The architects designed this luxury resort to resemble turn-of-the-20th-century lodges in the American Northwest. The green tiled and gabled roofs float over the forest, supported by seven stories of dark brown timber. Its cavernous lobby features towering tree trunks, an 82-foot-high fireplace made of stone from the Grand Canyon, and two 55-foot-tall hand-carved totem poles that pay homage to the region's Native American culture. The dark wood is brightened by enormous tepee-shaped chandeliers. The hotel's showstopper is its Fire Rock Geyser, a faux Old Faithful that erupts with sometimes alarming regularity, near the large pool, which begins as an artificially heated hot spring in the lobby. Located just across the lagoon from the Magic Kingdom, Wilderness Lodge is a prime destination for families with kids, but there is enough serenity, space and sophistication to attract couples and groups of adults.
Generous proportions and dark, rustic furniture give the rooms a cozy feel. The crisp, white bed linens have brightly colored American west accents, and the massive carved-wood headboards depict forest scenes. Some of the family rooms have bunk beds, but not narrow camp-style bunks. Instead they are sturdy, double bed-sized bunks, ensuring a comfy sleep even for teens.
Generous marble-tiled bathrooms, some with tub showers, some with wet-room style showers, some with stand-alone tubs, are just as luxurious as expected in a Disney lodging. The bathrooms are supplied with plenty of towels, robes, and Disney's own H2O+ brand of toiletries, which even includes toothbrush and toothpaste.
The designers drew inspiration from National Park lodges across the West, using stone and wood as the major materials in the cavernous lobby. Despite its size, and the massive tree trunks and beams, rustic balustrades, impressive totem poles and huge stone fireplace, it still manages to feel cozy. The rocking chairs by the fire, the sounds of families enjoying the amusing antics of staff and guests in the nearby Whispering Canyon Cafe, and the somehow comforting smell of that amount of real wood gives a warmth to the lobby that invites relaxation.
The lodge offers two pools. One, Copper Creek Springs, arises from a "hot" spring in the lobby that exits the building and runs along a stone creek before turning into a waterfall that splashes into the heated pool. A 67-foot-long water slide is built into the rocky landscape, and a children's play area keeps the kids occupied, while adults can make use of the hot and cold whirlpools to relax sore muscles. The second pool, Boulder Ridge Cove, is a more sedate pool at the nearby villas. Towels are provided at both pools, and lifeguard service depends on season.
There is no full-service spa onsite, but manicures, pedicures and hair services are available at the Salon by the Springs. For a luxurious spa experience, guests can book a massage or an afternoon of relaxation at Senses – A Disney Spa at the nearby Grand Floridian, just a short trip by water taxi.
The onsite Sturdy Branches Health Club is available 24 hours a day, and offers treadmills, elliptical trainers and recumbent bicycles for aerobic workouts, or free weights and a variety of weight machines for those doing strength training.
From chef-driven sophistication, to rowdy, crowd-pleasing, family friendly fare, there are many options for eating onsite. Artist Point serves innovative cuisine inspired by the Pacific Northwest, including, of course, salmon. The farm to table menu includes salads made from lettuce grown in the Epcot greenhouses. A substantial wine list offers many pairing choices. Families enjoy the raucous fun and the all-you-can-eat buffet served for breakfast, lunch and dinner at Whispering Canyon Cafe, where broomstick pony rides regularly roust the kids from the table to gallop around the room. For more sedate, but still casual dining, Geyser Point Bar & Grill serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in an open air restaurant by the pool with views over the lake. For quick service all day long, Roaring Fork offers Mickey waffles, sandwiches and burgers and fries.
Whispering Canyon Cafe is known for its shenanigans. If you suggest to kids that they raise their hands and ask, politely, for some ketchup, the result may astonish them. The request brings servers and fellow diners to the table, armed with dozens of bottles of sauce. If a guest asks for more than one refill of a drink, a truly giant container will arrive, along with some friendly joshing.
The open air Geyser Point Bar, overlooking Bay Lake, is a great place to meet for a drink and appetizer before dinner. The full bar offers clever cocktails and craft beers along with a full complement of wine choices, and the shrimp on a wire is a delicious small bite to share. For a totally different experience, the wood-paneled Territory Lounge offers a more intimate, cozy evening, particularly if (yes, it does happen now and then) the temperatures take a dip outdoors.
While not on the monorail line, Disney's Wilderness Lodge has water taxis that ply the waters of Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon, taking guests to the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground or Disney’s Contemporary Resort, where guests can hop on the monorail. The often slow bus system offers transportation to anywhere in Disney World, but depending on the destination, a car can offer convenience and speed. Ride sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft also operate on property, along with taxis.
Water taxis deliver diners to The Contemporary Resort, where the rooftop California Grill offers fine dining and a fantastic view of Cinderella's Castle and the nightly fireworks. Or, if a bucket of fried chicken and ribs accompanied by some hoe-down singing and dancing are preferred, the same water taxi stops at Fort Wilderness Resort (next door), and its Hoop Dee Do Musical Review, which has to be experienced at least once in a visit to Disney. Further afield are the celebrity chef restaurants at Disney Springs (15-minute drive), including Morimoto's Asia, which serves sushi and more, Art Smith's Homecomin', a home for Southern cooking, and Chef Rick Bayless' Frontera Cocina, where authentic Mexican cuisine tops the menu.
The Contemporary Resort has several lounges, as does The Grand Floridian, both reached easily by water taxi. Further afield, by bus or car, Disney Springs has dozens of bars and lounges, some, like House of Blues, or Kevin Dundun's Raglan Road pub, come complete with live entertainment, others, like Paddlefish, with its top deck aerie overlooking the Springs, offer places for a quiet drink.
WHY WE LIKE IT
The overall look and feel of this huge, and spectacular, lodge are welcoming, and even the cavernous lobby seems cozy. The food selections in the three restaurants are varied and delicious, and service is just as it should be in a deluxe Disney resort. The view from the waterfront includes nightly Magic Kingdom fireworks, and transportation by boat adds a serenity to getting to and from the Magic Kingdom. It's pricey, but offers good value for your money.