Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort Review Cabins and Campsites Information

by josh on November 8, 2010

Fort Wilderness Address:

4510 North Fort Wilderness Trail

Lake Buena Vista, Fl. 32830-1000

Direct Phone: 1- 824-2900, Fax: 1-407- 824-3508, General Reservations: 1-407-WDISNEY (1-407-934-7639)

Resort Class: Disney groups the Cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort in with the other Moderate resorts, though pricing is similar to entry-level rooms at the Deluxe and Deluxe Villa resorts.  There is only one room type – The Wilderness Cabin.  Cabins start at $275 per night during Value Season and go all the way up to $450 during Holiday Season.  During Regular Season, Cabins cost $335 per night and during Peak Season, the cost is $370 per night.

The Campsites at Fort Wilderness fall under the “Campground” class of resorts.  For pricing and accommodations, see the “room amenities” section below.

Location: The Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground is officially a Magic Kingdom area resort, though that is a somewhat optimistic classification.  It is the most remote Magic Kingdom area resort as far as distance from the Magic Kingdom is concerned.  Although Fort Wilderness looks like it’s right next to Epcot on the official Disney map, it’s actually not as close as it looks in practical terms, due to the way the roads are built.  Like the neighboring Wilderness Lodge Resort, Fort Wilderness has a marina with boat access to the Magic Kingdom, making travel between Fort Wilderness and the Magic Kingdom easy and efficient, at least once you make it to the dock.

Size: Fort Wilderness is another of the large, sprawling Disney Moderate Resorts.  There are 409 cabins and just under 800 campsites.  Each cabin is freestanding, meaning no walls are shared and there won’t be anyone below or above you, like you would find in a traditional hotel.  Campsites and cabins are sectioned off into 28 “Loops.”  These Loops are surrounded by a generous number of trees and shrubs, affording a moderate amount of privacy at the campsites.  The cabins are located furthest from the main building and marina in Loops 2100 to 2800.  It’s almost impossible to walk from the cabins to the main building because of the great distance and confusing layout.  There’s also no convenient walkway, only roads that zigzag around the resort and through the other loops.  Other resort amenities, like the pools, tennis courts, campfire pit, restaurants, petting zoo, and other locations of interest, are strewn throughout the resort, making no cabin or campsite accessible to everything you might want do or see by foot.

The large size of the resort and lack of an easy-to-traverse walking path has necessitated Disney to offer an internal bus service in addition to its external bus service.  Internal buses ferry guests around the resort and take them to one of the three locations that receive external bus and boat service to the theme parks and Downtown Disney.  In addition, Disney rents golf carts for use by guests for the mindboggling price of about $65 per day, or $455 per week.  Many guests “take advantage” and rent golf carts, which can be a nuisance to those traveling by foot.  It’s not uncommon to see 12-year-olds zipping the family around the resort, paying little attention to who or what is in front of them.  It’s also possible to rent bicycles for the family for about $18 per day (or you can bring your own).

Transportation in the “Olden Days”

Realizing the resort was too large to comfortably travel by foot, Disney operated a railroad system to transport guests beginning in 1973.  The track was 2.5 miles long and featured four replica locomotives and 20 coaches.  (Un)Fortunately, the railway shut down completely in the early 1980s due to safety concerns, noise, and maintenance costs.  Parts of the track still sit on the outskirts of the resort’s grounds and some of the old coaches were used at Typhoon Lagoon and Downtown Disney as ticketing booths.

Room Amenities and Quality:

The Cabins

Keeping with the overall theme of the resort, Fort Wilderness cabins are rustic and homely, with wood paneling covering just about every imaginable surface.  At just over 500 square feet, the cabins are larger than Standard or Studio rooms in just about any other Disney resort.  For sleeping, each cabin has one bedroom with a double bed and set of bunk beds and there is a pull-down “Murphy” bed in the living room which also sleeps two.  The cabins officially sleep six, though that assumes two people in each of the double beds or people sleeping on inflatable-type mattresses.  Other than the rooms in the Alligator Bayou section of Port Orleans Riverside Resort, which sleep five assuming one person sleeps on the small “trundle bed,” all other Disney Moderate resorts sleep only four people.  Moderate rooms also measure 314 square feet, making a Fort Wilderness cabin about 200 square feet larger.  Keep in mind that the Cabins cost nearly twice as much as a Standard room at the other Moderate resorts.

