Sometimes, you want to visit a popular theme park. On other vacations, you’d rather get away from it all and become one with nature.
Thanks to the Disney Vacation Club, you’ll never have to choose, as one resort allows you to do both.
Here’s a review of Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, one of the most beautiful Disney properties in the world.
Location and Logistics
When you look on a map, you’ll notice that Wilderness Lodge resides only three miles away from one of the parks. That’s why Disney literature lists it as a Magic Kingdom resort.
However, when you keep studying the map, you’ll notice the blue that signals a body of water between the two. Bay Lake separates Wilderness Lodge from Magic Kingdom.
As such, the logistics can get a bit weird, at least when you take a bus. You won’t find a direct path from the hotel to the park. That’s why bus rides take 10 minutes or so.
Thankfully, water transportation is available from Wilderness Lodge to Magic Kingdom. I’ve ridden this Friendship Boat many times, twice recently, and I can say in all sincerity it’s a breathtaking trip.
As for the other parks, you can reach EPCOT slightly faster by bus, depending on traffic. It’s more of a straight shot on the roads.
The same is true at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which also takes 10 minutes or so. Your longest journey will involve Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which requires 13-15 minutes. Disney Springs travel averages around 12 minutes, too.
In short, the logistics of this resort aren’t as impressive as the other Magic Kingdom resorts. You shouldn’t expect them to be, though.
You want to be off the beaten path here, enjoying the tranquility of nature. Otherwise, it’d just be another Disney resort.
This resort models its theming after American park lodges, especially Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks. Disney hired a famed architect named Peter Dominick Jr. for this project.
This man proved so triumphant that Disney invited him back for two more DVC resort projects, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
The results do speak for themselves, which you’ll realize as you walk across the hotel campus. The buildings look like A-frame log cabins, with triangles seemingly everywhere on the roofs.
The rustic buildings will remind you of a ski lodge, even though you’re just three miles away from Magic Kingdom.
I usually try to separate the two, but it feels impossible to discuss the theming without talking about…
If you’re not in awe of the late Mr. Dominick’s talents, you’ve clearly never walked through the lobby at Wilderness Lodge. The instant you enter this building, you’ll somehow feel small and comforted.
The Northwest Rockies vibe marries with Native American sensibilities and architectural elements, causing a profound sense of serenity and happiness.
A floor-to-ceiling fireplace anchors the lobby, and your first instinct will be to start taking pictures to upload on social media.
You should take the time to appreciate the craftsmanship on display, though. Disney imported Lodge Pole Pine tree wood from dead trees for this project. Everything you see but the stone fireplace isn’t fabricated!
Like many other DVC resorts, the lobby functions as a centerpiece for the entire hotel. You’ll find multiple restaurants and shops here, and you’re not too far away from one of the pools, either.
Disney encourages sitting in the lobby, as you’ll find chairs and sofas readily available. The tranquil scenery may cause you to nap, even when you’re not tired.
I would recommend that you stare up to admire some other touches here, especially the artwork on the hanging lights. It features depictions of the wild west exploratory phase of American expansion.
The multi-floor totems are even more breathtaking, and the wood theming extends to stairs and rails, too. If you ever watch log cabin shows on cable television, Wilderness Lodge will be your dream come true!
Restaurants and Shops
Speaking of restaurants, you might hear one the instant you enter the lobby. Whispering Canyon Café qualifies as one of the most popular among DVC members, as it’s a guaranteed good time.
When you dine here, rustic campfire cuisine will arrive at your table early and often. The All-You-Care-to-Enjoy signature skillets serve heavy proteins like sausage and brisket and pork ribs and…I can no longer type because I’m too busy drooling. I ate here last month, and I still think about it sometimes.
Of course, the food’s only part of the story at Whispering Canyon Café. The cast members love to provide a good time, treating guests to goofy hijinks throughout the meal.
The most famous example involves ketchup. God help you if you order it too aggressively. Cast members and even other diners will bombard you with dozens of bottles, causing you total embarrassment and delight.
A couple of years ago, Disney dialed downed the experience because guests were having too much fun here! And it’s not even the most popular destination in the lobby these days.
