Fort Wilderness Campground is likely one of the unique three resorts at Walt Disney World. On this put up, we’ll share historical past of the country retreat, why it’s a particular spot you need to go to in your subsequent trip, and what’s on the horizon in 2024. Plus, our evaluations of the cabins, campground, eating places, and our most up-to-date expertise tent tenting. (Up to date April 23, 2023.)
Let’s begin with historical past, because it’s laborious to know the Fort Wilderness of as we speak–and what makes it so particular–with out figuring out the way it started. Not like Magic Kingdom, Fort Wilderness didn’t open on October 1, 1971. Together with the Modern and Polynesian, “development” of Fort Wilderness was not on time within the residence stretch of 1971. Not like these inns, it wasn’t fast-tracked to debut by opening day of Magic Kingdom. In truth, the land earmarked for the campground was primarily pristine wilderness as of Spring 1971 when the staff arrived on-site to start work on the challenge.
Consequently, Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground opened on November 19, 1971 over a month after Magic Kingdom and the 2 inns. Much like how Modern was considered as an extension of Tomorrowland and Polynesian of Adventureland, Fort Wilderness was considered as a counterpart to Frontierland, giving visitors a strategy to keep within the American frontier. The campground debuted with 232 campsites in addition to Tri Circle D Ranch, which was primarily constructed as a handy location for horses within the parades at Magic Kingdom.
Within the years that adopted, Fort Wilderness would develop significantly. The primary massive addition was the Fort Wilderness Railroad, which smooth opened in Spring 1973. Fort Wilderness Railroad consisted of 4 steam trains that every pulled 5 automobiles round a round route by means of the campground, much like that of the present inner buses, at a most pace of 10 miles an hour. Every prepare was roughly 115 toes lengthy and having capability for 90 visitors.
Fort Wilderness Railroad’s monitor was far and away the longest railroad working in a Disney park, greater than double the 1 1/2 mile route across the Magic Kingdom. Throughout the heyday of the River Nation water park in peak summer season seasons, all 4 trains of the Fort Wilderness Railroad operated day by day to offer adequate capability to satisfy demand. Tickets price $1 and had been good all day, with the prepare sometimes working from 7 am till 11 pm. (Leading to the same ‘wake-up name’ that visitors staying within the Poly bungalows now get every morning!)
Fort Wilderness Railroad was comparatively short-lived by Walt Disney World requirements. There’s nonetheless debate over when it completely closed; we all know that service was diminished in 1977, however continued till at the very least 1979. In early 1980, Fort Wilderness Railroad went on “hiatus” for a feasibility evaluation or analysis, however it by no means returned. (Study extra about Fort Wilderness Railroad.)
Right now, Fort Wilderness provides campsites and cabins together with a variety of leisure choices. Whereas Fort Wilderness is simply a brief boat journey from Magic Kingdom, it feels worlds away. The sprawling ‘resort’ is located on 750 acres of pine and cypress forest, giving the campground a ‘buffer’ between it and the remainder of Walt Disney World.
Now that we’ve regarded backwards, let’s fast-forward to 2024 when Fort Wilderness will bear considered one of its largest adjustments ever. Walt Disney World just lately introduced New DVC Cabins Coming to Fort Wilderness Campground. The proposed plans name for greater than 350 new cabins to switch the present cabins on the resort, which can quickly be prepared for a refresh. The brand new cabins can be constructed with an eye fixed towards the setting, using the footprint of the present cabins and making the most of extra energy-efficient options.
Moreover, there are a group of enchancment tasks already underway at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground which might be designed to boost the visitor expertise. Examples embody proposed pool and strolling path enhancements in addition to new expanded eating experiences at Path’s Finish Restaurant and Crockett’s Tavern, with extra thrilling information to come back.
The announcement of Disney Trip Membership coming to Fort Wilderness explains why Path’s Finish…Ended. It’s going to be one such “assortment of enchancment tasks.” As shall be made clear all through this, we’ve an incredible quantity of nostalgia and reminiscences for the Fort Wilderness. As such, we’re protecting of ‘the Fort’ and any potential adjustments that unnecessarily modernize it in methods which might be, or may very well be, thematically incoherent or inconsistent.
