Disney's Wilderness Lodge Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

  • Huge pool and waterslide; man-made geyser
  • Supervised kids' club; free activities schedule for kids
  • Several dining options; from a cafeteria to an upscale steakhouse
  • Large, bright fitness center and spa
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Five minutes from the Magic Kingdom -- closer than most other Disney resorts
  • Extended hours at Disney World; free shuttles and parking

Cons

  • Noisy public areas and crowds
  • Long lines for the front desk and concierge
  • Bathrooms can sometimes have a musty smell.
  • No business center or services

Bottom Line

It's not exactly luxurious -- subpar bedding; constant crowds; long lines -- but the 727-room Wilderness Lodge is still a superb family resort. Lake access, hiking trails, a standout pool and waterslide, free daily kids' activities, a great gym, and elaborate, Western frontier decor (including an explosive geyser) to keep kids enthralled -- all just five minutes from the Magic Kingdom.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

Big, kid-focused, 727-room Disney resort that offers complete theme-park-style immersion in the American West

Pillars made of timber in the lobby
Pillars made of timber in the lobby

Disney's Wilderness Lodge makes an all-out push to enthrall young imaginations and make the entire resort experience as easy on parents as possible. On the whole, it succeeds -- so much so that anyone without kids might be a tad overwhelmed (or annoyed) by all the childish diversions, like the incessantly banged cowbells outsi de the video arcade.

Modeled after the giant log cabins found in the national parks of the American West, the resort has a striking array of imaginative decorative features. The behemoth five-story lobby has giant totem poles, pillars made of timber, and display cases with Native American headdresses and fossils from the Grand Canyon. The grounds boast a man-made river that empties via waterfall into a large, kid-friendly swimming pool and a man-made geyser erupts at intervals throughout the day. The rooms carry the wilderness theme even further, with woodland creatures carved into the bedposts and desks and chairs that look like they've been fashioned out of tree branches.

But visuals aren't the only things that contribute to the Oregon Trail fantasy. As the automatic lobby doors open, guests are greeted by adventure music (like that of an Indiana Jones movie). At the on-site restaurant, Whispering Canyon Cafe, "cast members" (what Disney calls all its staff members) serve soda in jam jars and periodically interrupt meals to invite the entire restaurant to join them in singing "Happy Birthday" to a very special boy or girl. The hotel completely immerses its guests in the fantasy, and the kids love it.

Overall, the Wilderness Lodge is a fine choice for the price. It is one of Disney's "Deluxe" resorts -- the highest-tier cateogry of the conventional (non-villa) resorts -- but it's still about in the middle of the Disney resort price range and significantly more affordable than other Deluxe-level properties like the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian. While the safari-themed Animal Kingdom Lodge is another attractive option in this price range, it's also quite a bit farther from the Magic Kingdom and other resorts than the Wilderness Lodge. Sure, there are cheaper hotels within Walt Disney World that still offer free shuttles, free parking, and extra hours to tour the Magic Kingdom and other parks without the heavy crowds. But these lesser-category resorts also lack the incredible features and variety of restaurants found at the Wilderness Lodge.

 Service

Service can feel a bit bureaucratic and impersonal, but the staff still tries to be fun and friendly in the Disney tradition.

Transportation to Disney Theme Parks
Transportation to Disney Theme Parks

At the Wilderness Lodge, service is a bit of a mixed bag. The "cast members" are all sure to ask, "How may I assist you?" and, notably, the wait staff at Whispering Canyon Cafe engages and entertains children. On the other hand, like most Disney resorts, especially long lines can form at the concierge and registration desks.

While the service varies greatly from one Disney resort category to the next, just about every hotel gears its offerings toward families with small children. It's a different approach than what one finds at most other hotels, where kids are mainly an afterthought.

  • Off-hours access to Disney World and the other Disney theme parks
  • Free shuttle to all Disney resorts and theme parks
  • Guests can use their room key cards to charge theme-park purchases to their rooms.
  • Free transportation to and from Orlando International Airport; airline check-in desk at the resort's entrance lets guests check bags and print boarding passes at the hotel.
  • Full room-service menu available for breakfast and for lunch and dinner -- cheaper Disney resorts just offer pizza delivery
  • Concierge desk. Mainly, the concierge can help guests book an activity or get tickets to an event.
  • No business services -- for any printing, you'll have to take a shuttle to another hotel
  • Old Faithful Club room upgrades include: personalized concierge services; evening turndown service with chocolates; free refreshments all day; free continental breakfast, midday snacks, evening wine and cheese receptions and desserts; free Health Club access; free fax and business services.

 Location

Inside Walt Disney World Resort, right next to the Magic Kingdom

The enormous Wilderness Lodge is only a small part of the massive Disney World compound. It borders Bay Lake, which connects it via boat to the Magic Kingdom. Like many Disney resorts, it's set back from the main roads, so traffic and noise aren't much of an issue, but there are not any off-site dining options within walking distance.

