I’m a low-maintenance girl. Even on vacation, just give me a reasonably comfortable bed and a warm shower in a safe location and I’m satisfied. I’d rather splurge on experiences and activities than where I’m going to sleep. With this mindset, it’s unsurprising that I’d never stayed at a deluxe Disney resort, or even a moderate for that matter. We have always been theme park warriors who are at the parks from rope drop until dark so overspending on a resort with amenities we wouldn’t use was never a consideration.
With that mindset, I planned our recent week-long Disney World vacation with reservations at Pop Century (which, despite what I will gush about in this blog post, is wonderful and I highly recommend). However, Jeff and I have both had childhood Disney resort dreams. As a kid, I wanted to stay in “the hotel that the monorail goes through” – the Contemporary – while Jeff has been drawn to the Wilderness Lodge. This trip would fall just after his birthday and during our anniversary, so I checked the rates at Wilderness Lodge on a whim and found they were cheaper than I expected. I decided to add one more day to our vacation with two nights at the Wilderness Lodge and keep it a secret as a birthday-and-anniversary surprise.
It’s pretty safe to say that I’m completely spoiled by deluxe resorts now. Our Wilderness Lodge experience was incredible and we were able to slow down on this final trip day and enjoy the resort and its amenities so I “get it” now.
Getting the numbers out of the way first, I booked a “standard view” room which is the lowest price point (upgraded views provide guaranteed views of the woods or courtyard). We visited during value season, the first week in February to be precise, when rack rates at all Disney resorts are the lowest of the entire year. On top of the already low rate, Disney ran an offer which reduced the rate of deluxe resort rooms by an additional 25%. As a result, we paid an average of $238 per night (Thursday and Friday nights are different rates) for a room that typically averages $318 this time of year and can max out at over $500 during peak holiday seasons. While park ticket prices don’t fluctuate, the time of year can drastically affect a Disney lodging budget by hundreds of dollars.
Magical Tip // Resort discounts are retroactive. As long as you hold a reservation during the time period covered by the deal, the discount can be applied, even if the discount is announced months after the reservation was made.The discount won’t be automatically applied to an existing reservation so you must call or log into your account to use the discount.
I received the text message confirming our room was ready along with the room number the afternoon of our check-in day, so we were able to bring our bags directly upstairs when we arrived and bypassed front desk check-in, not that waiting in that gorgeous lobby would have been a bad decision! While I had seen many pictures of the Wilderness Lodge rooms online (because I obsessively stalk Disney blogs and Instagram accounts daily like any normal person), I was not prepared for the beauty and detail in these rooms. The carved bedposts and even the Disney woodland animal characters on the shower tiles were all perfect.
And remember that “standard view” I mentioned? Well, thanks to DVC cabin construction outside our fourth-floor balcony which (unfortunately) required cutting down trees, standard view rooms in this wing now have a THEME PARK VIEW! That’s right, we could see Cinderella Castle, the Astro Orbiter, Space Mountain, and the Contemporary Resort all from our balcony. Had we been in our room at 8:00 PM either evening, we could have watched Wishes as well. I was so glad that I didn’t splurge further on an upgraded view because we had the best already!
We loved the table and chairs in this room. Most deluxe Disney resorts have a desk with one chair and/or a sofa, but our boys are always writing and drawing so the desk with two chairs was perfect for them. As you can see, Gavin made himself right at home before I was even done taking room photos minutes after we arrived!
The boys always love to return to the room after a day in the parks and see what Mousekeeping has done with their stuffed animals!
Wilderness Lodge is a “Magic Kingdom area” resort and while not on the monorail loop, boats bring guests from the resort to the park via Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. Buses are available, too, and are necessary in order to travel to the other three parks without a car, but who wants to ride a bus to the Magic Kingdom when you can enjoy a pleasant boat ride instead?
We used these boats often to travel around our new Bay Lake home base, traveling to dinner at the Contemporary on the first night and to Magic Kingdom and back the following day. The boat also stops at Fort Wilderness, making dining plans and exploration of the Fort convenient as well.
