Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Review
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.
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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!
Falling asleep in the Pacific railroad room with the music playing overhead and the heat and crackle of the fire. If you don’t spend a little bit of time in this room and you are staying here I can safely say you are a ——-. Whoever can fill it in I’m just not that type.
First time looking at DVC properties, but is it me or do the studios look like Double Beds and not queens as advertised on David’s Vacation Club Rental site? This would be a deal breaker for a family of four no doubt. Would appreciate any advice on this, thanks!
With studios, most have a bed, a sleeper sofa and maybe a bunk sized murphy bed. The bed is always a queen sized bed. The sleeper sofa may be double size or queen size (depends on the resort). Riviera and Saratoga Springs have the newer murphy bed instead of a sleeper sofa. OKW has two real queen beds (no convertible bed). You can go to the DVC member site and read the details for each studio, plus see a layout for the studio without needing a password. BLT has the smallest studio (really good for two adults or two adults and one smaller child) other than the Riviera Tower Studio which only sleeps two and the AKV-Jambo House Value studio that is about three feet shorter in depth than the rest of the studios at Jambo House (all villas at JH are converted hotel rooms).
Tom, I know its an OLD post and hoping you’ll respond. We’re considering staying at BRV this Christmas 2020. Just wondering like CBC with the Aruba building (Best advice ever) is there a particular part of the hotel you would recommend for convenience??
Boulder Ridge is a really small resort with two entrances – one leading to the sidewalk to the main lodge and one to the pool area. The elevator bank (two elevators) is centrally located and the halls, though some say they are endless, really aren’t that long.
Thank you DebC appreciate your responce. Well at this point it’s really up in the air we have a reservation for Boulder and we also have a reservation of Art of Animation. I know they are on total opposite ends of the spectrum but it’s Boulder with 5 in a deluxe suite and it’s infamous Christmas decor although it seems like it’ll be cramped big-time with 3 adults 2,kids, or art of animation in the cars family suite, 1 bedroom and 2 bathrooms! I keep looking at the Visa premium card holder deals each day. While we spend our whole day in the parks we really just need a place to shower and rest but the pictures and stories of Wilderness Lodge at Christmas is a tough to pass off. What do you think.
And forgive my grammar, I really do need to proofread before posting, lol. Tom, we need and edit feature on this blog!!
Docmarmo, I’m curious what you chose. I’m just now reading these comments or I would’ve chimed in that we stayed at Art of Animation at the beginning of 2020, just before all the madness began. We absolutely loved all the different themed areas, the pool, and the skyliner. Although the skyliner is awesome, it didn’t run early enough to be a huge convenience to us. I have always loved the Wilderness Lodge, but we’ve never stayed there. We usually pop over at least once during our visits to eat at Geyser Point and do story time by the fire. This Feb we are staying at the Boulder Rock Villas in a deluxe studio. I’ve read that we should request a room close to the main lodge. Any other insight you have would be greatly appreciated!:)
Andrea: No matter where you stay at BRV, you are close to the main building. it’s one small building (BRV was the smallest WDW resort with 181 maximum villas (no lockoffs booked, just dedicated) until GFV was built with 147 maximum villas. The elevator is centrally located and it’s a short walk to the main lodge. Considering BWV has 532 and BCV has 282, BRV is still small.
Andrea, my sincere apologies, I never did see your response till now!! In the end we actually stayed the Riviera! A good price came up for a Deluxe studio and well we couldn’t pass that up as we LOVE the skyliner!!! Complete plan change, yes but we loved it and well we still need to do Boulder Ridge, hence why I’m here re-reading this blog post again. We’re looking to come this April 2021 and well guess what room popped up, Boulder ridge deluxe studio and with just 4 of us on this trip it may very well be the ticket this time!
We just stayed at VWL (now BRV) last Fall and found a big problem with the new bathroom mirror (in the shower section of the bathroom). The mirror is wider and deeper than the old one so it renders the outlet right next to the mirror (for hair drying, whatever you need an outlet for) unusable. The outlet is between the mirror and the shower glass. It covers part of the outlet so any plug is too wide to plug it in. It might have just been the villa we were in, but I’d bet it is a problem in many of them. The mirror in your photo may have been offset to leave access to the outlet because it’s not centered over the sink.
