Fort Wilderness Recreation

by Sue Holland, contributing writer

The last photo tour article featured the lodging available at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Now that we've covered that, it's time to focus on the many recreational opportunities available at this resort. I cannot think of another Disney resort with as wide an array of things to do, and it would be very easy to vacation here for a week or longer and never visit a theme park. It may be difficult for people to resist the draw of the theme parks, but if they are willing and able to put them out of their mind they won't lack things to do on their vacation.

Recreation comes in many forms. Some recreation is structured and takes place at or between specific hours, such as the Campfire Program or Wagon Rides. Other recreational opportunities are available at any time, such as riding your bike, playing on a playground, or lying in a hammock. Some recreation is even free. The activities described in this article are open to all Disney resort guests (not just those staying at Ft Wilderness) unless otherwise noted.

Meadow Swimming Pool - the larger of the 2.

There are two swimming pool areas for guests to choose from. Near the Wilderness Cabins is the Wilderness Swimming Pool, and the Meadow Swimming Pool is more centrally located. The Wilderness Pool is smaller and not themed at all. None of the pools here have water slide, either. The Meadow Swimming Pool is located on a canal and is located in the midst of a variety of recreational activities.

In many ways, this location would be the recreational “hub” of the resort. This pool is quite large, and spending an afternoon here would be quite pleasant. The pools are for the exclusive use of Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground guests and are open 24 hours (lifeguard hours vary seasonally). During my visit, pool games were scheduled from 3 to 4 p.m. at the Meadow Swimming Pool daily.

Next door to the Meadow Swimming Pool are two lighted tennis courts, open from approximately 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. Tennis equipment can be rented at the Bike Barn during its operating hours, and private lessons can be arranged for a fee. There is also a volleyball net, shuffleboard, and horseshoes in this area.

Disney movies are shown nightly at the Campfire Program.

One of the most popular free events is the nightly Campfire Program. The campfire site is impressive, with seating for a large number of people. It's located next to the Meadow Swimming Pool and begins as a campfire sing-a-long led by Chip and Dale. It's held after dark, and the after singing, guests can purchase the ingredients to make s'mores (or bring their own). Hot dogs, popcorn, candy and movie snacks are sold as well.

The movies shown are all Disney movies, and suitable for the entire family. Having done the campfire programs in a couple of the DVC resorts, I was impressed at how nice this facility is. The movie screen is huge, affording everyone a great view of the movie. Restroom facilities are here, and in the event of rain they substitute a “Porch Jam” sing-a-long at the Meadow Swimming Pool. This program is open to all resort guests, although it can be rather inconvenient from some locations.

Settlement Trading Post, near the marina and Pioneer Hall.

Shopping is considered as recreation by some and a necessary chore by others. In keeping with the theme, stores here are called Trading Posts. The Settlement Trading Post is located near Pioneer Hall, transportation to the theme parks, and the beach/marina. The Meadow Trading Post is located near the Meadow Swimming Pool. Camping supplies, groceries, beer and wine, sundries, propane tanks, and Disney souvenirs are available for purchase. As expected, grocery prices are higher than in your large grocery stores, but you can't beat the convenience.

Meadow Trading Post, in the center of the campground.

Children (and some adults) love an arcade, and the resort has the Davy Crockett Wilderness Arcade at Pioneer Hall and the Daniel Boone's Wilderness Arcade at the Meadow Swimming Pool. Davy Crockett opens at 7:30 a.m., while Daniel Boone doesn't open until 9 a.m.; they both close at 10 p.m.

Tri-Circle-D Ranch is home to the Disney horses.

One thing you won't find at the other resorts is the Tri-Circle-D Ranch. Located near Pioneer Hall, this is the home to the horses seen pulling the streetcars down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. There is also a working blacksmith shop where you can watch “Smithy” tend to the horses.

Blacksmith shop — guests are welcome to visit.

Petting Farm is fun for adults and children.

Located across from Tri-Circle-D Ranch is the Petting Farm. This was the home of “Minnie Moo,” a cow with a hidden mickey on her side. Unfortunately Minnie has passed away. There remain a number of goats and other small animals to pet, and I believe food is available for purchase from a dispensing machine. There are also pony rides available for small children (at least 2 years of age but not more than 80 pounds) for $3. The Petting Farm is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily, and is a good place to spend some time waiting for the early Hoop Dee Doo Revue dinner show to begin.

Wagon rides depart nightly from Pioneer Hall for a 45-minute excursion through the resort. Reservations are not accepted, so it's first come, first served. Boarding begins at 6:45 and 9:15 each evening, and the ride begins once the wagon is full. As of late November 2002 the cost was $8 per adult and $4 per child. If sharing a wagon with strangers is not what you have in mind, there are Carriage Rides available as well. A 30-minute private ride costs $30 and is offered daily from 6 to 10 p.m. at Crockett's Tavern near Pioneer Hall.

Very gentle horseback trail rides are available.

Horseback riding is available, although it may be a bit too tame for experienced riders. The trail rides begin near the main parking lot, and not near the petting farm and horse barn. This does make it convenient for people coming from other resorts, as there is plenty of parking. To ride there is a minimum age requirement of 9 and there may be an upper weight limit as well. Reservations are required, and the cost is approximately $25 per person for a 45-minute walk through the woods. The horses do not do anything other than walk — no trotting or galloping, so this activity is best suited for people who have never been on a horse before. The horses are all very gentle and know their way — riding skills are really not required.

There is still more recreation opportunities to cover next time, including dining options at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.