In this post, we review Disney’s Fort Wilderness! We stayed at The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, and we review that accommodation specifically, but really this is a review of the entire Fort Wilderness experience! So saddle up and get ready, because we’ve got a lot of ground to cover!
About Fort Wilderness
About an hour into our stay at Fort Wilderness, I knew this stay called for a different type of introduction. If you read some of our other reviews, you’ll see I probably care most about (in rough order): transportation to parks, theming, food & drink, and room quality.
The thing is, you can’t really review Fort Wilderness along just those factors. I’ll talk about all of that, don’t worry, but I need to get something out of the way first. Fort Wilderness isn’t comparable to the other Disney World hotels—it’s a vacation experience in itself.
Whether you’re tent camping, in an RV, or in a cabin, Fort Wilderness offers both a range of experiences and an environment that really could sustain a short vacation on its own (not that it should).
Moreover, there is such variety in how people visit Fort Wilderness. Do you have a car? Are you in an RV? How long can you stay? Throughout this post, we discuss how these factors play into your decisions about staying at Fort Wilderness.
Booking Fort Wilderness
We discuss the different types of accommodations you can book at Fort Wilderness below. We were booking for our fifth wedding anniversary, which happens to be celebrated with gifts of “wood”—so a Cabin at Fort Wilderness seemed a brilliant idea! Even better, it was Christmas season, and Fort Wilderness guests go WILD at Christmastime!
We booked through our choice authorized Disney Vacation Planner, Lauren Quirk of Enchanted Escapes Travel. We booked an annual passholder discount and paid $369.56 per night. The rack rate for the cabin was $483 nightly, so our AP offer got us about 23% off.
Basics of Fort Wilderness
Fort Wilderness is one of Walt Disney World’s oldest resorts, having opened in November 1971. The Walt Disney World website confusingly breaks the resort down into “The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort” and “The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.” While these are very different accommodation types, as we cover below, they share the resort and its amenities.
Accommodations at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
The resort offers four types of accommodations. The first two types of accommodations are categorized under “The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort” on the Disney website. Disney does not categorize these as “value,” “moderate” or “deluxe,” instead sensibly giving them their own classification.
“Tent or Pop-Up Campsites” are intended for people with tents or small campers. The spaces allow two tents. You’re expected to bring your own tent, though there is an under-the-radar tent rental system run by Disney. They do not have a sewage hookup—you’ll be relying on shared bathrooms.
“Full Hook-Up Campsites” are for people with RVs. They have space for an RV and a tent, and they have a sewage hookup.
The third accommodation type is the “Wilderness Cabin.” You’ll find the Wilderness Cabins by searching for “The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort” on the Disney website. The Cabins are closer to traditional hotel accommodations, except that each cabin is its own separate physical unit. We stayed in and review our cabin below.
Disney categorizes The Cabins as a “moderate” accommodation type. Besides pricing, there’s no reason to compare these to other moderate resorts.
The final type of accommodation is “primitive camping”—a campsite area reserved for groups like scout troops. You cannot book these campsites online, and we won’t discuss them at all again in this post.
The Size and Layout of Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
The spine of the resort is a roughly 1.3 mile road, “Fort Wilderness Trail.” At the southern end of Fort Wilderness Trail is the “Outpost,” which contains check-in and bus transportation to the parks. At the north end is the “Settlement,” home to most of the dining options and boat transportation. Somewhere near the middle (closer to the north) is the “Meadow,” which contains the feature pool and campfire area.
The accommodations are in little “neighborhoods” or culs-de-sac lining Fort Wilderness Trail and a few connected roads. Cabins are at the southern end, RV sites are north of them, and the two tent areas are roughly equidistant from the Outpost and Settlement.
Internal Transport at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
The resort is serviced by an internal shuttle service operated using Disney Transport buses. Three bus lines—purple, orange, and yellow—run roughly every ten minutes between Outpost and Settlement, each taking a slightly different route. You’ll need to tell the bus driver your stop (“24” “2400” “Outpost” “Meadow” etc.).
Stops are frequent and put you within a five minute walk to any accommodation. A ride with no stops from one end to the other takes something like seven minutes. If you’re trying to get to Outpost or Settlement, just take whichever bus comes first. Otherwise, be sure to consult a map to see which route you need to take.
