Art of Animation vs. Wilderness Lodge

Art of Animation and Wilderness Lodge are about as different as the two resorts could be. In fact, the Art of Animation resort is what Disney calls a “value resort,” while the Wilderness Lodge is referred to as a Disney “deluxe resort.”  And both resorts have their advantages and disadvantages.

Disney World’s Wilderness Lodge Waterfall & Lantern” by Jared Lee is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Value resorts are the perfect resort for guests looking for an affordable place to sleep (but still has that dash of “Disney Magic”), where deluxe resort guests usually spend more time at the hotel (and more money for the overall hotel stay) than the guests at the value resorts because of the expanded and luxurious amenities offered. 

The resort themes, transportation, dining options, and so much more are different as well. When it comes to making your pros and cons list for Art of Animation vs. Wilderness Lodge, you’ll have many different things to consider when choosing which resort to stay in to ensure you have the most magical stay—and in this article, I’m going to helping you find the right resort for your needs and wallet!

Value, Moderate, and Deluxe Level Resorts 

Disney World has over 25 resorts on property. As I stated above, Art of Animation is a value-level resort, and value resorts were designed for large families traveling on a budget

Pop Century Resort and The All-Star Resorts (Movies, Music, Sports) help make up the rest of the value level resorts. Most rooms at value resorts are “motel” style, enter from the outside, except for the family suites at Art of Animation, those rooms are hotel-style, with an inside entrance. 

The value level resorts have fun themes and large statues of your favorite Disney characters or sports memorabilia, depending on which resort you choose. 

There are three pools, including a large main pool, but even though value resorts do not have waterslides at their pools, the fun pool shapes, like the computer pool at Pop Century or the calypso pool at All-Star Music, more than makeup for it. There are no table service restaurants available at the value resorts either, but they do have a counter-service restaurant and a pool bar. 

Moderate level resorts include Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter Resorts, Caribbean Beach Resort, and Coronado Springs Resort. Disney moderate resort prices will cost you about $295.00 a night. Moderate resorts are not lacking in theme either.

From the old south to the big easy, all the way to Mexico and the Caribbean Islands, whichever resort you choose is an immersive experience. All moderate resorts except for Port Orleans French Quarter, offer a table service restaurant in addition to a counter service restaurant and pool bar. 

The main pools at these resorts do have waterslides, my favorite being the dragon slide at Port Orleans French Quarter. Like the rooms at Art of Animation, some moderate resorts offer themed rooms. 

For example, at Caribbean Beach Resort they have rooms themed for Pirates of the Caribbean, with “wood” planks on the floor to a ship bed, you’ll be singing “yo ho yo ho” long after your trip ends. Deluxe level resorts are Disney’s most expensive resorts, they also offer the most amount of resorts.

The Wilderness Lodge, Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Polynesian Village Resort, Contemporary Resort, Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, Boardwalk Resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney’s new Riviera Resort, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs Resort, make up the Deluxe level resorts. 

Rooms at deluxe resorts are bigger than those offered at the value and moderate resorts. There are also more amenities such as, transportation options, like the monorail or watercraft, multiple table-service, and counter-service locations, concierge-level rooms, and villas, which have full kitchens and multiple rooms. 

Best Disney World Hotel

With more than 25 hotels to choose from, and more popping up every year, it is not easy to say what is the best Disney World hotel, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the top two choices (amongst a wide consensus in Disney World fans) are Art of Animation and The Wilderness Lodge. 

They are both long-time fan favorites. What is it exactly that makes them the popular choice? Besides price, when it comes to choosing the best Disney World hotel for your family, the most important thing to consider is the theme, and neither Wilderness Lodge nor Art of Animation is lacking in theme. 

If you are looking for a more laid-back, quiet, experience, then Wilderness Lodge is the perfect choice for your family, but if you are looking for something colorful, energetic, and loud, then Art of Animation might be the best Disney World hotel for your family. 

Theme of Art of Animation vs. Wilderness Lodge

Art of Animation is full of larger-than-life statues of your favorite Disney characters from The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, and Cars. 