The biggest advantage of the cabins is the fact that each has a full kitchen, including a full-size refrigerator, electric stove, microwave, dishwasher, coffeemaker, toaster, pots and pans, dishes, glasses, and utensils.  There is also a dining area with a large table that seats six and a smaller kid-size table that seats two.  None of the Value, Moderate, or Deluxe resorts offer a full kitchen.  The next cheapest option is a One-Bedroom Villa at Old Key West Resort, which would run you a minimum of $415 per night, or $145 more than the Fort Wilderness cabin.  The kitchens are not top-of-the-line and are reminiscent of something you might expect from a home built in the mid 1980’s, but everything works and it gets the job done.  Another major positive is the fact that every cabin is outfitted with a full private patio, picnic table, and charcoal grill.  Perhaps the one major downside is that each cabin has just one smallish bathroom.  While it is adequate with some compromise, it may be difficult to get six people cleaned up and ready to go in the morning.  This isn’t a unique issue with Fort Wilderness since the other Moderates also have just one bathroom, but the other Moderates are designed to sleep four rather than six.  Fort Wilderness cabins also have the rest of the standard Moderate amenities, including a sofa, hairdryer, iron, ironing board, safe, air-conditioning, heat, telephone, and access to laundry facilities.  There are also two televisions, one in the bedroom and one in the living room.

Overall, the Fort Wilderness Cabins are roomy and well appointed.  If you want to keep your family of six in one space on the cheap, Fort Wilderness is your best choice, especially if you plan to take advantage of the kitchen.  The only real downsides of the cabins themselves are the small bathrooms, lack of storage space for clothing, and the dated appliances in the kitchen.  Of course, a queen-size bed would be nice in the bedroom, but there just isn’t enough space.

The Campsites:

There are four categories/price points for campsites, depending on needs and size of equipment.  All campsites have relatively easy access to “Comfort Stations,” which have private showers and toilets, laundry facilities, ice machines, and telephones.  Comfort Stations are kept extremely clean and are air-conditioned.

The cheapest of the campsite categories is the partial hookup, which accommodates one pop-up or van camper-type vehicle plus one tent or two tents.  Located in both the 1500 and 2000 loops, the hookups include water, electricity (20 amp/120 Volt, 30 amp/120 Volt, 50 amp/250 Volt outlets), and cable television.  There is also a charcoal grill, picnic table, and high speed internet access ($10 per 24 hour time period.).  Prices range between $46 and $93 per night depending on season.

One step up from campsites with a partial hookup, is campsites with a full hookup.  These campsites have hookups that include water, electricity (20 amp/120 Volt, 30 amp/120 Volt, 50 amp/250 Volt outlets), cable television, and sewer.  These sites are also larger, with the ability to accommodate an RV (up to 10’ by 60’) and a tent or two tents.  Like the partial hookup sites, a charcoal grill, table, and high speed internet access ($10 per 24 hour period) are also included.  Prices range from $61 to $108 per night, depending on season.

Preferred campsites have the same hookups as full hookup sites, only they are located in “preferred” locations.  These sites are closer to amenities of interest, like the main building, main pool, bike barn, etc.  They also have an “upgraded” charcoal grill and picnic table. You’ll find preferred campsites mixed in with full hookup sites in most loops.  Considering the cost to upgrade to a preferred location is only about $5 per night, I would recommend doing it, if only for the higher quality grill and seating area.  Prices range between $66 and $115 per night, depending on season.

Premium campsites are the most expensive category.  The major difference between them and preferred campsites is that premium campsites have an extra-large, flat, concrete parking spot.  This affords more room to park and may be required if your RV has a lot of fold-out sections.  The location of these sites are also identified as “premium” rather than “preferred,” which puts them even closer to major resort amenities.  Like the preferred campsites, premium campsites accommodate one RV and one tent or two tents.  The hookups include water, electricity (20 amp/120 Volt, 30 amp/120 Volt, 50 amp/250 Volt outlets), cable television, and sewer.  The picnic table and charcoal grill are also the upgraded variety and internet access is available for $10 per 24 hour time period.  Prices range between $76 and $125 depending on season.

Many of the Loops do allow pets.  If you’re planning to bring yours, make sure you request a campsite that accommodates them, as there are some that do not allow animals.  If you have a larger RV, motor home, or travel trailer, I would recommend upgrading to the premium site.  You’ll have more room to set up and the upgraded grill and picnic table are nice bonuses as well.  Since the resort is so large, being in a “premium” location near a bus stop and amenities of interest is also nice.  The price to upgrade from a full hookup site to a premium site is only about $15 per night and it’s well worth it.

Theme and Layout: As the name implies, Fort Wilderness has a distinctive American frontier theme, with dense wooded areas featuring plentiful pine and cypress trees.  It has a similar feel to what Disney accomplished at the nearby Wilderness Lodge, although Fort Wilderness is distinctly more “outdoorsy.”  It’s commonplace to see families of wild ducks, geese, rabbits, and deer roaming around the property.  Also be on the lookout for the mystical armadillo that turns up from time to time.  Fort Wilderness probably has the most immersive theme of any of the Disney resorts, thanks to tree groves that surround not only the exterior of the resort, but the interior as well.   Campsites and cabins are surrounded by trees, affording an additional layer of privacy.  The setting is so authentic that many guests forget they’re inside of the most popular tourist destination in the United States.  This isn’t surprising, considering Fort Wilderness encompasses over 750 acres of wooded areas.  It is a surprisingly tranquil setting, more removed from the theme parks than even the Wilderness Lodge or Animal Kingdom Lodge.  The shade from the trees also keeps the resort much cooler than just about any other outdoor space on Disney property.  If quiet, peace, and an authentic frontier theme sound appealing, you’ll want to take a long look at the Fort Wilderness Resort.

