed to book the trip this November. Unfortunately I just found out that the WL will be undergoing serious renovations starting October. The beach, playground (I have 2 boys – age 7 and 9), nature trail, bike rental, fire pit, hidden Springs Pool and movies under the stars will all be closed. Construction will occur between 9am and 7pm. Is it still worth staying there?
We stayed at Wilderness Lodge for the first time in February 2015. For the last 19 years, we have been staying at Port Orleans Riverside. While POR will always have special memories for us, we wanted to try something different. Oh my, we fell in love!!! Wilderness Lodge is beautiful! We had a wonderful view of the pool and the geyser. It was so relaxing to sit on the balcony and watch the Water Pageant pass right in front of our room. We loved it so much that we are returning in less than a month. I would highly recommend this resort.
Was that a Courtyard view and if so do you think most of the Courtyard views will be able to see the Water pageant and geyser? Thanks!
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I am looking for a delux resort villa for my family. 2 adults 4 kids 13-5 yrs old. I have stayed at the Beach Club Villas 5 yrs ago but have heard they are run down a bit. It seems you feel that too. Do you know of any planned renovations? We loved the pool and location but I am spending a lot of money and don’t want to stay in a run down room. Any other suggestions would be great.,I was looking into The Wilderrness and Polynesian as well. I want my kids to be able to go down to the pool without walking a mile to get there and feel comfortable, not staying in a “stuffy” environment! Any other place I should look at?
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!
AKR…do you mean Animal Kingdom Lodge? That’s also a good option for Christmas, but definitely not as festive as Wilderness Lodge.
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.
Taking the boat to the MK and the Monorail is a hoot but it will not speed up your day. We try and take the boat to the Holiday parties and make sure we take it back one night. If you are going to take the monorail I suggest taking the bus to the MK then hopping on the monorail. But a boat to train transport to EPCOT is hard to beat, unless it is a race 🙂
We are booking a reservation at WL for the week before thanksgiving- will at the Christmas decor be up???
Christmas decor in the hotels typically goes up the day after Thanksgiving. You might be lucky and see some of it.
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.
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.