The Many Adventures of Fort Wilderness

From the magical mind of Real Disney Mom Janie GD!

Pioneer Hall. Notice in the tree the dangly, hanging "old man's beard" aka Spanish Moss.

With the Pioneer Players “Hoop Dee Doo!” still a-ringin’ in my ears, I thought that I would take you on a little ramble around it’s home; Fort Wilderness, which is one of the original Walt Disney World resorts opening in 1971 along with the rest of The World.
The peaceful rustic charm of Disney’s Resort and Campground at Fort Wilderness has kept me returning for a visit (even if just for a peek) for decades now.  Not many things have changed in that time, although sadly you can no longer ride on the Fort Wilderness Railway, which ran out of steam in 1980, or take a dip at River Country, which saw it’s last hurrah in 2001.  The railway transported guests around the resort much like the buses of today do; only with a few more bells & whistles!  Even today in the furthest reaches of wilderness territory, a keen eye can spot the old railway lines zigzagging about.  The first water park I ever caused a splash in was River Country; it was a naturalistic homespun styled swimming hole, the type of place you would imagine Huckleberry Finn and his pals to frequent!!  You can still see the River Country harbour from the ferry boats taking you across Bay Lake; you never know, it may just be re-imagined one day!!  Sadly, both attractions were closed due to costs, health, and maintenance issues.

The forlorn looking, abandoned River Country.

The 400 plus guest quarters are modelled on prospector’s log cabins from the 1880’s. They snugly sleep a party of six; on a double, and large bunk in the bedroom, and a pull down murphy bed found in the lounge.  This being Disney, you won’t have to rough it pioneer style  as your cabin is an air conditioned “home sweet home”.  Everything is thoughtfully anticipated for what any family on vacation may need with the themed decor carried on throughout.  The bathroom contains all the usual facilities, and will seem in constant use if the cabin has a full quota of guests!  The kitchen has all modern appliances, and if you wish to rattle those pots and pans whilst on vacation you’ll find plenty to choose from in the well stocked cupboards – you can even host a cook out on your own private deck using the charcoal grill provided!  Worried about cleaning up the mess?  Fear not……daily mousekeeping is included!!  Another major bonus is that you are able to park your vehicle right outside your front porch, although you are not permitted to drive around on site (just on entry & exiting) unless of course you hire one of the merry looking electric golf carts that are omni present.  If I can liken the resort as a whole for any British readers, it’s like Centre Parcs on steroids!!

Your "home sweet home" cabin. (2710 Heron Hollow)