Fort Wilderness does have one distinct disadvantage – its immense size.  The resort is so large, and amenities are so spread out, that it makes otherwise sprawling resorts like the Coronado Springs and Caribbean Beach seem quaint.  After all, how many other resorts in the world successfully rent golf carts at $65+ per day to guests who have no intention of playing golf?  Less expensive bicycles are available for $18 per day and offer the relatively in-shape a faster method of getting around the resort.  Personal automobiles are more common at Fort Wilderness than any of the other resorts due to the amount of people driving themselves with campers, RVs, tents, and other camping equipment.  However, cars can only be driven to enter or depart the resort to another destination, not driven internally from one area of interest to the next within the resort.  This means you can’t drive from the campfire to your cabin to the tennis courts to the horse barn.  You will need to walk, bike, drive a golf cart, or catch a bus.

Recreational Activities: Of all the Disney World resorts, Fort Wilderness has the most recreational activities for kids and adults.  Not only does it win in terms of quantity, but the quality of many of the activities also surpasses those found elsewhere.  One of my favorites is the nightly campfire, s’more roast, and movie, hosted by Chip ‘n Dale.  There is no additional cost to participate and you can bring your own s’more fixings, purchase them at the nearby cart, or just skip them and enjoy the songs and fun.  The movies are usually good too.  Toy Story 3, Camp Rock 2, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, Cars, Bolt, and a host of others are common.  Be sure to ask at check-in for the schedule.

Tours of the property on horseback, carriage, and Segway are also offered.  The horseback ride is about 45 minutes and costs around $50 per person.  Riders must be over the age of nine, over 48” tall, and less than 250 pounds to participate.  Horseback riding is available from 8:30am through around 3pm.  Reservations are required.  Carriages carry up to four adults (or a mixture of two adults and up to three children) around Fort Wilderness on 30-minute rides for $45 per carriage.  Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 407-WDW-PLAY.  For Halloween (October 1 – November 1), a special “haunted” carriage ride is available for $60.  The trip includes the driver telling the story of Sleepy Hollow.  Reservations are highly recommended.  During the Christmas season (December 1 – 30), a holiday sleigh version is also available for $60.  Reservations are highly recommended and can be made up to 180 days in advance by calling 407-WDW-PLAY.  Disney also offers a two hour (including training) guided tour of Fort Wilderness on Segway that is similar to the Segway tour at Epcot for $85.  This is a lot of fun if you’ve never been on a Segway before (I hadn’t before I tried).  Riders must be 16 years of age or older.  For the budget minded, look for the nightly wagon rides that cost just $8 for those ten and older and $5 for those ages three to nine (kids younger than three are free).  Wagon rides are about 45 minutes and offer a more economical way to see Fort Wilderness.  They usually don’t take reservations and leave from Pioneer Hall (the resort’s main building) nightly, generally from 7pm to 10pm, though the hours can change based on season.  All of these activities are open to all guests, not just those staying at Fort Wilderness.  Be sure to call 407-WDW-PLAY for more information and to verify pricing and availability.

For the younger and smaller set, Disney offers cheap pony rides to those over the age of two, less than 45” tall, and under 80 pounds.  This is one ride where they’ll be able to brag that they’re short enough to ride.  For just $5, little ones can get in on the action as well.

Sports are also a large part of staying at the Wilderness Lodge.  There are tennis and basketball courts, as well as tetherball, volleyball, horseshoes, archery, and shuffleboard.  Catch-and-release fishing is available at the marina and around the property’s canals.  Fishing poles can be rented for between $10 and $13 for the day and worms and whatnot are also available for purchase.  You’ll also find a beautiful 2.3 mile exercise trail that is a lot of fun to walk along at a leisurely pace or at a more athletic pace.  Bikes are also available for rental, as are canoes, pontoon boats, canopy boats, and Sea Raycers.

All in all, there are a ton of things to do around Fort Wilderness for those interested in recreational activities.  I would recommend the carriage or wagon ride on one of your first nights because it’s a great way to get acquainted with the many different things to do around the Fort.  Drivers are knowledgeable about what’s available at the resort and they’re generally happy to answer any questions you might have.

