Photos & Video: Wilderness Lodge New Rooms
The hotel side of Wilderness Lodge has newly-reimagined rooms, different from the studio and multi-bedroom units at Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek Villas for DVC members. This shares photos and video of the redone guest rooms, plus our thoughts on how these compare to the old rooms and other resorts at WDW.
Over the last several years, Walt Disney World has been overhauling its resort rooms. While it’s not a cohesive project, the scope and scale has been large, with nearly every resort impacted. The results have been mixed, with longtime fans frequently disappointed by scaled-back designs that prioritize function over form and often opt for a generically upscale style over ornately themed design.
As a huge fan of Wilderness Lodge who loved the rustic style of the regular guest rooms, I’ve been dreading its reimagining. We knew this day was coming given that pretty much every other Deluxe Resort has been remodeled, and because we toured a test room two summers ago. Although I would’ve preferred a refresh to the existing style, I nevertheless tried to go in with an open mind…
Before we get started, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m biased. I’ve been apprehensive about changes to Wilderness Lodge, mixed on past refurbishments, and against many expansions to and around the resort. While I didn’t exactly have glowing things to say about the Reflections DVC proposal, I have enjoyed other additions–like the Cascade Cabins.
This is largely because I believe Wilderness Lodge is the pinnacle of themed design at Walt Disney World and has been since the resort opened. Subsequent changes have almost all been compromises, attempting to make the property appeal to those who don’t like the U.S. National Park lodge style and should, frankly, simply stay elsewhere. (Pictured below is the old Wilderness Lodge room.)
Wilderness Lodge is, by virtue of its core concept, a niche property that cannot possibly appeal to everyone. Just like an actual U.S. National Park lodge. Some people don’t like nature or rustic style, and subduing those qualities can only do so much to appease those guests. Meanwhile, it alienates those who love outdoorsy accommodations. Trying to satisfy everyone is a recipe for disaster that makes things dull and unappealing to anyone.
With that said, I also have to acknowledge the tough task facing the team behind these new rooms. Making outdoorsy rooms that are also luxurious is a tough balancing act that requires deft design-work. Admittedly, it’s not something I’ve ever seen accomplished at a real U.S. National Parks lodge, either. Even the most iconic buildings with grand atriums that have been meticulously restored and maintained have lackluster rooms. Rather than being historic or modern, most of those guest rooms today look like a Best Western from around the year I was born.
So, how well do the reimagined rooms at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge strike the balance between themed design and modern amenities? Let’s take a look…
Starting with the positives, 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.
It probably goes without saying, but the new rooms are also in better condition than the old ones. The better point here is that some of the old rooms were in rough shape the last couple of times we stayed at Wilderness Lodge, “rustic” in more than just the deliberate sense.
Likewise, the higher end and more substantial furniture offers a more pleasant “user experience.”
This is something that’s difficult to articulate and it’s even harder to glean from photos and video, but things like the heft of a drawer or when a door gently and quietly closes instead of slamming shut. Sometimes these improvements don’t receive appropriate consideration in reviews or from guests, but they’re readily apparent when staying at a nice, modern hotel and then following up at an older room that hasn’t received updates in over a decade.
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.
Perhaps the biggest upgrade in the new rooms at Wilderness Lodge is the lighting, which is true in both the bathroom and the bedroom.
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.
Speaking of which, when it comes to design, my favorite addition is this illuminated window between the bathroom and bedroom. The design reminds me of Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. Or Fire Rock Geyser at Wilderness Lodge.
This is absolutely entrancing, a highlight of the room for people like me who are attracted to shiny objects. If left to my own devices, I’d sleep with this illuminated and the balcony door open the the ambient noise. Probably for the best that we didn’t, as raccoons are also critters that love Wilderness Lodge and are attracted to shiny objects.
Then there are design elements in the new Wilderness Lodge rooms that I appreciate, and some I really want to like. One such thing is the new headboards, which have a luxurious and grand quality to them while feeling appropriately on-theme.
