Resort Exploring: Vol 5 – “Wilderness” Area Resorts

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For the purposes of this post, I am going to go ahead and lump the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness campground together. The reason is simple; they both have the word “wilderness” in their names. Okay, they also occupy semi-adjacent spaces on the shores of Bay Lake, and the themes of both resorts are complementary, but it is really because of the names.

Wilderness Lodge

Honestly, before visiting this resort I did not think I would like it. I have been to the American West and seen the great cabin hotels that obviously inspired the Wilderness Lodge. I also grew up in Pennsylvania, in an area in which it is common to find forests, streams, and wildlife. Therefore, I was expecting to be underwhelmed by Wilderness Lodge, thinking it to be a second rate version of things I was familiar with. The story of my first visit is a boring one, but that particular tale ends with my now thinking that Wilderness Lodge has my favorite theme of any of the Deluxe Resorts at Walt Disney World.

While Deluxe Resorts, in general, do not lend themselves well to exploration due to their compact nature (with regard to land – the buildings are gigantic), Wilderness Lodge is a little bit different. The area it sits on is still not large, but the building and grounds are incredibly detailed. One could spend hours in the lobby alone looking at the fantastic woodwork and simply enjoying the soaring heights of the space (and the comfy chairs that inevitably have some napping patrons). Stepping outside brings you face to face with even more beauty.

The exterior area of the Wilderness Lodge is absolutely gorgeous. Designed to look like a section of Yellowstone National Park (I’m guessing here, but 97% sure), it contains foliage, huge (fake) rocks, waterfalls, streams, and a sprawling pool. With the log cabin-styled Lodge in the background, there are great vistas all over the area.

Walking out toward the shores of Bay Lake reveals what I feel is one of the coolest add-ons to any Disney resort…geysers. Well okay, they’re man made, but they still bubble and erupt and look just like the real thing. Standing on the path with the pool and Lodge on one side and geysers backed by the lake on the other is something I can do for hours (I haven’t because I’m way too antsy, but I could).

Fort Wilderness

There is no more unique Disney World accommodation experience than Fort Wilderness Resort. I am no camper, preferring hotels and beds to tents and sleeping bags (bugs and I have irreconcilable differences). That said, I have camped many times in both tents and RVs, and my extended family are very fond of their RVs, so I know what a campground looks like. Fort Wilderness is, without question, a campground.

When you are on the grounds of Fort Wilderness you would be hard pressed to even know you are in Walt Disney World (except for the multitude of Disney themed decorations on campsites). There are general stores, ponds, woods, meandering paths, ranches, and lots and lots of space. You can easily get lost at Fort Wilderness (trust me), and finding the right bus routes can be a chore, but the peacefulness and serenity that abound are worth the trouble.

Near the Bay Lake edge of Fort Wilderness are the Tri-Circle-D Ranch & Farm, where horses can be found, and Pioneer Hall, which is home to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue (see menu). With the log cabin construction, plethora of rocking chairs, and the view out toward Bay Lake, it is a calm spot in an otherwise hectic vacation.

Speaking of calm, your primary mode of transportation to the Magic Kingdom from either of these resorts is a wonderfully relaxing boat ride (although you may get a little sad seeing Discovery Island in its unused state). Arriving to the park via Seven Seas Lagoon makes a magical place even more special.

It is probably pretty obvious that I am a huge fan of both of these areas. If your vacation is all about getting the optimum time in each of the parks, these may not be the best choice. However, if you want to mix park touring with relaxation and peaceful afternoons, there are few better places (if any) than either the Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness. Either way, I strongly recommend taking a little bit of time to wander and explore both of these fantastic spots.

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Brian McNichols

In addition to blogging, I also do some analyzin' here at Touring Plans. I am a travel nut, planning nut, Disney nut, wall nut. Husband of 1, father of 2. Hilariously funny in my own mind. Find me on Twitter @YesThatBrian if you like really dumb jokes.

11 thoughts on “Resort Exploring: Vol 5 – “Wilderness” Area Resorts

  • The Wilderness Lodge is one of our favorite places to stay. But we had never visited Fort Wilderness until last week, when we did the Segway Tour there. (I HIGHLY recommend that for anyone who has ever wanted to ride one of those:; my husband and I are in our 50’s and we had a blast — enjoying it even more than the Epcot Around the World Segway Tour we did 3 years ago:!

    Anyway, this was our first exposure to FW. I am definitely not the camping type, but there was no doubting the peace and serenity there — a plus for those who find the parks and other WDW hotels a bit “over-stimulating”, crowded, and noisy.

  • I love the pool at the Wilderness Lodge! I’ve stayed at the Lodge, the Villas, and cabins and camped in tents and in a pop-up camper. I really enjoy the all the Wilderness-named resorts. I like taking the boat to the MK, too. The pool at the Lodge is really nice as well. The whole area is very well-themed. Before there were DVC resorts, the cabins were my first choice for a home-away-from-home accommodation choice. I travel a lot for my work, so the last thing I want to stay in for vacation is a hotel room! The cabins were a god-send back in the 80’s when I spent 90% of my time in Marriotts. (Not that there is anything wrong with Marriotts.) 😉

  • I’m still trying to figure out what “Exlorting” is.

    • LOL I misspelled the misspelled. I meant “Explorting.”

      • Yeah, no problem. My thoughts were along the lines of extorting explorers or exploring extortioners. I’ve been married to a court reporter for almost 12 years and have learned to see those things. I always make sure she proofs my school papers. Thanks for the article by the way.

  • Love the WL. Staying for the 5th time this November…just as the Disney elves put up the holiday decorations like magic. I find it to be convenient and peaceful at WL.

  • I have stayed at both, and I couldn’t agree more! Both are beautiful, peaceful, relaxing… oh how I wish I could be there now….

  • Love Fort Wilderness! We stayed in a cabin in 2009 and went back again in 2011. Now I’m tempted to rent an RV just because those campers look like they have so much fun. We’ve always gone in December and the holiday decorations of the campers are worth the visit alone. Even with the cabins it is great to be secluded from neighbors with ample space between all the units and parking right at the door. A great way to spend a vacation and feel like we are really away from it all when not in the parks.

  • I couldn’t agree more. Wilderness Lodge is someplace we always make time to visit. It takes my breath away with its beauty. I love sitting in the lobby and just looking up at the incredible workmanship of the totem poles and the stone fireplace and Wilderness Lodge at Christmas shouldn’t be missed. Having said that we RV so we have stayed at Fort Wilderness every trip since 2007 and we have APs so we stay about 4 times as year. Since we travel with 2 dogs there is no place else we would stay. There is a peacefullness that you can’t find anyplace else. Every time I check in it’s like coming home. I’m at peace from the hectic outside world.

  • I agree with your assessments. These two places are my favorite at WDW. You feel miles away from everything, yet, you are quite close. They are so relaxing and tend to attract similarly minded folks…very little attitude and pretty polite kids.


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