Pool: With all of the other activities available around Fort Wilderness, swimming isn’t as big of a draw as it is at other resorts.  The main pool is the Meadow Swimmin’ Hole.  It isn’t extravagantly themed, though you will find a fun water slide that features a barrel prop from the original Disney World water park (now closed).  There’s also a hot tub and a fun little water park for young kids.  The Wilderness Swimmin’ Pool is available on the other side of the resort.  Both pools are a lot of fun for those looking to take a dip or hang out in the sun, but they aren’t as magnificently themed as other pools found at Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach, Stormalong Bay, the Polynesian, or other Disney resorts.

Transportation: The only thing keeping me from recommending Fort Wilderness more strongly, other than the size of the resort, is its weakness in the transportation category.  The resort is so spread out and amenities are in so many different locations that a confusing and inefficient internal bus system is used to carry guests around the resort.  In addition, there are only two bus stops on the entire property that take guests to external locations like the theme parks and Downtown Disney.  This means you will likely need to wait at a bus stop near your cabin or campsite for an internal bus and then wait again for a second bus to take you to your final destination.  Assuming the wait is ten minutes for the first bus and fifteen minutes for the second bus, on average, you’re looking at an additional 25 minutes of transportation time tacked on to any bus ride.  Not to mention the travel time on the internal bus, which can be ten minutes or more while it picks up additional stops.  All in all, you’re looking at about 40 minutes of transit time before you’ve even left the resort.  Each of the two bus stop that take guests off resort property also service certain destinations, but not others, adding to the confusion.  The Outpost Depot takes guests to Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, and Downtown Disney, while the Settlement Depot is where guests wanting to get on the boat to Magic Kingdom or the Contemporary Resort and Wilderness Lodge should get off.  You will receive a flyer with all of the transportation information that explains the various bus stops and how to get around the resort.  If you want to get to the Settlement or Outpost Depots, make sure to get on the bus that takes you directly there.

Remember, cars can only be used to enter and leave the resort, as well as visit the Meadows Trading Post.  You’ll need to walk, bicycle, or use an electric vehicle (golf cart) to travel within the resort.  I would still recommend using a car to travel to the theme parks and Downtown Disney if at all possible.  Usually, I recommend using Disney transportation because it’s so much easier than driving and parking yourself, even if it occasionally takes longer.  However, the inefficiency of the Fort Wilderness transportation system can be incredibly frustrating because of the additional wait, especially in the morning when you’re in a hurry to get to the Parks.  Not to mention late at night, when you just want to fall into bed after eating one too many Mickey Ice Cream Bars.

The one positive aspect of transportation at Fort Wilderness is its marina with boat access to Magic Kingdom, which is a lot more fun and efficient than taking a bus.  Boats can also be taken to the Contemporary Resort and Wilderness Lodge.  This allows guests to easily transfer to the Monorail Deluxe resorts with their great dining and shopping opportunities.

Approximate Transportation Times

All times are calculated after the bus leaves the resort for its final destination (not including time it takes to wait for the bus or for the bus to transfer you to the external stop):

Hollywood Studios by Bus: about 20 minutes

Epcot by Bus: about 20 minutes

Animal Kingdom by bus: about 20 minutes

Magic Kingdom by boat: about 15 minutes

Downtown Disney by bus: about 15 minutes

Loop Names and Hookup Types:

This is a list of the 28 Loops and what sort of hookups they have.  Loops with Preferred and Premium campsites also have Full Hookup sites.

100 Bay Tree Lake Preferred

200 Palmetto Path Preferred

300 Cypress Knee Circle Preferred

400 Whispering Pine Way Premium

500 Buffalo Bend Premium

600 Sunny Sage Way Premium

700 Cinnamon Fern Way Premium

800 Jack Rabbit Run Premium

900 Quail Trail Premium

1000 Raccoon Lane Premium

1100 Possum Path Premium

1200 Dogwood Drive Premium

1300 Tumblewood Turn Premium

1400 Little Bear Path and Big Bear Path Premium

1500 Cottonwood Curl Partial

1600 Timber Trail Preferred

1700 Hickory Hollow Preferred

1800 Conestoga Trail Preferred

1900 Wagon Wheel Way Preferred

2000 Spanish Moss Lane Partial

The following Loops have cabins only:

2100 Bobcat Bend

2200 Arrowhead Way

2300 Shawnee Bend

2400 Settler’s Bend

2500 Cedar Circle

2600 Moccasin Trail

2700 Heron Hollow

2800 Willow Way

Best Rooms: For campsites, Loops 100, 200, 700, and 400 (in that order) are nearest to the main building, marina, and bus stop.  If you’ll be using Disney transportation, plan to use the marina, or dine at the various restaurants, you’ll likely want to stay in one of those Loops.  Loops 1000, 1400, 1300, 1500, and 600 (in that order) are near the main pool, bike barn, Chip ‘N Dale Campfire, and Meadow Trading Post.  Loops 1900, 1800, and 1700 are the furthest away from the major amenities, but also offer the most serene atmosphere, removed from the (relative) hustle and bustle of the resort.  If you prefer peace, quiet, and privacy, those Loops are your best bet.  Loop 1500 is best for those using tents, pop-up campers, and van campers because of the less expensive partial hookups and proximity to the major amenities.  If you would prefer to be further away and want a campsite with a partial hookup, go with Loop 2000.  For any Loop, request a campsite as far away from the loop entrance and major roadways as possible to reduce noise.

