Disney's Wilderness Lodge: A Photo Tourby Donald and Bonnie Fink, contributing writer
If you asked us which Disney Deluxe Resort hotel was our favorite, our answer would be pretty much the same as the answer to the question, "Which Disney park is our favorite?" That is, "The one we're standing in at the moment." One exception, when we think of some of the best hotels on Disney property, might be that we always seem to turn to Disney's Wilderness Lodge as the top of the list.
To get to Disney's Wilderness Lodge, you follow signs to the Magic Kingdom. After crossing through the main gates, you go to the extreme right instead of heading over to the Ticket and Transportation Center. Travel straight for perhaps a mile, then turn right into the entrance. There are signs pointing the way.
The lobby of Disney's Wilderness Lodge is reminiscent of a northern Rocky Mountains lodge. Of course, in our travels of the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. and Canada, we have never encountered anything even remotely close to this kind of grandeur. The hotel doesn't seem to depict any particular place, but rather, brings a feeling of the wilderness with the luxury that only Disney can provide.
In the lobby, for example, there are totem poles that might have been typical of the Northwest, but there is a fireplace that represents the layers of the Grand Canyon. We understand that Disney's Wilderness Lodge is inspired by the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley and the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone. But while we do see some similarities, after the Disney magic gets through, there really is no comparison.
Jim Korkis wrote an article here that described the totem poles at Walt Disney World, including those at the Wilderness Lodge. According to the article, Disney brought in master carver Duane Pasco from Washington state. He and three assistants worked for about six months, and installed the totem poles in January 1994. The two poles are called Raven Pole, near the registration desk, and Eagle Pole, near the Whispering Canyon Cafe. Carved out of old-growth redwoods and standing 55 feet tall, both are "story poles," read from the bottom to the top.
The Eagle totem near Whispering Canyon Cafe starts its story with Bear Chief, who is planning a feast to honor his nephew Bear Cub. It goes on up the pole and ends with the story of Eagle flying out to sea to rescue a distraught young woman and bringing her back to her people on land. Photo by Donald Fink.
It's said that different animals serve as spirit guides to many native American tribes, and that each animal has specific characteristics. We visited several web sites in our research of this article, but couldn't find any definitions for the animals depicted on the totem pole above.
The lobby of Disney's Wilderness Lodge is possibly the best example of a wilderness lodge we have ever seen; even better than the wilderness lodges that inspired its creation. It reminds us of Yellowstone, with the geyser behind the pool reminding us of Old Faithful, the geyser spring in the lobby (like any number of hot springs throughout the park), and the water falls behind the lobby, which could represent the Mammoth Hot Springs area. Of course, there's the fireplace that depicts the rock layers of the Grand Canyon and its nearly four billion years of erosion, so there's clearly many different areas and wilderness wonders being represented here.
The bridge in the back of the lobby crosses the head waters of Silver Creek. The creek emerges from the ground in this continuously running geyser, leaves the building, making its way to Silver Falls and finally empties into Bay Lake. Or so the Disney magic would make it appear.
We've enjoyed many meals at Whispering Canyon Cafe. Our favorites are braised short ribs in the evening and pecan waffles in the morning. The cast members here make the meal a fun time. They're casual and treat you like family. If you're not in the mood for a good time, they'll leave you alone to enjoy your meal, too. The main thing to remember is that asking for ketchup will quickly make you the center of attention. You have been warned.
Over the years, we've stayed at the Wilderness Lodge a few times. Not too many, of course. Being a Deluxe resort, it's expensive. We usually reserve our stays at these hotels for very special occasions.
The Wilderness Lodge has always been a fun experience. While the common areas are well thought out and lavishly decorated, the rooms don't disappointment.
Every detail, from the hand carved animal figures on the bed posts to the sconces, and even the rough cut wood used in the dresser and table told us that we had left Florida and were in an American national park hotel.
There are two pools on property at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. One, near the Disney Vacation Club Villas, is called Hidden Springs Pool. The main pool, Silver Creek Springs, is located just behind the lobby, downstream from Silver Creek Falls.
From the headwater spring in the lobby, Silver Creek runs over Silver Creek Falls, through the pool, and finally down to Bay Lake. Of course, the magic of Disney is in play here, and there are actually three different water systems to make this happen. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
When the Disney's Wilderness Lodge first opened, the Imagineers published a commemorative newspaper called The Silver Creek Star. One of its features was a back story about the formation of the pool. It seems an unlucky prospector named Georgie MacGregor arrived in the area in 1852, looking for gold and silver. He was hired at the lodge as a cook. One morning after breakfast, the guests were surprised by a massive explosion behind the lodge. It seems Ol' Georgie had set off a dynamite charge in the rocks at Silver Creek, looking for his fortune. It left a massive hole in the rocks that quickly filled with water from the creek, creating a great recreational area for guests of the lodge. You can see the rest of the story in "The Forgotten Story of the Wilderness Lodge" by Jim Korkis.
One popular activity at Disney's Wilderness Lodge is catch and release bass fishing. Guides take guests out for two hours of fishing on Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon using stable pontoon boats. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Say what you want about Disney's bus system, but we've rarely had a problem, and we've used it extensively. Our secret is that we allow plenty of time to get where we're going, especially if we have to be creative and transfer buses.
Boat transportation is available at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. From this dock, guest can travel to the Magic Kingdom. There are also boats that make their way to Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground and the Disney's Contemporary Resort Hotel. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Near the front of the hotel is the bus stop. From here, you can use the Disney transportation system to get to all Disney parks and Downtown Disney. Buses run about every 20 minutes. Photo by Donald Fink.
There aren't many hotels that impress us like Disney's Wilderness Lodge. Usually, we're interested in a clean and quiet place to stay while we go about our business, whether we're enjoying Disney or visiting a national park somewhere in the West. But Disney's Wilderness Lodge is a place that invites us to spend time at the hotel too, just enjoying the atmosphere. When we stay there, it's as if we've left Florida and transported to our other favorite place, the mountains of the West.
When you next visit Walt Disney World give it a try. We think you'll agree.