New Rooms Coming to Wilderness Lodge Villas!

Walt Disney World has released a look at the new rooms coming to the original Wilderness Lodge DVC villas and announced details about the room refurbishment project. This post shares concept art, photos of the fixtures and furnishings, the timeline for work, my commentary, and more.

Disney originally revealed these room renovations for the Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge way back in December 2019 at the Disney Vacation Club Condominium Association Annual Meeting. During that, DVC indicated that Boulder Ridge was receiving a “full refurbishment” in 2020. Per that schedule, Grand Floridian was set to receive a minor refreshes last year and the Polynesian and Beach Club Villas would each receive soft goods refurbishments in 2022.

Obviously, a lot changed only a few months after that meeting. Walt Disney World paused construction projects for months, and was slow to restart them–including at the resorts. While that delay played a role, the bigger cause of delay was prioritization of the Polynesian and Grand Floridian projects, which were deemed more urgent for several reasons.

In any case, the overdue and much-needed Boulder Ridge Villas room reimagining was placed on the backburner. Disney Vacation Club leadership emphasized that this project was time slated to occur, and permits were filed over the summer.

Finally, work started to happen within the last few weeks. Oddly enough, it hasn’t been officially announced by Walt Disney World nor is there a construction advisory on the official site for the Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. This isn’t entirely unprecedented. Earlier this year, Disney closed the Garden Wing of the Contemporary for the ‘Incredibles Injection’ room redos, and never announced anything.

Regardless, the Boulder Ridge project is currently scattered across a handful of rooms on the fourth floor and fifth floor, with a range of room types represented. It’s unclear whether this these are test or model room reimaginings occurring ahead of the project getting started at full speed.

Adding to the oddness, Disney isn’t keeping this overhaul a total secret. Concept art flashed on-screen at the D23 Expo last month and there’s now a two-page spread with more artist renderings and photos in the Fall 2022 issue of Disney Files magazine. This project is a big deal for DVC Members and fans of Wilderness Lodge, so it’s a bit weird that Disney isn’t publicizing it more. We’re here to do exactly that, starting with a look at the concept art and details DVC released in Disney Files…

This fall, crews will begin refreshing accommodations at Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (the lodge’s first Disney Vacation Club Resort, which opened in 2000). Updated kitchens (including new, single-height island countertops with stools), bathrooms, living spaces (including behind-the-sofa, fold-away beds) and more will give Deluxe Studios, and 1- and 2-bedroom villas a more vibrant – though still whimsically woodsy – look.

Refurbishment work will take place in waves, with the first wave scheduled for completion by this winter, and all accommodations aiming for completion by Spring 2023. Here’s a sneak peek at what else is in store.

In 1- and 2-bedroom villas, vibrantly colored patterns along the bottom of living room drapes and vases displayed on built-in shelves flanking new pull-down beds are among the many places in the re-imagined living spaces to spot hidden Mickeys.

Goofy practices the perfect cast while Mickey tries to keep up with Pluto in one of the new pull-down bed’s two custom works of art.

Among the new details are wilderness travel posters framed in the dining area of 1- and 2-bedroom villas, placing Mickey and friends in wilderness settings with names that make us smile, from “Whispering Canyon” (a nod to a restaurant next door at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge) to “Lake Elias” (with Elias being Walt Disney’s middle name, and his father’s first name).

Main bedrooms in 1- and 2-bedroom villas have their own treasure to discover, from such Disney fan-familiar places as Grizzly Peak (of Disney California Adventure fame) included in drapery map patterns to Chip and Dale elegantly silhouetted on a throw pillow.

Donald Duck and his nephews hike through the woods on artwork adorning the fold-away bed behind the Deluxe Studio sofa. When opened, the bed reveals artwork of the nephews fast asleep while Uncle Donald makes a misstep at Geyser Point.

Mickey and Minnie explore the water-filled wilderness in a mural above the main bedroom’s bathtub and in framed bedroom artwork.

On the kid-sized bed tucked beneath the Deluxe Studio TV, there’s more art–a forest on the outside and Chip ‘N Dale mural on the inside.