For the cabins in Loops 2100-2800, Loops 2500 and 2600 are close to a bus stop and quiet pool.  Loop 2100 is closest to the main pool, bike barn, and campfire (though still a considerable distance away).  Loop 2700 is the most remote and possibly the quietest place on Disney property, depending on your neighbors.

On-Site Dining Options: Unlike the other four Moderate resorts, Fort Wilderness does not have a dedicated food court.  That isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of opportunities to find food, though.  For quick bites, the Meadows Snack Bar is recommended.  It’s located in the middle of the resort near the main pool and bike barn.  Serving sandwiches, pizza, hot dogs, and dessert, prices and quality are in line with most of the decent counter service locations in the Parks.  In other words, expect to pay $7-$10 per entrée.  It’s certainly nothing to go out of your way to find, but if you’re near the pool and hungry, it will do the job.  There’s also Crockett’s Tavern near Pioneer Hall at the front of the resort.  They serve pizza, nachos, chicken wings, beer, and wine.  It’s a fun and relaxing place to get a beer and sit on the porch after a long day at the Parks.  Chicken wings and nachos run about $9 and a large pizza starts at $14, with an additional dollar added for each topping.  The Chuck Wagon near the Chip ‘N’ Dale Barbecue offers a variety of candy, ice cream, popcorn, and snacks, along with hot dogs and the popular s’more kit.  The s’more kits cost $9 each.  If you have your own supplies, you may want to bring them.

Trail’s End is Disney’s most versatile restaurant, at least in terms of serving food in the widest variety of ways.  It’s a buffet for breakfast and dinner, a traditional table service restaurant for lunch, and also serves counter service meals to go for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The buffets are among the least expensive on Disney property, though they are still not cheap.  At breakfast (7:30am to 11:30am), expect to pay $15.99 per person for those over the age of nine and $9.99 for kids between the ages of three and nine.  Dinner (4:30pm – 10pm) is $22.99 for adults (10+) and $12.99 for kids (3-9).  The usual suspects are available for breakfast – Mickey waffles, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, cereal, biscuits, oatmeal, pastries, and several other dishes.  At dinner, fried chicken, peel-and-eat shrimp, corn bread, and smoked pork ribs are the most popular items.  You’ll also find an assortment of other dishes, including pasta, pizza, salad, vegetables, “hand carved” fish and meats, and fruit cobbler for dessert.  Service is usually above average and there is a wide variety of food that will be pleasing to the vast majority of guests who enjoy “comfort food.”  The fried chicken is excellent and the other dishes compliment it well.  Breakfast is also above average.  Food is served hot and prepared well.  All in all, neither buffet should disappoint.  Trail’s End certainly isn’t exceptional by foodie standards, but if you’re looking for a meal and don’t want to leave the resort, it fits the bill.

Disney is also testing Trail’s End as a table service restaurant at lunch (11:30am to 2pm).  The food and offerings are very similar to what you’ll find at the dinner buffet, only sold a la carte as single entrées.  Fried chicken and waffles make an appearance, as do two cheeseburgers, a chicken and berry salad, a pork chop, and a spicy shrimp and Andouille sausage entrée, among others.  Portions are large and service is just as good, if not better, than breakfast or dinner.  Considering the buffet for lunch used to cost about $20, the lunch entrées that are priced between $13 and $18 seem a little high.  Nonetheless, if your party includes several people, you can order a variety of entrées, share, and create your own quasi-buffet.  Just like with breakfast and dinner, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going out of my way to find Trail’s End if I was staying elsewhere, but if you’re visiting Fort Wilderness, it’s not a bad choice.  The bonus with lunch is that you can take the leftovers back to your cabin or camper and put it in the fridge for later.  With the buffet, you won’t be able to take any food with you.

Finally, Trail’s End also serves take-out fried chicken, pizza, nachos, chicken wings, sandwiches, salads, and desserts.  This is the most economical choice and the one I would recommend the most.  For $7.99, you get two pieces of chicken, cornbread, and two sides (choices include mashed potatoes, French fries, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese).  They also sell 10 pieces of chicken for about $25 with tax, which is a good deal if you’ve been to the store to pick up some side dishes like salad and bread.  Traditional breakfast items are also available from 7:30am to 11:30am.  Don’t expect anything hot to be on the menu, but they do have cinnamon rolls, muffins, and other “continental” items.  All in all, if you’re staying at Fort Wilderness or find yourself there to visit the Campfire or see the grounds, I would recommend Trail’s End.  It’s among the cheapest buffets at Disney World and the a la carte lunch and takeout chicken are both excellent as well.