  • Sandy play space, boat rentals, and guided bass fishing tours available around Bay Lake, next to the resort
  • Nature path among trees set back from the road makes for good jogging and hikes.
  • Free boat or bus to the Magic Kingdom theme park, (about a five-minute drive away)
  • Free bus transportation to Epcot (10 minutes), Animal Kingdom (15 minutes), Hollywood Studios (five minutes), and Downtown Disney (12 minutes)
  • 25-minute drive to International Drive, a 14.5-mile road parallel to Interstate 4 that's chock-full of hotels, strip malls, outlet shops, and restaurants
  • 30-minute drive to SeaWorld and Wet 'n Wild parks
  • 45-minute drive to Downtown Orlando, though there's not much aside from a few notable restaurants and bars on Orange Avenue, and non-theme-park attractions like the Orlando Science Center and the Harry P. Leu Gardens
  • 90-minute drive to Kennedy Space Center
  • Free bus to Orlando International Airport, a 30-minute drive away

 Rooms

Fun, thematic decor and modern (but not exactly luxurious) amenities

The Standard King Room
The Standard King Room

The rooms at the Wilderness Lodge don't win many points for luxury trappings -- the beds have patterned bed spreads, not duvets, the sheets aren't exceptional. Still, the rooms are a good size -- much bigger than the All Star resorts' rooms, about the same size as the rooms at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, but smaller than the rooms at other Deluxe-cateogry properties -- and kids will enjoy the playful wilderness accents, like bas-relief nature scenes in the beds' wooden headboards.

  • Comfortably sized standard rooms (340 square feet)
  • Most rooms have either one king or two queen beds, but you can also upgrade to a room with one queen bed and bunk beds or a larger Deluxe Room with an extra sleeper sofa.
  • Average (not luxurious) bedding: low-grade sheets; synthetic comforters and bedspreads (same as most other Disney resorts)
  • 32-inch flat-screen TV
  • Private balcony or patio with all room types -- unlike the Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • iHome iPod docking alarm clocks
  • Hotel-brand bath products
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Standard room prices vary according to view: "Woods Views" mean views of the woodlands, the adjacent villas, or the parking lot; "Courtyard Views" mean a view of the grounds, the pool, the villas, or the lake.
  • Honeymoon Suites (with whirlpool tubs), One-bedroom Vice-Presidential and Presidential Suites also available (each with "Old Faithful Club" access on the 7th floor)
  • Fee if more than two adults share the room

 Features

Great pool and gym, plus access to Bay Lake for boating, fishing, and playing in the sand (but no swimming)

Boat rentals on Bay Lake
Boat rentals on Bay Lake

The large number of high-quality features cater primarily to young children, although the fitness center (like the one at the Animal Kingdom Lodge) is excellent. However, as its primarily a leisure destination, there are scant business facilities.

 Family

Great amenities, kid-friendly foods, and a fun, fantastical atmosphere

Cub's Den Kid's Club
Cub's Den Kid's Club

The Wilderness Lodge is one of the closest hotels to Disney's Magic Kingdom, but it's a great choice for families for many other reasons -- rooms with bunk beds available, a great pool and waterslide, a man-made geyser that goes off every hour during the day, and more.

  • Cub's Den kids' club, for kids ages four to 12, is open from 4:30 p.m. to midnight.
  • Free arts-and-crafts time from the Cub's Den.
  • Concierge can arrange private, in-room babysitters through a separate company.
  • Bunk beds available in some rooms; limited supply of rollaway beds, for a nightly fee, available by request in person, at the resort
  • Free cribs and bedrails available by request

 Cleanliness

Moderately clean; some odor issues in bathrooms

While the hotel, overall, is kept clean, I did have to change rooms once because the drain in the shower smelled strongly of mildew. In my second room, the smell wasn't as powerful, but still present.

 Food

Three restaurants, plus a poolside snack bar and a lounge

Sodas served in jam jars at Whispering Canyon
Sodas served in jam jars at Whispering Canyon

All the restaurants at Disney's Wilderness lodge cater to families. Even the highest-end place, Artist Point, has a kids' menu, and the other options range from the cafeteria-style Roaring Fork to the loud, frontier-themed Whispering Canyon Cafe.

  • Artist Point serves seafood and steak overlooking the pool; open for dinner only.
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe serves barbecue-style fare and has a lively Western theme; open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • Roaring Fork, a cafeteria-style restaurant.
  • Territory Lounge, an American-style bar, serves cocktails and appetizers; open evenings.
  • Trout Pass Bar serves poolside beverages and snacks.

 Bottom Line

It's not exactly luxurious -- subpar bedding; constant crowds; long lines -- but the 727-room Wilderness Lodge is still a superb family resort. Lake access, hiking trails, a standout pool and waterslide, free daily kids' activities, a great gym, and elaborate, Western frontier decor (including an explosive geyser) to keep kids enthralled -- all just five minutes from the Magic Kingdom.

Things You Should Know About Disney's Wilderness Lodge

Address

  • 901 W Timberline Dr., Lake Buena Vista, FL, 32830

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Disney Wilderness Hotel
  • Disney Wilderness Lodge
  • Disneys Wilderness Hotel
  • Disneys Wilderness Lodge
  • Walt Disney World Wilderness Lodge
  • Wilderness Lodge
  • Wilderness Lodge Disney
  • Wilderness Lodge Disney World
  • Wilderness Lodge Orlando
  • Wilderness Lodge Resort

Room Types

  • Club Level Deluxe Room
  • Club Level Standard Room
  • Honeymoon Suite
  • Presidential Suite
  • Standard Room w/Bunk Beds, Courtyard View
  • Standard Room w/Bunk Beds, Woods View
  • Standard Room, Courtyard View
  • Standard Room, Standard View
  • Standard Room, Woods View
  • Vice Presidential Suite

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 727
Pool: Yes
Fitness Center: Yes
Internet Access: Yes
Cribs: Yes
Kids Club: Yes
Jacuzzi (in room): Some
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Hotel Information

Location: Disney World, Orlando
Address: 901 W Timberline Dr., Lake Buena Vista, FL, 32830
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