It didn’t occur to me to mention this, but Emily pointed out that unlike most Disney buses, the Fort Wilderness shuttles operate on both sides of the road, except at the endpoints. So you’ll want to get on the one on the side of the road that matches the direction you’re going. To that end, you’ll usually see a covered stand on one side and a bench on the other.
Besides the bus service, you can get around Fort Wilderness a few different ways. You can walk everywhere, with Outpost to Settlement taking 25 to 30 minutes at an average walking pace.
You can use bicycles, including by renting one from Disney for $20 per day. You can also use golf carts, including by renting one from Disney for $59 per day. Golf cart and bicycle parking are widely available throughout the resort.
Disney also has a handy guide to what types of personal transport are permitted.
Connections To Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
There’s no official relationship between Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, but they are similarly themed, physically close, and well-connected.
First, there is a mile-long walking path between Fort Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge. This path is one of the most serene experiences I’ve had at Walt Disney World and included several close encounters with deer.
Second, you can take the “Blue Flag” boat to Contemporary and Wilderness Lodge. Wilderness Lodge is the second stop, and the trip takes about 17 minutes.
Third, you can take a bus from the Settlement to Wilderness Lodge. This bus runs about every ten minutes and takes about five minutes.
Finally, the resorts often share transportation during non-peak hours. When we went to nighttime Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom, for example, we had a shared bus on the way there and a shared boat on the way back.
Arrival and Check-In
There are three ways to check in at Fort Wilderness. We checked in online and our room was ready when we arrived. When arrived at Fort Wilderness via Uber, we were able to tap our Magic Bands at the entrance and get dropped off in the parking lot. From there, we walked to our cabin (we could have taken an internal bus, too).
If you don’t check in online and are getting dropped off at Fort Wilderness (e.g. by an Uber or Disney’s Magical Express), you’ll be directed to the reception building. This is a small lobby, not the sort of place you’ll lounge around. From there, you’ll be able to use internal transportation to get to your spot.
If you’re arriving with your own vehicle, you’ll check in via a toll-booth style window. If your accommodation is ready, you can drive right up to it. If not, you can park in the lot until your space is ready. The Campsites have no charge for your vehicle. Cabin guests will need to pay $19 per night for their vehicle.
Dining and Drink at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
Fort Wilderness has three quick service restaurants, one table service restaurant (buffet), one legendary dinner show and one other dinner show, each requiring two table service credits under the Disney dining plans.
This is where it helps to remember that Wilderness Lodge is a short bus-ride away. If you’re just lounging, I’d highly suggest heading over to, say, Geyser Point Bar & Grill for Lunch. We did dinner at Whispering Canyon one night and loved it.
Quick Service Food at Fort Wilderness
There are three quick service spots at Fort Wilderness.
P&J’s Southern Takeout is a takeout restaurant attached to Trail’s End Restaurant at Pioneer Hall in the Settlement. It is open from 7:30AM to 10PM. Its featured lunch / dinner options are southern-style fried chicken and barbecue rib meals. They also have takeout pizza. The full menu is here.
Meadow Snack Bar is a snack bar located by the feature pool in the Meadow area. It is open from 11AM to 5PM and serves sandwiches, hot dogs, and pizza. The full menu is here.
The Chuck Wagon is a snack bar designed to look like a small motorhome. It is open from 5PM to 9PM, primarily positioned to serve people visiting Meadow for the evening activities. It offers burgers, hot dogs, a wide variety of snacks, and s’mores supplies. The full menu is here.
Buffet Meals at Fort Wilderness
Fort Wilderness has one buffet restaurant—Trail’s End Restaurant. It’s a standard, casual Disney buffet, open for breakfast and dinner. The menu is available here.
We didn’t have a chance to eat at Trail’s End Restaurant, as we were stuck in our cabin during a storm with a tornado warning for our breakfast ADR. We did have a drink at their bar, Crockett’s Tarvern. The overall ambiance inside was very casual.
Mickey’s Backyard BBQ
Mickey’s Backyard BBQ is the less famous of the two dinner shows at Fort Wilderness. It is not held nightly, so if you’re interested in it you need to pay attention to the schedule. We didn’t get to enjoy this and instead defer to the very comprehensive review by Josh at EasyWDW.
