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Disney's Wilderness Lodge and Artist Point Restaurant

By Matt Armitage, PassPorter Guest Columnist

My wife and I were enjoying the last day of our mini-vacation (actually, I was on a business trip and she had come along for a few days of relaxation - no kids!) when we discovered one of Walt Disney World's overlooked treasures (at least by us!): Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort hotel and the Artist Point restaurant.

After my conference sessions had ended for the day, we were discussing dinner plans and thought we'd take a chance and see if anything last minute was available at the resorts. Recognizing our chances were slim at getting advance reservations, I dialed away. After finding nothing available at the Polynesian's Ohana and the Contemporary's California Grill, I was ready to give up when the cast member asked, "Well, where are you right now?" Armed with the fact we were at Downtown Disney, she did some searching and recommended Artist Point at the Wilderness Lodge. We had never been to either Artist Point or the Wilderness Lodge, so we figured "Why not?" I had heard the Wilderness Lodge was a nice resort, and had for ages wanted to visit, but had never taken the time to.

Less than an hour later we arrived at the Wilderness Lodge. For those of you who've never been there, let me tell you, it is breathtaking! The spacious and grandiose lobby (8 stories high) is reminiscent of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, with a slightly different flavor to it. I had heard that the grounds were beautiful, and we were a few minutes early, so we figured we'd check in with the maitre d' and go for a walk. To our surprise the dining room was only half full and we were seated immediately. In fact, we were afforded a window seat overlooking Silver Creek Falls, a beautifully landscaped waterfall and stream.

Dinner was wonderful not only for the delicious food, but for the decor of the restaurant, presentation of dinner, and high level of service that was provided to us. In addition to the view out the window, the restaurant itself is tastefully decorated, with a large mural on one wall serving as a backdrop. My wife chose the "signature plate," Cedar Plank Roasted Wild Salmon with Celery Root-Potato Puree, Pan-roasted Fennel, and Truffle-Honey-Brown Butter. When brought to the table, it arrived on the cedar plank on which it had apparently been cooked and was transferred to my wife's plate. The entire meal was delicious -- I know because I helped her finish it!

I chose the Grilled Buffalo Sirloin with Sweet Potato-Hazelnut Gratin and Sweet Onion Jam. I could go on for hours about how good it was, but let me simply say this. It was the most delicious dinner I've ever had. The buffalo was tender and mouth-watering, and the sweet potatoes tasted like candy. If but for no other reason, Artist Point is now one of my favorite restaurants because of that meal!

Stuffed to the gills as a result of cleaning our plates, we opted out of dessert. I should mention one other detail about our dining experience. Not only was our server attentive and helpful (he went the extra mile and got me the recipe for the sweet potatoes), but the maitre d' stopped by a couple of times to check on us, too. We were well taken care of!

After dinner, we took the stroll we'd missed out on before. It was dark by this point, which at first disappointed me, but for naught - the grounds were just as beautiful after dark. In addition to the waterfall, lots of softly illuminated winding paths, wooden bridges over a meandering stream, and rock landscaping culminating in a geyser (we missed the eruption) created the atmosphere of being in the American Northwest and the great outdoors.

We ended the evening by heading down to the dock, where we boarded a boat that took us out into Bay Lake, over to Fort Wilderness, out into Seven Seas Lagoon, and ultimately delivered us to the Magic Kingdom. The cool, relaxing trip was the perfect ending to a perfect night. We both decided that on our next trip to Walt Disney World, not only would we be returning to Artist Point for dinner, but would be staying at the Wilderness Lodge.

Our trips to Disney World have traditionally been "go-go-go" and center on figuring out how we can maximize our time at the parks. In fact, we typically use whatever hotel we're staying at simply as a base for going to and from the parks. Our experience that night taught us to seek out Disney's hidden treasures and take advantage of what Disney has to offer outside the parks. A nice meal, a quiet stroll, and a relaxing boat ride can offer just as much as an attraction packed day at the parks.

This article originally appeared in our May 27, 2005 newsletter -- subscribe to our popular newsletter today for free!

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    Updated 04/06/07 

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