Birthday Weekend at Wilderness Lodge, 2004

Birthday Weekend at Wilderness Lodge

Who: Kathy and Rich
When: July 17-18, 2004
Where: Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World
Why: Kathy’s Birthday

Tuesday, July 13, was Kathy’s birthday, so we decided to take a birthday weekend trip to Wilderness Lodge to celebrate. We had planned to stay here before, but we’ve always cancelled because we love the Epcot resorts so much. This time we wanted to spend our time at the Magic Kingdom, so we finally got the chance to experience Wilderness Lodge.

We left our home in Tampa Bay early Saturday morning in the middle of a thunderstorm wondering what kind of weather we would find at WDW. Thankfully, the traffic was light and the weather cleared up as we approached WDW.

It was quite magical driving underneath the Wilderness Lodge sign, immediately transporting us to our life in the West. It was very nostalgic for both of us-for Kathy who grew up going to Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks on camping trips and for Rich, who used to backpack in the Sierras, including Half Dome in Yosemite. Sometimes missing the West but also loving living in Florida for ten months now, this was just the mood we were looking for. The nice lady guard welcomed us at the gate and handed us a parking permit for our car with our name printed on it. We were soon parked and heading for the Registration Desk. It was about 9:30 am so we weren’t sure if our room would be ready but, it was. We had reserved a courtyard view and were assigned room # 4027, overlooking the pool area and the lake in the distance. We had left our overnight bag in the car so after a quick check of the room, we headed for the boat dock and the Magic Kingdom.

We loved the boat ride to the MK. By far the best way to reach the MK, in our opinion. We hadn’t eaten breakfast so we headed for the Main Street Bakery and grabbed a cheese and cherry danish.

Since the focus of this trip was the stay at Wilderness Lodge for relaxation, we had decided that we would focus on attractions in Adventureland, Frontierland, and Liberty Square only. On our next trip to the MK, we will do Tomorrowland and Fantasyland.

We headed for Pirates of the Caribbean. Since the movie had been out on DVD, we had been reading reports that Pirates was attracting long lines. Thankfully, we didn’t run into that. The crowds didn’t seem to arrive until about an hour or so later. We enjoyed Pirates and browsed through the gift shop afterwards. The Mickey Pirate flag caught our attention but decided to put that on hold because we knew we wanted to purchase Adventurer Eeyore to complete our Adventurer collection.

Having ridden Jungle Cruise a million times at Disneyland, we had always overlooked that ride at WDW. This time we decided we’d finally try it and we loved it. The British Colonial/Asian theme was a welcome change over the Amazon theme. We especially enjoyed the indoor section—a surprise for us.

El Pirata y el Perico caught our attention and we stopped in briefly to check out the menu. We decided to grab a Fast Pass at Splash Mountain before returning for lunch.

This was another first for us. We really enjoyed our lunch. It was reminiscent of the old Casa de Mexicana at Disneyland. The menu was limited but we each found a favorite, which turned out to be quite tasty. We’d like to be there right now.

Kathy: Taco Salad – fried flour tortilla, lettuce, taco meat, cheese, tomatoes, sour cream and onions, served with salsa
Rich: Tacos – two corn tortilla shells filled with taco meat, topped with lettuce, cheese and tomatoes

After lunch, we headed for the Haunted Mansion. As we walked through Frontierland, the thought had occurred to us to stop at the Shooting Gallery but decided to pass. It was getting hot and crowded and we were anxious to get to the HM, especially after recently enjoying the movie.

There was just a ten-minute wait and we enjoyed the ride, as usual. Afterwards, we headed back to Splash Mountain as our Fast Pass was now valid. For once we didn’t get that wet on SM. We almost always get drenched while we are in line passing by the big drop. Kathy, being the ever worrier, was uncomfortable in the boat because it seemed that all of the adults were on the right side and small kids on the left and it seemed as if our boat was tilting dramatically to the right. Thankfully, we didn’t tip over. 🙂

We’re just so amazed at how much more we enjoy this one over the Disneyland version. The first time we rode it at Disneyland, we were disappointed because it seemed that they had taken all of the cute little creatures from America Sings but you didn’t really get a chance to see them do much. Don’t know if our memories are fading but here it seems that you really do get to enjoy them in the show more.

It was time to head back to Main Street but first we had to stop and get Adventurer Eeyore and another stop at Aloha Isle for a Dole Whip. Last year we tried the Pineapple Float for the first time and we’re now hooked on those. Since we were still a bit full from lunch, we decided to split one.

