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When it comes time to book a Disney World hotel, we usually try to target one we haven't visited before. We finally had a chance to visit one of Walt Disney World's most popular resorts on a recent stay in Walt Disney World. Here’s our review of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Review – How We Got Here
The circumstances of any trip to Walt Disney World can wildly affect your perception of a trip. We’ve done trips with more than ten people (including kids), trips with just us (upper 20s married couple), 10-night trips, one-night trips, and everything in-between. What you want and expect out of a given trip really matters. This is actually a lesson we learned more than ever on this trip, so before we get to the details of the review, you need to understand what we wanted out of this trip.
This trip was special for a few reasons. First, we were going on two-day park hopper tickets that we were given when the Walt Disney World half marathon was cancelled in January. Two days is an awkward length. Without kids, we don’t really see Magic Kingdom as a two-day park, as it is for many, so we were definitely looking at some combination of parks. But you can’t fully experience all four parks in two days.
Second, we really wanted to see Pandora – World of Avatar. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is already our favorite Walt Disney World park, so this trip was sure to have lots of DAK. Since we were new to Pandora, we’d need to Fastpass+ both new rides (a swift rope drop only guaranteed you less than a two hour wait). And we wanted to see it in the evening and daytime. This meant we’d probably have lots of bus transportation.
Third, this trip kicked off a year of world travel. Since we had two park days, and since we didn’t want to just leave Walt Disney World so quickly, we decided to use the Citi Prestige 4th Night Free benefit and stay four nights. This is one of our favorite ways to get a deal on Disney World hotels.
Since we flew in late and departed early, our four nights comprised only three days, which we broke into two park days and a resort day. Wanting to try something new, and having a full Disney World resort day, we chose a deluxe resort on our list, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Review - Gorgeous & Great for a Resort Day
In an assessment that will surprise no one, we’ll say Disney's Wilderness Lodge is gorgeous. Like Animal Kingdom Lodge, the details and environment are entrancing.
Lobby and Rooms at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
The lobby at Disney's Wilderness Lodge is magnificent, and our poor photography skills can't do it justice. The lighting makes it quite hard to get good photos of this lobby or the one at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, but Google yields some decent looks. The dark wood is maybe a bit much. After visiting Disney Explorers Lodge in Hong Kong Disneyland, we can't help but think there are other ways to capture the spirit.
The rooms are typical Disney fare. We find Animal Kingdom Lodge to be a bit better themed in the rooms, but Wilderness Lodge rooms were still pretty good. They were nowhere near as bad as the room we had at Disney's Sequoia Lodge in Disneyland Paris, but they did leave us wanting more from and otherwise beautiful resort.
Resort Amenities at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
Disney's Wilderness Lodge is also great for a resort day. We opted against club level for this stay, but still had a great time lounging around the resort. The Copper Creek Pool was a fine pool to sit around (though we struggled a bit to find seating), and the kids-only section looked entertaining for the little ones.
We spent time at two bars at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. First, we spent an evening in Territory Lounge. It was as enjoyable as any Disney bar that isn’t Trader Sam’s, staffed while we were there by the very delightful Brucie and Melissa.
There wasn’t much activity late in the evening, but it was a nice place to relax and chat with new friends.
We also spent an outdoor afternoon at Geyser Point Bar and Grill, working on our computers at the bar. Geyser Point is a short walk from the Copper Creek pool, and is an open-air experience. It boasts a simple, wood and stone design with magnificent views.
We didn’t try any food offerings at Wilderness Lodge, but we recommend the reviews over at Disney Food Blog.
Our resort day included two trips to the Polynesian (more on that in a minute), and dinner at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Sanaa, so we didn’t get to experience everything Wilderness Lodge had to offer, but it has all the marks of a good “resort day” resort – beautiful décor, good bar and food options, and a good pool.
You’ll Never Want to Leave…Because Leaving is a Nightmare
As we’ve written, one of the things that really separates the deluxe resorts from the other resorts (for now) is that they offer non-bus transportation (except for Animal Kingdom Lodge). At Wilderness Lodge, you have the option to take a boat to Magic Kingdom. For some reason, we used to assume this was an efficient mode of transportation. In reality, we found it anything but.
The combined ride and wait to and from Magic Kingdom can easily take hours out of your day. Is it worse than taking a bus from other resorts? Probably not—but it’s supposed to be better, that’s what deluxe means. The shared bus issue is not unique to Wilderness as a deluxe resort, by the way.
Wilderness Lodge also shares a variety of buses with other resorts. Disney bus transportation is a nightmare, and having to share buses only worsens the situation. Again, most people who come to Walt Disney World come (1) to maximize park time and (2) with kids, often necessitating a midday break. The idea that a deluxe resort comes with less-than-stellar transit is a bit mystifying.
We were on a short stay (two park days), loaded with activities at other locales. We were surprised when we wer told to plan for an hour of travel time from Wilderness Lodge (one deluxe Magic Kingdom resort) to Polynesian (another deluxe Magic Kingdom resort). Many Disney reviewers travel to Disney more frequently than we do (you may have noticed we're not annual passholders). That means the most favorable reviews of Wilderness Lodge often come from people who (1) live nearby and aren’t in a rush to cram park activities in and (2) have a car to drive around Walt Disney World.
Our trip to the Polynesian for breakfast took about 45 minutes. Later in the day, when we wanted to get back to the Polynesian to visit Trader Sam’s, we took an Uber. The ride took 8 minutes (exactly) and cost $5.77. Uber records it as 1.1 miles between the two locations, which means we could probably run there in about the same time an Uber would take, and only one-fifth the time Disney transportation takes.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Review - Conclusions
If we were to stay at Wilderness Lodge again, we would have to factor in the cost of Uber to our budget. We're obviously spoiled by years of family trips to Yacht Club and Beach Club, where we can walk to two parks, but to say we're jaded about Disney transportation following our stay at Wilderness Lodge would be a huge understatement.
We enjoyed our time at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, but that time was horribly cut short by the poor transportation options. Our site is all about getting the most out of your Disney trip at the least expense, and to that end, Wilderness Lodge does not fit the bill unless you’re willing to Uber. Your rope drops and Fastpass+ reservations are all at risk when you can’t control arrival times to a reasonable degree.
The real lesson here, one that Disney seemed to have learned with the introduction of (overpriced) Minnie Vans, is that we probably all need to learn to Uber around Walt Disney World when necessary. Disney Tourist Blog has great coverage of Uber at Walt Disney World.
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If you’re hopping around locations, you’ll want to rely on the service minimally, lest your budget get out of control. But if $6 can save you 40 minutes, like it did with us, you’ll definitely want to take that trade-off.
All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered
Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way. If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.
Don't forget to master your Disney World Fastpass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks!
Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.