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
Hoop-Dee-Doo is an institution not only to Fort Wilderness guests, but to Walt Disney World guests as a whole. The all-you-can-eat dinner show began in 1974 and has been going strong since.
Three categories of seating are offered, and prices include food, drink (including alcohol!), tax, and gratuity. Category 1 ($72 adults, $43 children) is the center of the first floor, in front of the stage. Category 2 ($69, $39) is the back of the first floor (including some obstructed views) and the back balcony. Category 3 ($64, $34) is the side balcony. When we visited, we had a good Category 2 seat on the first floor:
We would have booked Category 1, but it was sold out for the times that made sense for us. Unless you’ve seen it before and know no one in your party has an interest, Hoop-Dee-Doo is a must-do for guests at Fort Wilderness.
Some reviews may comment on the “type” of humor not being appreciated by everyone, and while this is undoubtedly true, there’s really no way to know for sure until you try. We enjoy it, and even if all the jokes don’t hit home for us, the unlimited food and beer helps.
Our Cabin at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
The Fort Wilderness Cabins were refurbished in late 2015 / early 2016. There are a few big differences between the cabins and a traditional Disney hotel room.
First, the cabins have three rooms—bedroom, bathroom, and living room / kitchen. Second, the cabins sleep up to six adults. Third, the cabins come with an equipped kitchen. This includes a combination microwave / convection oven, an electric stove, and a full refrigerator.
The kitchen also has a wide range of pots, pans, and tableware.
While the bedroom has a television, most family time will be spent in the living room. It would definitely be crowded with six people, and even four people might not feel like the room was spacious, though it obviously beats a hotel room by a wide margin.
If you’re at all worried these might be like some horrible cabins from some other trip to the woods gone wrong, fear not. These are incredibly well-built standalone cabins. We were present during a daylong torrential downpour including a tornado warning, and besides hearing the rain you wouldn’t have known we were in a “cabin.”
The bathroom is its own room. No complaints about it or the shower.
The theming is appropriately heavy here. It’s definitely better than some of the photos we’ve seen of Copper Creek’s cabins that opened last year. I’m not a fan of some of Disney’s mid-2010s refurbishments, but this one turned out good.
We were quite happy with the cabin. Our cabin in the 2400-group was a 13 minute walk from the Outpost, 14 minutes to the Meadow, and 23 minutes to the Settlement. Our nearest bus stop was just about 2 minutes from the cabin at the entrance to the group of cabins.
Transportation at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
We covered internal transport above, in case you’re looking for that.
Getting to the Theme Parks from Fort Wilderness
To get to the parks from Fort Wilderness, you’ll be relying on bus transportation for Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. You’ll also take buses to Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, and Disney Springs. Buses for these destinations depart from the Outpost at the southern end of the resort.
To get to Magic Kingdom, you have two options. First, you can take a Green Flag boat from the Boat Launch (the far north point of Fort Wilderness). This is about a 15-minute trip with about the same wait between boats (presumably there are two boats on the route at most times).
Alternatively, if you don’t like boats, you can take a bus from the Settlement stop to Wilderness Lodge and transfer to a Magic Kingdom bus there. There is also occasionally a shared Magic Kingdom bus that runs to both Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness.
If you have your own vehicle ($19 nightly fee applies at Cabins), you’ll also be able to drive to the parks. This is one of the perks of staying at a Disney hotel, and it’s probably most valuable at Fort Wilderness, where you can park adjacent to your accommodation.
Travel Times from Fort Wilderness
We haven’t actually taken all these trips yet (frankly a few data points are useless for Disney bus transportation anyways), but when you start to add up the travel times from Fort Wilderness, they get long.
For example, it can take five minutes to walk to your internal bus stop. Then five minutes for a bus to come. And another five minutes to get to the Outpost bus depot. From there, you’ll probably wait 15 minutes for a Disney bus, and then you’re in for another 15 minutes on the bus. Altogether, you’re looking at 45 minutes as a reasonable estimate of travel time door to door.
If you’re heading to rope drop, you need to plan conservatively. Realistically, buses to Animal Kingdom will take more like 20+ minutes, for example. You might wait 10 minutes for an internal bus. And you should never plan to be on a Disney park bus with less than a 30-minute wait these days.
