Editor’s note: Candace Derickx has been RVing now for 11 years with her outdoorsman husband and their three children. Candace’s life now revolves around when and where she can escape to next with her family.
Our family has visited Walt Disney World in Orlando fifteen times, so it is possible to say we may have a slight addiction to the place. When you’ve been somewhere like Disney as often as we have, people consider you an expert, and, since being referred to as an expert is good for my ego, I happily share tips with friends and family planning their first visit. And time and time again – no matter who’s going or how long they’re staying – my number one recommendation is always a visit to Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.
Fort Wilderness sits on 750 acres of in the heart of Walt Disney World and offers what no other Disney resort can— serenity. Yes, it is possible to find some calm and quiet while visiting a Disney park. It’s the reason I recommend it time and time again. While resort hotels are all quite lovely, they are still hotels. That means children running up and down halls, blaring television sets, and long line-ups for morning coffee at the continental breakfast in the lobby. After a full day maneuvering through crowded parks, I want peace, not more chaos.
Fort Wilderness gives it to me.
Arriving back at the Fort after a full day in the parks is like happening upon an oasis in the desert. It’s serene and quiet; a welcome break to the chaos of the day and it is positively gorgeous. The only hazard is that the outstanding array of amenities offered there gives you a hard time deciding between staying at the Fort for the day or hitting a theme park.
Here’s what you need to know before you go:
Get them! I‘m always surprised how many people don’t know that Disney has a campground. Thank goodness, because you might never get in otherwise. Fort Wilderness is usually full to capacity so you should book your reservation at least three months in advance, especially for peak times at Christmas Break and during Spring Break.
Close to 700 full hook-up sites are available, and the Fort also offers 90 partial hook-up sites for folding camping trailers. All sites are large and landscaped beautifully, and sites range from $54 to $89/per night and you can get up to ten people on a site without feeling crunched in. Here’s another of my “expert” buzzwords: Budget. If you are looking to do Disney on a budget, Fort Wilderness is the best place to stay. And bonus: it won’t feel like you’re cutting corners because in this case, the most beautiful is also the most affordable.
As far as RV parks go, Fort Wilderness would be considered five star based on their amenities alone. Our family has spent countless days at Fort Wilderness without feeling the need to wander outside its borders.
The Meadows Swimming Pool has a splash pad, a slide, and a large pool to cool off in the Florida sunshine. You’ll also find tennis courts, basketball courts, and playgrounds for children. Rentals available include boats, bikes, golf carts, and pedal boats. They also offer Segway tours and horseback riding for those seeking extra adventure. With all Fort Wilderness has to offer, not wanting to leave to go to Disney World is a valid concern!
Food & Dining
Food and dining can be a trickier proposition on the grounds. The food is fast and while that’s not always the tastiest or the most affordable option, there are some ways to eat well and avoid cooking back at the RV if you’re tired after a day at the park. Here’s my advice when it comes to dining at Fort Wilderness:
- Order off the take out menu and go back to your RV with a dinner. Your best value is a bucket of fried chicken with two sides and cornbread for only $23.75. That will easily feed a family of four and at a quarter of the cost of the buffet, it’s a bargain. The take-out pizza is also excellent and is reasonably priced at $13.
- You can find very basic groceries at the Meadows and Settlement Trading Post. Eggs, milk, bread, hot dogs and buns are available and reasonably priced. What’s not reasonable is the liquor and beer, so think ahead to your needs and stock up before you arrive. In addition, there are grocery stores very close by in Kissimmee if you require more than the basics.
Finally, if you’re looking for a fun night out, take Disney transportation to Downtown Disney where you’ll find every dining option from fast food to high-end gourmet options.
You’d think that with all there is to do at Fort Wilderness, Disney would relax a bit in the entertainment arena. Nope; that’s not Disney’s style. Instead, expect some of the best entertainment in all of Walt Disney World.
Hoop De Doo Revue
The Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue is just plain fun. A dinner theater experience, they offer three seatings a night starting at 4pm. Guests are served chicken, ribs, and corn on the cob country-style. The food may not be gourmet, but the entertainment more than makes up for it. The dinner-show is wildly entertaining and will have you – and the kids – stomping your feet and clapping your hands in minutes. I was pulled from the audience to participate one year, and if this travel writing thing doesn’t pan out, I have Can-Can girl as my fallback plan.
Mickey’s Backyard BBQ
You cannot come all the way to Disney and miss out on spending some time with the head honcho and mascot. Do not miss this very interactive character meet and greet. We’ve done several of these throughout Disney and this is a definite favorite and something my kids ask for again and again. There’s even a show-ending hoedown with Mickey, Minnie, and other favorite Disney characters get kids (and kid-like adults) to participate and pull out their best moves.
Chip ‘n Dales Campfire
I saved the best activity for last on my list, because this one is a perennial favorite of mine. Campers join Chip n’ Dale at their nightly campfire for roasting marshmallows and sing-a-long. This activity is free and open to all, and year after year it never gets old. After the sing-a-long, Fort Wilderness plays a Disney movie on the huge outdoor screen. Bring along your sleeping bags and pillows, and claim a cozy spot to watch the show if benches aren’t your thing. Nowhere else at Disney can you can lie under the stars watching a movie with a campfire roaring beside you. Trust me, it’s magic.
Family Destination or Couples Escape
Fort Wilderness is primarily billed as a family destination, but it’s also a favorite destination of many travelers without families in tow, and the benefits of travelling without kids to Disney shouldn’t be dismissed. Campers of any family size will find Fort Wilderness to be clean, beautifully landscaped, quiet, and safe. The staff is helpful and friendly and the fact that we return year after year speaks to the parks appeal. We often meet snowbirds there who’ve stayed for a month! Who can blame them, really? Once you’re a member of the Mickey Mouse Club, you’re always welcome.
Have you ever taken an RV trip to Disney? Any other Fort Wilderness fans out there?
Thanks from “The Scenic Route” for a great article that many I am sure will love, and even help push them over the edge on there issue with not going to one of the best places on earth to have fun.
I have always wanted to get back to Disney World my wife and I went there and got married over 30 yrs ago and have never seen epcot and all the other great things that have been added since. The tow weeks we were there (with our best friends and marriage party) Epcot was to open in 1 week so the tram was shut down to do all the finishing touch’s, so we have never seen any of all the things that only Disney can do. So again if you want to go to Disney and save a few bucks and have the time of your life go to Fort Wilderness that is where we stayed and I also will tell you it was amazing, the only issue and I have read Disney corp is looking into is if you have a big coach (like mine 39 ft 5th wheel) it is very tight inside parking your coach. But once that is done your are golden.