Nevertheless, we additionally acknowledge that the campground is in critical want of extra sensible eating choices and facilities for serve visitor wants and preferences, and this may very well be a step in that route. Fort Wilderness has been a time capsule at Walt Disney World in methods which might be each good and unhealthy.
One cause that Fort Fiends and different Walt Disney World followers have been so skeptical of adjustments is that many have been hamfisted and appear to misconceive what makes the parks & resorts particular within the first place. Clearly, Walt Disney World is a enterprise, however many adjustments have optimized solely for that, whereas ignoring what makes the locations particular.
That’s exactly how Fort Wilderness nearly ended up with a generic and fashionable tower changing the forest between it and Wilderness Lodge. The newly-announced adjustments coming later in 2023 and 2024 are significantly better than the proposed Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge, however the jury remains to be out on whether or not they’re “good” or simply “much less unhealthy.”
We’re trending in direction of optimism, which is sort of the change of tempo for us (we hated Reflections with a ardour, so it’s a low bar). Our honest hope is that Imagineering undertakes these updates with care, and in line with the character and allure that makes Fort Wilderness such a particular place. The campground is beloved by its many followers for its quirkiness. It does want a modernized meals courtroom; it does not want one with generic, bland, and uninspired design. Hold Fort Wilderness Bizarre, Disney.
One other addition round that very same time is extra well-known. Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue was one of many unique ‘upcharge choices’ at Walt Disney World. This present was created to reduce the blow of decreased attendance within the wake of the 1973-74 Oil Embargo, debuting on June 30, 1974 as a brief summer season present with a forged of faculty interns.
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue was an instantaneous hit with visitors, and Walt Disney World Leisure scrambled to audition a full-time forged by the tip of summer season because the interns headed residence. Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue opened as a everlasting present on September 5, 1974.
It’s now one of many longest-running dinner reveals in america, with greater than 40,000 performances. Whereas the present has been tweaked through the years, it’s largely the identical as we speak because it was in 1974, sustaining the identical spirit of Americana and old school household enjoyable served with down-home consolation meals.
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue is a quintessential Trip Kingdom of the World expertise that each die-hard Walt Disney World fan ought to do at the very least as soon as. Whereas the hokey humor received’t be everybody’s cup of tea, it has one thing for practically everybody. The performers are extremely proficient, the viewers engagement offers it an ideal power, and it’s an excellent meal. You may learn our Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue Overview for extra.
Fort Wilderness has different eating choices, as nicely. P&J’s Southern Takeout and The Chuck Wagon meals truck are each situated close by, with the previous being the counter service restaurant in Pioneer Corridor and the latter being housed in a retro-inspired RV close by. We’re big followers of P&J’s Southern Takeout, and sometimes advocate it as an escape from noon crowds at Magic Kingdom; it’s a scrumptious and value-friendly household feast.
Different comparatively current developments are the relocation of Tri-Circle-D Ranch and demolition of Mickey’s Yard BBQ. Each these adjustments truly occurred in preparation for the development of Reflections Lakeside Lodge. That challenge was truly fairly far alongside when it was postponed indefinitely–had the parks not closed in March 2020, that tower would doubtless be opening this 12 months.
We’ll circle again to meals and enjoyable, however it’s in all probability price discussing the lodging choices at Fort Wilderness, as that’ll be make or break for a lot of Walt Disney World trip planners. Once more, Fort Wilderness may be very taste-specific on this regard, and prone to be a ‘resort’ you’ll both love or hate.
As a child, I beloved tenting at Fort Wilderness, which was my household’s go-to place to remain at Walt Disney World till Shades of Inexperienced opened in 1994. We stayed in our truck camper there at the very least a half dozen occasions from the late Nineteen Eighties by means of early Nineties. I’ve a number of nostalgia and fond reminiscences for Fort Wilderness in consequence.
Sarah and I’ve stayed on the Cabins at Fort Wilderness a number of occasions and we’ve additionally accomplished tent tenting on the Fort Wilderness campsites. So far as campgrounds go, Fort Wilderness is comparatively unmatched. We’ve camped at some very nice campgrounds on the West Coast, significantly in Utah and California. Apart from ones overlooking sandstone arches or the Pacific Ocean, it’s nearly unattainable to beat Fort Wilderness. Definitely, with regards to facilities, cleanliness, and general high quality, Fort Wilderness is hard to high. Nevertheless it’s additionally the one campground at Walt Disney World, so these planning to camp don’t actually have many alternate options.