The cabins are set out in neat loops, all aptly called country names like “Heron Hollow”, “Arrow Head Way”, “Shawnee Bend” etc…….my children found it highly amusing to recite the bus route perfectly when riding the resort buses!!  And talking of buses, I cannot speak too highly of this transit service!  Fort Wilderness covers a whopping 750 acres, and is served by three internal bus routes, which connect to the Out Post, which connects to the rest of The World. Sound complex?  It isn’t, trust me, if I can work it out so can you!  You are never placed too far away from a bus stop on site either, which is great news for your World weary feet!  A hot tip is to strike up a conversation with your bus driver (use your judgement for when it is safe to do so), they are such friendly and knowledgeable folk, with a mountain of information to impart with us pilgrims!  Another mode of transport are the ferry boats.  These jolly little crafts call at the marina, then connect you to the Magic Kingdom, the Wilderness Lodge, and the Contemporary Hotel. Bon Voyage!
Camping at Fort Wilderness is also wildly popular, and I can see why…..there are almost 800 pitches to be found set amongst the majestic Cypress and Pine trees with their dangly hanging Spanish Mosses  which I jokingly refer to as “old mans beard”! How wonderful it must be to camp in such an enchanted place, and only ever a stones throw from one of the superbly chilled and well kitted out comfort stations!  I like to call it “glamping”; like camping, but glamourous.You get the big woods experience, but without ever leaving civilisation!  We Brits you know, find it fascinating to look around at all the huge recreation vehicles; as we don’t have anything like them back home!
If you happen to run out of provisions then you won’t be disappointed with either of the little merchandise/convenience  stores in your neighbourhood. You will find the Settlement Trading Post near the marina, and the more centrally located Meadow Trading Post by the main swimming pool.  Both are well stocked with select every day food, drink and camping sundries, and of course WDW souvenirs!
A favourite pastime of mine is dining, and I can thoroughly recommend that you mosey along down to the ‘Trails End Restaurant’.  You will find the three square meals of the day are served here “without end”, in bounteous buffet style. “Crocket’s Tavern” is right next door, where one can purchase libations.  A super way to end a hectic Disney day I find, is to grab yourself a cold drink, pull up a rocking chair on the Tavern’s porch and people watch!  Hopefully while you’re resting your aching bones, your effervescent little darlings can let off yet more steam (under your watchful gaze), on the considerately placed children’s play area, or on my boys favourite, the beach swing ball!
As if there isn’t enough already to amuse and entertain else where in The World, Fort Wilderness has it’s own seemingly endless list of fun things to do!  There are two dinner shows; as we know, one is the famous Hoop Dee Doo Revue, and the other is Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue, which as the name suggests is hosted by none other than the big cheese himself!  You can also join Chip’n’ Dale for a nightly camp fire and sing-a-long with a “bring your own” marshmallow roast, followed by an outdoor Disney movie, and best of all, this gathering costs my favourite price; free!  A visit to the Tri Circle D Ranch is always a crowd pleaser, it’s where all the park and resort working horses call home. The ranch offers pony, guided trail, carriage and hay rides; something for every budding gaucho!  If you still have any time or energy left…..other activities are plentiful, like two wonderful swimming pools, the beach, a games arcade, bike hire, jogging trails, tennis, segway tours, various boats for hire, volleyball, shuffle ball, horseshoes, both pole and line, and BASS fishing and so on and so on…….and for the the finale, be absolutely sure to NOT miss taking in the quirky and nostalgic Electrical Water Pageant, or the Magic Kingdom’s “Wishes” Firework display, both perfectly viewed from the beach!  There’s truly a winning combination of good old fashioned family fun to be found here.
After reading this, my rural round up, you’re probably thinking the same as me; Fort Wilderness is an adventure destination all in it’s own right! And you’re correct, it sure is.  Yeehaw!

Fantasyland is Getting a Makeover!

From the bright brain of Real Disney Mom Michelle W!

As everyone knows by now (okay, maybe if you live under a rock you might not know), Fantasyland in Walt Disney World is getting a makeover! Back in February they closed down Mickey’s Toontown Fair to start some of the major work. Up until then there was some construction going on, but now it’s in full force with the opening planned for late 2012.

So how do I feel about this change? Well in some ways I’m excited, and in others…okay, who am I kidding? I’m TOTALLY excited about it! While it was sad to see Mickey’s Toontown Fair totally taken down, and it will be upsetting to see Snow White’s Scary Adventure close , I think when you look at all the new stuff coming into their places it will totally make up for it!

Toontown, in my option, was always a nice little place to go if you wanted to take a bit of a rest. If you had little ones, it was a nice spot to go and let them run around after being trapped in their strollers for most of the day. But in the grand scheme of things, the area didn’t really have much else to offer in terms of attractions. While it was nice to visit with Mickey after taking a tour of his house, I think having a whole land for that was a bit much. I know there were many visits that I made to the Magic Kingdom, where I never even stepped foot into Toontown, but that was also before my daughter was born. So while it would have been nice to have her enjoy playing there a few more times, I think she’ll enjoy all the new attractions that are in store.

As for the closing of Snow White’s Scary Adventure, this one I’m sort of on the fence about. While I don’t like seeing the classic rides go away, like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, this ride I always found to be a bit too scary for the little ones, even before I was a Mom. Let’s face it, Snow White is a pretty scary movie, so it only made sense that the ride was scary too. But it will be nice to have Snow White still be part of things in the expansion since it was the first full length animated movie. So I look forward to seeing the Seven Dwarfs Cottage and Mine Area come to life.

I know I for one cannot wait for the Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid Ride! The Little Mermaid is up there as one of my top Disney Movies of all time and while I love watching the Voyage of The Little Mermaid show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I just can’t wait to ride the ride! Also seeing the addition of Prince Eric’s Castle will make the trip worth it!

