My wife and I share a love of Disney, in particular Walt Disney World. The pixie dust of the World brought us together initially as acquaintances, then as friends, and finally as a couple. When we first met, we immediately felt a connection to each other that was buoyed by the heart-racing excitement of walking down Main Street; the thrills of Tower of Terror, Expedition Everest, and Soarin’; and the variety of menus in the World Showcase that tempted our palates. However, the one place that we value over all the others is the Wilderness Lodge and its awe-inspiring beauty. Our first glimpses of each other were at the Lodge. . .right on the beach where we shared a kiss in a light rain that seemed somehow perfect for the moment. But, I digress. We love the Lodge so much that we consider it our second home, and it was the venue for our wedding. Though there are many well-themed and lovely resorts, the Wilderness Lodge speaks to us like none other. It is within this context we give you the Top Ten Things to Do at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
10. Rent a bike and head over to Fort Wilderness-
One of the fun things about staying at the Wilderness Lodge is the variety of rental activities available: boats, fishing excursions, and bicycles being among them. From a purely cost benefit to health ratio, renting bikes is the way to go. You can rent your typical bikes (helmets and child seats available for free), or if you want a family bike adventure, try one of their surrey bikes. The paved trail to Fort Wilderness is right at a mile (one-way) and makes a great outing given the various activities and sights you can find along the way and once you arrive at your destination.
9. Be a flag family-
Well, it’s not quite that simple, but it is a great pleasure and honor to be able to raise the flags above the Wilderness Lodge on any given morning. When you first arrive and check in, ask the CM to put your name down for being a flag family during your stay. They’ll contact you if you’re selected, and on the day of the ceremony, you and yours will be escorted to the rooftop by one of the Wilderness Lodge Rangers where you can participate in a one-of-a-kind experience. The views are gorgeous, and the thrill of taking part of an iconic part of Wilderness Lodge life will stay with your family for years.
8. Search for Hidden Mickeys-
If you ask at the front desk, the CMs will gladly hand you a sheet full of hints to find the numerous Hidden Mickeys located around both the main Lodge and the Villas. Some are quite tricky to find, so have an inventive mind. While you’re out, we suggest you check out the memorabilia in the Carolwood Pacific Room just off the Villas lobby. There you’ll find mementos revolving around Walt Disney’s love of trains including photos, replicas, and even actual train cars from Walt’s backyard railroad, the Carolwood Pacific. Additionally, you can cozy up to one of the fireplaces, play a game of checkers, or just kick back and take a break from searching for those elusive Mickeys.
7. Run (or walk) the nature trail along Bay Lake-
One of the least known pleasures of staying at the Wilderness Lodge is the nature trail that starts by the Teton Bike & Boat Rental building. It’s a naturally sandy trail that follows along the shore of the lake. After a third of a mile or so, the trail diverges. One fork goes off to the right where it soon spills onto the paved bike trail mentioned in #10 above. If you stay straight at the divergence, the trail continues to hug the lake for another half mile leading to a small parking area for Fort Wilderness CMs. I run while on vacation (I know it’s weird) and have personally seen huge turtles, plentiful rabbits, herds of deer, and even once came upon a hawk sitting in a clearing with prey in its talons. That trail is one way my wife and I both unwind after a busy day in the parks.
6. Catch family night on the beach-
Each night, weather permitting, you can head to the beach, and chow down on s’mores at the fire pit behind the Trout Pass Pool Bar, followed by a cool Disney movie, perfect for a night of family fun. There’s something about marshmallows, a fire, and an outdoor movie that shouts “we’re on vacation!” Grab some towels or beach chairs if you’re early enough, and enjoy spending time together. If the weather does turn sour, the staff at the Lodge often will still show the film in the Carolwood Pacific Room in the Villas building.