Attached to the hidden kid-size bed is a set of built-in drawers and a pair of neatly tucked stools, adding more storage and seating to Deluxe Studios. Vibrantly colored Deluxe Studio headboards feature both sconce lighting and reading lights.

As we’ve previously mentioned, we saw the model room almost two years ago, and it’s substantially similar to this concept art. The layout and poster art was identical, with the biggest differences that I can recall being in some of the furniture and upholstery colors, patterns, and textures.

The big thing is that this emulates the approach of the Saratoga Springs and Riviera rooms, which were more recently replicated at the Polynesian and Grand Floridian Villas. No surprise there, as Disney Vacation Club leadership previously indicated this would be the new room blueprint going forward.

Functionally, we have zero criticism about this decision. If there’s one thing that Imagineering really got right with Disney’s Riviera Resort, it’s the rooms. Those designs make significant strides in space-saving design, while adding innovative features like the pull-down Murphy sleeper that is somehow both a comfortable couch and a comfortable bed.

Those new rooms seem like the culmination of a lot of lessons learned by DVC over the last decade–iterating on past successes and disregarding past failures–into something that coalesces perfectly. Disney Vacation Club has even indicated that guest satisfaction scores have increased by 20% among guests who have stayed in new rooms at Saratoga Springs. If anything, this undersells the functional improvement of those rooms–they’re much more than 20% better than their predecessors. (That’s not quite how guest satisfaction scores work, but still.)

When it comes to their substance, the new rooms coming to Boulder Ridge will be an unequivocal upgrade over the current rooms. There’s no question whatsoever about that. I’m also cautiously optimistic these new rooms will offer thematic enhancements. The style of the Copper Creek studios was a mixed bag for me, with too much of a mismatched style meant to give it a cottage or cabin feel. It got a bit too contemporary and cutesy, with an inappropriate shabby chic look.

These Boulder Ridge rooms look much more cohesive, with Disney art set in the great outdoors and featuring classic characters (I love the nods to the Junior Woodchucks). Although not directly referenced, there’s a lot that evokes the U.S. National Parks (all of the art, including the poster style) and Native American culture (patterns on the carpet, throw pillows, drapes, and vases).

In aggregate, this gives the room a lot of textural depth and personality, while never being overly busy or chaotic. The rooms still look relatively relaxed and subdued, with calming colors. All in all, I think this looks fantastic–a great job balancing theme with contemporary conveniences. (My only potential quibble is the multicolor headboard in the Deluxe Studio–they jury is still out on that one.)

This is also without taking into consideration the current rooms at Boulder Ridge, which are really showing their age. Speaking of which, if you want a better idea of how the current Boulder Ridge rooms look, below is our room tour video:

Personally, I don’t mind the current rooms at Boulder Ridge. They’re older, a bit tired, and lacking the usability improvements of their newer counterparts, but they have thematic integrity and are appropriately rustic. There are obvious improvements that could be made, but they’re better than many resorts.

I’m almost certainly in the extreme minority with this view, but I’d take the current rooms at Boulder Ridge over those at Copper Creek. The latter are superior from the perspective of functionality, but feature an aesthetic that is trying a bit too hard to be chic and trendy. With that said, I’d hazard a guess that most Walt Disney World guests favor Copper Creek’s rooms by a wide margin. I’m also guessing that the current rooms at Boulder Ridge have become a liability, depressing the resort’s popularity.

One thing we’ve discussed recently is how the “secret has gotten out” about Wilderness Lodge. It went from having a fan following and great discounts–but not much mainstream appeal–to one of Walt Disney World’s most hard-to-book hotels and one that often is undiscounted. Part of this is probably the crowd-pleasing new rooms (pictured above) and the addition of Storybook Dining at Artist Point.

Another thing I’ve noticed in the last couple of years thanks to sales data from our friends at DVC Resale Market is Boulder Ridge’s comparatively lower prices. It’s the least expensive Disney Vacation Club resort at Walt Disney World on the secondary market, with both Old Key West and Saratoga Springs ahead of it.

Not only is Boulder Ridge the lowest-priced DVC resort at Walt Disney World, but its average resale price offers the biggest percentage savings over buying direct, at 40% off. (That’s $81 off per point!) Moreover, the per point difference between Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek is a massive $44.