The other problem we found was the large corbels they installed under the counter attached to the kitchen wall (where the chairs are pulled up to the counter). You cannot push the chairs under the counter and they stick out. The television cabinet is so wide, it almost blocks the use of one of the chairs (and it is pushed right up against the doorway to the connecting studio or second bedroom).
The really need to install the towel bars better. You can see the one on the wall between the shutters and the large mirror at the end of the tub. But if you don’t use the tub because it’s hard to get into, it’s also hard to get those towels.
I was a big fan of the old décor (it was part of the reason we bought there pre-opening), the buffalo check pattern on the chair, the green cabinets in the kitchen, the plaid curtains. And I loved the sofa pattern. Now it’s just brown. Boring brown.
I been to wilderness lodge 8 times and stay ed there I hate it now it was so quiet with the trees I will not stay again they ruin it.It was like homevaway from home.
I am not in favor of further expansion to the vacation condos or the hotels at Disney. The place has simply become too crowded to enjoy, period. You should not need to plan a vacation visit as though it is the invasion at Normandy. In recent years everything has become a struggle when you “vacation” there. Making food and ride reservations a year in advance is absurd, but if you fail to do so, well folks, you won’t be eating or riding. There used to be a few ‘shoulder” seasons which allowed you to visit at a less busy time but now thats dead. The wine and food festival for example guarantees not only is the park busy then, but you are liable to run into people who have had too much to drink ( drink around the wold contests???) . I seem to recall that at one time alcohol was not sold at Disney, which in my opinion was a better thing. I’m sorry to see they have continued along their “urban blight” philosophy in building more time shares at Wilderness Lodge. They committed the same atrocity at the Grand Floridian which now looks like downtown Miami. And now there are political considerations for the hall of Presidents??? You won’t get from this posting that I am the biggest Disney fan ever, and all of these greed based changes disturb me. . I think all the changes are about the bottom line. That is a consideration for every business, but when you have a “legacy” business it should not be the only consideration. I think Walt must be turning in his grave.
LJ–Totally agree. LONG time Poly fan and stayer. Look what they have done to it. Loads of empty DVC rooms and bungalows. Last time I was there THREE of the bungalows were clearly occupied. And for all that they ruined its beauty! Quite sad. They’ve gone greedy as hell and are ruining the product in the process. Its a bummer.
But u called it….you can ONLY go if you play the “D-day invasion” of Disney. I like the analogy, but If Ike had delayed a day at Disney…he’d have lost all his reservations and his $10 per head at lunch/dinners!
We have been staying at Bay Lake Tower with a view of one set of the new cabins being constructed and I think they will be very nice. One day we got off the bus at Wilderness Lodge, walked through and got the boat over to the Contemporary. We found the boat launch area unchanged as well as the walk through the woods to get there. I think the cabins will be nice and I am excited to see the floor plans when they are available. Hoping for something like the Poly ones but maybe a slightly lower point level .
I was part of the “beta testing” of the new resort rooms and given $150.00 gift card for 1 hour of follow-up questions and opinions. As I had just spent 3 days in the old style rooms there the week previous it was a dramatic change for me, and quite frankly, not all in the positive direction, especially when it came to the kitchen area. For me, the “rustic” look is what gave it it’s charm. I can safely say that they actually toned down the modernization a bit (based on all the pictures I took but weren’t allowed to share on any social media) and achieved a good balance between how it was and what they want to do (which was WAY too modern).
Tom, I am so happy to have stumbled on your blog while researching for my upcoming trip this Christmas!!!
We are bringing several adult guests for their first ever WDW visit during the first week of March. Do you know how much the boat landing/walk to the main hotel will be visually affected by construction? Our hope is to provide our guests with beautiful first impressions and overall experiences to create those all important memories. We may skip this resort if it’s usual respite atmosphere is disrupted along that waterway approach. (Thanks for the update!)
I absolutely love the exterior of Wilderness Lodge as well as the lobby area, but the rooms just don’t appeal to me that much! I feel like they could have done more to make the rooms exciting while still modest. I do really like the wood floors and bambi accents though. Thanks for the write-up!
