Friday, September 4, 2009
Disney's Wilderness Lodge
If you're wondering what Disney resort is 'just right' for families, I have a suggestion.
Check out the September 2009 issue of Travel & Leisure. This issue has a bonus section 'Travel & Leisure Family' that lists the world's best hotels for families.
Seven (yes....7!) Disney resorts made the list of the top 50 resorts in the United States and Canada. Six of those seven are located at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. The seventh is Disney's Grand California Hotel & Spa in Anaheim.
Number 13 on the list....Disney's Wilderness Lodge!
We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge back in April, and I have to say...it IS a great resort for families. If given the option (and an budget without limits*), I'd stay there every time we visit WDW.
When our Magical Express bus pulled up the front of the WL back in April, I was in awe. It's a beautiful resort on the outside...but when you walk through the front doors into the lobby, be prepared to be amazed!
The lobby is open, airy and features an 82-foot tall fireplace and several totem poles. It is, in a word, breathtaking. A small bubbling brook begins in the lobby and continues outside, flowing into a waterfall and eventually into the resort swimming pool. 'Hidden Mickeys' abound in this resort - be sure to ask the front desk for the hidden mickey "hunt list" and then start searching. We found a few Hidden Mickeys...but never had enough time do find them all.
Our rooms were located on the main floor of the hotel - which was nice ... no elevators needed. We had requestedl 'courtyard' view rooms -- overlooking the pool. If you can, I suggest paying the extra money to get a courtyard view. What an amazing view. I believe that every room at the WL has a private balcony, and that was one of my favorite things about the resort. I loved sitting on my balcony in the morning, watching the resort 'wake up' ... and in the afternoon it was fun to sit out there, soaking up the 'pool atmosphere'.
Overall, the rooms were great. We had two queen beds and a pack-and-play and there was still enough room for all of our stuff, including a double stroller! There was a full-size closet where all the suitcases fit, along with 12 princess costumes (whew! good thing I had somewhere to hang those!). The sink area was HUGE - enough room for all my 'beauty products (what you think this happens naturally? ha!)...and the rest of the family's 'stuff'. And, there was also a dorm size refrigerator -- a definite bonus when you stay at the deluxe resorts.
Be sure to look for hidden mickeys on the carpet in the hallways and on your bedspread!
You can't write about any Disney resort without talking about the food! And you'll get some good eats at the Wilderness Lodge.
On our first day at WDW we were STARVING when we arrived at the resort after a whole morning of travel, so we headed to the Roaring Fork...the quick service restaurant at the WL. The Roaring Fork serves breakfast items (hot and cold), sandwiches, salads, pizzas and snacks (including the very yummy Mickey Ears rice krispie treats -- my absolute favorite!). My husband and I shared the roast beef and blue sandwich and I'll say it here -- it was divine. My favorite breakfast item was the mix your own cereal bar. Basically you can choose from several types of cereal (frosted flakes, rice krispies, etc.) and the cast member behind the counter will mix them in a nice sized container. All you need to do is add milk.
The Roaring Fork is also the place to go when you want to buy and/or refill your refillable mug. For $12.99 you can buy a refillable mug and then fill it with coffee or pop as often as you want for the duration of your trip (note however, that the refillable mugs cannot be filled at any of the theme parks). This is a great deal and I would suggest it to anyone. We usually purchase one mug ... and my husband and I share it.
The Whispering Canyon Cafe and Artist Point are also located at the Wilderness Lodge. We didn't have a chance to eat at the Whispering Canyon but I know people who have eaten there and they said it was the BEST table service meal they had at WDW. It's on my 'to do' list for 2011. My parents enjoyed a night out at Artist Point and reported that the meal was very good.
Ah, the pool...one of the most important locations at any WDW resort. And, I am happy to report, the pool at the WL does not disappoint.
The pool is large, but not too huge...and includes a waterfall and a water slide. There is a separate 'baby pool' -- and my 2-year-old loved that. Another bonus at the WDW resort pools -- life vests are available for the kids. At the WL you need to walk down toward the beach to the rental shack and you can 'rent' (free of charge) a vest for the entire length of your stay. Yes, you can take the vest back to your room every day -- and at the end of your stay, just return the vest to the rental shack. It's that simple.
For the adults, there is a nice pool bar - the Trout Pass bar -- located at the pool.
The Grounds and more....
Personally, I think the grounds of the WL are one of the most beautiful properties at WDW. You really feel as though you've been transported to a national park - there's even a working geyser on site!
The resort itself is located in the Magic Kingdom area of WDW - but it is not a monorail resort.
You could spend a few hours just walking around the resort, taking in the atmosphere, hanging out on the beach at Bay Lake (no swimming!), sitting in a rocking chair outside the lobby .. you know, just relaxing. I saw many families taking bike rides and walks around the grounds when we visited in April....and it looked fun!
One of the things you MUST do is watch the Electric Water Pageant. We walked down to the beach on our second night at the WL to watch the pageant, and it was a perfect way to spend 10 minutes! The pageant floats past all Bay Lake resorts - and you might even catch a glimpse of it as you exit the Magic Kingdom (we saw it on our last night at WDW as we waited for the boat back to the resort).
Transportation to the parks
As I mentioned above, the WL is not a monorail resort.
You can travel to the Magic Kingdom via boat or bus (or car if you have one!). We took the boat and the bus...and discovered that it was often quicker to take the bus. The bus stop is located in the front of the resort - you can reach it by walking out the doors near the Merchantile and following the sidewalk down to the bus stops. The boat dock is located on Bay Lake - walk past the pool and over a walkway to the docks. We waited more than 20 minutes on one day for the boat....but we did discover that on the way "home" from the MK, it was often faster to hop on the boat!
In order to reach Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios or the Animal Kingdom you must take the bus. For the most part, we had good 'luck' when it came to taking the buses and having short trips. We did end up stopping at Fort Wilderness a few times (en route to DHS) and on one of these trips we spent 45 minutes on the bus! But, for the most part you can figure on spending 15 or 20 minutes on your trip to those three parks.
The rest of the story
Well, there you have it...a rather lengthy report on my favorite deluxe resort...one of the best resorts for families. This resort has it all -- location, a great pool, good food, hidden mickeys and enough fun stuff to keep kids of all ages entertained for days!
*Note: the resorts listed in this article are ALL Deluxe resorts. These may not be in your budget, but never fear. A future post will be focused on the Disney Value Resorts, specifically the All-Star Movie Resort - perfect for the family on a budget!