Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is a wonder to behold. It is one of the few Walt Disney World Deluxe Resorts that feels far removed from the theme parks and yet it is just a few moments away from the most attended theme park of them all: the Magic Kingdom. When I set out to enjoy this week’s “fun day”, a visit to Wilderness Lodge was not in the original plans. But the best laid plans sometimes fall apart when real life responsibilities pop up. Faced with less time than I’d hoped, I decided to give into the nagging need to visit Wilderness Lodge that had been pulling at me for quite some time. My visit rekindled my love and appreciation for this resort and allowed me to explore some of the construction taking place at this resort as it prepares to expand its Disney Vacation Club inventory.
The transition into the world of the wilderness begins the moment you turn right onto Timberline Drive and pass under the archway leading to the Security shack. The tall pines tower above, flanking either side of the drive. Wildflowers add pops of color along the way.
The lodge stands proud and majestic. It is an impressive sight to behold. No matter how many times I’ve visited this resort that first sight of the lobby never fails to make me grow wide eyed and wide grinned. The towering totems, the tee-pee light fixtures, the view all the way to the top floor, it’s all so warm and inviting.
Check out the hoof prints in the walkway!
Many guests compare Wilderness Lodge to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and / or Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. I have a hard time accept the comparison to the Grand Californian because the theme and style is actually very different than Wilderness Lodge. Grand Californian represents the Arts and Crafts movement of California with a tinge of Art Nouveau. Some of the rich colors such as deep wood tones and rich evergreen are repeated at both resorts, but if you are attuned to details you can clearly see the difference in the two themes.
This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to find links to our other Basics posts.
One of the most exciting and often nerve wracking parts of planning a vacation is selecting a hotel. Some people view a hotel as simply the place where you sleep and shower, and nothing more. Others, like me, see the hotel as home base and a destination unto itself. I’ve even planned entire vacations around the hotel more so than the local area and attractions (but then again I work in the hotel industry and am a self-proclaimed hotel nerd).
If the weather is bad or if somebody gets sick, this is where you’ll spend much of your vacation time. At the end of a full day touring the parks this is where you can rest, or depending on which location you choose, you can come back in the middle of the day to relax. The amount of options in all of Central Florida can be astounding, after all there are over 400 hotels in the Orlando / Orange County area.
Old Key West Resort room
Let’s assume for the purposes of this post that you’ve decided you really want to stay on Walt Disney World property. You still have to sort through over 20 hotels in order to select your hotel. The main focus of this guide is to help you decide between Walt Disney World resort hotel categories. I will include some of the pros and cons of each category, as well as a general overview of the features of each category. This includes location, transportation, food and beverage, and amenities. In follow up posts, we will dig into the specifics of these features for each resort in particular.
Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels, Swan and Dolphin, and Bonnet Creek
If you’re looking for close proximity at lower cost, then the hotels near Disney Springs on Hotel Plaza Boulevard, as well as the hotels of Bonnet Creek, offer easy transportation. If you want the extra perks such as Disney transportation and Extra Magic Hours, however, you’ll need either a Disney-owned hotel or the Starwood Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, which offer these benefits with slightly lower room rates. The MagicBand (as a room key and ticket) and Disney’s Magical Express are exclusive features for Disney owned and operated. For some folks this is a major plus, while for others it is not worth the extra money that a Disney owned property can cost.
The Walt Disney World Swan: Very close to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but technically a Starwood hotel.
When Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto was announced one of my items on my wish list was that this location would get into the tropical holiday spirit in the same manner as the original Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. I am pleased to say that holiday decorations at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto are now up and ready for all to enjoy. Here’s some highlights of the decor and special effects.
The holiday spirit is contained within the Grog Grotto itself; the lovely outdoor Tiki Terrace does not have any decorations and remains a tranquil oasis. The live musicians may occasionally throw in some Hawaiian holiday music every so often, however, making for a nice evening. Once inside you will find strings of glowing Christmas lights and other festive decor. It is a bit mish mosh and tacky, but it fits the silly yet somehow authentic vibe of the Grog Grotto.
After last week’s adventure to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we’re back with another beastly Best Week Ever that delves into your dwelling options in the neighborhood of Walt Disney World’s newest theme park. Let’s take a trip to the Animal Kingdom area hotels, starting with WDW’s weakest resorts and working our way up to some of its very best!
Disney’s All Star Resorts
Let’s begin at the bottom, and I’ll do my “best week ever” best to be as polite as possible: I’m not a big fan of the three value-priced All Star Resorts.
It’s been a long while since I’ve stayed overnight in one, but I remember them being large, loud, and largely lacking in the Disney magic of the more expensive on-site hotels.
As much as we’d like a trip to Walt Disney World to be all play, sometimes the career gets in the way. After begrudgingly pulling out your laptop or tablet, you realize the last place you want to be is cooped up in your hotel room. Where else can you go to concentrate and get some work done?
Whether it be answering email or working remotely, here are some places to set up your make-shift office and get down to business (“to defeat…the Huns.” Name that film!).
If you know you’re going to be working throughout your trip, here are a few extras to consider bringing along for a more comfortable experience:
A mouse for your laptop
A stylus for your tablet/iPad
A keyboard for your tablet
Chargers for your devices
A power strip
Paper and pen (if you don’t have technology handy)
Going on vacation is such a treat. It’s a fantastic privilege that can pay off in so many ways. But if you don’t factor in all the extra costs and budget appropriately your vacation can go from being refreshing and rejuvenating to frustrating and stressful. I’m a hotelier at heart and I am continually surprised, and saddened, whenever I come across guests who did not anticipate different hotel fees and other extra costs that can pop up when staying at a hotel. So to help you plan and budget, let’s talk about the most common costs.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort – it may not have a lot of hotel fees, but it carries some of the highest room rates in Orlando. Photo source: Disneyworld.com
There are so many different classifications one can sort a theme park restaurant into – best themed, best ambiance, best location, best food, best price. But what of the best overall venue, the one that most successfully manages to not only balance all of these different considerations, but to also be more than just the sum of its parts? That would surely be a difficult feat to pull off, and the eatery would probably be jam-packed full of people day in and day out.
Whatever the reason, Mama Della’s is typically devoid of the long lines and online buzz that is associated with much of the rest of Universal’s lineup, making it a superlative dining experience in nearly every sense – terrific food, atmospherics, and wait times.