There are three themed pools, one is located by The Lion King family suites, the second is located by the Cars family suites (and have adorable ‘parking cone’ gazebos you can park your family under to stay out of the sun), and finally, the main pool, Big Blue Pool, is located right outside the back doors of the main lobby near the Finding Nemo family suites.

The hallways at this resort are interior except for The Little Mermaid buildings, which offer ‘motel’ style exterior hallways. The theme of the resort continues into the rooms and family suites. In the Cars family suites, the couch is made to look as if it is the rear seat of a car, the tiles in the shower of the family suites in 

The Lion King area are painted to resemble the iconic sunrise from the opening of the film, the Finding Nemo suites carpet make it seem as if you are swimming in the ocean and over at The Little Mermaid Rooms, the backs of the dining chairs are in the shape of seashells. 

Wilderness Lodge on the other hand was designed with the Pacific Northwest in mind. The lodge was inspired by the National Parks lodges of the 1900s. The main lobby is breathtaking eight stories tall. 

The main lobby is guarded by two totem poles with an 82-foot tall fireplace between them. The rooms in the Wilderness Lodge are a stark contrast to those at Art of Animation. Where Art of Animation makes it clear exactly what the theme of the room is, Wilderness Lodge is a bit more subtle, using wood-carved furniture, with a rustic, laid-back charm. 

Cost of Art of Animation vs. Wilderness Lodge

The prices of these rooms reflect a non-peak week and off-season in Art of Animation, a value resort offers only one type of standard room and those are The Little Mermaid rooms. The cost of this room during a regular, non-peak season is between $255.00 and $313.00 a night.

Art of Animation Resort” by HarshLight is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The family suites at Art of Animation’s prices are higher than that of the standard room because the family suites offer more than a standard room does. The family suites can comfortably sleep up to six adults. They also have a kitchenette area and two bathrooms. The cost for this suite is between $543.00 and $623.00 a night. 

The cost of a room at Wilderness Lodge depends on what type of hotel room you choose. The most expensive room at the lodge is a three-bedroom grand villa that costs approximately $3670.00 a night, a two-bedroom cabin on the lake follows as the second most expensive room at $3477.00 a night. 

A one and two-bedroom villa will cost approximately $1161.00 a night for a one-bedroom and $2080.00 a night for a two-bedroom. A studio rounds out the villas at approximately $808.00 a night. A standard view, a non-club-level room at Wilderness Lodge is approximately $538.00 a night. If you upgrade to a nature/firework view, non-club level room, that will cost approximately $737.00 a night. 

For luxury service, you would want to book a club-level room. The cost of a club-level room with a standard view is approximately $855.00 a night. 

Club-level rooms are Disney’s version of the concierge service level rooms. The room type is the same standard room but the extra cost will give you access to amenities such as private concierge service, lounge services which offer coffee, pastries, and alcohol. 

Rooms at Art of Animation vs. Wilderness Lodge 

There is no shortage of rooms options at either Art of Animation vs. Wilderness Lodge. There are a wide variety of rooms. A standard room at value-level resorts is approximately 260 square feet. These rooms include one sink, one toilet, and one shower/tub combination. These rooms also have two queen beds or one king bed upon request. 

Art of Animation offers another type of room as well, those are the family suites. The standard rooms at Art of Animation are all themed for The Little Mermaid. The suites are themed for Cars, The Lion King, and Finding Nemo. A family suite is approximately 520 square feet and they can sleep up to six adults.

There is a master bedroom with a queen bed and a private bathroom. There is also a double sleeper sofa, a twin sleeper chair, and, my personal favorite, a pull-down table bed! These suites have another bathroom in addition to the master bath, and a kitchenette with a mini-fridge, microwave, and a bar sink. 

A standard room at Wilderness Lodge is about 344 square feet, which means a family suite at Art of Animation, a value resort, is larger than a standard room at Wilderness Lodge. 

If you are using the room just to sleep and do not need the extra space of a family suite then that may not matter to you although if you are a family of four with two teenagers, you may want the extra room to spread out. Wilderness Lodge offers more than just a standard room. 

