Like all other Disney resorts, Fort Wilderness is spectacularly maintained and transports guests to the American frontier. And while frontier living isn’t my cup of tea, seeing the utter joy and delight on the faces of my boys was priceless! This is one of the three original resorts from when Disney World opened in the 70s, and you will feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of the parks. For that alone, it’s worth a visit. There are tons of wide open spaces to run, play and be kids…
The resort is divided into a few key areas. You will check in and find the lobby at the Reception Outpost. This is also where you catch busses to anywhere but Magic Kingdom. Trail rides leave from this section of the Tri Circle D Ranch.
Pioneer Hall is where you’ll find all of the hustle and bustle of frontier living. Trail’s End features an all-you-can-enjoy countrified feast, as well as a take-away counter for a quick bite back at your campsite, in a picnic area or on the beach. There are plenty of rockers here to enjoy the scenery (or a drink from Crockett’s Tavern) while the littles busy themselves with down home hula-hoopin fun. We ate most of our breakfasts at the camp site, but did stop by Trail’s End for a couple of take-away breakfast platters and to refill our mugs each morning.
Pioneer Hall is also home to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. I cannot recommend this hand clapping, foot stomping, belly laughing, countrified dinner extravaganza enough!! Read about all the fun we had here.
You will also find Mickey’s Backyard BBQ at Pioneer Hall. Since we just did this fun dance party / dinner show in September, we didn’t go again. But, you can find all the details here!
In addition to getting your grub, the white sandy beach and marina is a lovely respite.
There is a sand volleyball court at the far end, and there are countless options for fishing and watercraft rentals.
In the evenings, it is a wonderful spot to catch the Magic Kingdom fireworks, with the music piped in. The Electric Water Pageant also passes by the Fort Wilderness beach.
There is a wonderful playground at Pioneer Hall that all of our crew enjoyed (ages 5-11).
The Meadows is the third key guest area of Fort Wilderness. The Meadow Trading Post is much bigger than the one at the Settlement and has all sorts of shopping, as well as food and camping necessities.
Meadow Swimmin’ Pool features a corkscrew waterslide, a hot tub, a kiddie pool and a fort-themed water play area with little slides. There is a counter serve snack bar and a refillable mug station here as well.
The Chip ‘n Dale Campfire Sing Along happens here nightly and is FREE!! You can bring your own fixins for s’mores, or purchase them (and other snacks) at the Chuckwagon Snack Bar. After the sing along, cozy up for a movie under the stars at the Campground Cinema. It’s free too!!
In addition to all of that, the Meadow is home to TONS more recreation!!! You’ll find another arcade, shuffleboard, horseshoes, and a sports area (basketball, volleyball, tetherball.)
Easter at the Fort
We celebrated Easter at the Fort and boy was it fun! This year’s events occurred on the lawn beside the Meadow Swimmin’ Pool. Thumper was the Easter bunny and Mickey came decked out in his wilderness garb. There was a fantastic candy scramble, as well as other fun and games all day long! You can read more here.
My number one recommendation for getting around the Fort is to rent a golf cart (or bring your own)!! There is a bus route that loops all the cabins and campsites and takes you to the key resort areas. A second bus route takes you to the parks. Avoid 90% of this with a golf cart!!
A lovely boat ride from the marina at Pioneer Hall gets you to the Magic Kingdom, Wilderness Lodge and the Contemporary. There are two different boat routes, so be sure to take the right one!
Now, as for the accommodations… there are cabins (that look rustic but I would have given my left arm for one) and campsites. The campsites are designated for RVs, pop-ups and tents. We spent our three nights in tents. O.M.G. This gal had never spent more than one night in a tent prior to April 3, 2015. Each campsite is equipped with privacy-enhancing landscaping, water, cable television and electrical hook-ups, a picnic table and a charcoal grill. Most campsites also include a sewer hook-up, and some even permit pets.
We pitched three tents on our site, and they will allow up to ten guests. We had one large one for each family and then a smaller play tent for the kids (and the older boys to sleep in).
I am SO glad I made Honey spring for my very own air mattress. (Let’s ignore the fact that Missy and I blew it up and then it deflated in the middle of the night.) Monogrammed sheets while camping? Well, yes. Are there any other kind?
We mostly lived out of our bags in the car, but we had some stuff in large rubbermaid tubs under the picnic table. Missy had the forethought to string up white lights, which were totally necessary since we forgot lanterns. #novice
We were at campsite 2001 and it was as perfect as a campsite could be. We had this huge wide open play space next to our site that the littles loved. And we weren’t near any big water areas that would leave me petrified of someone drowning in. This site was very convenient to the bus stop and comfort station.