These don’t hold a candle to the old wood ones featuring landscape scenes carved by beavers, but those were charming and more idiosyncratic. It’s honestly a surprise the previous style lasted so long; Disney moved away from the more quaint and homey hotel room aesthetic years ago.
Another grand idea is the woodsy feature wall art. I’m actually a fan of this design element, which is fairly on-trend with hotels right now. While I think these run the risk of being dated in under a decade, they are fun and give hotel rooms a pop of color and personality. For me at least, it’s difficult to complain about hotel rooms looking too sterile but also being against feature walls.
However, I don’t really care for this particular feature wall. It just looks off; art stuck in an odd limbo that is neither natural nor abstract. It feels like someone got carried away with the stylize filters in Photoshop, with an excess of beveling and drop shadows being the unfortunate result.
Next is the laminate floors that are meant to give the look of hard wood flooring. In other hotels, I’ve found this to be perfectly satisfactory–sometimes even an improvement.
Not so at Wilderness Lodge. The previous pattern was beautiful, timeless, and arguably the defining characteristic of the entire room. If they had to go with wood flooring here, a herringbone plank to emulate those patterns and create more visual interest would’ve been nice.
Photos can only do so much in conveying the quality, space, design, etc. of the room. Sarah’s video tour of the room should help give you a better idea how this space “feels.”
(No seamless transformation in this room, aside from the balcony “magically” appearing out of nowhere.)
While the furniture and fixtures do a fairly good job of reinforcing the resort’s theme, there was only one piece of art in our room. Another item or two would’ve made an appreciable difference.
It’s worth pointing out that this isn’t Walt Disney World’s first crack at rooms similar to this. Let’s take a quick look at some of the successes and failures of other comparable, recently redone rooms at Walt Disney World–plus one at Disneyland…
Pictured above is Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House.
We offered effusive praise for these in “Awesome Animal Kingdom Lodge New Rooms.” Most of the differences are relatively minor, but the totality of them is a superior and better themed room.
It’s a similar story with the new rooms at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel at Disneyland.
These rooms kept carpet and also did a better job with artwork, including the orange tree between the headboards.
There are actually several different designs for the Copper Creek Villas at Wilderness Lodge, of varying degrees of quality.
Some of my favorites use natural slab headboards, while others have higher end wood feature walls and no individual headboards. The above style, for example, is much more to my tastes than the new rooms at Wilderness Lodge. Add the red geometric pattern carpet and this is about the perfect mix of themed and modern for me.
In fairness, I don’t think the new hotel rooms at Wilderness Lodge are worse than all of the alternatives. I prefer them to the Copper Creek studios. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the ambition here; there’s simply a bit too much going on, and it has some shabby chic vibes and arbitrary eclectic quality.
With all of that said, I think we’re mostly talking about degrees of difference here. All of the rooms pictured above have much more in common with one another than they do the old rooms at Wilderness Lodge. Which you prefer will likely come down to personal preferences and tastes.
If you’re interesting in reading/seeing our other posts concerning these new rooms to judge for yourself how Wilderness Lodge stacks up, here’s the full list of our reviews, with the letter grade I’d give to each in parentheses:
- All Star Movies (B)
- Animal Kingdom Lodge (A-)
- Beach Club (D)
- Old Key West (C)
- Pop Century (B)
- Port Orleans Riverside (C)
- Port Orleans French Quarter (C)
- Saratoga Springs (A-)
- Yacht Club (B+)
Note that these leaves off a few resorts (Caribbean Beach, Coronado, BoardWalk Inn) all of which we’ve covered elsewhere, mostly in updated resort reviews. See our updated Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page for those.
Ultimately, part of me was bracing myself for the worst with the new rooms at Wilderness Lodge and part of me was hoping for the best given that Walt Disney World has been on a roll with the last few room projects. In the grand scheme of things, the new rooms at Wilderness Lodge are more or less middle of the road by redesigned Walt Disney World room standards of the last ~4 years, perhaps slightly above average.
