Down in Florida, nestled off the shore of Bay Lake, there's a resort that's all about camping out. With pine tree-lined pathways and buildings that appear to be straight out of Frontierland, this resort connects you to nature while keeping you close to Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and more. Full of campers, RVs and cabins, this is a departure from your typical theme park hotel stay and one you should consider. This post is an in-depth look at the woodland wonders of staying at Fort Wilderness at Disney World.
Before we saddle up, know that there are two ways of staying at Ft. Wilderness. We're going to focus on the on-site cabins. If you're a tent pitching/RV camper kind of family, we have a post that covers Fort Wilderness camping. Know that much of what we cover here applies to any kind of Fort Wilderness stay. Don't forget, you can book the Fort Wilderness Cabins or any of the Disney World Resort Hotels with us at a discount!
Fort Wilderness Overview
One of the original Disney World resorts, Fort Wilderness opened in November 1971, just a month after Magic Kingdom.Fort Wilderness's rustic, woodland theme is on display everywhere—from the resort signage to the individual accent lights in your cabin. While the campground features modern amenities (wifi) and facilities, it feels very much as if you're in a far-away woodland campground secluded from the rest of Disney World. Sometimes you forget you are just around the corner from one of the most popular theme parks in the world. It's the feeling of immersion that you go to the Disney parks for.
Fort Wilderness has a laid-back vibe. Walking through the camping areas and seeing the packed pool, you realize that most people aren't rushing to spend their time in the parks.
For many families, Fort Wilderness IS the vacation. Grandparents book campsites next to those of their children and grandchildren. Out of a seven-day visit, the family may do four days in the park, while the grandparents do two or three. Those non-park days are spent at the pool, horseback riding or just hanging out in the RV. Families spending time together at Fort Wilderness makes it a special kind of destination.
Benefits of Staying Onsite at Disney World
While you're camping out at Fort Wilderness—or staying at any Disney World Resort hotel—you get access to some great perks. Extra Magic Hours are extended theme park hours available to Disney resort guests and some non-Disney-owned hotels. On certain days of the week, guests can enter a park one hour earlier or stay in a park up to two hours later than normal park operating hours. We have a full post on when to use and when to avoid Extra Magic Hours.
Staying at a Disney resort gives you a head start on booking popular attractions such as Avatar Flight of Passage, Test Track, Frozen Ever After and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. You are allowed to book FastPass+ reservations 60 days before your check-in date, along with a 10-day grace period to book other days during your stay. Off-site guests may book 30-days in advance.
MagicBands are a magical benefit too. These RFID bracelets act as your park admission tickets, hotel room key, your Disney's Photo Pass card, and your room charge. We sell tickets that are FastPass+ enabled and can be quickly added to your MagicBand, saving you the time of wondering who is holding park tickets. Here are all of the Disney World hotel benefits and see a hotels comparison.
Fort Wilderness Campground Layout
There are three main areas of Fort Wilderness—the Outpost, Meadow and Settlement. Cabins and camping areas are located in areas known as Loops.
The Outpost is your arrival center. Located just beyond the campground's main entrance, this is where check-in—cabin or campground—takes place. You'll also find the Trail Blaze Corral and Horseback Trail Ride spots here. The Outpost Depot is the bus station that connects you to the bus routes around Fort Wilderness and the rest of Disney World, excluding the Magic Kingdom.
The Meadow is Fort Wilderness' recreation hub. Located halfway between The Outpost and the Settlement. This is where you'll find the Meadow Pool, tennis courts, bike barn, archery experience, segway tours and Daniel Boone's Wilderness Arcade. The Meadow Trading Post is your on-site convenience store. Food is available at the Meadow Snack Bar and the Chuck Wagon Fresh Fixin's Food Truck. This is also where you'll find the Chip and Chip N' Dale Sing Along Area.
At the Settlement, you'll find a mix of different amenities and activities. Starting with Pioneer Hall, you'll find Trail's End Restaurant, P & J's Southern Takeout, Crockett's Tavern and the Hoop-De-Doo Musical Review. Mickey's Backyard BBQ dinner show is here too. Tri-Circle-D Ranch is where you'll find pony rides and the horse barn. Shopping is found at the Settlement Trading Post. At the Marina, you'll find fishing excursions, boat rentals, as well as transportation to Disney's Wilderness Lodge or the Magic Kingdom.
Cabins and campsites are found in areas known as Loops. The Campsite Loops are numbered 100-2100, with the Cabins from 2200-2800. The Cabin Loops are located at the southern end of the campground.
The Wilderness Swimmin' Pool, a leisure pool with hot tub (but no slide), is located near Cabin Loop 2500. There is a laundry facility and vending machines here as well.
Getting Around Fort Wilderness
Fort Wilderness is anything but compact. The forest and secluded environment can make navigating the resort tricky. At some Disney resorts, it's a short walk from your room to the dining area. At Fort Wilderness, the cabin areas are about a 30-minute walk to the Settlement.
