If I were at the Walt Disney World Resort today, I would be staying at the Wilderness Lodge for the first time EVER.

The weather has taken a turn for the chilly, days are getting shorter (seriously, dark at dinner, C’MON!) and summer is becoming more and more of a distant memory. In these dire, fuzzy sock clad days I can only look to my tried & true Walt Disney World Resort Vacations to snap me out of my seasonal depression disorder. On this Friday in Fantasyland my family and I  will be checking into The Wilderness Lodge resort for the first time EVER! Ahhh, I’m letting that feeling of Deluxe Disney resort service warm me in between sips of my thrice reheated morning coffee.

For awhile, (pre-kids) the husband and I experimented with lots of different resorts, both on and off property. (I’ll say it once, and it’s just my opinion, but off property was the worst vacation mistake we’ve ever made. Ever. And I am a gal who has purchased a vacation off of an auction website, I KNOW mistakes. But, I digress…) For the last several years my family of four has stayed in the Art of Animation resort suites. We are big fans and in spite of the fact that we truly just use this resort to crash we enjoyed having the extra space to spread out in. We’ve also LOVED the luxury of having two bathrooms which made getting to bed at night and out the door in the morning a cinch. However, today, I’m dreaming of going Deluxe baby, the family is movin’ on up to the Wilderness Lodge!

Deluxe resorts always seemed like an unobtainable extravagance. Staying in a deluxe resort always seemed like something that was only afforded by “the other half.” (You know, the Jones-es or whomever else we are supposed to be keeping up with.) Surely this family of four, with two full price ticketed mini “adults” (13 & 10) and one Stay at Home Mom would never grace the doors of a deluxe resort…unless it was to dine at one of their AMAZING table service restaurants. I was chatting with my travel agent  about our upcoming vacation and she said something to me that was SHOCKING…she said, “You do realize that for what you’ve been paying to stay in the AOA suites you could essentially be staying deluxe.” Jaw dropped. It’s true that prices have steadily been increasing the last few years and as we’ve just been booking (mindlessly if we are being honest) the bounceback offer year after year. I never really took the time to do the math. I’m telling you people, agents KNOW this business, this advice was FREE and unsolicited, just a great agent sharing her knowledge and love of the resorts. (And when she booked this amazing vacation for us…also FREE. I have literally paid someone to think for me. Winning.)

Back to my fantasy…We pull up outside (thank you Magical Express) of the Wilderness Lodge and the four of us release a  simultaneous gasp of awe. We’ve been scouring the web for pictures and insider scoop so that we can make the absolute most of this DELUXE vacation. (You’ve been warned, I’m in such shock that we are here, I can’t stop saying deluxe!) The pictures do not do this expansive resort justice. It is far more picturesque than I could have ever imagined. It seems crazy, but even the sky seems more blue all around this resort. It’s a slice of wilderness heaven right here in the middle of Walt Disney World. When we leave the bus it feels like we are on a completely different vacation. We have been transported to the most magnificent lodge somewhere peaceful, beautiful and in spite of it’s size, incredibly quaint and warm feeling. The lobby is massive, the woodworking is stunning and a Cast Member welcomes us immediately and follows our eyes to the impressively carved totem poles placed around the lobby area. We learn that an artist CARVED these two 55 foot tall totem poles over the course of about six months time. They both tell a story that you can “read” by following the story on the poles from bottom to top.

Once we are checked in, we race up to our room. The room absolutely does NOT disappoint, the lodge theme is consistent and welcoming. The colors warm and the details are adorable. The girls are over the moon about having a balcony that has a beautiful nature view and they remark how incredible it is to have a view like this in the middle of Florida! At the registration desk a Cast Member gave the girls a resort wide Hidden Mickey scavenger hunt sheet. For the first time in their history of coming to WDW they are not ready to race out to the parks, in fact, they are BEGGING to stay at the resort and explore! We stop for a minute to grab and fill our refillable mugs (a must-do every trip), then take their scavenger hunt sheets and go on our Hidden Mickey search. Along the way we see the resort’s magnificent Copper Creek Springs pool, the girls’ eyes light up the second they see the 67 foot water slide built into the rocks. The husband’s eyes light up when he sees the size of a burger being carried from the Geyser Point Bar and Grill. It’s in this moment that I know that the scavenger hunt is postponed and grabbing bathing suits and burgers is the more pressing issue. I can’t tell you the last time we’ve visited Disney that everyone has wanted to have a resort day. It’s been YEARS since the family has just wanted to enjoy the pool and amenities around us. It certainly doesn’t hurt that this pool’s water slide rivals that of any water park and that the convenience of delicious, hot food is a major plus! (In fact, I can lounge here, order and they will bring the food out to me. Pinch me people!)

After splashing around in the pool, we decide to do something we’ve never done before, we rent some bikes and ride around the resort visit the neighboring Fort Wilderness area. The girls can’t believe there are horses to ride, an area to fish, a place to learn archery and somewhere to come back later to roast marshmallows and see Chip & Dale! The area is beautiful, heavily wooded, the shade is a welcome retreat from the Florida sun and you almost forget that the humidity is probably at 100%.

There’s so much to see, the girls have loved riding the horses, visiting with the ponies and checking out the campgrounds that we’ve completely lost track of time. The rumbling of our stomachs remind us that it’s almost dinner time! We head back to our resort, and even though we spent much of the day enjoying the many amenities we are still mouths agape when the resort comes back into full view. “Our hotel has a WATER FALL,”my youngest shouts.

We are surprising the girls by having dinner at the BRAND NEW character dining experience at the Artist Point restaurant within our resort. (Opening officially December 16th, but c’mon, this is MY fantasy so of course it’s already open!) Our girls are OBSESSED with Disney Villains, they’re such good kids we think they like living vicariously through these animated villainous divas. The Evil Queen is a HUGE favorite of theirs, and when we learned she would be at this character meal we KNEW that was too cool of an opportunity to pass up. The rustic ambiance is the perfect backdrop for meeting Snow White, Dopey, Grumpy and of course the Queen. As much as we love the characters we are also a family of four foodies. The prix fixe menu is mouthwatering, with items such as  winter squash bisque, Royal Prime Rib Roast and a flight of fun, film inspired desserts.

The meal is hearty and we clean our plates and waddle out of the restaurant. We let our meal settle by hitting the adorable Wilderness Lodge Mercantile where the girls are ready to pin trade with eager Cast Members who sweetly engage the girls. We are excited to know that from the Wilderness Lodge boat dock we will later on be able to watch the Electrical Water Pageant without having to brave the crowds over at the Magic Kingdom. We decide that tonight we will watch the water show, then slip into even comfier clothes and check out the resort’s “movie under the stars.” (Something else we’ve never taken advantage of when we were staying value and just falling into our beds at night.)

Tomorrow we will do the parks up, we will hit them HARD. I’m looking forward to taking the boat across to the Magic Kingdom and not starting the day on a crowded bus. I can’t help but wonder what took us SO long to stay at this fan favorite resort? The important thing is we are here now, taking it all in and TRULY enjoying the entire PACKAGE that we have purchased rather than just rushing from point A to point B. And just think, this was all because I decided to trust a travel agent, no hard sell, no pressure, just some awesome “why didn’t I think of that” advice. Seems like even though I have been planning these trips for our family for AGES even I can still learn from this awesome community of Disney lovers. Please, no one wake me from this Fantasyland Friday, it’s way to cold to go out and grab the paper…leave me here by the pool please.

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