Disney Vacation Club at Wilderness Lodge 

Wilderness Lodge is also a part of Disney’s Vacation Club

The Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s version of a timeshare. If you are a member of the Disney Vacation Club your room choices offer ‘home’ like amenities such as kitchens, living rooms, and even washers and dryers! 

You also have the option to stay at the Disney Vacation Club resorts on Disney World Property, Hawaii, set sail on a Disney cruise, or use it for an Adventure’s by Disney vacation overseas. 

One of the great things about Disney Vacation Club rooms, or villas, is that you do not have to be a Disney Vacation Club member to stay in them. 

Wilderness Lodge has two different Disney Vacation Club villas: Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek Villa’s and Cabins. 

The Boulder Ridge Villas are in a smaller building located just behind the main building. The Boulder Ridge building offer studios, one and two-bedroom villas. Studios in this building sleep up to five people and they have a small kitchenette and one bathroom.

Although Wilderness Lodge offers more amenities than Art of Animation does, these studios, even if they sleep five, are small and if you are traveling with five grown people or is someone who just likes your space, you and your family might be more comfortable after a long day walking in the parks in a family suite at Art of Animation. 

The one-bedroom villas sleep up to four, they have a master bedroom with a king bed and master bath, a full kitchen and dining area, and a living room with a pullout sleeper sofa. 

A two-bedroom villa is identical to a one-bedroom, with the addition of one more room with two queen beds, making the total number of people able to sleep at eight. 

Wilderness Lodge’s second Disney Vacation Club villas are the Copper Creek Villas and Cabins. A great benefit of staying in a studio, one or two-bedroom villa at the Copper Creek villas is that they are located in the main lobby as opposed to the Boulder Ridge Villas which are a short walk behind the main building and on a cold or rainy night, that may not be a walk you want to make. 

The rooms in the main building have the same villa set up as those in Boulder Ridge, except the studios in the main building sleep up to four adults. Copper Creek Villas also has a three-bedroom grand villa. These rooms can sleep up to twelve guests, have multiple balconies, and have a master bathroom with a jet tub. 

The star of the Copper Creek Villas is the two-bedroom cabins on the lake. These cabins are very different than the cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Where those cabins make you feel like you are roughing it with a more rustic feel, the cabins at Wilderness Lodge are luxurious. 

These cabins have a stone-hearth gas fireplace, stunning views of Bay Lake, and a private hot tub, with a fence around it to keep those little swimmers safe. 

Amenities and Transportation Comparisons

Both Art of Animation and Wilderness Lodge offer many of the same amenities but they also have amenities unique to their resort. Art of Animation has three pools, one is located near The Little Mermaid rooms, another is by The Cars family suites, and finally, the main and biggest pool is “The Big Blue” pool, near the main lobby and the Finding Nemo family suites. 

This pool is 11,859 square feet! A Finding Nemo-themed playground is located right behind the pool and another playground, The Boneyard Playground, is located in The Lion King courtyard. 

If you enjoy exercising, there is a 1.38-mile jogging trail around the resort. There is a bridge that connects Art of Animation with the neighboring Pop Century Resort. 

It is just a short walk over the bridge to Art of Animation’s sister resort and while over there feel free to grab a bite to eat in their fun, food court or take some cool pictures with their giant, pop culture icons. 

If you are going to Disney Springs, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, or Disney’s Water Parks, there is bus transportation in the front of the resort, but beware, this is an uncovered bus stop, so if the bus is running late you may become victim to the rapidly changing weather of Central Florida. 

When traveling to Epcot or Hollywood Studios, you’ll get to fly there in The Skyliner. The Skyliner picks you up in between Pop Century and Art of Animation and flies you over to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, where you MUST exit to transfer to another Skyliner to the theme parks. 

There is no straight flight from Art of Animation to either Epcot or Hollywood Studios, you must transfer to Caribbean Beach. From Caribbean Beach, you will walk to the line for Epcot or Hollywood Studios. When the Skyliner stops at The Rivieria Resort, you do not need to exit if headed to the theme parks, just sit back and enjoy the ride. 