Fort Wilderness also offers two dinner-theater type shows.  The first, Hoop Dee Doo Revue, is the definition of a “destination restaurant.”  It is Disney dinner theater at its finest and the best of the dinner shows on Disney property.  It’s not cheap – $53 – $62 per Disney adult (age 10+) and $27 – $32 per child (age 3-9), but it does include the show, all-you-care-to-eat food, and unlimited wine, beer, sangria, and soft drinks.  It’s also available on the Disney Dining Plan for two table service credits per person.  The food offerings are very similar to what you’ll find at Trail’s End for dinner – fried chicken, pork ribs, mashed potatoes, baked beans, bread, salad, and strawberry shortcake for dessert.  The food is all very good, especially the chicken and baked beans.  The show has a distinct country western theme, with lots of singing, dancing, and corny jokes.  There are usually three shows per night.  The first is at 5pm, the second at 7:15pm, and the third at 9:30pm.  The 9:30pm show may not happen during especially slow seasons.  Each show is about 100 minutes long.  Reservations are required and this is a very popular show; you’ll want to make reservations as quickly as possible and ideally 180 days out.  I recommend Hoop Dee Doo Revue, but not necessarily on your first or second trip to Disney World.  It’s a great show, but there is enough going on at Disney World that it probably isn’t necessary to squeeze it in if you have other things to do.  The best way to work it in is making a reservation on a day that you plan to visit the Animal Kingdom.  Without Park Hopper, you won’t be able to enter another theme park. A trip to Fort Wilderness will give you plenty to see and do after a day at the Park.  Either get in line for the Fort Wilderness bus or take the bus to the Magic Kingdom, walk to the marina, and take the boat over.

Mickey’s Backyard BBQ is similar to the Hoop Dee Doo Revue in that it is also an all-you-care-to-eat buffet with a show included.  The menu is slightly different, with an obvious focus on barbecue delights rather than chicken of the fried variety.  Smoked chicken takes the place of fried chicken, along with barbecue ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, garden salad, corn on the cob, coleslaw, and corn bread.  For dessert, enjoy watermelon, and a variety of ice cream treats, including all-you-can-eat Mickey Ice Cream bars.  Yes, all-you-CAN-eat Mickey Ice Cream Bars.  There’s also “free” beer, wine, and soft drinks included with the admission price.  Mickey’s Backyard BBQ is slightly less expensive than Hoop Dee Doo Revue.  Adults (age 10+) are $44.99 and kids (3-9) are $26.99.  It also costs two table service credits.  Because of the limited availability, reservations are highly recommended and you’ll want to make them as soon as possible (ideally 180 days out).  Unlike Hoop Dee Doo, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ is only scheduled seasonally (March through December) on Thursday and Saturday Nights with a show time of 6:30pm – 8pm.  This is also more of an interactive character meal, similar to the buffet at Hollywood and Vine at Hollywood Studios for breakfast and lunch.  Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Chip, and Dale are all in attendance and there is a fun band that plays live music as well.  Kids are invited to join in on the singing and dancing and there are a few other entertainers that make appearances throughout the evening.  All in all, it is a fun time, but it doesn’t offer adults the same value as Hoop Dee Doo Revue.  Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue is aimed at kids specifically and while adults may have a great time, the activities aren’t geared towards them.  The food at Hoop De Doo is also better, though both come from the same kitchen.  Note that the BBQ takes place in a covered pavilion outside.  If the weather is particularly hot or cold, the seating area may be uncomfortable.  Overall, I recommend Hoop Dee Doo Revue over Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue, unless you’re specifically looking for a Disney character experience that the kids will enjoy.

Fort Wilderness is Best For: Groups or families with camping equipment that want to stay on Disney property (and take advantage of all the perks like Extra Magic Hours and the Disney Dining Plan) at the lowest possible price.  Groups or families of four or more that want to stay in one “room.”  People who have been to Disney before and plan to spend a lot of time at their resort, relaxing and taking advantage of the many recreational opportunities on property.  Those who want to get as far away as possible from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks, while still being relatively close to the action.  People who plan to drive their own (or a rental) car.

Fort Wilderness is Worst For: Those who want to be close to the action, with easy and quick Disney transportation options.  People who plan to spend very little time at their resort and would prefer to return only to sleep.  Those who want to bask in luxurious accommodations.