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5. Have a drink at the Trout Pass Pool Bar or the Territory Lounge-
The Trout Pass Pool Bar has a festive feel about it, and the CMs there are as friendly as they come. On several occasions (wait, what does that say about me?), they’ve taken the time to get to know our group, and they’re quick to offer recommendations for libations. . .excellent recommendations, I might add. It seems more celebratory to have a drink outdoors, shielded from the sun by an awning or umbrella while watching families frolic in the nearby pool and hot tubs. You might catch the geyser show, too. Inside, the Territory Lounge offers a bit more upscale furnishings and a quieter tableau. The CMs are happy to prepare everything from your favorite martini to the finest specialty cocktails, appetizers and sweets! Ask nicely, and the staff will arrange to put your drink in a plastic cup to take out to the hot tub for a late evening, soothing soak under the stars (the hot tub almost made it into the top ten list!).
4. Take a boat to the Magic Kingdom or the Contemporary Resort-
While my lovely wife disagrees that this is an actual activity to do while at the Lodge, I doggedly (but politely) disagree. The boats provide a cool (and I mean that literally and figuratively) means to access both the primary Disney World park and an iconic resort that houses its own fun—from shopping to restaurants—and provides access to jump on the monorail. For us, however, just the act of stepping on a boat automatically puts a smile on our face. We love the way your intended destination slowly comes into view, especially as we round the point and see the entrance to the Magic Kingdom open up before us. Few things get our hearts pounding faster.
3. Stroll around the grounds in the evening-
The Wilderness Lodge is all about beauty and serenity, and never are those qualities more present than in the fading twilight and night hours. In particular, we enjoy having a scrumptious meal at Artist Point (hint: see below) before a leisurely walk around the outside of the Lodge. The majestically themed music perfectly underscores the architectural details that Peter Dominick designed into the resort. As the lanterns flicker and the crickets chirp, you can’t help but relax. We also love strolling hand-in-hand to the dock, listening for the plaintive cry of the boat horns. If you time the walk well, you can catch the geyser blowing its top. A bit later in the evening, we often slip onto a beach lounger and watch the Electric Water Pageant out on Bay Lake, and even better, we can see quite a bit of Wishes from there, as well.
2. Dine at Artist Point-
Of all the signature restaurants on Disney property, an Artist Point reservation may be the easiest to snag. It has a warm, romantic ambience that is perfect for a dinner for two, though families are also welcome. Lest you think the food and service are lacking, such couldn’t be further from the truth. The wait staff is exemplary and quite knowledgeable about the food and wine they offer. Artist Point also boasts an exceptional menu. The wine list is composed primarily of varietals from the Northwest that provide the perfect pairings to the rustic fare. After your fabulous meal, keep in mind tip #3 above and take a leisurely stroll around the grounds of the Lodge for an exclamation point to the evening.
1. Step into the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge-
This final top ten is the simplest yet among the most emotionally fulfilling of all the items on the list. If you’ve ever been to the Lodge and seen the expansive, awe-inspiring lobby, you know of what I speak. If you’ve never been to the Wilderness Lodge lobby, you are in for a genuine treat. You’ll be amazed by the enormous scale—though you can see the Lodge is humongous from the outside, it’s hard to prepare anyone for just how cavernous it looks and feels when you first step inside. The music filters down from every corner playing the stirring music from various Westerns and noted composers such as Aaron Copland. About the time you catch your breath, you notice the architectural details that make the Lodge one of the best-themed resorts on either coast. From the totems (including a very humorous one outside the Mercantile), to the soaring ceiling beams, to the small foot bridge over the indoor stream, to the massive fireplace—each element has a place, and together they make for one jaw-dropping experience. None of the other resorts can quite match the grandeur of the Wilderness Lodge, and this breathtaking step into its lobby remains our very favorite thing to do when staying there (or even just visiting).
There you have it: our Top Ten for the Wilderness Lodge. There are other things I could have added to the list (hot tubbing!), but I’ll let you do that next time you visit. As an extra tip, try stopping by during the holiday season when these top things to do become even more unique, especially number one. You’ll remember the experience for years to come.