However, I must acknowledge that a lot of this comes down to my personal preferences. If I liked the feature wall art more, for example, this would be a more positive review. To their credit, there are many things the designers have done right with the new look–the patterned chairs, rich woods, substantial furniture, the entrancing illuminated window. There are still a few ways the new rooms at Wilderness Lodge fall short and feel slightly lacking, but nothing that’s a total dealbreaker. The styles aren’t clashing or garish, and the room is not totally devoid of personality or character.
Moreover, the furniture, finishings, and fixtures are high-end and there are numerous ‘quality of stay’ enhancements that unquestionably elevate the new rooms above their predecessor. Where you fall on the reimagined rooms at Wilderness Lodge will likewise come down to personal preference and where you fall on the “luxury v. theme” spectrum. I cannot imagine the overhauled look will be enough of a turnoff for any longtime fans to stay elsewhere, whereas I can see this being enough to attract a new audience to Wilderness Lodge. Perhaps when viewed through that prism, these new rooms are a success story, after all.
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What do you think of the new rooms at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge? What do you think of the feature wall art? What about the entrancing Grand Prismatic Spring-inspired window? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Do you prefer the look of the old or new rooms? 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!
Looking at all of these different resort upgrades, the biggest thing that I notice is that the beds are just giant slabs of blank whiteness. Is the lack of decorative bedding a Covid thing, or a cleanliness thing? I get that a lot of people are “Icked” by decorative coverlets that don’t get washed, but the starkness of those beds seems so distracting and sterile in some of the rooms that have a much more “warm and homey” feel.
Definitely! It’s not quite as bad as the idiotic fad of white cabinets, white counters, white tile, etc, but it does suck. Most of the remodels are devoid of character or imagination.
White bedding is just the industry standard now for luxury hotels. That said, a small runner would be a nice touch to add some pizzaz.
I do think these rooms are really missing some kind of throw rug by the beds. Nothing is less fun than getting out of bed on cold faux wood. It also makes the whole thing look too sterlie.
I know what you’re saying, but “industry standard” = crap. There’s nothing luxury about plain white linens. I do mostly healthcare design. In the 1920s, everything was stark white tile, etc. Of course, doctors actually told pregnant women to smoke back then too. It was a big time for TB (ask Roy Disney) and people thought it looked sterile, clean and consequently healthy. Not any more. We use rich textures and materials and natural light to create a place someone might actually want to be in as they are, say, getting pumped full of toxic chemo chemicals.
Also agree some do not like the vinyl tile flooring but in many ways it is better than drab, worn carpets and is actually cleaner. At least in FL a cool floor is not as bad as places where it’s miserably cold!
One thing about the vanity for the bathroom in the deluxe rooms: It did not reach wall-to-wall, leaving a gap on each side, just enough for wash clothes to fall through. An odd detail to mess up on.
So, after much schedule juggling, stops and starts, we worked out a split stay, Caribbean Beach and Wilderness Lodge. Upon arrival at the Wilderness Lodge, after a day in which we’d been drowned like rats and received the bad news about masks returning everywhere, we got a pleasant surprise: A complimentary upgrade to a deluxe room!
I was looking forward to the Courtyard view we’d booked, but was quite willing to take the view of the docks and Bay Lake we got from our first floor perspective. The Deluxe Room is a Club Level Room, but with no Club Level services being offered, we won this roll of the dice.
The Deluxe room is a typical suite set up, with the vanity/bathroom connecting the foyer/hall and bedroom, with one room having 2 queen beds, the other having a sleeper sofa, with identical flatscreen TVs in each room.