On our way to the Emporium, we noticed the Dapper Dans were performing outside so we had to stop and listen to them for a few songs. Haven’t seen them in years but it’s quite a Main Street highlight when we happen upon them.

We wandered through the Emporium, hoping to find a top for Kathy but, like first the Disney Stores, and then World of Disney, the Emporium also seems to have discontinued a lot of adult items and focusing mostly on things for children. A bit disappointing but we figured that maybe the resort gift shops would have a better selection. We headed for the boat launch back to WL. Once onboard the boat, we discovered that we were stopping at Ft. Wilderness first. It was a pleasant trip, especially sitting outside with the breeze cooling things off. This is making us quite inpatient for our upcoming cruise over Thanksgiving.

Once we returned to our Lodge, we decided that the pool was just too inviting. We changed into our swimsuits and found an empty chair for our towels, cover-ups, flip-flops, etc. and we jumped in the pool. Rich just had to try out the pool slide and we enjoyed splashing around a bit, especially over by the Falls, which seemed to have a bit of a current and gave us some resistance. We didn’t do that for long before we decided to try out the hot tub. Enjoyed a brief soak there until we noticed the Trout Pass Bar. It just looked too inviting so we got out, dried off, threw on our cover-ups and grabbed a couple of seats up at the bar.

Rich ordered a Lumberjack (Mai Tai) and Kathy ordered a Mt. Rainer (Pina Colada). Delicious and so refreshing. Kathy overheard the ladies sitting to her right talking about being from Tampa so she, of course, had to join in. Rich began chatting with an older gentleman to his left, who was also from Florida, who was a frequent visitor and was upgraded often. This was a defining moment for us where we seemed to officially switch from being vacationers to becoming locals. It seems that WDW is a great getaway for Tampa because it’s far enough away that you can justify staying overnight and close enough to do it often. One woman said she worked in a cancer unit and she enjoyed frequent overnight trips to just let her hair down and enjoy relaxing, resort activities. We’re with her. 🙂

By this time we were ready to rest up in our room, take a short nap, before getting ready for our 8:15 dinner PS at Artist Point.

We still recalled the amazing dining experience we had at Artist Point in 1999 and were curious what our experience would be like this time. The feeling is difficult to put into words. After living in the Pacific Northwest for 2 years, we were quite nostalgic, recreating that experience here at Artist Point as all of the senses were stimulated. The feel of the rustic Lodge atmosphere, the almost-spiritual sound of Pacific Northwest Native American music, and the smoky scent of salmon cooking on cedar plank enhanced the taste buds as we sampled the varied flavors of that area.

Starter: Bibb Lettuce Salad with Buttermilk Green Garlic Dressing, chopped egg and bacon (Kathy), and Smoky Portobello Soup with Roasted Shiitakes and Chive Oil (Rich)

Entree: Cedar Plank Roasted Silver Bay Salmon with fingerling potatoes, sauteed Swiss chard and wild mushroom vinaigrette (Kathy), and Hatfield Pork Chop on Tillamook Cheddar Mac & Cheese with Maytag Crust (Rich)

Wine: Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir (Kathy and Rich)

Dessert: Artist Point Cobbler – Seasonal berries and housemade black raspberry ice cream (Kathy and Rich shared)

Dessert Wine: Inniskillin Ice Wine (Kathy and Rich)

It was an awesome meal and Northwest experience. We recalled our frequent trips to local Oregon wineries and the extraordinarily delicious berries! The Portobello Soup was the most amazing soup we have ever tasted.

After dinner, we strolled through the Lodge, stopping at the gift shop to purchase souvenirs: Antenae topper, Disney Mahjongg, WL key chain

We also walked over to the Villas to see what they were like. We felt like they were too quiet so we wandered back to the Lodge.

The next morning we ordered room service breakfast, which we ate while sitting out on our deck, people-watching.

Breakfast/Room Service: Continental Breakfast – a variety of oven-fresh muffins, croissants, bagels and pastries, freshly brewed coffee, plus a choice of orange, cranberry or grapefruit juice.

We managed to pack a lot of activities, including some restful ones into a short amount of time but we went home feeling quite satisfied and looking forward to our next trip, probably a day trip back to the Magic Kingdom to do Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.

About Kathy

Novelist & Music Producer