This post reviews the Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge, featuring photos of the newly refurbished rooms, thoughts about this Disney Vacation Club resort, and the pros & cons of staying here. Note that if you’re looking for a review of the waterfront villas, you can find that in our Copper Creek Villas Cascade Cabins Review.
Let’s start by a quick discussion of the Wilderness Lodge DVC expansion. The big change is the addition of aforementioned waterfront cabins. These are basically Wilderness Lodge’s twist on the Bora Bora Bungalows at the Polynesian, but more in the style of the Cabins at Fort Wilderness. Additionally, Geyser Point Bar & Grill, and other amenities have been added to DVC area of Wilderness Lodge, with existing hotel rooms being converted in the main building.
Collectively, the new villas in the main lodge and the waterfront cabins are known as the Copper Creek Villas, whereas the existing Villas at Wilderness Lodge building has now become Boulder Ridge Villas. This is a bit confusing since the Cascade Cabins are closer to Boulder Ridge than they are the main lodge, but this was done to put everything “new” under the umbrella of a single DVC resort (with later expiration date). Anyway, this review focuses on the older Boulder Ridge Villas….
The construction at Wilderness Lodge is now finished, and the Hidden Springs quiet pool, fire pit, playground, nature trails, and Teton Boat & Bike Rentals have all reopened. Additionally, “Salon by the Springs” has now opened in place of the old pool bar (which was replaced by Geyser Point Bar & Grill). Salon by the Springs offers manicures, pedicures, hair styling, and other spa services.
Prior to this expansion, a big part of the appeal of Wilderness Lodge was its rustic, secluded ambiance. You can be elbow-to-elbow with 50,000 of your closest, sweaty friends in the Magic Kingdom, only to take a 10 minute boat ride back to your hotel and minutes later be walking a quiet nature trail in the great outdoors.
To quote the sage John Muir, “Any fool can destroy trees…to build more timeshare units.” (I might have taken some artistic license with that quote, but I think we can safely infer that he meant the second part.) The defining characteristic of the Lodge, as with Fort Wilderness, is the wilderness. It is what best differentiates these resorts from the other Walt Disney World hotels, and their contrast to the hustle and bustle of the parks is what makes them awesome.
Wilderness Lodge is a bastion of solitude and natural tranquility in the midst of the busiest theme park complex in the world, and this is the key to its greatness. Unfortunately, some of the recent development sacrificed this to expand the developed physical footprint (thereby decreasing the natural footprint) at Wilderness Lodge.
To some degree, the Imagineers made lemonade out of lemons with this, but much of the old growth beauty of the resort will take several years to regrow. (We discuss this in far greater depth–along with a ton of photos, in our Cascade Cabins Review.) In terms of ambiance, this is disappointing, but Boulder Ridge/Copper Creek/Wilderness Lodge are still excellent resorts.
All of Wilderness Lodge is incredibly popular among Disney Vacation Club owners, especially at Christmas-time, and the supply of rooms is in short supply.
The ambiance of this resort is pitch-perfect for Christmas. Even on a hot Florida day, it just feels right to nestle up near a fireplace at Wilderness Lodge.
In terms of amenities, the highlights of Boulder Ridge are the main atrium lobby when you enter the building (with its own quiet alcoves, much like the main building in Wilderness Lodge), along with laundry facilities, and the Hidden Springs pool.
As with other DVC facilities, laundry for guests staying in studio villas, and there’s no additional charge for it.
The Hidden Springs pool is pretty nice; we’re big fans of the first-come, first-served cabana-like areas, which offer some shade and comfort while you lounge.
Aside from that, I think our previous Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Review decently covered amenities and that sort of thing, so let’s cut straight to the new rooms, starting with the Deluxe Studio…
When it comes to the redesign and refurbishment of the existing Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, I’m completely positive. One of the problems every rustic Disney hotel has faced is balancing its theme with its luxury price-point, as “rustic” and “luxury” typically are mutually exclusive terms outside of Disney.
If you’ve stayed in one of the Deluxe Studio Villas before, you should instantly notice that the look of the room has changed dramatically. It’s much less visually jarring.
Although the new room looks very different, the changes aren’t quite as dramatic as they appear. In this photo, you have the removal of the bedspread for the industry-standard runner, a more subdued style for the couch and carpet, new coffee table, and some subtle changes to light fixtures to match the arts & crafts style found at several National Parks Lodges (a small change, but a big impact).
Personally, I would have been fine with the old patterned carpet staying. There was definitely too much going on with the old style, but I think once the couch and bedspread were swapped out, that carpet would have worked just fine.
The more dramatic change is in the other direction, where the dresser has been replaced and the television mounted on the wall, with a pull-down sleeper below it that’s integrated with the coffee table.
We spoke with a DVC rep, who indicated the most “revolutionary” change for the way they design rooms is the shift from CRT televisions to flatscreen LCD ones, which makes this space-saving design possible.
The Bambi art inside is a nice little touch, and gives the room added character without overly cartoonifying it.
The bathrooms have also been changed slightly, with color schemes that are more subdued. No significant substantive changes here.
The floor tile and shower curtain have also been swapped out. I’m pleased that the tile within the shower/tub stayed, as it pops against the rest of the bathroom now, and doesn’t look too busy.
We also had the chance to check out the 1-Bedroom Villas…
Here, you have more Bambi flourishes in the main living area, along with a new color scheme, carpet, wood floors, and some other changes.
Personally, I would have preferred pillows with John Muir’s grizzled mug on them, but perhaps the designers felt the face of an old, bearded man on pillows was a bit…much. I guess Bambi works.
Here’s the kitchen. Here, the countertops, cabinet colors, and other accents changed.
The changes here are arguably more dramatic than in the Deluxe Studio.
These rooms looked fairly tired in the past, very much like a 1990s take on Northwest Coast Art. It was too much like stepping into a kitschy gift shop hawking tribal art on the outskirts of Mount Rainier, rather than a lived-in space based on the Pacific Northwest. I think this is a significant improvement.
The changes in the bathroom are fairly minimal. To my recollection, you have new floor tile, light fixtures…and that’s about it.
In addition to the floor tile, there’s also a new frame around the mirror. Nothing dramatic, but the bathroom didn’t need the same kind of work as the other rooms.
The master bedroom has the same type of changes as the Deluxe Studio: new carpet, no bedspread, etc.
Overall, I really like what Disney has done with new look of the rooms in the villas. I think they did a good job of balancing the thematic character of the rooms with the luxury-tier price point of the resort, toning down the Northwest Coast Art style quite a bit, but not to the point that the rooms are bland or thematically lacking. As the resort expands through 2017, I don’t think a similar “home run” is possible. For me, it becomes a question of whether the expansion is as respectful as possible to the wild qualities of the resort, and if, in so doing, the additions bring enough significant new amenities to the table to come close to offsetting what’s lost. In my mind, that’s the about the best-case scenario for an expansion that has the potential for much more downside than there is upside.
Not sure which Walt Disney World hotel is right for you? Check out our Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews page, which offers quick-hit capsule reviews of the strengths and weaknesses of every Walt Disney World hotel, plus links to our reviews and photo pages for every hotel we have reviewed.
Are you a fan of the Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge? What are your thoughts on the refurbishment and expansion plans? Are you excited, or wishing Disney would leave well enough alone? Planning on staying here someday? We love hearing from readers, so if you have any tips, thoughts, or questions, please share them in the comments below!