It’s high time that I shared our stay last fall at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. This was our second visit to Fort Wilderness and we had a great time.
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 kids 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).
You can visit with Cinderella’s mini white ponies at this part of the Tri Circle D Ranch, as well as take a pony ride for the little ones.
In this area, you will also find an arcade, wagon rides and a little bit of shopping at the Settlement Depot.
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 2015 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!
Fort Wilderness Cabins
In 2018, we stayed in the cabins with the same family we traveled with in 2015! The cabins are MUCH more comfortable than tents, which goes without saying. These are stand-alone cabins. Outside you will have a nice sized deck with a picnic table and parking for your vehicle and golf cart.
Inside is a living space with a small den, dining table and kitchen. The kitchen is equipped with basic cooking essentials, a fridge, dishwasher, sink and stove. There is no oven, but still plenty of ability to prepare a few meals, if desired.
They each sleep up to six, with a bedroom containing a queen bed and twin bunk and a pull out sofa in the living room.
There is one bathroom for the cabin.
Tent Camping at Fort Wilderness
For our first Fort stay in 2015, we camped in tents. The campsites are designated for RVs, pop-ups and tents. 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 kids 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 boys loved every single detail from both of our stays. But, overall, here’s a list of pros:
- 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. They are really difficult to get to when you aren’t staying at just a handful of resorts.
- 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. And, if you have a larger family, the cabins sleep 6 and are a good value.
What We Didn’t Love
- 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 kids smile. So I did it! Would I do it again? Not for a very long time.
- As far as the cabin, it was much better than a tent. We actually want to rent an RV next time to try something new.
- For tents / RVs, 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! 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. Busses were running until 3AM and then started up gain at 5AM.
As a Travel Advisor…
I am always very hesitant to book clients here because it is hard to get around and the bus loops are long and eat up a ton of time. For a first time client on a budget, I would put them at any other resort on property before this one. For a repeat client that is looking for a 50/50 split of park time and resort time, Fort Wilderness is a GREAT choice and I’d definitely throw it in the quote. No matter how many times you’ve visited I’d personally recommend the cabin over camping. Coming home from a day in the parks to sleep on the ground gets really old after a day.
If you go…
- For campsites and cabins alike, rent a golf cart WELL in advance. They do and will run out and you will wish you had one. I handle this for my clients.
- For campsites, bring lights and extension cords for your campsite. 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).
Bring trash bags and take them to the bigger trash cans each evening.
- 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.
- 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 or cabin.
- People go all out with their décor. If you have interest and time, do it up!!! Lights, signs, seasonal décor, etc.
- 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!
As always, I’m happy to answer your questions or start on a quote for your perfectly planned Disney vacation right away!
As Gold Key Advisor with Glass Slipper Concierge, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, I offer concierge travel planning for Walt Disney World® Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland® Resort, Disney Aulani Hawaii, Universal, Sea World and to 35 countries on 6 continents through Adventures by Disney®.
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