Guide to Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

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A Brief History of Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

The history of Boulder Ridge Villas is a bit convoluted. It’s a hotel that The Walt Disney Company built in 1994 that didn’t add Disney Vacation Club (DVC) inventory until 2000. Then, Disney changed the name of the existing villas in 2016 while announcing the construction of others. Whew. Got all that?

Okay, the above probably needs some explaining. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort represented an attempt by Disney to add more hotel rooms in the Magic Kingdom vicinity. The property’s grounds are close enough to Magic Kingdom that it’s a short boat or bus ride away. Unlike the monorail resorts, however, Wilderness Lodge isn’t in the middle of the action, making it a quieter place to stay.

The construction of Wilderness Lodge is an extended part of Walt Disney World folklore, as the company had planned a resort for the area as early as the late 1960s! Disney wouldn’t break ground on the project until the early 90s, and the primary impetus then was what then-CEO Michael Eisner described as the Disney Decade. The new resort became one of the expansion projects near Magic Kingdom.

When Disney opened this property in 1994, DVC was still relatively new, but its promise was unmistakable. Members and interested observers alike clamored for a DVC presence at Wilderness Lodge. They quickly got their wish – or at least the promise of it – in 1998.

DVC revealed that they’d add “a 136-unit, five-story time-share resort on 4 acres adjacent to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge” over the next 24 months. Right on schedule, the Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge debuted in November of 2000. The name change is more difficult to explain. Disney decided to perform additional construction in 2016. To distinguish between the original properties (and their DVC contracts), Disney chose to re-name them as Boulder Ridge Villas. When you wonder about the differences between Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek Villas & Cabins, that’s the main one.

The Style of Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Eisner selected famed architect Peter Dominick Jr. to build Wilderness Lodge. The style is simply summarized in one word: rustic. Yes, this place is a celebration of the great outdoors, and the late Mr. Dominick stood apart as the perfect choice for the project. He’d previously spearheaded the development of a hunting lodge in Colorado that had earned national acclaim.

Dominick drew inspiration from the great national park lodges across the country. He visited several and noted the folksy charm on display at these places. Strangers would sit by the lodge’s fireplace and interact like the best of friends. He wanted to recreate that vibe at his Disney resort.

Anyone who has ever entered the Wilderness Lodge agrees that Dominick succeeded. The lobby of the resort is one of the most awe-inspiring settings at Walt Disney World. Giant wooden pillars support higher levels of the hotel, each of which is visible from the ground floor. Guests can see the wooden railings and ceiling.

The star of Wilderness Lodge’s hotel lobby is the fireplace. This stone structure is a depiction of elements of the Grand Canyon, and it comprises an entire corner. The fireplace has a fat base that thins as it reaches the hotel ceiling. It’s a majestic architectural achievement that somehow causes guests to feel small but welcome.

The outdoor theme is oddly more impressive inside the hotel than on the grounds, which have changed a bit over time. Disney’s overhauled Wilderness Lodge a couple of times, reducing the overall symmetry of the theme. Still, nobody is better at conservation than Disney, and you’ll appreciate this fact as you walk the campus. It’s absolutely breathtaking.

The DVC Aspects

If Boulder Ridge were a television series, it would be The Middle. Its rooms are average in terms of size and points cost. During Adventure Season and Choice Season, a weekday night at a studio is 15 points, while a Friday or Saturday is 16 points. To spend a full week in a studio, you’ll need somewhere between 107 and 127 points for most times of the year.

The lone exception is Premier Season, the time from March 25th through April 7th and December 24th through the 31st. Currently, a week costs 176 points during Premier Season, a rather hefty increase. Still, as long as you don’t plan to travel around Easter or the end of the year, Boulder Ridge has a largely favorable points chart for studios.

For your points, you’ll get to stay in a 356-square foot room with a nice balcony. Disney renovated the rooms fairly recently, and they mimic the overall woodsy theme at Wilderness Lodge. The floorplan is extremely simple, an elongated rectangle with the bathroom and kitchen facilities facing each other. The sitting area is right beside the bed, and the patio is just past this “living room” space. It’s kind of a cookie cutter design by Disney standards, another way that the studios fall into the middle of DVC options.

Studio:

One- and two-bedroom suites are among the smallest among DVC properties. The one-bedroom is 727 square feet, while the two-bedroom is 1,080 square feet. These floorplans are more inspired, though. I particularly enjoy the u-shaped kitchen in both suites.

One-bedroom:

The two-bedroom is almost precisely the one-bedroom with a standard studio attached. The lone difference is the understandable lack of kitchen space on the studio side of the floorplan. Everyone shares the main kitchen in this floorplan. So, choosing between the two is a simple matter of deciding whether you need an extra bedroom or not.

