Planning a trip to Walt Disney World can be complicated — especially when you’re trying to choose between 25 resort hotels. If you’ve narrowed down your choices to these hotels, how do you make your final selection?
Choosing between Disney’s Riviera Resort and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge isn’t an easy task. Well, let’s dive into the deets to see which one is right for you!
Whether room size, location, pools, and/or restaurants are most important to you, we share the information that you’ll need to make an informed decision. After all, we want you to stay at the hotel that is best for your family!
Let’s get started and look at all the details so you can confidently plan your Disney trip.
There’s no doubt that Disney vacations are expensive, and no one wants buyer’s remorse when it comes to what can usually be the most EXPENSIVE part of your Disney trip. We’re approaching this chaos-agent of a decision with as much logic as possible, so we’re breaking it down into five categories:
- Common Ground
Let’s get started on your vacation research.
Before we mention their differences, let’s take a look at what Old Key West and Wilderness Lodge have in common. First, both offer Deluxe Villa accommodations (Wilderness Lodge also offers Deluxe rooms) with a similar resort layout. The Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Villas can be booked by Disney Vacation Club members or cash-paying guests. You’ll discover luxurious amenities and unique theming at both hotels. Plus, both boast many of the same perks. Old Key West and Wilderness Lodge offer buses and one other type of Walt Disney World transportation.
The most expensive rooms at both resorts are large villas. You’ll see that rates are very similar, however note that the least expensive rooms at Old Key are still quite spacious.
For Old Key West, that means that for the cheapest room at the cheapest time to visit, you can expect to pay around $457 per night (not accounting for any tax or current discounts), and it goes up to $3,081 per night (not accounting for any tax or current discounts) for the most expensive rooms at the most expensive time to visit.
For the Wilderness Lodge, that means that for the cheapest room at the cheapest time to visit, you can expect to pay around $453 per night (not accounting for any tax or current discounts), and it goes up to $5,128 per night (not accounting for any tax or current discounts) for the most expensive rooms at the most expensive time to visit. (Based on 2023 rates)
Let’s dig a little deeper to see what you can get for the money at these resorts!
Extra Theme Park Hours Benefits for Disney World Resort Hotel Guests
These are not your standard hotels. At Disney’s Old Key West Resort, you’ll discover the tropical relaxation of southern Florida! While a stay at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge transports you to a Northwestern National Park Lodge.
But whether your stay takes you to the posh riviera or the rustic wilderness, you’ll find that both options provide delightful Disney amenities.
Old Key West
As a Deluxe Villa Resort, this hotel offers many unique perks. Villas can be booked by Disney Vacation Club members or cash-paying guests, and because of the immense size of Old Key West, rooms are often available!
Opened in October 1991, Old Key West features a relaxed, beach vibe (minus the ocean). Picture yourself vacationing at a Caribbean-style guest house in small neighborhood-type structures. Exteriors are painted in soft hues reminiscent of the Florida Keys. People return here year after year because of the laid-back atmosphere and large rooms.
Yes, this resort offers generous square footage in each studio or villa. Studios are furnished with two queen beds and a kitchenette. Take note of that balcony! Two-bedroom villas sleep up to nine people. The one-to-three-bedroom villas have a full kitchen, as well as washer and dryer. Rooms were last renovated in 2019.
Speaking of spacious accommodations, the 3 Bedroom Grand Villas at various Disney Vacation Club properties can sleep up to 12 people! These rooms typically come with 3 bedrooms, 3 (or more) bathrooms, a (very large) full-sized kitchen, living area, dining area, and a balcony. These rooms are available first for DVC members to book, so they’re pretty difficult to score, and pricing is not readily available to the public (unless you call Disney to book for a specific date).
If you’re looking for convenience, these amenities might make your trip a whole lot easier!
Welcome to the beauty and grandeur of the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Towering redwoods, pristine free-flowing creeks, artifacts, and monuments to American history and its inhabitants. The inspiration for this resort is pulled from various lodges and resorts of the national parks like Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park and Ahwahnee Hotel at Yosemite National Park. Guests feel the full majesty of nature once they enter the grand lobby, soaring ceilings, the massive 82-foot tall Grand Canyon-inspired fireplace, and 55-foot totem poles.
And the lobby delivers on that jaw-dropping “oh wow” moment (especially around the holidays).
