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We tried 1 of Disney's cheapest deluxe resorts — here's what Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is like

Oct. 14, 2022
15 min read
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  • Disney's Wilderness Lodge is one of the most themed of the deluxe resorts at Disney World, but it's also one of the most affordable.
  • This resort is not within walking distance of any of the theme parks, but it is a quick boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom.
  • On-site amenities include a pool with a waterslide, a restaurant full of characters, and boat rentals.

When you pull up to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, you may only be a mile or two from the gates of the Magic Kingdom, but you will feel like you’ve left Central Florida in favor of a national park filled with tall trees and ample shade. You may even get flashbacks to Old Faithful Inn or Glacier Park Lodge when you walk through the doors into the oversized atrium.

While those authentic and traditional national park lodges are absolutely worth a visit, staying at the Disney version can be a little bit easier and a lot more attainable, as it offers significantly more rooms and stays open year-round. Not to mention, Disney's Wilderness Lodge just unveiled newly refurbished rooms that were part of a larger renovation carried out during the pandemic closure.


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Although the iconic property, which first opened in 1994, has been freshened up, it's still the tried-and-true themed resort inspired by America's great national park lodges that many Disney fans — us included — have come to love. Plus, its location on the shores of Disney’s Bay Lake makes it convenient for a day at the parks, as it's a short boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom.

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But should you go out of your way to visit Disney's Wilderness Lodge now that it's been updated? Here's what it's like staying at one of Disney World's most affordable deluxe resorts — and all you need to know before you reserve a room.

Booking

As a deluxe Disney resort, rooms here are not inexpensive. However, the rates can be lower than at many of the other deluxe resorts, as the property is not within walking distance of any of the Disney theme parks.

Rates for entry-level rooms at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge usually sit between $300 and $500 per night, though Disney sales and discounts can cause that price to fall below $300 per night at certain times of the year. On the night of my most recent stay, my room was $392 per night without taxes and fees.

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For this visit, I paid with my Chase Sapphire Reserve so I would earn 3 points per dollar spent on my room. You can also book Disney resorts using some types of credit card points, such as Citi ThankYou or Bilt Rewards points, but this was not an option for me with Chase, as you cannot currently use Chase points to cover the cost of Disney resorts or tickets.

To save money in another way, you can book your stay with discounted Disney gift cards. Or, if you want to stay at one of the Disney Vacation Club properties that sit on the same grounds (Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and the Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge), you could try renting Disney Vacation Club points. Depending on when you visit, using DVC points could be the cheaper way to go; you'll not only be spared from paying $24 per day for parking but could also save up to 50% on the retail price.

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Related: Best credit cards for Disney and Universal vacations

Location

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge overlooks Bay Lake, so you can take a short boat ride to the Magic Kingdom from the property.

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Boat rides generally take less than 10 minutes from dock to dock, meaning you could be through the gates of the Magic Kingdom in about 20 minutes ... if you time your departure just right. Helping cut down on your wait to get in is the separate security area by the dock you pass through after arriving.

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You can also use Minnie Vans to get to other parts of the Disney property from the lodge. The last time I went with this service, my ride took about 11 minutes from door to door. However, the wait for Minnie Vans can vary, so be sure to allow for extra time.

Check-in

The grandness of the lobby at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is rivaled only by Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, which was designed by the same architect a few years after Disney's Wilderness Lodge.

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You can check in and go straight to your room via Disney's app. However, I like to do it the old-fashioned way here.

During my most recent stay, the cast members at the reception desk had good news waiting for me when I arrived: My one-night stay in a standard room had been upgraded (aka "pixie dusted") to a club-level stay. This was fantastically good news, as club-level rooms are generally several hundred dollars more per night.

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As luck would have it, this is the second time I've been upgraded to a club-level accommodation at this Disney resort in as many stays. That's a small sample size, but it's noteworthy since it's never happened to me at any other Disney resort.

Because I was upgraded to a club-level room, a cast member came down from the Old Faithful Club lounge to escort me to the venue to finish the check-in process and show me to my room.

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Related: Magic at every budget: These are the best hotels at Walt Disney World in 2022

Room

Before I show you my room from my most recent visit, here's a look at the pre-renovation rooms at Disney's Wilderness Lodge so you can get a sense of what recently changed.

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Instead of the dated Western-style carpet and more rustic bedframes featuring frontier scenes etched onto the headboards, the renovated rooms offer forest-inspired wallpaper, wood floors, fresh lamps, additional outlets and more modern furnishings with natural elements like stone and wood. Plus, you'll find a number of contemporary conveniences commonly found in up-to-date hotels, including flat-panel TVs and Keurig coffee makers.

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While pops of red are still part of the updated look, the rooms are now less influenced by the American West and more on par with what you may find in the forests where Bambi, Chip and Dale reside. You'll even find subtle nods to these classic Disney characters in details like framed artwork and wallpaper.

The bathrooms at Disney's Wilderness Lodge also benefited from a refresh. Mine had a walk-in shower and a single vanity with a toilet in its own small room that could be closed off with a pocket door.

Some rooms at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, such as the one I was upgraded to, face the Magic Kingdom, so you'll enjoy views of the park's nighttime fireworks show from your furnished balcony.

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Food and beverage

If you stay in the Old Faithful Club at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, you have access to a few breakfast items, plus snacks and drinks throughout the day and evening, in the lounge.

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Breakfast each morning consisted of options such as muffins, croissants, bagels, hard-boiled eggs, lox, fruit, turkey bacon and French toast sticks. A couple of juices, iced tea and espresso beverages via a Nespresso machine were also available.