The Wilderness Lodge exceeded all of Jeff’s childhood expectations, but his favorite part were the quiet spaces scattered throughout the resort. He particularly enjoyed the comfortable armchairs in front of a roaring fireplace just off the lobby balcony and over the front entrance on the third floor. He escaped there both mornings with his tea to begin his day.
There are several other seating areas throughout the levels overlooking the massive lobby, an open office desk space, and, of course, plenty of seating in the lobby itself.
After a morning at the Magic Kingdom, we took a boat back to the resort in the afternoon where the boys and I headed down to the pool while Jeff rested off a headache in the room. Having never used a Disney pool before (remember, we’re usually at the parks all day and never use resort amenities!), I was blown away by the efficiency and parent-friendliness of the pool, especially as I’d been a bit reluctant to take the boys myself since neither is an extremely strong swimmer.
However, my apprehension immediately melted away when we arrived. This is Disney World, after all. Of course everything is well-thought out and perfect! Stacks of clean, dry towels are available while used towels can be tossed in an adjacent bin. Plenty of slim life vests are available for the little ones. Gavin is a decent swimmer and the end of the pool where were hung out most was shallow enough for him to touch the bottom so I got a vest for Jasper and, along with ample lifeguards on duty, never had to worry about my little fish and could completely relax. Several cast members were also leading games and water activities to keep the kiddos occupied so parents could enjoy the afternoon.
Like all deluxe Disney resorts, this pool has a slide which was the first time my boys had ridden a water slide. I quickly lost track of how many times they slid down the winding flume and splashed into the water!
Feeling better, Jeff eventually joined us and brought Jasper over to the little kids’ splash pad which Jasper had been begging to visit. Gavin exceeds the height limit so I couldn’t split them up. We reluctantly left the pool and splash pad only when our tummies began begging for food so we dried off for dinner and returned to Magic Kingdom by boat that evening.
Our stay was only two weeks before the new Geyser Point waterfront restaurant opened, so Roaring Fork was the only quick service option available. The service was timely and despite a small seating area, it was not busy at all. Jeff and the boys all enjoyed their dinners but I was less than impressed with my salad which was mostly iceberg lettuce. I’m really looking forward to trying Geyser Point instead next time!
The following morning, we ate at the relaxed table service restaurant right off the lobby, Whispering Canyon Cafe. The table of Lincoln Logs to keep little diners occupied while waiting for a table is thematically genius! Again, the dining room was nearly deserted so the boys didn’t have long to play before we were escorted to our table.
We missed out on the antics that this restaurant is known for due to our early reservation time and resulting empty dining room, but our server was fun and wonderful, and we had a great meal to end our trip as we’d be driving home that day.
Following our Whispering Canyon Cafe breakfast, we waited at the base of the grand fireplace in the lobby for the free resort tour that begins at 9:00 AM daily. Yes, you can still get some things for free at Disney World! Our guide was wonderful and knowledgeable, first pointing out many features in the lobby to our group before moving outside to the DVC villas wing, back inside to the Territory Lounge and elegant Artist Point restaurant, and finishing up outside in the courtyard.
Most interesting to me was the gorgeous Carolwood Pacific Room in the villas building which includes cars from the train that Walt Disney built in his backyard along with numerous pictures of Walt with his beloved trains that were the inspiration for building Disneyland. This room is open to all, even those who are not DVC members, and is a must-see if you stay or visit the Wilderness Lodge.
Change of Strategy
I was expecting to be impressed by the Wilderness Lodge, but was unprepared by how much I would fall in love with this beautiful resort. Being able to switch resorts and end our vacation at a more leisurely pace, enjoying the amenities and proximity to the Magic Kingdom has changed the way I’ll plan our Disney vacations. Even if an entire week at a deluxe resort doesn’t make financial sense, switching resorts in the final few days of a trip is a great way to experience the resorts to their fullest without breaking the bank. There are now a few others we want to try, but Wilderness Lodge has set the Disney deluxe resort bar VERY high!