The WDW wilderness must be explored: A staycation at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
We all have that “white whale” resort on Walt Disney World property. That resort where we have always wanted to stay, but haven’t had the chance for whatever reason. For my wife, it’s been Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. She has felt that way ever since we spent last Thanksgiving taking WDW transportation from Disney Springs: visiting a number of different available options. The second she gazed upon those high ceilings and that Northwestern theming in the lobby, she was hooked.
Since the two of us both had milestone birthdays this year that were disappointments due to everything that has been happening; keeping us from loved ones and experiences we enjoy, I thought it would be nice to reward ourselves with a staycation at her favorite resort on-property. Honestly, it was the best time to do so, because there are scores of great deals for the summer and fall, especially for Annual Passholders. With the exception of a one day “toes in the water” visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in August, it was her first time back in the parks since February.
We started the trip on a Sunday at Epcot to take advantage of “A Taste of Food and Wine,” which is a wonderful offering this year. There are fewer booths than in past years, but they have kept some of the booths from the International Flower and Garden Festival from earlier this year. This makes for a wonderful day of snacking. There were a lot of great options, but I believe our favorite was the Blueberry and Almond Frangipane Tart from the Alps booth. This booth is located slightly to the right of the China Pavilion this year.
We had already used our My Disney Experience app earlier in the week to take advantage of mobile check-in to our resort. This was extremely convenient, as all we had to do was walk to our room and scan our Magic Bands to enter. Even if you don’t use Magic Bands, you can unlock your door from your My Disney Experience app. This is the perfect way to manage the current situation for safety, and it is honestly just more convenient for guests anyway.
The renovated rooms at Wilderness Lodge are modern, and super-functional. I have been saying that it almost gives off a “glamping” vibe. You have the option of a traditional hotel showerhead, and an overhead, “rain” showerhead. The kitchenette has a lot of extra space for storage. They really do a great job of maximizing every foot of space to make sure that the room functions even bigger than it looks. I particularly like the table that sat in front of the couch. It can serve as extra storage after you lift up the top part, and you can pull that top part for you to rest your food or your laptop.
Speaking of food, even after a day at “A Taste of Food and Wine,” I didn’t have what I would consider a substantive meal, so I mobile-ordered a Zesty Slaw “Burger” on a Brioche Bun with French Fries. I am a vegetarian, and love to see what completely plant-based options are available at all the different locations on-property.
This “burger” was top-shelf. When I took a bite of it, the juice started to drip into the box. Some places tend to make all of their veggie burgers dry, but a truly special veggie burger can be juicy and substantial. The slaw was certainly “zesty” and had a kick of spice that was also built into the burger. I had gotten a cup of hot sauce; however, I hardly used it.
On the second night, I decided to order the same thing from Roaring Fork, and my wife ordered the 10-Hour Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich, which she loved. We also split the kids’ mac and cheese with two sides and a drink as an appetizer. Disney really does a good job of not having every location have the same type of mac and cheese. There are a variety of styles of mac and cheese that you can find on-property, and this one was rich enough to allow two adults to split the kids’ portion and feel perfectly satisfied.
Whispering Canyon Café, Geyser Point, and Artists’ Point are all great dining locations at Wilderness Lodge, but don’t sleep on their quick service after a tiring day at the parks.
After my wife went to bed, I wanted to take the opportunity to appreciate this wonderful resort, so I just sat at a table by the big lobby fireplace, and proceeded to unwind. It was late by this point, so the lobby was practically empty besides a few cast members. The smell of the lobby is iconic, and the lumber-inspired fixtures, woodworking, and totem poles create the perfect vibe for relaxation.
Monday morning was time for our Magic Kingdom reservation, so it was an early rise. We made our complimentary Joffrey’s coffee, and sipped it on the porch of our room, while watching the sun rise over the tree line. It was truly the perfect way to start a day.
We took the boat service from Wilderness Lodge to the Magic Kingdom, which started at 8:30 a.m. We were out there and ready a little before 8, so we made it onto the first boat. This is an important aspect in the current situation. To make sure that you are in the park before the posted opening, you have to make sure that you are at the transportation locations as early as possible. Vehicle capacity is severely limited for physical distancing, so you want to make sure that you are on the first vehicle.
It was a beautiful day at Magic Kingdom, and we got to experience as many of the offerings as we wanted, with limited wait times due to limited capacity in the parks. We are currently in a stage when the weekends can start to get longer lines, but weekday park days are still pretty fantastic for crowds. We got to do Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with a posted 35-minute wait that was more like 15 minutes.
It was the last day before the Magic Kingdom switched over to Halloween decorations and themes, so my wife got to experience the traditional character cavalcades for the first time since reopening. Now I have an excuse to get her to go back for the Halloween-themed versions (I am always thinking of ways to rope her into extra theme park days).
Since we had accomplished all of the rides and shows we had wanted by 4:30 p.m. we decided to take the monorail over to the Contemporary Resort to try the seasonal 7-layer chocolate cake available temporarily at The Wave. We sat at the lounge and ate one of the richest cakes I have ever tasted (this cake is definitely for splitting, as it is probably too rich and big to eat by yourself). It doesn’t really feel like a trip to Walt Disney World without some time on the monorail, and The Wave is an underrated gem of a restaurant.
We got back to the Magic Kingdom in enough time to take the boat back to Wilderness Lodge, and still have an evening of looking though Wilderness Lodge Mercantile; trying Roaring Fork for the second-straight night; walking the grounds; and sitting in the lobby one more time.
We also ventured over to the Boulder Ridge section of the resort (the DVC-specific rooms) to enjoy the Carolwood Lounge. This lounge is dedicated to Walt Disney’s love of trains, and features a lot of history surrounding trains at Disney parks. There are even cars from Walt’s personal scale train from his property. When you combine this history with a roaring fire and comfortable seats, it is another great spot to take a load off of your feet.
The staycation wrapped up on Tuesday morning, when we loaded up the car to head to Hollywood Studios to try to get a boarding group on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. I will be providing a lot more information on how to get a Rise boarding group in the future, so I will not be going into that here. That being said, I will save you the suspense. We got boarding group 30, and I was able to ride for my ninth time and my wife got to ride for her second time. It is a breathtaking experience. The effort you put into getting a boarding group will never feel wasted if you get the chance to ride. I promise.
Tuesday also marked the first day of an increased Annual Passholder discount for most merchandise on-property. Since we had to leave Wilderness Lodge before the Mercantile store opening in the morning, we drove back after Hollywood Studios to get a shirt and magnet we had wanted at a 30% discount. This may come up on one of your trips, but it is always nice to know. On the day you checkout of the resort, even though checkout is at 11 in the morning, you still have access to the resort until midnight.
This means that your Magic Band will still open the gate to the parking lot for you. It means that you can leave your car in the parking lot, if you want. Yes, may people do know this, but a fair number of people worry about it. This was great for us, because it made it easy to save the extra money.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge was everything we had hoped, and we will definitely be staying there again in the near future. Whether you are an Annual Passholder, Florida resident, or anybody else, this may be the best time to try to book a trip to that special resort where you have always wanted to stay. The limited park hours with limited capacity are giving you opportunities to do more in a shorter time in the parks.
This situation allows you more time at the resort, and the discounts available are making these deluxe and moderate resorts more accessible to more-and-more people. When I am spending twelve, thirteen, or more hours in the parks, I am more likely to go with a value resort. My hotel is just a place to shower and sleep in those situations. On this trip, the resort was more of a focus for us than the parks. I would truly recommend it.