The deluxe room does not have the wall detailing that regular rooms received. OTOH, it has a big picture of the Country Bears having their own Jamboree somewhere in the mountains. The kitchenette wall has art detailing Bambi, and there’s a picture of some of the birds from Bambi above the sofa bed. Our deluxe room was a corner one and had a lot of windows, not counting the sliding doors for the small (tiny) porch. There were a pair of windows above the sofa bed, matching windows on the wall where the queen beds were located, and 2 different windows on the wall opposite the Country Bear art.
The Cabins with arrow signs were present on small in wall (tables? Protrusions?) on the outside of each queen bed.
The only sticking point to the room was that the hallway closet’s sliding doors had a tendency to stick, and that the barn doors closing the vanity to the hallway had to first start to be closed on the outside, before a gripe would finally become available on the vanity side of the door.
We liked it, a lot. I had complained bout the headboards changing in my past post. Having leaned against these very comfortable cushioned headboards, I’ve changed my mind, because these felt great! The nightlights on the headboards came in handy, as did all the plugs and ports.
My reaction as I first scrolled down to my first view of the new room:
OMG, what have they done?
I did not mean that in a good way. On closer viewing, thank you, Sarah, the wall actually looks pretty interesting, though the camp/cabins signs are just dumb and pointless, detracting instead of adding. If I didn’t know about the old head boards, I wouldn’t mind the new….BUT I DAMN WELL KNOW ABOUT THE OLD HEAD BOARDS!!!! Losing those is pure desecration. The bathroom itself is bland, though it seems quite functional, the vanity area lighting is fine but lacking, the sole saving grace being the wall light feature between the vanity and bedroom. Which is almost where they decided that since they had that, other than wall art, they didn’t need anything else to distinguish that area from a Marriott.
Would I stay there? Yes. But it’s not what it was, or what it should’ve been. I grade this a fail, the worst of any of the room refurbishments because it’s the least in keeping with the theme of it’s location (which is why AKL is, rightly, graded the highest). I am very disappointed. The soft goods, the USB outlets…those are baseline REQUIREMENTS, and their inclusion in NOT worthy of praise. They’ve done very well with comfy beds, which is what every room should have, ditto a good-sized flatscreen. Imagineering really does seem dead at Disney. I am now worried for what to expect from the Poly when it reopens. I want Hawaii, not Hilton.
I’d call this a disappointment. The old rooms had a lot more character and were more ‘wilderness’ while these are too generic. I really liked the old carved style headboard and am still kicking myself for not buying one off ebay due to the crazy shipping cost. For those who thought they were too woodsy or any other derogatory description of their awesomeness, you can…well okay Tom I’m trying to be polite. Go stay at A.S.S. instead, once it reopens. If I wanted to stay at a place that looks like Holiday Inn or Marriott, etc, I’ll do so for less money.
That flooring isn’t even laminate, most likely. Newer rooms I’ve seen have been a vinyl product. While some are called ‘luxury vinyl tile’ (not kidding) it still looks cheap even with the textures to attempt to mimic actual wood planks. To me the word upscale means boring, generic, and overpriced, and that’s exactly what this flooring looks like. Good for a hospital, but not a deluxe resort! And yes, I’ve stayed at NP lodges/historic hotels. Mammoth at Yellowstone doesn’t even have in-room toilets or baths, just a sink! But it’s still awesome.
I’m assuming that the ‘window’ does not actually transmit light through the wall. This would be a huge mistake, as anyone getting up during the night to use the bathroom would undoubtedly irritate everyone else with the light. And that’s another point about design. An actual fancy-boy upscale place would have a separate toilet compartment (with its own vent fan as the Lord intended). And then there’s the fact that recessed lighting simply does not belong anywhere near the Wilderness Lodge! Currently working on a National Cemetery project in CA where a couple of the NCA people asked what we are going to do about the existing floodlights for the flagpole which are on the roof of the historic columbarium built by the WPA in 1942+/-. They are actually old Hollywood-style floodlight type lighting. I almost said whaddaya mean, it’s Hollywood! But I didn’t. I told them the new lights will be smaller projector-style LED fixtures which we can push back from the edge where they are less visible from the ground… Restoration work can be interesting.
