Wilderness Lodge’s central lobby, like its architectural twin, Animal Kingdom Lodge, has a grandeur that cannot be described. It’s not that the space is unique – many grand hotels have seven-story atriums – however, few feature décor that runs counter to the space. In the case of Wilderness Lodge, the pine/Native American style seems curiously out of place (yet not) in a hotel of this magnitude.
Central support columns in a deluxe hotel should not be unfinished, rough-hewn pine trees – but they are. Chandeliers the size of a man usually overflow with dangling crystals – but the ones in Wilderness Lodge appear to be life-size teepees. A natural (unnatural) spring bubbles up in the back of Wilderness Lodge’s lobby, flows beneath a bridge and under the floor; it then emerges in a garden of wild flowers as it tumbles downward toward the swimming pool. (An army of gardeners works very hard to make the flowers look untended.)
Visitors enter Wilderness Lodge by way of the central lobby, and guest rooms spread out to the right and left, running almost the entire way to Bay Lake. The shape of the building creates an enclosed space in the middle. While Cypress trees and Spanish moss decorate the outer edges by the lake – protected by law in Florida as wetlands – there’s nary a palm tree in sight. The pool sits only a small themed area away from the lake, and a 12-story artificial geyser that erupts hourly suggests that the resort’s actual location is somewhere in Yellowstone National Park.
Wilderness Lodge is the only luxury Disney Resort that stands alone. The Magic Kingdom resorts (Polynesian, Contemporary, and Grand Floridian) are joined together by the monorail. The Epcot Resorts (Yacht & Beach Club and Boardwalk) share a boat and view of each other. In fact, Disney encourages guests to intermingle in the other resorts. Due to its isolated location and lack of non-guest attractions, however, Wilderness Lodge has a bit more solitude. (From the shoreline, the Contemporary can be seen in the distance off the left, but it’s not easily reached.) Higher floors offer concierge service, and an annex, part of Disney’s Vacation Club, includes rooms with kitchens. If unused by Vacation Club guests, these are offered to weekly visitors.
That Wilderness Lodge solitude, however, is also a hassle when trying to go somewhere. Busses must be used to connect to all other Disney areas except the Magic Kingdom and the campground. For the latter two, boats depart from the Wilderness Lodge dock on Bay Lake.
For those who want to “get away from it all,” Wilderness Lodge comes close. However, a path leading to the campground winds through woods that Disney left intact. Guests can even walk along the lake for a while. It’s one of the few places on Disney property where you can taste the natural Florida and escape the high-adrenaline thrills of the world’s largest playground.
Who should stay here
Visitors who enjoy Americana, the West, American Indian art, etc., won’t be disappointed. In fact, few people dislike Wilderness Lodge.
Who shouldn’t stay here
There are valid reasons to avoid a Western theme, such as a recent vacation or even a home not far from the Rockies. Beyond that, however, there’s little wrong here. Kids looking for “the best hotel pool in all of Disney World” might prefer the Yacht and Beach Club, though the Wilderness Lodge pool is not shabby.
It’s a somewhat long yet enjoyable hike to Disney’s campground, but a boat conveniently connects guests to it, as well as the Magic Kingdom. All other transportation is by bus.
Questions to ask when booking
The main building’s rooms have a panoramic view of the main lobby. Rooms closer to Bay Lake have easier access to boat transportation and swimming. Also ask about the view (prices could be higher) since not all overlook the central themed area.
Disney’s website: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/wilderness-lodge-resort