The Fort Wilderness Resort & Campgroundby Steve Russo, staff writer
The beauty of nature. The magic of Disney. The adventure of a lifetime. Thus begins the marketing brochure for Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.
The Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground consists of more than 700 acres of lush vegetation surrounded by pine and cypress trees. It opened in 1971 and offers 799 campsites and 409 air-conditioned Wilderness Cabins. The campsites and cabins were recently refurbished and I was lucky enough to be invited to a “press event” to tour the sites, get some good information from the Fort Wilderness management team, and attend the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue which is celebrating its 35th anniversary. To be honest, they had me at “Hoop Dee Doo."
Our hosts, the Fort Wilderness management team, headed by General Manager, Doug Lord (center). Photo by Steve Russo.
We, and by “we” I mean a motley and mismatched crew of journalists sporting cameras, camcorders and voice recorders (and not much else), gathered at the Fort Wilderness Reception Outpost. The Outpost serves as the check-in / check-out location for the resorts many guests. The first thing I noticed was the steady stream of very large (and very impressive) vehicles pulling through the guard station at the parking lot. It’s very common to see large Recreational Vehicles (RVs) pulling in with a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) in tow. It’s equally common to see several bicycles mounted somewhere on the SUV. Because many of these folks are checking in for longer stays (2 to 3 months is not uncommon), they come prepared.
One of the "big rigs" checking in - with a little one in tow. Photo by Steve Russo.
I did see one rig that had the tractor part of a tractor trailer combination, with a small flatbed behind it, towing a very large trailer. Between the back of the tractor and the front of the trailer they were carrying a Mini Cooper. The interesting thing was the Mini was sideways, perpendicular to the semi and trailer. I have no idea how they got that car on and off but I would have loved to watch.
Back to our tour. They loaded about 25 of us “press folks," a mix representing newspapers, Disney Web sites and podcasts, into a small bus and drove us out to look at a couple of the cabins. Unfortunately, it was off and on rain showers this particular afternoon and evening, which presented a few challenges—particularly getting photographs. Our Disney hosts were prepared, however, offering ponchos and/or umbrellas.
The Wilderness Cabins have recently come through a very extensive refurbishment. While they may look the same as always, they’re “almost a new cabin… all new appliances, new bedding, but the same theme that we’ve always had.”
We learned that the construction is modular and “they’re built from a kit.” All cabins have the same basic design. The air conditioned cabins sleep six and offer a fully equipped kitchen, a private patio with grill and picnic table, cable TV, VCR/DVD player, and daily housekeeping. Have you heard the term “glamping?” It’s short for “glamorous camping” and these cabins do fit that bill. Disney puts the cabins in their Moderate category of resort—along with the Caribbean Beach Resort, Coronado Springs and the Port Orleans Resorts. The big difference, once again, is the cabins will sleep 6.
The double bed sleeps two. Photo by Steve Russo.
Just a couple of feet away are the bunk beds; sleeping two more. Photo by Steve Russo.
This Murphy bed in the living area will sleep numbers five and six. Photo by Steve Russo.
I will say here that these cabins are not my cup of tea; but my idea of “roughing it” is a hotel without room service. While the cabins might be considered somewhat spacious, my feeling is they would be fine for a family of four. While they would indeed sleep six, using the bed, bunk beds and two in the Murphy bed, I believe things would feel a bit crowded inside.
The cabins offer a full kitchen. Photo by Steve Russo.
If privacy and serenity are your thing, you may love it here. It’s remote, rustic and very dark at night. My preference is for the lights, hustle and bustle of the Boardwalk area, but that’s me—your tastes may differ.
Next we set off to visit the campsites. They’re located around 28 “loops” that consist of Tent (or Pop-Up) sites, Full Hook-Up sites, Preferred sites or Premium sites. Each of these loops also contains one or two (depending on the size of the loop) air conditioned comfort stations that offer private toilets and showers, laundry facilities, telephones and ice machines.
The Campsites are categorized by themselves—they’re not in a category of Value, Moderate, Deluxe, etc. They also offer different size pads with the larger ones now 18 feet by 60 feet – big enough for the largest RVs. The Premium campsites are not only a bit bigger but also more big rig-friendly, offering areas with a larger turning radius to allow these mammoth vehicles to back in and pull out with relative ease. The sites all offer a large level paved pad, an upgraded picnic table and a charcoal grill. As we were told, “When we started this in 1971, the size of the average camper was much smaller. Today we have RVs in excess of $2M coming in.” And those big RVs need space.