The deluxe Wilderness Lodge standard rooms received a little facelift, like the Contemporary and Polynesian rooms have. So, when you stay here, you’ll get to experience a bit more streamlined and updated decor that is both modern and rustic.
Wilderness Lodge also has two different Disney Vacation Club accommodations, Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek, which include villas ranging from basic studio rooms all the way up to multi-room cabins overlooking Bay Lake.
Some of these cabins face the Contemporary Resort and may provide some obstructed views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks.
This could boil down to your preference. Old Key West feels like stepping into “Margaritaville” and all things summer, while Wilderness Lodge is cozier and “wintery.” Both resorts deliver beautifully on their themes. So, this really could be down to what type of vibe you want on your vacation.
PHOTOS: The Halls at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Are DECKED Out for Christmas!
When the weather is HOT or you just need a break from park queues, head to your resort pool! After all, the pools have their own unique features and special theming. Feature pools at Walt Disney World hotels usually have at least one slide and also offer poolside activities. Look at the hotel’s recreation schedule for more information. Some Disney resorts are so spread out that they also offer leisure pools. These swimming spots are family-friendly with at least one whirlpool spa. Leisure pools are quieter than the more crowded and active feature pools.
Old Key West
Sandcastle is Old Key West’s feature pool near the Hospitality House. Here, a 125-ft. waterslide traverses through a large sandcastle. Guests will love the decorative dolphins that spout water into the large pool. There’s also a relaxing whirlpool spa as well as a dry sauna located inside the nearby lighthouse. Small children will enjoy the kiddie pool. Keeping with the Florida Keys atmosphere, there is also a sandy “beach”!
This property has three leisure pools: Old Turtle Pond, South Point, and Miller’s Road.
The Wilderness is not to be outdone in the pool category; it hosts two pools: the Copper Creek Pool and the Boulder Ridge Pool. Both pools have the natural feel of swimming in a spring. Copper Creek is the main pool, complete with a water slide and the Copper Creek splash area.
Copper Creek pool overlooks the serene Bay Lake and resort-iconic geyser, Fire Rock Geyser, which spouts off every hour on the hour between 7am and 10pm. (But they will turn it off for inclement weather or on particularly windy days.)
Boulder Ridge pool is a quieter pool closer to the Boulder Ridge section of the resort with rusticly themed cabanas, and close proximity to the Geyser Point Bar & Grill.
Both have two, relaxing pools, and both have pool bars, lounge chairs, and splash areas. Again, it might boil down to just what your style is. Do you want to soak in a natural spring with lakeside views, a majestic geyser, and surrounded by serene, wooded trails? Or something a bit more modern with European flair? These two really make the choice difficult!
There’s no real loser in this category if you’ve found relaxation and joy!
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Because we are Disney FOOD Blog, we take food seriously. Very. Seriously. And we love it all. We love the cheap, comfort of plastic cheese, and we love the high-brow sophistication of a wine flight or a multi-course pre-fixe meal. We don’t discriminate; we are a lover of all foods. Since food is SO important, let’s see how these resorts stack up against each other in the restaurant category.
Old Key West
Olivia’s Cafe is a relaxed and casual Table Service restaurant featuring flavors inspired by the Florida Keys.
It’s open for brunch and dinner.
Good’s Food To Go is Old Key West’s Counter Service option serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, and is unique with its outdoor setting made for more of a “to-go” style. However, Old Key West lacks a quick service food court with indoor seating!
The Conch Chowder is a guest favorite.
Gurgling Suitcase is a charming little bar where guests can also order full entrees from Olivia’s Cafe.
We love this little oasis.
Turtle Shack Snack Bar offers sandwiches, pizza and salads to be enjoyed poolside.
Grab a bite and spend some time at the pool!
Click HERE for our Complete Guide to Eating at Disney’s Old Key West Resort!
Wilderness Lodge has five dining spots for you to nibble and nosh your way through the wilderness.
Geyser Point Bar & Grill located near the Copper Creek Springs Pool at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge — is a unique space in that it offers two different kinds of service for guests… all in one cozy and lovely setting.
It blends two different dining styles (a Table Service lounge and a Quick Service walk-up counter) and two different menus. The Featured Cocktail list at the lounge boasts beverages unique to Geyser Point, featuring spirits from Northwest distilleries in keeping with the theme of the Resort. Hearty appetizers can be ordered from the lounge as well, while full entrees are available at the connected Counter Service.
