Disney’s Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge – An Excellent Villa Option
Interestingly, as we checked into the resort, and I shared a few quick photos of the area, questions and requests to review the property started rolling in. So, before we jump a little deeper into the details and events of our trip, I thought I’d start here with one of the more requested articles.
Quite honestly, this has been a “wish list” resort for me personally for quite some time. The kind of tucked away nature and depth of the theming found at the Boulder Ridge Villas has always captured my interest and truly felt welcoming in a unique way. This stay met any and all expectations I had for a vacation here. I know that may “spoil” the review but at the same time, it only touches the surface of what this resort has to offer.
For those of you who may not know, the Boulder Ridge Villas are a portion of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort. These particular villas are not housed in the main building but rather remain tucked away on the right hand side of the resort in a separate building with a slightly different theme. Some guests may dislike not being in the main lodge but to me the proximity is so incredibly close that it was nice to be near the amenities the main lodge offers while enjoying the slightly quieter and more reserved atmosphere of the villa wing. The theming is also slightly different. In the villas, there’s a subtle push away from the outdoorsy nature of Wilderness Lodge as a whole and more of an influence on early railroads and the surrounding nature of that earlier era of history. At the same time, there’s an even more subtle nod to Walt Disney through the Carolwood Room of the Boulder Ridge lobby that really brings things full circle in the realm of theming. Overall, the combination is incredibly welcoming and hopefully that “feel” manifests itself in the photos of this article.
The villa lobby really sets the stage for the villa section experience. The high vaulted ceilings, boardgames set up in the surrounding seating areas, large fireplaces add a spectacular warmth to the building and even the smell (which is so incredibly hard to convey) welcomes you into the heart of the resort. It’s similar yet different to the larger iconic Wilderness Lodge lobby but no less spectacular in the level of detail maintained.
Our Boulder Ridge Stay
We arrived at Wilderness Lodge on a Saturday afternoon and were immediately checked in at the main Wilderness Lodge lobby without any form of wait and very few questions asked of us. As always, I opted to avoid online check in because I like to see how the resorts each handle the check-in experience. To me, it is a memorable part of the experience and one aspect that really sets the stage for your stay. In this case, everything went quite flawlessly, but interesting to note is that the new parking fees were not mentioned to us at check in, but rather were added without notice to what we payed at check out. It was a little frustrating even though we fully expected to have to pay the fees. Other guests may not ever consider it if they do not follow Disney news and it could be an unwelcome surprise at the end of the stay. Also worth noting is that we were required to pay taxes on the parking fees for each individual day.
Our actual stay at the resort lasted 6 nights and on this particular stay we decided to spend more time a the resort and surrounding areas rather that going to the parks every day of our stay. We did go to the parks two days, but spent a good deal of time exploring our resort, hanging out by the pool, doing some resort hopping and dining elsewhere, all while remaining mostly in the “Disney bubble.” It was an excellent trip and a style of touring Disney that I highly recommend if you’re looking for a less hectic Disney vacation. Plus, the savings of cutting out a couple park days in favor of exploring other aspects of Disney property can save you a lot of money in the long run. For us, it was more about trying new things and enjoying a few of the more overlooked aspects of Disney property this trip and it played out quite nicely in the end.
The One Bedroom Villa
Truth be told, we kind of lucked out on our room. On top of securing a discount we didn’t expect, upon checking into the resort and finding our room we walked into a spectacular view. Our specific villa was on the 2nd floor of the building facing out towards the Boulder Ridge Cove pool and Bay Lake. The view was a touch surprising because we didn’t remember booking a preferred room, but it certainly felt like a room that would have fallen in that category.
The layout of the villa was quite nice. As with other villas on property, the kitchen is a huge bonus and offers up a greater variety of dining options for many guests. We only really used the kitchen for breakfast and a few snacks throughout the week but it was nice to have a larger refrigerator and freezer along with a full oven and normal size microwave. Glassware, plates, and other necessities were also provided.