The Wilderness Lodge was desperately in need of an update, and while the new DVC rooms still aren’t perfectly my taste, they are a big step in the right direction given that this is a Deluxe resort. (I wish they had addressed the tiles in the shower and kitchen backsplash, because in my opinion as a designer these significantly date the decor). Let’s hope renovations to the rooms in the Lodge follow. And, after that, if they could overhaul the incredibly gaudy costumes of the cast members working there, that would be fantastic. And maybe somehow close-in Whispering Canyon Cafe, which to me due to the constant yelling makes a higher-end resort seem, well, less than high-end. The outdoor spaces and lobby here are so beautiful, I feel that with the right upgrades/updates elsewhere, this resort could appeal to those who are looking for luxury, classy accommodations in good design taste.
“I am 100% of the mind that there is no way to improve Wilderness Lodge by expanding its developed footprint. The defining characteristic of the Lodge, as with Fort Wilderness, is the wilderness.”
I have to agree with this statement. We have points at the Wilderness Lodge and love the secluded feel of wilderness. Even the sounds on the grounds there are remarkably secluded feeling. The only sounds one can hear of the outside world are the boats on the lake, and the train whistle from the Magic Kingdom echoing across the lake.
I have to say that the bungalows at the Poly have diminished the effect of the area. They have blocked the great view of the lake from the beach and from a great many of the rooms. When one walks the paths between the buildings and the bungalows at the Polly it is more like the courtyard at the Grand Floridian now.
I am in fear that a diminishment of the seclusion of the Wilderness Lodge will be very obvious when the “cabins” are put in. We like riding our bicycles along the path next to the lake to the campgrounds and truly enjoy the feeling of being in the mountains. We have stopped on the path many times because of the dear and other animals we see there. This entire change may be good for the stock holders but it just makes me… I don’t know.
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We’re scheduled to stay here through the construction at the end of January (despite having kids we don’t spend much time in the room during the described “work hours”). Disney was kind enough to call and offer other accommodations when they announced the plans for refurbishment. We are excited to see the changes, but I am anxious to see how this effects the surrounding areas as that was one of the main reasons we opted to stay at this resort this time around.
Kalie, did the construction match your expectations? We have a trip planned for November/December 2016 and I’m a little apprehensive about 1) the construction and 2) the timeliness of travel to/from the parks since it is “secluded” moreso than the others. Thanks!!
As a Pacific Northwester, I thought the concept of Wilderness Lodge was fantastic, but many interior photos of the rooms and cabins reminded me of cheap, tired motels all along I5. Nothing I’d pay deluxe prices for. Refurbishments might change my mind. Appreciate your insight, and your rambling. The rambling is one of the main reasons I follow you. 🙂
I think the inside of the DVC rooms look great. My wife is going to flip when she sees that Bambi is now art in the room, maybe I can talk her into staying here one night now. I hope they change the inside of the regular hotel rooms- some could use a little love.
I think the biggest thing about these changes is that cabins will be on the beach area next to the resort and boat docks. That was one of my favorite spots to sit and watch the water light show/parade. I hope when this is finished I still feel like I am out in the wilderness and not at a theme park.
Thanks for the great article Tom!!
PS- Don’t forget to take the resort tour when you stay here. Lots of cool things explained.
You make excellent points about the secluded nature of the Wilderness Lodge: it’s one of the most attractive features of the resort. I first stayed at the Villas in 2012, and returned this past May. To my eye, the changes are fairly subtle, and very attractive. I loved the Bambi art inside the pull-down sleeper: it’s much like the Mary Poppins art at the Grand Floridian. I worried a bit about all the construction that seemed to be going on. I’m glad for the renovations, but I don’t know if I’m too excited about the expansion. Still, to be conservative about the resorts as Walt Disney World itself grows ever more popular is foolish. I only hope that as the Lodge expands, its true character of “wilderness” remains.
I’m not against expansion or change–I’m simply for responsible growth. If a greater room or DVC inventory is necessary, there are plenty of sensible places for expansion, both at existing resorts and on expansion pads that could be used for new resorts.