We ate most breakfasts here at the campsite (donuts, bars, etc.) but had all of our lunches and dinners out. There was a charcoal grill, however.
What We Loved
Well, the littles loved every single detail. They proclaimed it the very best place we’ve stayed on Disney property (even more loved than our bunk bed savanna room at Animal Kingdom or lake view at Poly… sigh.) Here’s a little list:
- There is so much to do that we couldn’t do it all. This would be a wonderful place to stay if you didn’t have park tickets or were only planning a day or two in the park but had a week to blow at Disney.
- The two dinner shows on property are both amazing and at the top of our list.
- The beach is lovely and seeing the Magic Kingdom fireworks from this vantage point is relaxing and unique.
- Everything is so laid back that you literally feel like you’re in a different “world.”
- The golf carts were as much fun as anything!
- If you love camping, this is a GREAT and affordable way to do Disney.
What We Didn’t Love
Well, my boys (all three of them) wouldn’t have anything for this list. But I do…
- Sleeping in a tent for three nights is not my thing. I am always up for adventure and won’t ever shy away from something that will make my littles smile. So I did it! Would I do it again? Not for a very long time. I would, however, rent a cabin (as much as a deluxe resort, though) and take a trip to Fort Wilderness without even visiting the parks. Great for a year when we don’t have annual passes but need our Disney “fix.”
- Each loop of campsites has one or two Comfort Stations (ie. bathrooms). Ours had 3 toilet stalls, two sinks with mirrors and four small shower stalls. They were kept very clean, but let me just tell you how fun it is to get ready for the day at a shared sink. The hot water was completely out for two of our three days. UGH! It was a known issue and they did nothing to rectify it until Missy went up there and raised a little you know what. Then they refunded us one of our three nights but I thought it too little too late. Also, the bathrooms were supposed to require magic bands to enter from maybe 10pm to 6am. Well this never worked and I thought it was a little unsafe seeing as any strange man could wander in the ladies bathroom in the middle of the night.
- Quiet hours are posted from 10PM – 7AM. And they were not at all enforced. Since it was Easter, the Magic Kingdom was open until 3AM. Thus guests weren’t necessarily leaving until 4AM. And then they weren’t getting back to the campsite until 5AM. 5AM people! They were so loud and obnoxious, tooting their golf cart horns and screaming at the top of their lungs. Then, the park opened at 8AM so a different set of people were loading up on the busses two hours later at 7AM. OY! In addition to all of that, Disney had it’s mowers and trash trucks going at 5:30-6AM each day… ignoring their own posted quite hours.
- Our check in was the worst we’ve had at Disney. The cast member was literally yawning when she said “well, none of your magic bands work.” And then stared at me like she wished I’d say “ok, great!” After a solid hour of trying to fix them, we STILL spent another two hours the next day having them worked on. We got no map, no parking pass, AND were told they couldn’t find our golf cart. (Which they eventually did.)
If You Go
I hate to be negative and overall it was a great time. So, I hope you DO go!!! Here are a few tips & tricks and things we learned:
- Rent a golf cart WELL in advance. They do and will run out and you will wish you had one.
- Bring lights and extension cords for your campsite.
- Bring your own towels for the shower and pool, as they are not provided. You will also want flip flops and your own toiletries as those are not provided either. Bring some sort of a bag to put all of this in while you shower and get ready at the comfort station.
- Keep your food in your car as there is tons of wildlife. It’s beautiful but you don’t want to attract critters (big or small)
- Bring a good cooler and ice. You can also purchase ice by the bag at Meadow Trading Post or through a machine at the comfort station (requires quarters).
- Your kids will get dirty! Bring extra clothes, wipes, sanitizer, etc.
- You will probably want disposable table cloths for the picnic table at your campsite.
- People go all out with their campsite décor. If you have interest and time, do it up!!! Lights, signs, seasonal décor, etc.
- Bring trash bags and take them to the bigger trash cans each evening.
- Download a white noise app for your phone and crank it up. You might even want ear plugs. Of course, I am used to sleeping in a pitch black silent room so maybe it’s just me.
- There is SO much to do at the Fort that you must make time to enjoy it. I wouldn’t stay here and then spend every waking hour in the park. I’d do the reverse, actually. Make the Fort the majority of your time and then pop in for a few fast passes at the park and come back. Or skip the park all together!
I’m certainly no expert, but I’m happy to field any questions y’all may have!! Post them in the comments and I will follow up next week with the answers.
With that, I’m going to cross this one off the 40×41 list…
31. Camp out at Disney (because I love my boys and this is totally outside of my comfort zone)
I’ll be back tomorrow with leg 2 of our spring break adventure. It’s way more my style…