In the afternoon, the offerings switched to snacks like cookies, chips and candies.

There were several Coke products, too. Plus, a selection of beer and wine was available upon request.

I stayed here while in Orlando testing out the return of Victoria & Albert's in Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, so I wasn't able to fully check out the evening lounge selection. However, there are hearty appetizers that you can turn into a light meal if you are not ravenous.

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My favorite time in a Disney club lounge is when the day ends and the evening fireworks begin. This is because music for the show is piped in so you can watch from the balcony as if you're in the parks. At Disney's Wilderness Lodge, the same is true, so I enjoyed a superb view of the Magic Kingdom's fireworks from the lounge’s two balconies during my latest stay.

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Besides the lounge, there are a number of other dining options at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge providing everything from casual meals to memorable character dining experiences.

One of our favorite places to eat outdoors at Disney World is the lodge's casual quick-service restaurant, Roaring Fork. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, this grab-and-go venue dishes up comfort classics like chili, meat and veggie burgers, pulled pork sandwiches and french fries.

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Another casual option outdoors is Geyser Point Bar & Grill. When the weather is nice, this is a great spot for an evening cocktail, as it sits adjacent to the lake.

To go along with the cocktails, which include options like the Frose (frozen rose), the eatery serves a variety of lunch and dinner items, such as a bison burger, a grilled portobello salad and a children’s sampler of finger foods.

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For a sit-down meal, there's the Whispering Canyon Cafe in the main portion of the lodge. This breakfast, lunch and dinner venue serves all kinds of hearty, comforting Southern staples, including biscuits and gravy, maple-chipotle pork ribs, slow-smoked pulled pork, citrus-herb chicken and housemade cornbread.

Here, you'll discover an entertaining interactive experience at dinnertime complete with sassy servers, gags, games and more. It's an ideal place to bring the family for a rowdy meal.

Don't be shocked if some quirky antics occur when you order certain items, too. I won't spoil the surprise for you, but trust me, you'll want to prepare yourself for an amusing twist if you ask for ketchup.

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If you want to tack on a fun meal with Disney icons, then make sure you visit Story Book Dining at Artist Point. This dinner-only restaurant gives patrons the chance to interact with "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" characters while enjoying a multicourse meal.

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You may assume the dwarfs dancing about would be the highlight of the experience, but this isn't the case.

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Instead, it's the Evil Queen who steals the show.

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The food is equally memorable. Although I didn't have a chance to dine here during my most recent visit, when my family and I have previously eaten here, we tried the Wicked Shrimp Cocktail, Magic Mirror's Slow-braised Pork Shank, Bashful's Butter-poached Sustainable Fish and a trio of shared desserts in the three-course lineup. All were a hit with us.

Related: These are the best restaurants at Disney World

Amenities

There are some rooms at Disney resorts that I love spending time in beyond sleeping hours (savanna-view rooms at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge come to mind), but for the most part, you stay at a deluxe Disney resort for the location and amenities, not the room.

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge has an OK list of amenities as far as deluxe Disney hotels go, though it's not the most extensive list around.

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To start, there are two pools, one of which features a splash pad with a play structure for kids.

The main pool, the heated Copper Creek Springs Pool, is simply breathtaking. It's fed by a stream that flows from the massive waterfall at the back of the hotel. Truly, it's a picturesque scene as far as theme park pools go.

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While beautiful to look at, it's not the most extravagant pool in Disney’s lineup (that nod goes to the shared pool complex at Disney's Yacht Club Resort and Disney's Beach Club Resort). Still, it has a 67-foot waterslide worth checking out, plus a small hot tub.

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Two additional toddler-friendly slides are available in the splash area adjacent to the main pool.

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Disney's Wilderness Lodge's other pool is the Boulder Ridge Cove Pool, a zero-entry option near the Boulder Ridge Villas. We liked that this pool was open later than the main pool during our visit, though we noticed that it generally did not have lifeguards present.

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As you may expect, the property also has several outdoor activities and amenities, including fishing and evening movie screenings. You can rent boats at the property's dock as well.

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Should you want to try other activities like horseback riding and archery, simply take a quick boat ride to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.

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For a break from the Florida sun, play a game (or two) at the Buttons and Bells Arcade.

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Once the sun is starting to set, head to the on-site fire pits to make s'mores.

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Related: Splash into fun: The 14 best hotel pools in Orlando

Service

Disney service is known throughout the world as being one of the highest caliber levels of service for a reason. And this resort is consistently a good representation of that high standard. My experiences here are admittedly a little skewed since both stays have been at the club level where they are able to escort you to your room and provide more individualized attention and recommendations, but all of my interactions here have been pretty five-star and exceedingly friendly.

Overall impression

I've very much enjoyed our two stays at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. This resort is lower-priced than most of the deluxe Disney resorts but it's still close enough to the Magic Kingdom to make it a convenient option for theme park visits.

Perhaps most importantly, it's a calm refuge after frenetic days running around the parks. From the great service to the serene setting featuring lots of outdoor shade, a babbling brook and rustic (but refined) decor reminiscent of the classic national park lodges, the property's relaxing ambiance leaves you feeling at ease during your stay.

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It's especially magical during the Christmas season when some pretty epic decorations are sprinkled throughout, though you can't go wrong with a visit any time of year.

To find the right Disney World hotel for you, check out these additional TPG reviews:

Featured image by SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
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Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023