The other furniture looks nice, and I’ll agree the headboards are kind of themed.
Aaron: Boulder Ridge was scheduled for a complete renovation in 2020, but covid delayed that. Now that full renovation is scheduled for 2022. Personally, I liked the woodsy look of the original villas at VWL over the current look of the villas. It looks more southwestern nation park than NW National Park.
Photos of multiple designs beg a comparison, right?
The old Wilderness Lodge Rooms were on par in theming quality with the new Animal Kingdom rooms, but they definitely needed a goods refresh.
The new Wilderness Lodge Rooms look average, compared to some of the terrific and terrible new rooms WDW has redesigned lately. The feature wall is almost an Art Deco attempt at replicating those Great Depression-era National Park posters. (While I can buy into it, it’s easy to see how off-putting it is to Tom when I write it down.) While the bathroom is bland compared to design found up in Boulder Creek (not pictured), you can’t set aside that mirror/art piece, as it seems to dominate the bathroom.
If it weren’t for the lack of tree bark mirror, the Grand Californian room might be just as well themed to a lodge as the new (1B?) Copper Creek bedroom, though both appear nice. (I haven’t seen the higher end wood feature walls/no individual headboards Copper Creek look before, so I don’t know if the other room looks like a Copper Creek Studio.)
The Copper Creek studios are terrible for a Deluxe resort; while the new Wilderness Lodge rooms may be lightly themed, it’s not a collection of generic furniture with autumn colors. While I would probably like these in a WDW clone of Hotel Cheyenne, it’s not up to the quality theme of every other room type at the Wilderness Lodge.
Not pictured are the current design of the Boulder Ridge rooms, which did tone down the original theming but maintains it to a level unmatched in most of these. Are these more likely to stay since they’ve been remodeled in the past 15 or so years?
New Wilderness Lodge rooms look better than I thought they would be (Copper Creek studios, Beach Club), but not as good as they could have been (Animal Kingdom, Yacht Club). B- as a standard room, C+ if you compare to Boulder Ridge.
While on the topic of refurbs- when was the latest update to the rooms at AKL Kidani? Or have they ever been updated? Staying there for 1st time in December and was just curious. Thx for any info.
Followers from the UK here desperate for our next trip after two years of postponing!
I know you have reviewed other resorts elsewhere (as you say) however, your system of grading from A – E is really useful and can be interpreted universally. Could you include all resorts graded in this format please?!
Fingers crossed we WILL get to WDW in 2022 and it will be our first stay at a moderate; CBR, which we chose above the others after reading your review re transportation and so on.
As said – first stay at a moderate, we have only stayed at deluxe previously, namely, Boardwalk, Yacht Club, Swan, GF, Saratoga, AKL many times and your favourite (and mine along with AKL) WIlderness Lodge.
Hence, your grading system will really help us to see where CBR and other moderates sit in comparison overall. We’ve been really lucky in that we’ve been able to check out the deluxe resorts, largely due to the free DDP for UK guests which makes it accessible and affordable for us. Alas, it will be moderates or the Swan until that changes (or indeed – IF).
We got married (just the two of us) at Luau beach in between the GF and the Poly a few years ago, so Disney has a very special place in my heart and in our lives, my first trip being in 1990. Reading your reports helps keeps me sane!
So a big thanks for the blog and thumbs up for the alphabet grading – please include all resorts if at all possible!
Extremely interesting and nicely written fair review – thank you, Tom! I have to say, and perhaps I’m just one for the on-trend design themes, but this feels much more upscale and less like grandma’s cabin in the woods to me. I’m mostly a fan, though agree about the wall art choices and the preference for what’s in the CC Villas.
One question – and sincere apologies if missed this in the text – what is the letter grade for this reno? C+? B-?