Summary of Key Points: For the budget minded and camping inclined, Fort Wilderness provides the least expensive accommodations on Disney property.  Guests can take advantage of everything a Disney resort has to offer, including Extra Magic Hours eligibility, the Disney Dining Plan, and Magical Express.  Campsites start at $46 per night for a tent/popup site during Value Season and go all the way up to $125 per night for a Premium site during Holiday Season.  Campsites are designated for up to ten people and each site is near a Comfort Station, proving secure and private toilet and shower facilities.  Fort Wilderness also offers cabins that sleep up to six people.  Cabins start at $275 during Value Season and go all the way up to $450 per night during Holiday Season.  Fort Wilderness is officially a Moderate Resort, though Cabin pricing is similar to the cost to book a Standard room at one of the Deluxe resorts.  The Cabins have several key benefits – full kitchen, charcoal grill, single bedroom with double bed and bunk beds, and over 500 square feet of space.  That’s more square footage than you’ll find in any Standard room at the Deluxe resorts, about twice as much space as a Value resort room, and 1.6 times the size of a Moderate resort room.  Fort Wilderness Cabins are also the cheapest rooms that include a full kitchen.  Another bonus is the fact that each cabin is freestanding, meaning it doesn’t share walls or ceilings with anyone else.

Of all the Disney resorts, Fort Wilderness is the most spread out, with key amenities located sporadically around the resort.  It is so large that Disney rents “electric vehicles,” also known as golf carts, for the unsightly price of $65 per day.  Cars are only allowed to enter or exit the resort (or go to Meadows Trading Post), not drive from the restaurants to the pool to the bus stop.  A more economic option is a bike rental (or bring your own), which runs about $18 per day.  Still, a family of five would expect to pay $80 per day for bikes or $560 per week, making the golf cart a more viable option.  Luckily, there is also an internal bus system that takes guests from their cabins or campsites to the various points of interest on resort property.  Unfortunately, with 16 bus stops located around the resort, transportation times can easily exceed 15 minutes, depending on where you get on and off the bus.  While the size of the resort isn’t a “deal breaker,” you will need to factor in transportation times when it comes to dining reservations and other time sensitive engagements.

Speaking of transportation, Disney bus transit is the resort’s biggest weakness.  The biggest problem is that there are only two bus stops that take guests to external destinations like the theme parks and Downtown Disney.  Guests of the resort must either walk to one of these two bus stops (located on opposite sides of the resort), ride a bike, drive a golf cart, or take the internal bus system, which can be incredibly inefficient.  To confuse things further, there are multiple internal bus types.  Some buses transport guests directly to the external stops, while others transport guests within the interior of the resort.  Disney does provide a sheet at check-in with information about transportation and you will likely get the hang of it after two or three transfers, but it is worth noting the additional hassle, even after you can recite which bus is traveling where by memory.  Expect to wait about ten minutes for the internal bus  and then another fifteen minutes to wait for the bus that will take you to your final destination.  That’s an additional 25 minutes of transportation time before you’ve even left the resort.  On the plus side, there is boat access to the Magic Kingdom, which is a lot more fun and efficient than taking a bus.  You can also take the boat to the Contemporary Resort or Wilderness Lodge, which also gives you easy access to many outstanding restaurants.  On the negative side, Fort Wilderness is about 20 minutes away from the other three major theme parks, which makes the average transportation time on Disney buses about 45 minutes.  If you’re staying at Fort Wilderness, you’ll want to strongly consider renting a car or driving your own.  It will make the sub-par Disney transportation much less of an issue.

Now that we have the biggest negative out of the way, we can consider some of the major positive aspects of the resort.  Fort Wilderness has more recreational activities than any other resort on property, including several you won’t find anywhere else.  Horseback riding, Segway tours, pony rides, and wagon rides are all offered (for an additional fee), along with basketball, volleyball, fishing, tetherball, bike riding, walking trails, and more.  One of the most popular activities is the nightly campfire with Chip ‘N’ Dale, featuring s’more and hot dog roasting and a sing-along.  After the free campfire, a free Disney movie is shown on the big screen.  If you plan to spend a considerable amount of time back at your resort and enjoy outdoor activities, Fort Wilderness offers the best choices, both in terms of quantity and quality.  While the pool isn’t as well-themed as many of the other Moderate and Deluxe resorts, it’s perfectly suitable for swimming and the slide is a lot of fun.