And speaking of Castles, not only will Prince Eric’s Castle be added, but The Beast’s Castle will be there as well as a whole Beauty and the Beast Village area! It’s almost like Disney asked me, “Hey Michelle, if you could add something to Fantasyland, which movie would it be from?” I would have totally said Beauty & the Beast! I can’t wait to see the new dining experience that they have planned for the Be Our Guest Restaurant. I always wanted to eat in a ballroom!

I also love the idea that Dumbo is going to be growing in size. While it’s nice to take a ride on a flying elephant, the long lines that you would end up in with little ones were never fun. So having a whole interactive area to play with while waiting to ride will make it all worth it! That’s what I love now about The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride that they recently updated as well. This way when you are waiting in line, you have something to play with.

So while I’m sad to see some areas leave Fantasyland, I’m looking forward to seeing all the new and exciting things they have in store!

http://about.me/michellewhalen

The Planning Continues…

From the happy heart of Real Disney mom Janice B!

Eleven weeks to go! I decided to make this trip to WDW all about re-living the past. We will be dining in restaurants that we haven’t been to in a long time, and seeing some shows that we have not seen in quite a few years.

No trip would be complete without breakfast at Chef Mickey’s, and there is no greater way to start your trip then breakfast at Chef Mickey’s before hopping on the monorail and heading to the Magic Kingdom. This is always a must for me on our first day!  Many years ago, when the kids were young, Chef Mickey’s was not at the Contemporary. It was located in Downtown Disney (then known as Disney Village). Although initially disappointed when they moved, through the years we have come to realize that it is much more convenient in the Contemporary.

Our dining line-up includes:

  • The Garden Grill in Epcot, The Land Pavilion. We have not been here in years. This will always be one of my favorites. A slowly revolving restaurant with hosts Chip and Dale; great views of the vegetables growing down in the Living with the Land attraction. Great value for your money since your meal is served family style and they continue to re-fill servings. The macaroni and cheese was always a favorite of my daughter. Now that she is in her twenties and always watching her weight, I wonder if she’ll keep asking for more!
  • Coral Reef in Epcot, The Seas with Nemo and Friends Pavilion. This pavilion used to be called The Living Seas. This was always a favorite of my son when he was in his early teens. He was fascinated by the large glass wall fish tank and was always thrilled when we were able to get a table up close. Watching the fish while you eat is fascinating.
  • Fantasmic Dinner Package at Hollywood Studios, eating in the Brown Derby. This will be a particular treat this year. In all of our visits over the years, my son and my husband have never seen Fantasmic. It seems like it was never running when all of us were at WDW together; or sometimes that night was set aside for something that was deemed a little more important! My daughter and I were always able to catch it on our trips alone since it was a favorite of hers. We will all be seeing it together this year after a great meal at the Brown Derby.

No trip will ever be complete without a visit to the World of Disney store at Downtown Disney. There are so many things to look at that at times it becomes overwhelming. My best find ever, the year my daughter was graduating from culinary school, my husband and I took a trip to WDW for our anniversary. I was able to find several Chef Mickey items for her. My favorite being a Swavorksy crystal Chef Mickey.

Well, the planning for the October family trip continues! We are really trying to fit in so much. We plan to snack our way through the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival at least two days. This event holds a special place in our hearts since my daughter is a chef and she cooked for the Party for the Senses at the 2010 Food and Wine Festival. I have also started looking at a February stay at the Grand Floridian for myself and my husband to celebrate another anniversary.

Disney planning never seems to end.

http://about.me/bjkbrady

The Hoop De Doo Musical Revue Revisited

From the magical mind of Real Disney Mom Janie GD! 

Audience participation pioneer style by my youngest son in 2011

Following on from my last blog, “Disney Beginnings”, where I reminisced about my first experience of the evergreen “Hoop Dee Doo Revue”, a thought occurred to me; “What puts the ‘Hoop’ in the ‘Dee Doo?'”, and makes us all keep coming back for seconds, thirds, and so on and so forth?