Big RVs need lots of space. Photo by Steve Russo.
The pad, picnic table and charcoal grill. Photo by Steve Russo.
Each site will also provide a hook-up for water, sewer, electric (20, 30, and 50 AMP), cable and high-speed internet access.
What if you don’t have the $2M to pony up for one of these luxury RVs? You can pack your tent and stakes and pitch on one of the two tent loops in the Campgrounds. The tent sites are a bit smaller but offer softer pads that are not made of concrete (think of that softer material found at many children’s playgrounds).
This is camping?
Well, it’s camping but it is 2010 after all. We all need to stay connected and Fort Wilderness offers Wireless internet in the common areas (the Outpost and near Pioneer Hall are two areas I learned of) and wired internet in the cabins and campsites (at the standard Disney rate of $9.95 per 24 hours). There are no current plans for wireless networking at the campsites but, for that same fee, you can get a kit that includes a cable modem. As our Disney hosts explained, “It’s a challenge for us because you want people to be on vacation.”
Fort Wilderness Resort is the only pet friendly resort on Disney World property. Pet loops exist at select Full, Preferred and Premium Campsites. There’s also the Waggin' Trails Dog Park, a large fenced area where pets can run leash free.
Completely refurbished about six months ago, the Meadow Swimmin’ Pool boasts a new water slide. The water tower there was once part of River Country and is here as homage to the now defunct water park.
The Meadow Swimmin' Pool. Photo by Steve Russo.
Here’s a few more interesting tidbits I picked up on the tour. Per the brochure, the prices are:
- Tent / Pop-up Campsite $44-$89
- Full-Hookup Campsite $59-$105 (includes water, sewer, electric, cable, Internet access)
- Preferred Campsite $64-$111(Preferred location w/Full Hook-up amenities)
- New! Premium Campsites $74-$121
- Wilderness Cabin $270-$435
While discounts do exist, the Campsites are not usually included in Disney’s special offers (e.g. - the recent variations of Buy Four / Get Three Free, etc.) You do, however, receive all the benefits available to all Disney’s on-site guests including Extra Magic Hours, free Disney transportation, Disney’s Magical Express, etc.
Can I request a specific loop when I call for a reservation?
You certainly can request a specific loop but, like rooms at Disney resorts, Disney offers no guarantees. Some people stay 3 and 4 months at a time and they have their favorite spots. Some have actually stayed outside Disney until their favorite spot opened up.
What’s the longest anyone has stayed at a Campsite?
The longest stay was probably 6 months.
Does that introduce any residency issues?
No. Extended stays require renewal of a 30 day reservation. You may keep the same site, etc. but will need a new reservation each 30 days.
What else do I need to know?
Before calling for a reservation, check the map for locations that offer convenience to swimming, transportation, etc. Whatever is important to you; then request that loop.
There’s a lot to do at Fort Wilderness including horseback riding, tennis, archery and playgrounds. Not to mention Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, an all-you-can-eat dance party with Mickey and friends.
The Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue... in full swing. Photo by Steve Russo.
And let’s not forget the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue. That was the next to last stop on our tour and I can tell you that a great time was had by all. Rather than bore you with details, I’ll just point you to a review I did back in April 2009. It’s still current and probably will be in another 35 years. It’s a great show.
Last, but not least... we finished up our tour with a ride through the Campsites after dark. This was during the Christmas season and I was in awe of the extent of the Holiday decorations at many, if not most, of the sites. Unfortunately, it was a rainy evening and getting good photographs from a bus window was almost impossible. I will leave you with a few photos I took earlier in the day (also in the rain), just to give you a bit of the flavor.
Mickey, Pooh and the gang dress up this campsite for the Holidays. Photo by Steve Russo.
More Holiday decorations. Photo by Steve Russo.
And still more... Photo by Steve Russo.
If you’re ever there during the Holiday season, I would urge you to visit Fort Wilderness and spend some time walking a few of the loops. It will be worth your time.
The information presented above is as accurate as it can be, unless of course I misheard something along the way. Seriously, if you have any questions or are looking for additional information, please call 407-WDW-CAMP.
I hope this has given you a bit of the flavor of visiting the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. If you’re a camper (or maybe a “glamper”), it might inspire you to stay there on your next trip to the World. I know some folks that stay there every trip and wouldn’t think of moving away. As always, thanks for reading.