Curious to learn more about the story behind Disney’s Wilderness Lodge? Then you’re in luck, because free tours of this Resort are offered every Wednesday through Saturday morning at 9:00 am!
The current schedule can be found at the bottom of the Information board in the lobby
My extremely knowledgeable and friendly tour guide, Jack, has been a Walt Disney World Cast Member for 21 years. He shared such a wealth of information with me that I simply can’t record it all here. But I would like to highlight a few of my favorite bits of new knowledge!
The Villas at Wilderness Lodge
In the early 1850s, the country was united across the Mississippi for the first time by railroads. The Villas represent old railroad hotel lodging and early settlers in those areas. As you walk the path from the Villas to the main Lodge, you are “traveling” across the Mississippi to the North West, all thanks to the railroad system!
The mismatched furniture around the Villas ground floor represents people from different areas bringing their own furniture with them, then leaving it behind as they met and hired local artisans to create new pieces for them. (I have no idea why exactly, but I LOVE this!!)
The Carolwood Pacific Room (also referred to as the “Iron Spike Room”) is truly one of my favorite places in all of Walt Disney World. The room is dedicated to Walt Disney’s love of trains. Jack shared with me that, as a child, Walt used to dress as a conductor and wave to the trains going by in his childhood home of Marceline, Missouri — the place responsible for what would become a lifelong passion for Walt.
The Carolwood Pacific Room
Walt Disney’s own train cars
President Theodore Roosevelt, the “Conservation President,” is remembered for his love of and great impact upon our National Parks system. Because of his dedication, lodging started to be added to some of the National Parks to draw in more visitors. Jack told me that the Wilderness Lodge is based on many National Park hotels, but primarily Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park. After finding some images of Old Faithful Inn, it certainly appears so!
The funny thing about the fireplace in the lobby is that it can make you want to curl up with a cup of hot cocoa even when you’re smack in the middle of a boiling Florida summer ;)! What Jack referred to as “Disney Rock” built around the fireplace represents the geological strata of the Grand Canyon.
You can learn more about the representation even without a tour guide!
Of the 23 Resorts at Walt Disney World (not including the various Disney Vacation Club Villas), Walt Disney envisioned four of them: The Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Resort, Fort Wilderness Campgrounds, and Wilderness Lodge. Walt’s vision for Wilderness Lodge was quite a bit different than what we see today. His was more of a “Rough Rider” approach, and is said to involve Cast Members leaping from the balconies! When the Lodge was built (it opened in 1994), Imagineers wanted to stay true to Walt’s vision, but be more appropriate to the times.
Walt Disney asked that 10,000 acres of the property he purchased for his “Florida Project” to remain untouched to preserve some of its natural beauty and ecological diversity. You can see the dedicated land from Wilderness Lodge, on the opposite side of Bay Lake. It’s especially stunning because, though Wilderness Lodge is so close in proximity to the Magic Kingdom and the Monorail Resorts, this allows nature to play a huge role in the beauty of this Resort, as well as lend to its signature feel of a North West retreat.
What I’ve shared here barely scratches the surface of all that I learned and saw during my tour. Jack was kind enough to give me a full hour of his time even though I was the only person who showed up. It never ceases to amaze me how much story exists behind every building, attraction, and restaurant in Walt Disney World, and taking time to learn a little about them always seems to enhance any Disney experience that much more.
I LOVE THIS PLACE!!