The hotel side of Wilderness Lodge has finally reopened, nearly a year after the Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek Villas opened to DVC members last June. We booked a reopening night stay in order to check out the newly-reimagined rooms, a project that began last January and is now finished.
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.
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:
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.
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!