The revue began it’s very long and illustrious run of shows in 1974, (according to Disney, it is the longest continually running musical in the whole of the USA) and was originally billed as “The Pioneer Hall Show” so names after the hall in which it is held three times nightly within the Fort Wilderness Resort and Camp Ground.  Today’s show title is far more memorable and quirky don’t you think?!  I can also recall a similar show being held at the “Diamond Horseshoe” at Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom during 1980’s. I remember it so well as I took part in it dressed as a showgirl, and had to speak with a Southern drawl; not an easy task for a Cornish maid I can assure you! 

The Hoop Dee Doo is a rowdy family affair dinner show that is sure to entertain from the youngest little dude in your gang, right up to to the oldest cow poke in town!  Good old fashioned clean cut comedy is certainly part of the winning formula that keeps you coming back for more belly laughs and groans year after year!  The show revolves around a fictional travelling vaudeville troupe who are; Miss Flora Long – a beautiful maiden, Miss Claire De Lune – a delightful dancing girl, Miss Dolly Drew – a witty wholesome gal, Jim Handy – a dashing cowboy, Johhny Ringo – a swanky card shark spiv, and then the chap, who for me carries the whole show along with such gusto, Six Bits Slocum, who is a loveable buffoon.  The action starts as the cast bursts in through the main doors……immediately you are captivated by their enthusiasm and charisma which carries right on through with lots of sing-a-long songs and high kicking dance routines culminating in the deliciously ridiculous “Davey Crockett” grande finale involving several “volunteers” from the audience!

Your show ticket gives you as well as the revue, dinner, plus a broad selection of drinks and is inclusive of all gratuities.  And what a heavenly dinner it is……I think that “endless banquet” is probably a better description for the chow down at Pioneer Hall! Your jovial servers, upon request will keep replenishing your table with endless supplies of the lightest cornbread, the stickiest ribs and the crunchiest deep fried chicken you’ve ever eaten, all served in pioneer style tin pales! Dessert is a show stopping strawberry shortcake extravaganza!  And “Where else on earth?” I ask you, would it be socially acceptable for a lady to drink rose wine from a preserves jar?!!  

I’ve watched and enjoyed the revue several times since my initiation in 1979 and each time come away feeling uplifted, not to mention full to the brim of food glorious food!  Over the decades this booming show hasn’t changed one bit, and neither really have I or my family. We go along in holiday mood wanting to have a laugh and good time with those we love, being entertained by characters we’ve come to know over the years, in a setting that is cosy and familiar.  So, I believe that’s the answer; we the audience are the “Hoop” and the perfect partner for the Pioneer Players to “Dee Doo'” time and time again.  If you asked Six Bits for his opinion I bet he’d answer you with something like “If it an’t broke, don’t fix it!” And, I pray that Disney never will!

http://about.me/janeglanvilleduckworth

Wishes

From the happy heart of Real Disney Mom Janice B!

It seems as if I am always planning the next WDW family trip! Probably because as soon as I return from one trip I start planning the next. I have been planning one to two trips per year for almost 30 years. When my children were young, I took great care in planning each step of our WDW trips. After all, having two children almost four years apart in age, one boy, one girl, it was not always easy to make everyone happy all the time. Their likes and dislikes were so totally different that once they were school age, I began a WDW vacation game/contest. Each one was allowed to keep a “running list” of things they wanted to do on our next trip with the understanding that not everything could be done on each trip. 100 days before the trip, they each received a hand-made by Mom booklet. Their booklets included a count-down calendar, the top 3 things on their wish list with a point value attached to each and a list of how to earn the points for a coupon/promise that if not the whole family, at least that child would be able to do one of his/her special requests. They earned points for good report cards; chores around the house; etc. Several years in a row my son chose taking an animation class that required us to drop him off early in the morning at MK and pick him up later in the afternoon. My daughter always seemed to want to earn dinner in the castle! Before leaving home I would actually create a spread sheet with each day across the top, outlining what we would do at each park trying to make time and room for both of their wishes (I also used this to keep all of my dining/special event reservation numbers in one place.)

