Resort: Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Today we head to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Wilderness Lodge is a personal favorite of mine. Sure, Grand Floridian and the other monorail resorts will garner all the attention, but it’s the Wilderness Lodge, in my opinion, that is the best themed resort at Walt Disney World.
As great as the Wilderness Lodge is, it takes on even more significance during the holidays. The resort’s theming makes for the perfect holiday getaway. In fact, had it not been for Beach Club’s close proximity to EPCOT, we’d probably be staying at Wilderness Lodge this year.
The theming is perfect for Christmastime, transporting guests to America’s northwest. It truly feels like you’ve stepped foot inside a ski lodge. This is particularly refreshing during the warmer months (or unseasonably warm winter months.) The one thing I’ve always loved about Disney during Christmas is the warm(er) weather, however, it’s fun to head to the Wilderness Lodge and pretend you’re trapped inside a log cabin during a blizzard. It’s even better when you walk outside and realize your’e still in sunny Florida, something that’s easily forgotten while inside the towering split-log lodge.
Inspired by national-park lodges, the resort’s eight-story buildings offer a rustic, yet elegant aesthetic. The lobby is large and cavernous, with large teepee chandeliers, totem poles and multi-colored flooring with Native American designs. The lobby is anchored by a three-story fireplace and features rocking chairs and comfortable couches for sitting and relaxing. While the lobby tends to be a bit loud with Whispering Canyon’s open dining room and the hustle and bustle of the check-in desk, sitting around the towering fireplace is surprisingly peaceful.
The grounds are no different. Immediately after leaving the lobby, you’re greeted by tons of green foliage, bubbling brooks and mini waterfalls. Even the pool area feels like something right out of your favorite childhood summer camp.
Christmas Decorations & Theming: 10/10
When it comes to Christmas decorations, theming and overall feel, Wilderness Lodge is the best. Picture your perfect Christmas Eve—are you sitting around a fire and sipping hot chocolate, stuck inside a gorgeous cabin during a blizzard? Me too—that’s how the Wilderness Lodge feels.
A towering Christmas tree sits at the center of a picture-perfect lobby. The tree, like other Disney Deluxe Resorts, is decorated on theme, with teepees, wooden ornaments and rich, earthy tones. All throughout the lobby are vibrant poinsettias and white Christmas lights that seem to glow just a bit more against the dark wooden infrastructure. Grab a hot chocolate then find a seat around a roaring fireplace and just take in the sights and sounds of the incredibly tranquil environment. Even if you’re just visiting, you’ll wanna spend a little extra time taking it all in!
While the Wilderness Lodge has over 700 rooms and is certainly a big resort structurally, it’s not overwhelmingly large. With eight stories, the resort is able to keep rooms close to the lobby and food options. Most rooms are fairly close to the boat dock and a 5-10 minute walk from the bus station.
One of the biggest riffs on Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is its transportation. While the resort is located in the Magic Kingdom area, guests must ride the boat or hop on a bus to get over to the park. It’s the only Magic Kingdom Deluxe Resort that you can not see the park from; and along with Animal Kingdom Lodge, is the only Deluxe Resort not in immediate proximity to its respective park. While it can be viewed as a downfall, I think it further elevates the theme. The dependence on transportation to and from the resort makes Wilderness Lodge truly feel secluded from the rest of Disney. Still, if you’re paying the big bucks for efficiency, this may not be the resort for you.
Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge draw a lot of comparisons. I’d say the only thing separating the two is the food options. While Wilderness Lodge serves up some pretty good choices, it’s nowhere near the likes of Boma, Jiko or Sanaa.
The food at Wilderness Lodge really is an acquired taste. Roaring Fork has often been touted as an underrated Quick Service. The small marketplace is best known for its waffles during breakfast. For lunch and dinner, the menu is less-than-stellar, offering sandwiches, chicken tenders, salads and burgers. Of course, if you’re staying at Wilderness Lodge or just stopping by, make sure to pick up a Magic Cookie Bar.
We were on the fence about Whispering Canyon. A fun, tounge-in-cheek restaurant, similar to 50’s Prime Time Café, Whispering Canyon is a fun family eatery with a menu full of barbecue and cookout-type offerings. They have an option for all you care to eat, full of smoked meats and sides. They also offer bottomless shakes, which is an immensely popular option. Although, I will warn you—you won’t make it past two shakes and ordering the shake(s) with the all-you-care-to-eat platter is asking for trouble!
The highlight of Wilderness Lodge is Artist Point. We booked Artist Point for Christmas last year. We normally frequent Narcoossee’s but decided to venture outside our comfort zone. Artist Point has a rustic menu, with many dishes featuring fish, meats or chicken served alongside root vegetables. They even serve buffalo loin! It’s obviously different from anything else offered at Disney. As a result, we were skeptical. To add to this, a food blog posted a less-than-stellar review in the weeks leading up to our trip.
Well, the meal was one of the best we’ve ever had. The highly touted Smoked Portobello Soup was as good as advertised. The Buffalo Loin, which is very easy to overcook, was cooked perfectly. I went with the seasonal offering, Artist Point’s spin on the Buche de Noel. My sister went with the “cereal milk and cookies” and absolutely adored it.
Again, with many rustic offerings, you may find yourself roaming to the parks or other resorts to find something new. The food at Wilderness Lodge could certainly get “old” fast.
Can you tell that I like the Wilderness Lodge? Seriously, it’s one of the better resorts on property. In my opinion, when it comes to theme, Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge are 1 and 1a.
You’ll run into some headaches when it comes to transportation, but that’s why both resorts are slightly less money than the other Deluxes. If you plan on spending more time at the resort—and Christmas is the perfect time to do so—then this should absolutely be your choice!