The open-air restaurant offers gorgeous waterfront views and a fireplace for cool evenings. And don’t sleep on Geyser Point, it’s a destination-worthy eatery with amazing burgers, queso, and unique cocktails, all in a serene atmosphere.
Formerly a signature restaurant, Artist Point’s setting and menu have been entirely transformed with a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs theme for a different experience. Story Book Dining at Artist Point with Snow White is a Character Meal at Disney World’s beautiful Wilderness Lodge! Guests enjoy a prix-fixe meal and can look forward to Snow White, Dopey, and Grumpy stopping by throughout the dinner. And The Evil Queen is even present for a unique photo opportunity.
Shhh…..don’t tell anyone our secret. Territory Lounge is one of our favorite hidden gems at Disney World! If your idea of a good lounge is one with cozy seating, specialty cocktails (as well as beer and even wine flights), and some of the best lounge eats on Walt Disney World property, then Territory Lounge is your place.
Boasting its own unique menu of lounge noshes, the Disney Food Blog gives it a hearty thumbs-up. The Territory Lounge is a great place to grab a light dinner and drinks with friends in an atmosphere that’s warm and inviting.
Hearty comfort food in a warm, rustic setting…. Welcome to Roaring Fork! Roaring Fork offers a variety of hearty entrees and counter service basics (along with grab-and-go options) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a serene atmosphere, with seating both indoors and out.
Guests will even find specialty coffee drinks available, and fans of Disney cupcakes will often find some really fun and unique options here that change with the seasons.
The other Table Service option at the Wilderness Lodge is Whispering Canyon. Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge is one of Disney World’s “funnest” restaurants ! With a crew of wayward servers intent on making you laugh and all-you-can-eat down home grub served skillet-style (guests may also choose from a la carte selections), this restaurant is a great one to book for a casual good time — especially if you’re with a group!
Whispering Canyon is renowned for its raucous hijinks like wooden pony races, massive straw drops, and tables overloaded with ketchup bottles. It is one of Disney’s dining options that put the fun front-and-center, and also provides some consistently tasty eats.
Click HERE for our Complete Guide to Eating at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge!
It’s so hard to designate a clear winner for food — because both resorts offer a delectable lineup of dining choices. The Wilderness Lodge edges out Old Key West with some amazing quick service options and a Character Meal that is unique and memorable. But even though Old Key West doesn’t quite measure up in the food category, don’t forget it’s only a short boat ride away from Disney Springs and all of THOSE dining options!
Do these resorts offer anything different when it comes to transportation? Let’s see!!
Old Key West
If you are driving to Walt Disney World or renting a car once you get to Florida, Old Key West offers the convenience of parking right in front of your villa. And with all the walking that you’ll do on vacation, this might be the right choice for your weary feet. This is especially helpful when traveling with grandparents, young children, or anyone with mobility concerns.
You can enjoy a leisurely boat ride down to Disney Springs, but to all theme parks, you’ll have to take a bus.
If Magic Kingdom is your destination, boat transportation sails through Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon to the front steps of the Magic Kingdom. There is also a bus option at peak times or when the weather doesn’t permit boat travel.
If EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, or Disney Springs is your destination, you can board one of Disney’s buses to transport you to these parks.
Guests staying at the Wilderness Lodge will have to rely primarily on bus transportation for the free option to navigate around Disney property.
This may boil down to where you’ll spend more time. If you’re going to for a laidback vacation where you’re spending time at your resort and Disney Springs, then Old Key West is the clear winner. If you will be hitting up Magic Kingdom more and all of the attractions and shows it has to offer, then Wilderness Lodge offers the proximity you’re looking for.
Note that ride share, taxis, and Minnie Vans are also available at an extra cost in case you find yourself in a hurry.
So, who is the ultimate winner in the Old Key West vs. Wilderness Lodge battle? We hate to say it, but it depends! You’ll need to decide which theme, dining, room types, and transportation best suits your next vacation to Walt Disney World. Since their price point is similar and both resorts are popular, we don’t envy your decision.
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What do you think? Is Old Key West or Wilderness Lodge the best choice for your family? Let us know in the comments!
The post Old Key West vs. Wilderness Lodge Disney World Resort Guide 2023 first appeared on the disney food blog.