Tour Review: Wonders of the Wilderness Lodge

The major difference that separates Disney resorts from other area hotels, besides location, is themeing. Even the Value resorts have those Imagineering touches that we’ve come to expect from a company known for its attention to detail. While most guests are aware of each resort’s general concept, even the most astute will miss the subtler elements without doing a little research.

That’s where the Wonders of the Wilderness Lodge tour comes in. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is one of (if not the) most heavily themed resorts in Disney’s collection worldwide. Wonders of the Wilderness Lodge is a free, 1-hour tour which helps guests learn about the backstory and design elements of this hotel and the neighboring Wilderness Lodge Villas.

Lobby

William Robertson, who did the animal carvings at the top of each lobby pillar, also did the topiaries for Edward Scissorhands.

While both are free, 1-hour resort tours – Wonders of the Wilderness Lodge is the opposite of the Culinary Tour over at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. This tour has tons of information but no food. (Though you can always use the tour as an excuse to brunch at the Whispering Canyon afterwards.)

One Saturday back in May, my sister and I headed over to the Wilderness Lodge to check out this tour. It was our first time at the resort, and we were a bit overwhelmed by the busy lobby and weren’t sure where to go. The endless crowd of cyclists with their bikes getting ready of that weekend’s IronMan competition didn’t help. After consulting with a Cast Member, we learned that the tour meets at the large group of columns closest to the bridge over the Silver Creek Spring head.

Carolwood Pacific cars

In the Carolwood Pacific Room, guests can see the original cattle and gondola cars from Walt's backyard railroad.

We were the only two waiting when the guide showed up promptly at 9am. As I mentioned in my Culinary Tour review, we were non-resort guest gate crashers. And I don’t feel a shred of guilt about it. Our guide was delighted that he had tour guests and never asked us if we were staying on property. Once we got started, several other folks saw us and joined mid-tour. Had we not been there, there would’ve been no tour that day.

Wonders of the Wilderness Lodge is focused on the resort’s theme as carried out in the architecture and decor. Like my other reviews, I’m not going to share everything we learned. To get a sense for the type of information included in the tour, you can check out the photo captions and hover-text.

Wilderness Lodge Villas furniture

The Wilderness Lodge Villas' theme is based on the men who built the transcontinental railroad.

Our tour started off with a brief history of the lodge and how it was inspired by the National Park Lodges of the American Northwest – primarily Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn. From the lobby, we headed over to the Wilderness Lodge Villas to visit the Carolwood Pacific Room. This room is dedicated to Walt’s fascination with steam trains. (If you want to know more about Disney and steam trains, I highly recommend the Magic Behind Our Steam Trains tour at Magic Kingdom.)

Next, we walked back to the Wilderness Lodge lobby and then into the Territory Lounge. Since I don’t spend much time in Disney bars, I would’ve never taken the time to check out all the awesome artifacts on display in this area if it wasn’t for the tour. The Territory Lounge is home to one of the coolest items on display in Disney World – a U.S. flag from 1861.

Silver Creek Springs

The head of Silver Creek Springs bubbles up in the lobby and flows outside to a 15 ft. tall waterfall.

We also ventured into the Artist Point restaurant – which doesn’t open until much later in the day.  From there, we had a clear view of the various outdoor water features unique to the Wilderness Lodge. We also discussed the restaurant’s furnishings and the large mural set above the main dining area.

To wrap up, we made our way up to the 5th floor to get an aerial view of both the main lobby and the pool. Our tour ended promptly at 10am with a viewing of a Fire Rock Geyser eruption, which can be seen throughout the day on the hour along the shore of Bay Lake.

Lobby fireplace

The stone in the lobby's fireplace mimics the strata of the Grand Canyon

I’ve glazed over this tour a bit because I truly believe everyone should take the time to go experience it for themselves. The Wonders of the Wilderness Lodge tour’s content rivals that of any of the in-park tours, and it manages to do so within an hour and for free. Free! This might just be the best deal on property. (And it sure beats my 1-hour Behind the Seeds experience.)

This tour is great for anyone interested in learning more about Disney’s Wilderness Lodge or the history of the American West. Imagineering, architecture and history buffs alike will appreciate the amount of detail and thought put into this secluded resort.

Horse Mickey

There are several Hidden Mickeys throughout the Wilderness Lodge, including this one in the Territory Lounge.

This tour is also a perfect way to spend a quiet morning away from the hustle and bustle of the parks. Try combining it with breakfast at Whispering Canyon or head over to Fort Wilderness for an early lunch at Trail’s End. Walt Disney World is so much more than the parks; little experiences like the Wonders of the Wilderness Lodge highlight its uniqueness as a vacation destination.

While this tour is open to all ages, I would not recommend it for children. The area covered isn’t that wide spread – so there is a good bit of standing still and listening to facts and figures. If your kids fall asleep in the American Adventure – they’re not going to appreciate having to stand for an hour-long history lesson without even seeing any smoking audio-animatronics.

US Flag

This 34-star United States flag is from 1861.

If you do take the tour and are a shutterbug, be advised that it is hard to get good photos inside the Wilderness Lodge. The low light conditions would be best photographed using a long exposure on a tripod – since harsh flash can wash out the warm wood tones. Walking tours are not a good time to bust out a tripod, so I’d recommend taking some time after the tour to go back and photograph anything you missed.

Overall, I can’t recommend this tour enough. It is definitely worth the time and effort to get to the Lodge, which is worthy of a visit even without the tour. Even my sister agreed that it was one of the best tours we’ve done to date, and she is not the most enthused Disney fan or tour-goer. I look forward to trying this tour again during the holiday season to see if they discuss any of the resort’s seasonal decor.

Artist Point

Guests also get to tour the Artist Point restaurant.

The Wonders of the Wilderness Lodge tour is currently offered at 9 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday in the lobby, and no reservations are accepted.  The tour is open to all ages and lasts 1 hour.   As resort activities can change monthly,  check the Wilderness Lodge Resort Activites Calendar or call (407) 824-3200 to confirm the tour schedule.

 

*If you want to learn more about the Wonders of the Wilderness Lodge tour, be sure to check out our tour page here. In addition to finding tour information, we’ve included links to reviews and videos from other websites so you check out other people’s opinions on this tour.

*Agree or disagree with this review? Have any specific questions about this tour? Just let us know by posting in the comments below.

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