From our perspective, this makes the Cabins at Fort Wilderness the extra attention-grabbing of the lodging. Whereas very totally different, these are primarily an alternative choice to a bigger resort room or household suite, making them an excellent comparability (or distinction) to a large number of lodging for bigger events at Walt Disney World.
Once more, very style particular, however we love the Cabins at Fort Wilderness. They’re nice for bigger events wanting good bang-for-buck, anybody wanting a spot to decompress from the sensory-overload of the parks, or these wanting a convivial setting for group bonding. The most important draw back is the structure, which places bunk beds in the principle bed room.
Basically, the (Walt Disney) World and life transfer at a slower tempo at Fort Wilderness. It’s an easier time and place, and that basically must enchantment to you and likewise mesh with the priorities to your Walt Disney World trip. In the event you’re theme park commandos, it’s not for you. In the event you’re superb with a extra leisurely expertise, it may work.
To that time, the serenity of Fort Wilderness actually can’t be overstated. This sprawling campground is a blissful escape from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks, providing about as sharp of a distinction to Magic Kingdom as is conceivably doable for a spot solely minutes away. It’s nearly as if Fort Wilderness Campground is “off the grid” and hasn’t been sufferer to as lots of the adjustments made which have sanitized and made a few of the different unique ‘Trip Kingdom of the World’ resorts much less endearing.
There’s an simple magic to Fort Wilderness, and it’s straightforward to see and really feel whereas strolling across the rustic resort, having fun with dinner, or catching the night leisure. It’s as if the environment rubs off on everybody who stays right here or visits, with a spirit of conviviality and group in contrast to some other resort on property. To not overstate issues, however it positive appears to me like Fort Wilderness is the happiest place at Walt Disney World. It’s a very particular place.
Greater than the rest, that is why we’re so glad that Disney determined to desert Reflections Lakeside Lodge. Whereas there are a number of causes Reflections was a half-baked concept, chief amongst them was the irreversible impression it’d have on the seclusion and serenity of Fort Wilderness, its largely unspoiled surroundings, and the environment that exists in consequence.
Along with the aforementioned facilities and eating, different options of Fort Wilderness embody playgrounds, two heated swimming swimming pools, Crockett’s Tavern bar, Electrical Water Pageant, fishing, horseback using, wagon rides, and extra. There are showers, laundry rooms, restrooms, and Consolation Stations in each campsite loop.
This simply scratches the floor of the eating and recreation choices at Fort Wilderness. It’s truthfully laborious to maintain monitor of every thing. Along with everlasting meals vehicles, there are additionally short-term ones that seem through the week. We see one thing new every time we go to.
One in every of our favourite methods to spend the night at Fort Wilderness is watching Chip ‘N Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Lengthy.
For these unfamiliar with Chip ‘N Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Lengthy, it options the nutty pals for a campfire celebration adopted by a basic Disney film beneath the celebrities. Previous to the character look, there’s a proficient performer who leads basic campfire songs in an out of doors amphitheater.
Previous to Chip ‘N Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Lengthy, fireplace pits can be found for roasting marshmallows and making s’mores.
As soon as the characters seem through the efficiency, visitors are invited up in direction of the entrance of the stage for a casual dance occasion. (I appear to recall this being totally different final time we did it–I feel Chip ‘N Dale mingled with the viewers through the first half of the present, signing autographs, posing for images, and interesting normally hijinks. It’s been just a few years, although!)
Regardless, Chip ‘N Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Lengthy is sweet ole usual enjoyable for visitors of all ages.
The musician is proficient, and performs songs which might be truly good. Count on to listen to “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain When She Comes,” “Ghost Riders within the Sky,” and “Take Me Dwelling, Nation Roads,” amongst others. I don’t have a full playlist, however when you just like the music of John Denver or Johnny Money, you’ll take pleasure in this.
Not that we make a degree of creeping on different visitors throughout sing-alongs (generally it simply occurs), however it actually appeared as if everybody was having an excellent time throughout Chip ‘N Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Lengthy.