Wilderness Lodge has two pools. The main pool, Copper Creek Springs pool, features the Fire Rock Geyser that bursts every hour. This pool also has a 67-foot water slide. The second pool, Boulder Ridge Cove pool, offers a more laid-back experience and has a zero-depth entrance as well as a whirlpool. Wilderness Lodge also has a health club and a salon. The salon offers hair and nail services. The health club has a full fitness center and two saunas. There are campfires, bikes available for rent, and fishing locations at Wilderness Lodge as well.

Both Art of Animation and Wilderness Lodge offer Movie Under the Stars, depending on what resort you stay at, on a different night each week there will be a Disney movie shown either poolside or on the beach. 

Guests staying at Magic Kingdom area resorts are treated to a nightly water pageant from 9:00 pm until 10:30 pm. The Electrical Water Pageant is a parade of light-up creatures who sail across the seas to classic Disney music. This pageant is viewable from any place along the shore at Wilderness Lodge. 

Another perk of staying at Wilderness Lodge is that Magic Kingdom is just a short boat ride away, so after a long day walking around the park, you won’t have to wait for a bus with achy feet and you’ll be back at your resort within minutes. Disney’s complimentary bus service is available to take you to the other theme parks, water parks, and Disney Springs. 

Art of Animation Food Court

Since Art of Animation is a value resort, vs. Wilderness Lodge, which is a deluxe resort. there are no table-service restaurants or indoor lounges available. What is available is a brightly colored, themed, a restaurant called Landscape of Flavors. 

The Landscape of Flavors is Art of Animation’s food court-style eatery. In the four movies, the resort is themed to cover the walls and falls of the restaurant. 

Breakfast is served from 7:00 am through 11:30 am and their breakfast offerings are made of the usual things you have come to expect from Disney breakfasts such as bacon, eggs, pancakes, and breakfast sandwiches. 

Something special Art of Animation does is replace the iconic Mickey waffles with Simba waffles, to help stay with the theme of the resort. Lunch and dinner offer pizza, burgers, chicken sandwiches, and salads. Desserts and snacks are also available as well as alcohol. 

The Landscape of Flavors closes at 11:00 pm. In-room dining is also available. The in-room dining menu features pizza, salads, appetizers, and other options. 

If you have seen Finding Nemo, you know Nemo was forbidden to go to the drop-off! Well at Art of Animation the Drop-off Pool Bar is welcoming to all. Snacks are available for purchase as well as a full-service bar. You can get some of Disney World’s signature cocktails here like a Frozen Pina-Colava, a new twist on the classic pina-colada. 

Wilderness Lodge Restaurants

Deluxe resorts have multiple restaurants on property and Wilderness Lodge is no different. Roaring Forks is a small counter-service restaurant located in the main building and is open from 7:00 am until 11:00 pm. 

Breakfast is served from 7:00 am through 11:00 am, and then lunch/dinner is served from 11:00 am through closing. They have an all-day breakfast option of Mickey Mouse waffles and chicken. They offer standard breakfast items as well. 

Their lunch and dinner menu includes specialties like the Lumberjack Platter which is, pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, and coleslaw, and a 10-Hour Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich. Standard lunch and dinner menus are also available. Small desserts are also available as well as fresh fruit, snack items, coffee, and alcohol. Prices for entree items at Roaring Forks cost approximately $14.99. 

If you are looking to have breakfast in bed you can order through in-room dining from 6:00 am until 12:00 pm. You can order dinner through in-room dining from 5:00 pm until 10:00 pm and the late-night fare is available from 4:00 pm until 12:00 am. 

An 18% service charge, sales tax, and a $3.00 delivery charge to the total. Late-night dining options include a House-Smoked Turkey Sandwich, Ceaser Salad with Chicken, and a Peach Melba Cupcake. 

An open-air, water-view, counter-service restaurant is available by the main pool called Geyser Point Bar and Grill. Geyser Point Bar and Grill is more than just a counter-service restaurant. They have a fireplace for the evenings, a bar, and a lounge. They also serve appetizers.