I am now planning a 7 day trip for October, 2011. My children are now adults, 27 and 24, they no longer live at home and I think they would argue if I tried to make them earn points, but they do look forward to updates and e-mails with new ideas and suggestions, as well as sending me e-mails with new ideas. Planning has not really gotten any easier even with adults. I still want to make sure they each are able to do all the things that excite them. After all, no matter how old, they are still my little kids! I get an enormous amount of pleasure watching my son (27) in the Magic Kingdom. He gets just as excited now as he did as a small child! He loves to find hidden Mickey’s and show them to little kids in the park. My daughter, a chef who has actually cooked at the 2010 International Food and Wine Festival, always wants to go when the festival is in full swing. I search daily for new ideas; constantly try for reservations for their favorite restaurants; check websites, facebook, etc., daily for new items. My son is extremely excited this year to try the Wild Africa Trek at Animal Kingdom.

I may not offer points for WDW rewards anymore, but I still create a folder with a spreadsheet trying to get in everyone’s favorites. After all, once you hit WDW, everyone is a child a heart again!

http://about.me/bjkbrady

Disney Beginnings

From the magical mind of Real Disney Mom Janie GD!

Me on Main Street in 1979

“I’ll start at the very beginning, as it’s a very good place to start” This statement is very appropriate, as this is my very first adventure into the world of blogging!

My own love of Disney began in 1979 during a vacation with relatives in Wisconsin.  Our American family had been enjoying visits to Walt Disney World since it opened in October 1971, and thought that their Cornish cousins would like to meet Mickey Mouse too. So off we flew down to Orlando, not having ever heard of Mr. Disney or his mouse before!  Can you imagine that today?  You’d have to be living on the moon not to be acquainted with Disney in some small way!  At least I don’t believe that cable is available yet in other parts of the galaxy?!
We arrived in the beautiful Sunshine State, and lodged in a Vacation Villa on the shores of Lake Buena Vista.  At night time from our balcony we could see the charming “Empress Lily” (so named after Walt’s wife, Lillian) gleaming with twinkling fairy lights.  A few years later, I enjoyed my first character meal aboard her called “Breakfast a la Disney”.  This still impressive steamboat can now be found moored at Downtown Disney, with a restaurant afloat re-named “Fulton’s Crab House”.
For me, the memory of entering the Magic Kingdom for the first time , and walking up Main Street USA with the aroma of popcorn and cookies in my nose, the jolly park music, and the sight of Cinderella’s Castle towering high above, has remained as fresh in my memory as if it happened yesterday.  It connected with my senses which was quite a powerful thing for a 10 year old country girl who had never tasted popcorn or ever seen a fairytale princess castle before!
The other memories that remain special to me from that first trip are a particularly hysterical and wild spin on the Mad Hatters Teacups where my aunt laughed so much she almost burst with glee!  Then there was the stomping evening entertainment at the Hoop Dee Doo Revue at Fort Wilderness! Here, my Dad was chosen to be the fairy in the shows finale, which I’m sure to this day my aunt pre-arranged for our amusment!  (The Revue is the longest continually running musical stage show in the whole of the USA, a “Disney fact” that I love.) I now share all it’s rowdy silliness with my own children!
When I’m asked for some planning advice from a “newbie” Disney vacationer, I tell them to savour the first moments of stepping onto Main Street USA, “Let Disney enchant you and wipe your daily worries away”, I tell them.  Yes, I know, I hear you………that’s practically impossible when you’ve got your own little princes and princesses chomping at the bit, ready to race into Fantasyland and take their first flight on Dumbo!  So…… I advise, go buy them a tub of popcorn each (so they won’t have to share, and lead to yet more high drama) which then should buy you a few moments to make and memorise your own special Disney beginnings.
Remember it’s not always the “big” things that remain with you from childhood….so now that you’re the parent, don’t stress about making memories happen for your children, because at Disney, the magic is everywhere…even in a tub of popcorn!

Mickey, my mum, and me 1979

Big News for The Real Disney Mom!

Since I have started writing for the Disney Driven Life my own little Real Disney Mom blog here has been severely neglected! Between being the Kids writer for the DDL, finishing up the planning for my own WDW vacation on August 5th, and being a mommy and wife, I have had very little time to do much of anything else and I was very sad for my little blog here!