Two-bedroom:

The points cost for the suites is reasonable by DVC standards. The one-bedroom starts at 28 points per night for a weekday during Adventure Season and maxes out at 53 points for a Friday/Saturday during Premier Season. Two bedrooms aren’t that much more. Their range is 37 points for that Adventure Season weekday up to 71 points for the Premier Season weekend night. During Adventure, Choice, and Dream Season, the difference is 10 points or less each night. When you’re looking at a one-bedroom suite, you may discover that you’re priced in on the two-bedroom instead.

Hotel Amenities

Disney recently jazzed up the amenities at Wilderness Lodge. It already featured three beloved restaurants, particularly among the DVC set. Those of us who have frequented the hotel many times over the past 18 years know the deal.

Whispering Canyon Café is in the conversation for most entertaining Table Service restaurant at Walt Disney World. It’s a raucous gathering where the servers act like pranksters, and every guest is in danger of getting Punk’d. While the ketchup gag gets all the attention, the food here is sublime, particularly the decadent All-You-Care-to-Enjoy Skillet. It’s like a buffet on a plate, featuring several proteins that would seem right at home on a campfire.

The less trafficked upscale restaurant here is Artist Point, a Signature Dining experience. Disney describes this place as delivering “rustic elegance” thanks to “Pacific Northwest Cuisine.” Guests who visit here know it by a different name: wine country! There are 130 different vinos available, and the meal pairing possibilities here are Top Chef-worthy.

Even the oldest Quick Service restaurant here is worthwhile. Roaring Fork has a glowing reputation for its breakfast offerings, and it recently went through a refurbishment to redesign the space. No, it’s not larger, but you’ll no longer feel claustrophobic eating here. You will still love the 10-Hour Pulled Pork-Cheese Grits, though.

Despite the three already outstanding restaurants onsite, Disney added an entirely new area called Geyser Point Bar & Grill. This Quick Service eatery is like an outdoor sports bar. Don’t get the wrong idea, though. You’ll always have a roof over your head here, and the restaurant even has retractable walls if torrential rain is an issue. This place has the marvelous ambience of a patio bar, but its food is remarkably upscale. They even serve a Bison Cheeseburger!

Another key amenity at Wilderness Lodge is its transportation. Since the resort is located so close to Magic Kingdom, it has convenient bus and boat service. One of the boat paths shares stops with places like Bay Lake Tower, while the other takes guests to Fort Wilderness. And that section of Walt Disney World is another hidden amenity.

Should you choose to travel around the Fort Wilderness area, you’re never more than a boat ride away from visiting the horses at Tri-Circle-D Ranch. The boat access also makes Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue a de facto extra restaurant option for Boulder Ridge guests.

You’ll find two major pools at Wilderness Lodge. Boulder Ridge guests will stay closest to Boulder Ridge Cove Pool. It’s a lovely spot themed to an abandoned mining company. The six shaded seating spots here are heavily in demand, as they provide wonderful views of the watery surroundings.

Copper Creek Springs Pool was formerly Silver Creek Springs Pool, and it’s a terrific spot for families to hang out. It’s got a 67-foot waterslide that is one of the best at any DVC facility. I very much enjoy the point-of-view perspective on the way down it. Plus, there’s a water-play area for children that will keep your kids entertained while you luxuriate in the sunshine. In my estimation, the pools here are middling by DVC standards, a recurring theme for the resort.

Resort Pros and Cons

By now, you should understand my feelings on Boulder Ridge. It’s a great place to stay when you want to vacation close to Magic Kingdom but don’t want to spend the extra points for a monorail resort. The boat access to the theme park is great, and you’ll even stumble into some lucky views on occasion. When you ride this transportation at night, you may get to see the fireworks display or even an up-close observation of the Electrical Water Pageant.

Relative to location, the point cost here is reasonable. The room size is similarly fine. When you spend a few days at one of these villas, you’ll absolutely feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. Instinctively, you may realize that you’re missing out on better opportunities, though.

Not that many DVC members list Wilderness Lodge as their favorite. I wouldn’t even expect it fall into the top three on most lists. It’s perfectly serviceable but the only standout category in my opinion is restaurant quality. Well, I would add the hotel lobby as a huge pro, but people don’t/shouldn’t book hotel rooms based on the quality of the lobby.

Perhaps the strongest advantage of a stay at Boulder Ridge is the resort’s natural tranquility. Designed as a celebration of national park lodges, it does have that feeling of comfort that comes from being one with nature. Guests seeking a more relaxing vacation will have an unforgettable time here. They’ll be missing out on better amenities and logistics at the monorail resorts, though.

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