There is a lot of hype surrounding the Wilderness Lodge at Christmas. Normally, I try to avoid Disney-hype, as usually I find it to be off. I think Le Cellier is good, but over-salted and over-rated. I think “Free” Dining is as gimmicky as a Kohl’s “once a year” sale. I think the amazing details at Disney’s Animal Kingdom are subterfuge to mask a decidedly underwhelming park attraction-wise. At this point, you may be thinking that I’m essentially the Disney version of a Grinch. I suppose I didn’t help that image much when I broke into Len and Fred’s rooms last weekend and stole all of their shampoo and socks. (Sorry, guys!)
I had been to Wilderness Lodge at Christmas in the past to visit. It was beautiful, no doubt. However, what did it have beyond a 60-foot tall Christmas tree in the lobby? It didn’t have a life-size edible creation like many of the other Deluxe Resorts. It just seemed like a resort with an average number of decorations but no amazing centerpiece.
Then, as part of our whirlwind tour trying to capture the Magic of Christmas at Disneyland and Walt Disney World (unfortunately, we only captured a couple gnomes and a taking otter named Emmet) we stayed at the Villas at Wilderness Lodge at Christmas and I realized how complete and utterly wrong I was. The charm of Wilderness Lodge at Christmas is not that it has some grandiose gingerbread house or a huge train set with oodles of hidden Mickeys.
The charm of Wilderness Lodge at Christmas is its rustic ambiance and tranquil feel. Being from the great state of Michigan, I really appreciated this ambiance. It reminded me of winter in the Upper Peninsula or a cabin on the lake. Although not all Michiganders utilize antlers so heavy-handedly in decorating (although after seeing Wilderness Lodge, I think we really ought to!), but it is a nice nod to a Northern-woods Christmas.
It’s really deceptively simple, but that’s it. Wilderness Lodge during the winter months just oozes that Christmas feeling. It could be 80 degrees outside, but it just feels right rocking back and forth in a quiet alcove near a fireplace as the soft sounds of the Christmas loop envelope your ears. You are transported away from the hustle and bustle of a Florida theme park resort to a quiet and relaxing lodge in snow-capped mountains of the Pacific Northwest. For this experience at its most authentic, head to the third floor alcove at around 1am in some flannel Disney pajamas when no one else is around. Just be sure you don’t fall asleep in one of the comfy chairs like a certain author of this post quite possibly did. Wilderness Lodge at Christmas is Disney theming at the top of its game.
Speaking fo that Christmas music, the background music loop played during the holiday season is really something else. Relaxing and well-assembled, it fits the theme of Wilderness Lodge without an overly aggressive country-twang. Best of all, the music in the loop is not commercially available, meaning that the loop is freely and (more importantly) legally available online!
At this point in my gushing, you might be asking what Wilderness Lodge has that the other resorts don’t have at Christmas. We’ve stayed at most resorts during the Christmas months, and Wilderness Lodge’s only close Christmas-time competitor is Animal Kingdom Lodge (which my wife actually prefers), but I give the nod to Wilderness Lodge because I think its theming more closely resembles a traditional Christmas. Animal Kingdom Lodge is beautiful, no doubt, but overall the theming isn’t as strong, and the background music loop isn’t nearly as good. Animal Kingdom Lodge, if you want to “win,” I suggest you import some reindeer for Christmas next year!
Grand Floridian isn’t anywhere near the top of my list of top resorts at which you should stay during Christmas, mostly because it’s a circus. The last thing I would want to do is pay hundreds of dollars a night for the flagship resort only to find that it becomes busier than a shopping mall during the holidays. Instead, do what myself and just about everyone else does, take a (free!) self-guided Christmas resort tour and visit there for an hour or so one day during your trip. The same logic applies to Beach Club, BoardWalk, and Yacht Club, albeit to a lesser extent as they aren’t quite as chaotic. However, they aren’t quite as well-themed, either. The Polynesian looks great at Christmas, and has a very fun loop, but I still give Wilderness Lodge the nod over it. The Poly just doesn’t do quite enough to put it at the top of the list. The Contemporary has some neat decorations with the Mary Blair display and the Mickey wreath, but these decorations are more “see them once while visiting” type things. The Contemporary doesn’t get guests into the holiday mood the same way Wilderness Lodge does.
Since the rest of you probably sleep in your rooms rather than random rocking chairs, it’s worth noting that the rooms at Wilderness Lodge carry over the rustic theming of the rest of the resort (what, were you expecting a Finding Nemo theme?!). The rooms are nice (click here for my video walk-through of a studio villa) and given the hotel’s proximity to the Magic Kingdom, it’s a great place to stay during the holiday season. With Artist Point, Whispering Canyon Cafe, and even Roaring Forks, the resort has great dining options, too. Really, I can’t think of anything bad to say about it. I guess (really stretching here) my only complaint is that I wish it went all out a la Animal Kingdom Lodge and offered rooms with views of deer, bears, and large raccoons?
Have you stayed at Wilderness Lodge during the Christmas season? Did you enjoy it? Which resort is your favorite during the Christmas season? Let us know in the comments!