While it’s not operating during the pandemic, Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White has become one of Walt Disney World’s hottest tickets. When it’s open, you can eat a magical meal that will include potions and poisoned apples and even character encounters.
Snow White technically hosts, along with some of her Dwarfs, most notably the always-angry Grumpy. However, the Evil Queen also holds court at times, and her wicked barbs will leave you laughing the rest of the day.
Quick Service fans will also love Roaring Fork, one of the go-to breakfasts on the Disney campus. You can also dine outside at Geyser Point, a restaurant with walls that will close during inclement weather.
Most of the time, it’s an outside eatery with a majestic view of Bay Lake…and multiple HDTVs for sports fans trying to watch the game. The Bison Cheeseburger here has earned a glowing reputation, too.
As for the stores, they’re relatively generic by Disney standards. You’ll spend most of your time at Wilderness Lodge Mercantile, a serviceable general store with some merchandise and enough supplies to take care of you during your visit.
You may have noticed I haven’t mentioned something significant about the hotel grounds yet. Wilderness Lodge resides a boat ride away from Fort Wilderness, the family playground for dude ranch aficionados.
The Tri-Circle-D Ranch resides here. You know it as the home to all the horses you watch trotting around Magic Kingdom and other parks. Various dude ranch entertainment is available here, including interactions with some of the animals.
Kids will feel like they’ve hit the motherlode when they visit Disney and get to play with cute animals, too! As for parents, Fort Wilderness comes with other entertainment. First of all, you can order Ole Smoky Moonshine at Crockett’s Tavern, which will change the way you look at whiskey.
The world-renowned Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue has entertained Fort Wilderness guests for more than 45 years…except for the last one when the pandemic forced its closure.
Cast members have performed this dinner and a show experience more than any other dinner theater experience in history. It’s a perfect place to go when you’re celebrating a birthday or anniversary, as you’ll get called on during the performance.
While many aspects of Wilderness Lodge feel worthy of being called the x-factor – including the lobby and the dining options – Fort Wilderness is impossible to top. You may feel like you need to buy at Boulder Ridge to take full advantage of this option. Otherwise, you’ll always feel like you’re running short on time.
Hotel Rooms and Other Amenities
The pink elephant dancing in the living here is that Boulder Ridge isn’t the only DVC resort at Wilderness Lodge. The other one, Copper Creek Villas & Cabins, features the room type you’ve heard so much about, the standalone cabin.
At Boulder Ridge, the room types are as generic as you’ll find in the DVC program. You can book a Deluxe Studio or a One-Bedroom Villa or a Two-Bedroom Villa. That’s it. That’s the list.
There aren’t any special room types available or even unique views or buildings you can book. Instead, it’s a potluck booking scenario.
The rooms themselves are perfunctory but nothing unusual. The studio floorplan includes 356 square feet of space, although the layout maximizes it.
Your favorite part of the room might be the balcony, as you’ll adore looking out and seeing all the other rustic buildings. A-frame log cabin architecture is as yesteryear Americana as it gets, and you’ll love admiring it from your hotel room.
I vacillate on how to grade Boulder Ridge for a couple of reasons. If I’m honest, I only stay here when I cannot book anything at a monorail resort. So, I must factor that into my evaluation.
However, during Disney trips, I visit Wilderness Lodge every time, often on multiple occasions. I’m addicted to Whispering Canyon Café, one of my favorite Disney restaurants. I also love Storybook Dining as an occasional experience, and Geyser Point impresses me each time.
Then, there’s Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, which always makes me fondly reminisce about the time my in-laws “won” for celebrating the longest marriage. We visited on their 50th anniversary. Little touches like that define Disney for me, and I’ve certainly never had a bad stay at Boulder Ridge.
The architecture, the dining, the comfort factor, and the overall serenity here justify any vacation or DVC purchase. I just don’t love it the way that some do, possibly because I live in the mountains and can visit stay somewhere at least somewhat similar anytime I want.
So, I’d only give Boulder Ridge an A-, even though I think the amenities are A+++.