It’s a kind of issues that’s deceptively easy, and easily enjoyable. With campfires, good music, and character shenanigans, what’s to not take pleasure in? Basically, that is the story of Fort Wilderness as an entire. It’s a ‘resort’ that won’t appear compelling as in comparison with its extra spectacular counterparts at Walt Disney World, however is rather more enjoyable in individual than it’d seem on paper.
We frequently advocate Fort Wilderness to households with youngsters who’re excessive power and hands-on. It’s an ideal place for youngsters to actively discover and have enjoyable in actual life. With out fail, we see youngsters having a hoot at Fort Wilderness.
If I needed to rating resorts at Walt Disney World on their ‘enjoyable issue’ for teenagers, Fort Wilderness can be the runaway champion. (The one others that even come shut are Artwork of Animation, Caribbean Seashore, and Yacht/Seashore Membership.) In an period when leisure for teenagers primarily happens in entrance of a display screen, Fort Wilderness is a breath of contemporary air. Actually and figuratively.
On an odd and random notice, considered one of my favourite “jokes” is stopping Sarah abruptly earlier than she’s about to enter Meadows Buying and selling Put up. I’ll exclaim: “Maintain on, we’re not allowed in there!”
“Why?” she questions.
“Properly, we’re not service animals, are we?!”
That is the corniest of corny dad jokes, and one that’s assured to induce eyerolls from your loved ones and pals. Please be happy to borrow it. I promise you, nobody will chortle. Possibly it’s just too cerebral.
Talking of Meadows Buying and selling Put up, it’s residence to a ton of superior Fort Wilderness merchandise. I don’t actually know the place else to place them, so I figured I’d share images of the merchandise right here:
Possibly I’m biased as a result of I like Fort Wilderness, however I feel this entire line is unbelievable. I ended up shopping for solely the Chip ‘N Dale mug so as to add to my rising assortment of rustic Wilderness Lodge and Grand Californian mugs, however I used to be tempted by a lot extra.
A number of of the shirts are actually good, however my favourite merchandise of all is the backpack. As somebody who at all times carries a pictures bag, I wouldn’t have any use for that…however I nearly purchased it, anyway. The standard is unbelievable and people patches are good. (For related causes, the water bottle can be distinctive–however we solely use bottles with filters.)
Kudos to the merchandise staff behind these merchandise, as a result of they actually captured the essence of Fort Wilderness. I do want they might’ve introduced again “Musket Mickey Mouse,” however completely get why that wasn’t doable. Not less than there are fan made/small store designs accessible with him.
Finally, we at all times have a unbelievable expertise at Fort Wilderness, which is really an underrated and underappreciated Walt Disney World resort. Whereas it’s not for everybody, you may simply be stunned by how a lot your loved ones enjoys Fort Wilderness. On the very least, we’d advocate reserving Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue or taking a ship journey over for a noon break from Magic Kingdom to take pleasure in some scrumptious fried meals.
You may even think about a keep at Fort Wilderness within the cabins or campground, relying upon your occasion’s preferences. In our view, Fort Wilderness is the perfect intersection of being outside whereas nonetheless being part of civilization. It’s an ideal change of tempo from the craziness of the parks, and 50 years later, there’s nonetheless one thing particular about this place. It’s the very best remaining embodiment of the “Trip Kingdom of the World” and continues to hold on the imaginative and prescient the Disney brothers (and others) had for the Florida Mission again within the late Sixties and early Nineteen Seventies.
Planning a Walt Disney World journey? Study inns on our Walt Disney World Resorts Critiques web page. For the place to eat, learn our Walt Disney World Restaurant Critiques. To save cash on tickets or decide which sort to purchase, learn our Ideas for Saving Cash on Walt Disney World Tickets put up. Our What to Pack for Disney Journeys put up takes a novel have a look at intelligent objects to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Journey Guides will assist. For complete recommendation, the very best place to start out is our Walt Disney World Journey Planning Information for every thing you want to know!
Have you ever stayed on the campsites or cabins at Fort Wilderness? What did you consider the expertise? Have you ever visited for eating, leisure, or the rest? Do you suppose there’s a sure magic to the place? Agree or disagree that it’s a pleasant serene and secluded change of tempo from the parks? Anything so as to add that we didn’t cowl? Any questions we can assist you reply? Listening to your suggestions–even whenever you disagree with us–is each attention-grabbing to us and useful to different readers, so please share your ideas beneath within the feedback!