On-site dining is another strength of Fort Wilderness.  Trail’s End is one of the most versatile restaurants on Disney property, offering take-out food (for all meals), a buffet (for breakfast and dinner), and a traditional table service meal for lunch.  The fried chicken is excellent and the buffet is among the cheapest at Disney World.  There’s also Crockett’s Tavern, serving up traditional bar food, along with beer and wine.  The Tavern’s porch is a particularly pleasant place to end the day with a cold beer and some satisfying nachos or chicken wings.  Fort Wilderness also hosts two all-you-care-to-eat dinner shows.  Hoop Dee Doo Revue is arguably better, though it does not feature any “Disney” characters.  Instead, Hoop De Doo is a country western themed song and dance show, full or corny jokes and high energy.  The food is above average, plentiful, and the beer and wine are included in the price of the meal.  Mickey’s Backyard BBQ is similar, though it is only offered seasonally (March through December) and only one show is offered per night from 6:30pm to 8pm on Thursday and Saturday evenings.  Hoop Dee Doo Revue is a year-round show with up to three opportunities nightly to see it.  Mickey’s Backyard BBQ is more of a traditional character meal, featuring Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and friends, only kids are invited to take part in the singing, dancing, and activities led by the characters.  A live band performs throughout the evening and entertainers make appearances as well.  The food is also good, though it’s unlikely you’ll get your “money’s worth” if you fill up on hot dogs and hamburgers.  Along with “unlimited” beer and wine, Mickey’s BBQ is the only meal on Disney property that also offers unlimited Mickey Ice Cream Bars.  Yes, unlimited Mickey Ice Cream Bars.  Both shows are a lot of fun and anyone can take part, even if you’re not staying at the resort.

All in all, Fort Wilderness has a lot to offer potential guests, but its remote location, sprawling size, and lousy bus transportation make me less inclined to recommend it more strongly.  Certainly, if you live within driving distance and have your own camping supplies or RV, this is the cheapest spot to plunk down and enjoy all of the extra perks of staying on property at Disney World.  As far as the Cabins are concerned, they are a great choice for those who need to sleep more than four or want a full kitchen to prepare meals.  At nearly twice the cost of a room at the Moderate resorts, two rooms at the Moderates would afford more room, a second bathroom and shower, and more space.  If you have extra time, just a visit to Fort Wilderness can be a lot of fun and I would recommend checking it out if you’re looking for something to do during the evening or if you have a “down day” planned away from the Parks.  For what it does do well, Fort Wilderness may be the perfect resort for you.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve November 12, 2010 at 1:08 pm

We just stayed at the cabins for two nights this past weekend with six people — three adults and three kids (10, 3 and 1). Arrangements worked well except for the one bathroom. The biggest issue we had was transportation. The “double transport” — internal bus then external bus or boat to other resorts or parks was a pain in the butt, especially with small kids. We left MK via boat with sleeping kids in a stroller for a mid-afternoon nap. However, Florida statute states that strollers have to be collapsed on a bus, so that process woke the kids up and the nap plan was hosed. Of course the stroller rule applies to all WDW buses, but we felt the impact more at FW than when we stayed at Wilderness Lodge for four days after FW.

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Kelly February 21, 2011 at 5:40 am

I took the small launch from the Magic Kingdom for a 5:45pm ADR at Trail’s End. The boat ride alone was great (although there was a lightning storm and we had to “wait it out” in the middle of Bay Lake -exciting!) The Trail’s End was a great buffet if you like BBQ and southern cooking. The salads were the best I had tasted during my trip. Wonderful desserts.
Although I was there as a mature solo visitor, I think a family with children would especially enjoy Trail’s End. The boat ride it is quite lengthy and passes a wilderness area and Wilderness Lodge. The selections at the restaurant were great and fun, as was the atmosphere and decor. The servers were really nice and efficient. I went to see the campgrounds and for the boat ride, I would definitely go back!

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Curtis Swierk November 5, 2012 at 12:03 pm

There is a much less expensive alternative to staying in a cabin at the Fort. That is to rent an RV or pop up that can sleep 8. It can cost significantly less than a cabin, a moderate or value for those needing to sleep ore than 4. You can have up to 10 people per site. Renting a pop up and site could cost about $110 per night, depending on the site choice, and where you rent from and that is for 8 people. No need to tow it either. Just a thought.

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Phil Brooks July 6, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Hi…we have booked a Premium Campsite for 10 days at March 2014 Spring Break.
Wwe have a 37′ motorhome and there are nine of us.
We will need tent accomodation and need to ensure accuracy of your mention of one or two tents being allowed,
. since there is an age range from 6 years old to 19…It sure would make life easier if two tents are allowed.
Please verify,
thanks…Carol & Phil

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Juniper December 19, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Comprehensive review, as always. Your attention to detail is amazing, and people trust it, so I will correct you on (only) three points. There is no longer a petting zoo, there is no longer a charge for internet (it is free but cabled, not wifi, they loan you equipment with a deposit), and I believe Mickey’s Backyard BBQ is now year round.
Phil, the rules state that you can only have an RV and one tent, not an RV and two tents. Sometimes they enforce this rule strictly and sometimes they don’t. Right now (Dec. 2013) they seem to be enforcing this rule very strictly.

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Diane Higgins January 27, 2014 at 6:11 am

Hi,
Do you know which loops allow dogs?

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