When people think of Walt Disney World they often think of the theme parks, rides, and characters, but it is so much more than that. One of my best Disney World vacation planning tips is to schedule time to do things outside of the theme parks. One place that we almost always visit on our Walt Disney World Vacations is Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. In my opinion this is a Walt Disney World jewel that is overlooked and often forgotten.
Fort Wilderness – Walt Disney World Fun Beyond the Theme Parks
Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground opened in November 1971. It was one of the very first resorts that was available to Walt Disney World guests. It covers 750 acres and contains 788 campsites as well as 407 air conditioned wilderness cabins. The resort is set within a forested area full of pine and cypress trees. You’ll often spot a lot of wildlife there including rabbits, deer, ducks, geese, and peacocks.
I have actually stayed at Fort Wilderness quite a few times. Even the dog I had growing up has stayed there. In fact this was the first resort I every stayed at. My family stayed in the cabins on that trip and I was only 2.
What is there to do at Disney’s Fort Wilderness?
Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground is a great place to stay at Walt Disney World, but it’s also a wonderful location to visit. There is so much to see and do there, and you don’t have to be a Fort Wilderness resort guest to enjoy it!
Fort Wilderness Dining
A lot of people don’t realize that tucked at the back end of Fort Wilderness are some fabulous dining locations.
One is a fun dinner show called the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review. The all-you-care-to-enjoy countrified feast has been around for a long time and is still quite popular. The high spirited dinner show is two hours long and dinning costs are based on seating preferences.
Our favorite dinning location is Trail’s End. This is an amazing place that some die hard Disney fans don’t even know of. It offers breakfast and dinner buffets as well as a brunch buffet on the weekends. The food is always fabulous, and the buffet cost is one of the best on property.
There is one other dining location at Fort Wilderness and that Mickey’s Backyard BBQ. It’s a dinner event that happens several nights a week during certain times of the year. It’s an all-you-care-to-eat hoedown event that includes character meet & greet time. Most people give it pretty good reviews, but we tried it several years ago and didn’t care for it. The music was very loud and it wasn’t a show in the sense that we had expected, so it didn’t keep Nick entertained at all. Considering the high price tag it has we found it to be a waste.
Water Fun at Fort Wilderness
Although the fun of River Country is long gone Fort Wilderness still boasts a lot of fun water options. One option is to rent water equipment. There are many different types of water recreation items that you can rent. You can rent motorized boats of different sizes (seating for 2 guests up to 10 guests). There are also kayak and canoe rentals available. Fishing excursions and dockside fishing are options here as well.
Of course with water recreation comes a beach! The beach is located at the back of the campground and it is usually pretty quite. It’s a nice place to lounge on a chair and read a good book or rest your eyes while the kids play in the sand. There are also volleyball nets available there. Although you need to have a valid resort id to check a ball out.
More Fort Wilderness Fun and Activities
Not far from the beach there is also a really nice playground. It’s probably the best resort playground on Walt Disney World property. It has several climbing structures with slides as well as swings. Nick has loved this playground for years and still wants to play there every time we go. Disney has recently gated it in, likely for safety reasons, but it does not require a key for entrance, so anyone can still play there.
There is also a fun campfire program with Chip and Dale that is totally free and open to all Disney resort guests! You get to roast marshmallows (you can purchase these there or bring your own) and have a fun sing-along, and then you can watch a Disney movie on a large outdoor screen.
Be sure to check out the Trading Post store while you’re there. We always love to shop at all of the resorts because you can find fun souvenirs in the resort shops that you won’t find any where else on property. The shop is also right by the beach so it’s a great place to pick up some fun sand toys or extra beach towels.
If you’re there during the Christmas holidays be sure to take a look at the campground sites. Many people stay there for long periods of time (especially those at the back) and they go all out with their Christmas decorations. Plus you can also take a “sleigh” ride instead of a carriage ride. Everything there will be sure to get you in the Christmas spirit!
There are still lots of other great activities to be had at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Be sure to check out the Sports & Recreation tab on the Walt Disney World site to see what’s happening there during your visit.
Enjoy a Boat Ride
If you have some extra time on your hands a nice boat ride around Bay Lake can be a great way to spend it. Two different boats run to Fort Wilderness. One goes back and forth to the Magic Kingdom. Another runs circle loops between Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, and the Contemporary. We like to do the resort loop as it’s fun to get off and check out the other resorts. Remember what I said about the shops!
How to Get to Fort Wilderness
If you have a car with you than you can drive to the resort, park, and head off to your adventure. Pretty much everything you’re going to do is at that back of the resort, so you’re going to need to ride a bus to get there. Trust me when I say you can’t walk it. The path from the parking area will take you right to the bus stop. From there you’ll need to ride any of the Trading Post buses (there are three different ones). They will all take you where you need to go which is the Trading Post.
If you are staying on property without a car you have two options. You can take a bus from your resort to any of the theme parks and and then grab the bus to Fort Wilderness. They will drop you off at the front bus location and from there you can take one of the Trading Post buses. The only exception is if you take the bus to the Magic Kingdom. From the Magic Kingdom you’ll take the boat to Fort Wilderness. This will drop you off in the back right at the Trading Post area.
Your other option would be to call a taxi (or Lyft, or Uber) and have them drop you off at the front of the resort. From there you will grab a Trading Post bus to the back.
We just love Fort Wilderness. There aren’t many trips to Disney World that we don’t make it over there. With so many fun things to do, and great places to eat, it’s a must visit for us! Have you been to Fort Wilderness before? What things do you like to do there?
Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Resources
- Birnbaum’s Guide to Walt Disney World
- Birbaum’s Guide to Walt Disney World for Kids by Kids
- Passport to the Word: at Disney World’s Epcot
- The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (Kindle Edition)
More Disney World Vacation Planning Tips
- 5 Tips for Preparing for Your Walt Disney World Vacation
- Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine Breakfast at Hollywood & Vine
- Walt Disney World Dining Plan: Is it Worth the Cost?