The theming of the room was quite pleasant. It had a subtle woodsy nature but to me felt a bit more upscale that the standard rooms of Wilderness Lodge (which are also quite nice). The living room area featured a roll out couch (a nice one, not the ridiculously thin ones), a very nice television which we hardly even turned on, and a nice little table in addition to a counter area with stools to sit at. Four of us (all adults) stayed in this villa and it was quite comfortable and we all had a little bit of personal space to spread out. As a result, this would be excellent for a family with small children that need that little bit of extra space to spread out and enjoy the added bonuses of the villas accommodations.
The bedroom is also quite nice with plenty of room surrounding the King size bed. Given that we were traveling with four adults in our group, we did decide to bring an additional air mattress so that no-one would have to share a rollout and because a member of our family snores terribly (lol). The bedroom was so large that the twin size inflatable mattress easily fit between the window and the bed and was easily stored away during the day. For many, that wouldn’t be necessary but is good to know if you’re traveling with a group and want to try something similar. The bedroom was also home to an unexpected detail that many hotels overlook, outlets. I know that sounds ridiculous but when you travel with a computer (or two), three camera batteries to charge, a phone, and still have everyone else in your family to contend with, it makes a huge difference. This villa had tons of power outlets!
The bathroom was typical of what you would find in most Disney villas. There was one room with a sink and a large tub. A second small room housed a stand up shower, sink, and toilet. All of the above were quite nice and very clean which is what we’ve grown to expect from Disney resorts. Just outside the bathroom there is a relatively full size washer and dryer stacked in a small closet which is great to have if you plan on doing any laundry during your stay or happen to get soaked in a rain storm and need to dry out a few things.
The Resort Pools
Dining, in my opinion, is one of the many strong points of this resort. During our stay we tried three of the four restaurants housed on the property and were quite impressed with all of them. Whispering Canyon is what I would consider the “main” family dining option for a table service meal. We caught breakfast there and it was great and has been great nearly every time we’ve eaten there over the years (more on that in an upcoming article). Additionally, we ate at Roaring Fork (the counter service location) and Geyser Point (a new concept). They were both excellent but we did face a rather long wait for food at Roaring Fork later at night. Roaring Fork is one of the better resort dining counter service locations and offers food that is recognizable like cheeseburgers and chicken but also manages to incorporate more unique offerings such as chicken and waffles. This is also your refillable mug refill location and an excellent place to pick up a cupcake or pastry during your stay.
Geyser Point is probably the most unexpected favorite of the group for a few reasons. First, it’s a mixed concept. You can sit down and dine similar to table service accommodations near the bar area and surrounding seating or you can walk up to a counter and get an excellent meal from the counter service window to take with you. The seating area here is a huge bonus. If you can get there when there isn’t a wait, you can sit around in big comfy chairs and enjoy the sunset. It’s perfect for those fall or summer nights with the open air environment and the views are simply spectacular. If you’re just looking for a good place to hang out, especially in the morning before they officially open, this is your spot. We met up with a friend here and the warm morning air and the shade of the seating area provided a great spot to just sit back and talk for a bit before the hottest temperatures of the day rolled in. The slight breeze off of the water is exceptionally hard to beat!
All things considered, I would be beside myself if I didn’t recommend this resort to guests traveling to the parks. It is one of my favorite resorts overall and the villas have been and likely always will be near the top of my list of favorite resorts rivaled closely by the Boardwalk Villas for entirely different reasons. It’s a spectacular resort without a doubt and perhaps is one of the most welcoming resorts I’ve ever stayed at. I do not know if it’s just a style of resort I like do to my somewhat southern roots in Kentucky, but it’s near impossible not to be overwhelmed by the shocking “wow factor” of Wilderness Lodge as a whole.
Truthfully, this is not necessarily a budget friendly resort, but at the same time isn’t entirely in the same league (in regard to price) as the most expensive resorts on property. I see it more as a hidden gem deluxe resort. The villas are rarely talked about and are likely one of the better kept “secrets” of Walt Disney World. The location is excellent, the price is a bit more manageable that other Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon properties, and it has a way of transporting you to a different place in a way that is very difficult to put into words. So, do I recommend this resort and who do I recommend it to? If you can make the finances of it work, I say go for it! If you’ve never stayed in deluxe accommodations, the property as a whole is a great place to try as your first “step up.”