Appetizers are available until 10:00 pm, and include, Edamame with Chili-Salt, Teriyaki Chicken Wings, and Crispy Barbecue Brisket. Their entree options are also available until 10:00 pm, and include, Handcrafted Crab Cake, Bison Cheeseburger, and a Grilled Portobello Salad. Specialty desserts such as Campfire Mousse and Apple Cider Sorbet are served until 11:00 pm. 

A full-service bar is available and serves specialty cocktails such as, Worth Melting For, which has 44 degrees North Mountain Huckleberry Vodka, Pineapple Juice, Sweet-and-Sour, Agave Nectar. 

If you are looking for a more intimate and cozy lounge experience then you will want to check out Territory Lounge in the main building. They are open from 4:00 pm until 10:00 pm and serve small plates and cocktails. Some of those small plate options are a Seasonal Bisque, House-made Potato Chips with a Chimichurri Ranch Dip, and my personal favorite, Oregan Chardonnay Fondue with Pretzel Bread and Grapes.

Wilderness Lodge has two table-service restaurants, Whispering Canyon Cafe and Artist’s Point. Reservations are recommended for all table service restaurants and these two restaurants especially.

Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge
Whispering Canyon Café – Disney’s Wilderness Lodge” by JeffChristiansen is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

I would go as far as to say they are required, that is because these are two of the most popular restaurants in Disney World. Artist Point was once a signature, fine-dining restaurant and now it is home to Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White. 

This is a unique dining experience that costs $60.00 per adult and $39.00 per child. Included with this price are appetizers served family-style. These appetizers include Mushroom Bisque and Wicked Shrimp Cocktail. Themed entrees available are Magic Mirror Slow-Braised Pork Shank, Brothers Grimm Roasted Chicken, and Bashful’s butter-poached Sustainable Fish. 

Your fairy tale dining experience is topped off with shareable table desserts like ‘Poison Apple’, a dark chocolate apple mousse with a sour center, and Fairytale Gooseberry Pie. 

Out of all of Wilderness Lodge’s restaurants, Whispering Canyon just may well be the favorite. Well known for its delicious food and fun atmosphere, this restaurant is located in the main lobby of the lodge, next door to Artist Point. 

If you have ever dined at 50’s Primetime Cafe in Hollywood Studios, the experience at Wilderness Lodge is similar but with a country twist. Your server plays a fun character and will do some fun, light-hearted, and slightly sarcastic, joking with you, so make sure you have a sense of humor if dining at Whispering Canyon Cafe. 

Whispering Canyon serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast offers all-you-can-eat skillets for $22.00-$24.00. Main entree items are also available ranging from $11.00-$19.00 and include Belgian-style Waffles, Pepper Jack “Cheese” Frittata, and Steel-cut Oatmeal. 

The breakfast and lunch menus are very similar, offering many of the same items for the same prices. Appetizers are available for dinner at Whispering Canyon, my favorite being the ‘Burnt Ends’ Nachos. ‘Burnt End’ Nachos are tortilla chips topped with pulled pork, beef brisket, fresh salsa, and cheese sauce. 

There are four all-you-can-eat skillet options, all for the price of $34.00. Those skillet options feature pulled pork and beef brisket, smoked salmon, and roasted chicken, and plant-based options. Main entree items range in price from $19.00-$34.00 and include, Cedar Plank Salmon and Char-crusted New York Strip Steak. Desserts are all about $9.00 and the main is the Whispering Canyon Pioneer Chocolate Cake.

Gift Shops at Art of Animation vs. Wilderness Lodge

Wilderness Lodge Mercantile is the gift shop at Wilderness Lodge and is located in the main lobby. In addition to the usual Disney souvenirs sold in most gift shops, this gift shop sells merchandise specific to Wilderness Lodge such as Christmas ornaments or hoodies. 

A small selection of grocery items is also available because some of the Disney Vacation Club rooms at the lodge offer full kitchens. 

The Ink and Paint Shop is the gift shop at Art of Animation. This is a large and bright gift shop that fits in perfectly with the theme of the resort. The gift shop is in the main lobby and is attached to the counter-service restaurant. You can find snacks, alcohol, and your basic Disney souvenirs, as well as resort-specific merchandise, like Art of Animation pins, are also available. 

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