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!
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Finding the Right Fit for You!

From the practically perfect personality of Real Disney Mom Jewelz P! 

It’s been 11 or 12 years since I last was at Walt Disney World. A very long time for me considering that I was going every year for ten years. Marriage, moving, new job promotions and a baby put a lot on hold. My husband and I were not able to go on a honeymoon or even a mini vacation. Finally a breath of fresh air! I was six months pregnant and I told my boss,  “I am going on vacation in 13 months”.  (Maybe it was Disney withdrawals, the hormones raging, or that I just really needed a vacation!) Without missing a beat I went to Walt Disney World’s Vacation Website and ordered the Vacation Planning DVD. I needed to see what had been built and improved over the years. This would also give me  the opportunity to show my husband what he would be in store for!!! Not having met my little one yet, I knew Disney could take care of her no matter what! I had for the most part always stayed on the WDW property. Why? If Disneyworld was my only destination (why anyone would go anywhere else?), there is no reason to stay off property. The conveniences and the ease of the transportation are priceless. 

Knowing your budget is where you need to start. Walt Disney has many resorts for different budgets which is great!!

 To save money; Value Resorts-All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, All Star Movies and POP Century

I only recommend these if you have a large group , such as sports teams, or if you only need a place to shower and sleep. They do not have any sit down dining restaurants, (Something to think about.) and are located farthest from the 4 Parks.  I stayed at All-Star Sports in 1998 and it is too small for my family for today. The rooms do not have as much closet or drawer space, and there is only one sink and mirror. Two adults and two children will be able to stay here in comfort, but more than 2 adults may be too much. There were no elevators to speak of that I remembered. So if stairs are a challenge, it is best to request a floor level room. The rooms are brightly colored and a sports theme is carried through out the resort, the room I was in had crayon marking on the walls and I could hear all the surrounding happenings. The pools were always too crowded for me. If you are new to staying on property and your budget conscious you may want to start here. There is a playground, arcade, laundry facilities and a food court with an average price 15.00 a person. Another little tid-bit ; The All Star Resorts are in a different county so they have a higher tax rate.

 For those who need a little more room to breath; Moderate Resorts-Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter and Ft. Wilderness Cabins.

 I have stayed at both Port Orleans French Quarter (1999) and most recently Caribbean Beach Resort (2010) The Moderate resorts will have at least one sit down dining restaurant  and are not as far away from the 4 Parks as the Value Resorts. Carribean Beach or CBR has Shutters for sit down dining and a tasty food court to experience. These rooms not only have more space but a dual sink vanity. YEAH! The beds are better and the décor is just up my alley. While the All-Star Resorts and POP have three or four levels, I loved the Caribbean Beach Resort because it only had two stories and each village surrounds the bay. The pathways are wide and not cramped for walking. There are many villages named after Caribbean islands with their own bus stop. You can catch the theme park buses as well as an internal bus system to get you from village to village. This was helpful because we were in Trinidad South and the grandparents were in Aruba. I could have walked along Barefoot Bay but it was so hot and muggy that I wanted the bus with air conditioning. We opted for the Pirates of the Caribbean Themed rooms (Trinidad South only) and I loved it! The beds are not as comfortable as the normal Finding Nemo themed rooms. Why? The Pirate Ship beds are so high that the mattresses they have are about 5 inches thick and no box spring for support. The village pools were quiet and not many kids, that is because of the cool main pool at Port Royale. This is a fun pool! It is a themed old Spanish fortress, complete with towers, antique cannons (that spout water) and a water slide. So if you are looking for a more relaxing resort that has hammocks, child playgrounds and for those who walk, the stroll around Barefoot Bay is for you. Other amenities are beaches, an arcade, volleyball courts, bike rentals,  marina/watercraft rentals, and laundry facilities at each village pool.

 For those who have who want to experience a Deluxe Resort-Animal Kingdom Lodge, Board Walk Inn, Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, Yacht Club and Beach Club, and the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin.

 These may not be the Disney Vacation Club Villas but they are sure spectacular! The Deluxe resorts are normally located just a hop skip and a jump to the Parks. I stayed at the Grand Floridian in 1997 and it was fantastic. I love the old feel of the 1900’s Victorian. The grand atrium is overwhelmingly immaculate and if you are lucky to see the cockatiels in the lobby they are beautiful. If you can, try to stay at a Deluxe resort once. The monorail and the water taxis make it very easy to get to the Magic Kingdom and the Transportation Center. The rooms are lavish and have a balcony or porch to extend your room space. Deluxe Resorts also have more combinations of rooms to accommodate your party. A choice of sit down dining options, baby and childcare services, pool of course, spa and health club, watercraft rentals, beaches and the possibility of having the best seat in the house to see the fireworks; from your room!!

For more information and updated refurbishments at WDW and new attractions please go to www.waltdisneyworld.com