Of course, a big part of the disparity between Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek is that the former expires in 2042 and the latter ends in 2068. It makes sense that the properties nearing the end of their contract duration would start declining in value. However, that’s simply not happening with many other older resorts–at least to this great of a degree.

The dated rooms are undoubtedly a drag on secondary market prices at Boulder Ridge. They’re definitely not the only factor, but they’re certainly significant. We mention this because Saratoga Springs Resort prices jumped after its new rooms debuted, underscoring their importance–and what could occur once these new rooms open at Boulder Ridge.

We’re not suggesting that you buy now at Boulder Ridge to beat the rush. It’ll be interesting to see whether it sees a resurgence in popularity like Saratoga Springs, or if the expiration date as compared to Copper Creek remains the overwhelming consideration.

As discussed in our Disney Vacation Club Buying Guide, there’s a lot to consider when determining your home resort. The location, transportation, atmosphere, layout, or other elements of any resort may not appeal to you. There’s a reason “try before you buy” and “buy where you want to stay” are popular adages among DVC Members.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Boulder Ridge as a whole and am really excited about the new rooms. Some might argue that it’s not as convenient as the main building, but it’s also not that much of a walk. I actually love the location because it’s much quieter and more tranquil. Some of the rooms at Boulder Ridge really put the wilderness into the lodge, with balcony views of nothing but trees.

The common areas of Boulder Ridge also deserve their due. While understandably overshadowed by the grandiose main atrium, there’s a ton of detail and charm in the lobby of Boulder Ridge. In particular, the Carolwood Pacific Railroad Room is one of the hidden gems in all of Walt Disney World. This area pays great homage to the American West and the golden age of railroad travel–and is a lovely tribute to Walt Disney himself.

Wilderness Lodge’s main building is magnificent, and I love spending time there (especially late at night and early in the morning), but it’s a tad too raucous and loud during peak hours.

That’s seldom the case at Boulder Ridge. There’s almost always a secluded spot by a fireplace or an overstuffed chair where you can relax with a book or laptop to do some work.

Although somewhat beside the point, I’d challenge anyone who thinks that Disney’s Riviera Resort is well-themed or designed to visit Wilderness Lodge and the Boulder Ridge Villas and pore over the attention to detail and quality of finishing. I’ve fixated on the shortcomings of Riviera Resort a lot, but the difference is quite stark when visiting both in quick succession.

Walking around Riviera Resort, it’s easy to see where corners were cut and details were glossed over–it’s literally plainly visible inside and out. By contrast, every inch of Wilderness Lodge is meticulously and thoughtfully designed. It may not be to your personal tastes, but there’s no denying that it’s a high water mark for Imagineering.

Ultimately, it’s no secret that Wilderness Lodge is my favorite resort in all of Walt Disney World. If I could only stay in one resort for the rest of my life, Wilderness Lodge would be my pick. The key to Wilderness Lodge is the mood its theme evokes, and the way it transports you to a world away from the busy theme parks and Central Florida. At Wilderness Lodge, all it takes is a walk outside on the walkway through the thick woods and past the geyser, or sitting in an alcove by a fireplace, and you are instantly someplace else.

Wilderness Lodge is also my favorite place at Walt Disney World during the Christmas season, in large part because it’s the only place that’s fully transportive and feels like a “real” Christmas. It could be 95° outside–with typical Florida heat and humidity–but sitting by that Christmas tree still makes you crave a cup of hot cocoa, convincing you that it could be snowing outside.

All of that extends to Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge, which is why this room reimagining is such a big deal to me. There’s a lot to love about this DVC resort year-round, but it’s truly my “happy place” during the holiday season. I could sit beside a fireplace for hours, simply soaking up the ambiance, listening to the background music, pretending I’m up north and it’s snowing outside on a cold winter day.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What are your thoughts on these new rooms coming to the Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge? Have you stayed at both Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek? Which do you prefer? What do you think of the rooms, both currently and the likely outcome of the refurbishment? How would your review differ from mine? Want to stay at Wilderness Lodge during the Christmas season? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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