“I went to the Walt Disney World woods to live deliberately…”
Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly what Thoreau said… but that’s what we did :). Welcome to our Fort Wilderness camping adventure!
Fort Wilderness is Walt Disney World’s campground. Guests can reserve campsites for anything from a small pop-up tent (like we have) to full-sized RVs. For guests who prefer to fly rather than drive (and who prefer a bit more privacy), there is an additional option (falling under the “Moderate Resort” range): The Cabins at Fort Wilderness.
Check-in begins at 3:00 pm, but my husband and I arrived at 11:30 am. We figured that we would just ask if we could stroll the grounds until 3:00 pm, but we were fortunate enough to be able to check-in early—right when we arrived! Check-out is 11:00 am, and since we were just putting up our tent, there really was no room turnover needed at our site. So, it’s worth a shot here to see if you can get in early!
First thing’s first: we had to get the lay of the land. The grounds have a perfect blend of beauty and fun…
Then we were ready for some serious pool time:
At last, we (and by “we,” I mean my husband :)) got around to pitching our tent. Each basic tent site comes with a charcoal grill and picnic table, and electricity outlets. Many thanks to the Disney Cast Members for the adorable pine-cone Mickey which was waiting there to greet us!
After dinner, it was time for the nightly gathering at Fort Wilderness: The Campfire and Sing-a-long with Chip and Dale! We roasted marshmallows and ate S’mores (we brought our own makings, but you can buy them there as well) while waiting for the Big Show.
The Sing-a-long leader arrived, and led us in some of the fun camp songs you might be familiar with (like “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” and some fun Disney touches like “The Mickey Mouse Club March”). Those were great, but he really won over all of the adults when he led “The Gambler” as a sing-a-long :).
Then Chip and Dale came along to join in the fun! Chip and Dale split up to greet every single guest at the Campfire, so there is plenty of opportunity for kids (and adults :)!) to have their picture taken and/or their autographs books signed. It’s very well organized—not to mention super-cute! They wrap things up by inviting everyone to gather in a good old-fashioned dance circle…
After Chip and Dale leave, it’s time for a Movie Under the Stars, if you wish. Fort Wilderness boasts the biggest and best outdoor movie screen on Disney property, and you don’t need to be staying at Fort Wilderness to enjoy the movie or the Campfire Show. Guests from all over property can come and enjoy. As for us, we chose to end our evening by catching the Electric Water Pageant and the “Wishes” Firework Spectacular from Bay Lake Beach.
When it came time to get ready for bed, it was off to the Comfort Station. Let’s face it: everyone wants to know about shared bathrooms, but no one likes to ask :). So, I’ll share! The Comfort Stations at Fort Wilderness are so pristine I actually snapped a picture:
Showers are VERY nice and roomy—dry dressing areas just inside the shower stalls are also nice and they do the trick for privacy, but they are tiny. The thing to note is that it helps to be strategic about your shower time, if you are able. Since bathrooms are shared, they can be busy right when everyone is getting ready to go to the Parks. If you’re able to plan your shower for an uncommon time, you may not have to wait at all. I showered after the afternoon in the pool, just before dinner, and had the place to myself.
One of the most stunning things about Fort Wilderness is that you are in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the entire world… yet you are surrounded by peace and quiet. After a great night’s sleep under the stars (it was a beautiful night, so we left the rain fly off of our tent… until about 3:00 AM when it started raining ), I woke up to take a dip in the pool for an hour prior to breakfast—I had the entire thing to myself… BLISS! Then we set off for a wonderful breakfast buffet at Trail’s End.
Trail’s End has a reputation for being the best buffet value on Disney property, and now I know why. All-you-care-to-eat featuring all of the traditional Disney breakfast favorites (Mickey Waffles!) as well as some Trail’s End signatures (“Country Eggs Benedict”) for around $17 per adult.
By the time we left Trail’s End (taking a few trips each to the buffet ), we had a little more time to explore Tri-Circle-D Ranch… but not enough! This place is amazing… Tri-Circle-D Ranch is home to the Walt Disney World horses, from the Shetland ponies that carry Disney brides in Cinderella’s Carriage to the horses that carry guests down Main Street U.S.A. in trolleys. Look for a future post on these amazing animals, because I’ll be taking more time to explore Tri-Circle-D Ranch.
Alas, we had to be back at our campsite to take down our tent in time for check-out at 11:00 am. As part of Walt Disney’s original vision for “The Florida Project,” Fort Wilderness is a truly special place, full of more surprises and fun than I had imagined, offering a truly special way to experience Walt Disney World without losing one iota of Disney magic. This place definitely makes for Happy Campers :).