That is why I am very happy to announce that I will be introducing to you a fabulous group of Real Disney Moms that are going to be contributors to the Real Disney Mom blog!! Your own original Real Disney Mom is also going to assign herself one night a week to write a blog post for you about the planning of her WDW vacation! That being said I’d like to introduce to you the first 3 lovely ladies that are proud to call themselves Real Disney Moms!

Meet Real Disney Mom Janice B! Hang with her on FaceBook!

Real Disney Mom Janice B.

I am an almost 56 year old mom of 2 adult children (27 and 24); married for almost 30 years; and a true Disney fanatic. I was born and bred in NJ. When my husband retired in 2005, and both children were off to college, we moved to SC (much closer to Orlando!).

I began my love affair with all things Disney when, in 1972, my single mother drove her 2 teenage daughters from NJ to Florida to see the Magic Kingdom. Since that time I have returned to WDW approx. 35 times. It seems as if I am always planning our next trip. I have gone to Disney World alone; with my son for Mother/Son bonding; with my daughter for Mother/Daughter bonding; with my husband; with friends; bringing friends of my kids – I will never tire of visiting the “happiest place on earth!”

I am fortunate that my children, having been raised with the belief that everyone goes to Disney World on a regular basis, still look forward to our family trips. One of my proudest moments was when my daughter, a chef, was invited to cook at the Party for the Senses at the 2010 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

http://about.me/bjkbrady

Meet Real Disney Mom Janie GD! Tweet with her on Twitter! Hang with her on FaceBook! 

Real Disney Mom Janie GD.

I’m an English girl who’s been been enchanted by Disney since my very 1st visit to WDW in the late 1970’s.  Sharing my life with my much beloved husband, our own four little darlings, & an array of close family & dear friends, I aim to do random acts of kindness & think happy thoughts each and everyday!
Meet Real Disney Mom Michelle W! Tweet with her on Twitter! Hang with her on FaceBook!

Real Disney Mom Michelle W.

I’m a wife, a mom, a former Disney Store CM & all total “Diznoid” from NJ! I’ve been a visitor of WDW over 25 times, have enjoyed a few visits to DL, and have sailed on 2 voyages on the DCL. No one asks me where I’m going on vacation anymore…only when I’m going back!
Michelle is also a contributor to Disney World Nation
I am thoroughly excited to have a this fabulous group of Real Disney Moms here to help you get wrapped up in some pixie dust! I can’t wait to read their first blog posts, how about you?!

Before You Go, You Have to Know!

Walt Disney was said to describe Mickey as a “very clean mouse”. This is obviously a direct contradiction of what a mouse really is, in any place but Disney World. If this appeals to you, the idea of taking something that other wise might not be appealing, and making it so, then Disney World is for you. Walt looked at many of the carnivals and circuses of his day and wanted to create a place for families that was safer then these places he visited. Thank goodness he did!

Walt Disney World is comprised of four theme parks; Magic KingdomEpcot (formerly EPCOT Center, EPCOT standing for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM Studios), and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and two water parks; Disney’s Blizzard Beach, and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. Also on Disney property are Downtown DisneyDisney’s BoardwalkESPN Wide World of Sports Complex5 golf courses, and 23 themed hotels.

To me, Walt Disney World is a utopia. It is a place that you can escape to, if only for one small vacation a year, where you are surrounded completely by a controlled environment that is seemingly nothing but happy and magical. Disney would control the weather if they could! (In fact, Walt actually wanted to do this in his original plans for EPCOT!) One of Walt’s great dreams was to create a utopian community. He came close with his visions for EPCOT, but unfortunately passed away before his vision was realized. The Walt Disney company tried also to do this, when creating the town of Celebration. But as far as vacations are concerned, in my opinion Disney World comes as close to perfect as you can get!

As you can see, Walt Disney World has many things to do and see, and thus requires a large amount of planning which I will discuss in great detail in my next post. In the mean time I hope I have gotten you throughly as excited and intrigued about Walt Disney World as I am!

Epcot 2009

Epcot 2009

Wilderness Lodge

Wilderness Lodge August 2010Epcot 2009

Downtown Disney April 2010

Downtown Disney April 2010

Magic Kingdom April 2010

Magic Kingdom April 2010