Now we’re well over an hour in transit time, and for rope drop anywhere but Magic Kingdom, you need to arrive at least—at least—thirty minutes before park open.
It’s partly for this reason that Fort Wilderness is really not positioned for a hardcore, four-day, 7AM to Midnight at the parks type of visit. If you need to make four rope drops, during your stay, that’s fine, but note the cost. You’re either going to have to be in bed really early or you’re going to need to add in a few rest days—which Fort Wilderness is perfectly positioned for. Either way, if you’re planning only four days entirely spent at the parks, it usually won’t make sense to stay at Fort Wilderness.
Driving From Fort Wilderness
Of course, there’s a big exception here. If you’re driving from Fort Wilderness to the parks, you’re actually in a pretty good position. Because you’re parking right at your accommodation, you can wake up, hop in the car, and head to the parks, where you’ll have free parking.
Generally, we’re fans of using Uber at Walt Disney World. Fort Wilderness is okay for Uber, but not perfect. The problem is you’ll still have travel time getting to the Outpost. Once you’re there, though, the bus wait times may mean it makes sense to Uber.
Activities At Fort Wilderness
Fort Wilderness has so many activities! Honestly, there’s no way I’ll actually list them all.
We already covered the big two —Mickey’s Backyard BBQ and Hoop-Dee-Doo—in our dining discussion above. There’s also a third nighttime show, Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long. That’s a 30-minute show sing-along that includes a meet and greet with Chip and Dale. The stage is over in the Meadow, and the show occurs nightly.
Also at the Meadow and occurring around the same time as the sing-along are the nightly campfire and Movie Under the Stars. S’mores kits for the campfire are sold right next to the fire at the Chuck Wagon. You can combine these first three activities into a single night.
Staying in the Meadow, there are a variety of activities operating out of the Bike Barn. These include: kayak, canoe, bicycling, archery, fishing, specialty cruises, and the Wilderness Back Trail Adventure Segway tour.
Finally, the Meadow Swimmin’ Hole pool features a standard Disney lineup of activities for kids throughout the day.
Down at the Outpost is where you’ll find the start of the Horseback Trail Ride. This is a 45-minute ride through nature at Fort Wilderness. Reservations are required (407-824-2832).
At the other end of the resort at the Settlement, you’ll find the Tri-Circle-D Ranch. You can visit the ranch and see the horses and ponies throughout the day, and pony rides are available 10AM to 5PM.
Also operating out of the Settlement are Wagon Rides and Carriage Rides. Wagon rides are nightly, no reservations required. Carriage Rides require a reservations (407-824-2832). No, I don’t know the difference between a wagon and a carriage.
Fort Wilderness is great for running, and one of the few places at Walt Disney World where you can put together a loop of over 2 miles (which isn’t huge, but still better than the sub-1 you’ll get most places).
Shopping at Fort Wilderness
There are two locations for shopping at Fort Wilderness. Meadow Trading Post is located in the Meadow Area. Settlement Trading Post is located in the Settlement area. Settlement seemed to have a slightly larger selection, but they were about 90% the same. Fort Wilderness has some of the best resort gear you’ll find at Walt Disney World.
Disney’s Fort Wilderness - Conclusions
There’s no single right way to visit Fort Wilderness. As we said earlier, if you spend four days at Walt Disney World entirely at the parks, Fort Wilderness usually won’t be your best choice. That said, if you have a car and are staying at a cabin, you’ll be in a good position to get to the parks.
Assuming you’re coming from out of town (no car), we think a good stay at Fort Wilderness would include four park days and two full days at Fort Wilderness. Those two days allow you to recover from the long transit involved in you four, full park days and to take advantage of the resort’s offerings.
You’ll probably want to call Fort Wilderness reservations at 407-824-2832 and book a few activities for your resort days, but if you don’t you’ll have plenty to do that doesn’t require reservations.
While we think we’ll be back at Fort Wilderness, it really doesn’t fit heavily into our way of traveling. If anything, it’s a reminder to us of how much Walt Disney World has to offer outside the parks—and that’s not so much for us (right now).
Regardless, there’s no doubt that this is a truly amazing and oft-overlooked option at Walt Disney World!
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