Ft. Wilderness isn't designed to be navigated with your car. There is no parking available at the Settlement or Meadow. For those of you renting or driving your own car, there is space for one car at your cabin. The large parking lot at the Outpost is for checking in and guests who are not staying there but visiting recreation and dining activities. You'll use your car to get to things outside of Fort Wilderness, rather than around it. With that in mind, there are different ways to get around.
Inner Bus Loop
Three bus lines—Yellow, Orange, and Purple—transport guests in different Loops to different points. The cabins feature three bus stops—one for loop 2200-2300, another for loop 2400-2600 and yet another for loop 2700-2800. All three lines begin and end at the Outpost and Settlement. The most common route for those in the cabins is Orange, which will transport you between the Outpost, Settlement and Meadow. The inner loop buses begin around 6:30 a.m. and end two hours after the last theme park closes. Expect 10-15 minutes in between each bus when you're waiting at your bus stop.
With many paved and lit pathways and bike racks, bringing your own bike can be a great way to get around. Know that you can rent bikes from the bike shop at the Meadow, but it's only daily rentals. You'll need to return your bikes before the barn closes.
The most prominent mode of transportation at Fort Wilderness is the golf cart. Visitors either rent or bring their own golf carts to the campground. There is parking for golf carts at all of the key locations.
Having a golf cart here feels like being part of a special club. People are proud of their custom carts. Many people add decorations or accessories to theirs. It is very common to develop "cart envy" after seeing the rows of carts and cheerful families cruising around.
Various Orlando companies will deliver your rented cart to you, or you may rent them from Fort Wilderness. Know that Disney allows golf cart rentals one year in advance of your cabin reservation. Unreserved carts may be available for rental on a first come, first-served basis.
Your major mode of transportation within the theme parks is also an option at Fort Wilderness. During our stay, we walked from our cabin in the 2400 Loop to the Settlement in about 25 minutes along well-lit and paved walkways. Step-count wise, it was about a mile. While that may not be practical for those with infants or stroller-age children, walking may be fine for families with teens or couples without kids.
Transportation Around Disney World
Like many Disney World Resorts, buses are your main way to reach the theme parks. At Fort Wilderness, the Outpost Depot is your hub for theme park destinations—Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom as well as Disney Springs. Reaching the Outpost Depot requires you to take an internal bus line—Orange if you're staying at the cabins. You exit at the Depot, then board the bus for your theme park. Theme park buses begin about one hour before park opening and run up to two hours after the park closes.
For Magic Kingdom, you'll take a 15-minute journey aboard a green flag boat that departs from the Marina. Beginning one hour before the park opens and ending two hours after closing, two boats run this route.
The only other direct destination from Fort Wilderness is Disney's Wilderness Lodge. By boat, you'll board a blue flag boat. By bus, you'll board a Wilderness Lodge bus at the Settlement Depot.
Depending on your family, the Inner Loop bus to theme park bus system can be a nuisance or not an issue. There is lots of waiting, loading, riding, unloading, waiting again and such until you unload at your destination. For guests with wheelchairs, ECVs and baby strollers, this can be a stressful way to vacation. If it doesn't apply to you, and immediacy isn't your style, then busing around is a convenient way to travel.
Fort Wilderness Cabins
Fort Wilderness caters to a different kind of vacationer. The Fort Wilderness cabins are perfect for families who vacation for longer periods of time and don't mind a day or two outside of a theme park.
The Cabins are fully furnished 1-bedroom suites. Each one is decorated with woodland-themed lighting fixtures, wood panels along the walls, faux-wood chairs and framed pictures of wilderness-related Disney scenes and characters.
All of the resort's cabins are 504 square feet and sleep up to six adults and one child in a crib. Twenty-eight of the Fort Wilderness cabins are handicap accessible. Each one has air conditioning and wifi. The one bedroom features a queen bed, a bunk bed (WOOT), closet, dresser and HDTV. The bathroom features a bathtub/shower. There's a large HDTV in the living room, along with a dining table and sleeper sofa that converts to a double-size bed.
The cabin's killer feature is the fully equipped kitchen. We're not just talking about a fridge and microwave. Disney has stocked the kitchen with everything you'd need to whip up full family meals. Open all the cupboards (and we did) and you find saucepans, measuring cups, a skillet, cutting board, six sets of flatware, mason jar mugs and more. Also—COFFEE MAKER!
The downside to the Fort Wilderness cabins is the SMALL bathroom. At most Disney hotels, the bathroom area features two sinks and vanity that are separate from the toilet and shower/bath. In a cabin, it's all in one bathroom, minus one sink. That may not be a problem for a family of three or four, but it could be unpleasant for parties of six. One solution is the nearby Comfort Station that offers separate men's and women's restrooms and shower facilities. There is one Comfort Station in the cabins area, located by the Wilderness Swimmin' Pool.
For outdoor dining and relaxation, your cabin features a spacious wood porch with picnic table. There's a small charcoal grill located just down the steps from the porch.
Fort Wilderness Recreation
While this campground appeals to visitors who aren't rushing to experience Tower of Terror, you could call Fort Wilderness a theme park because of its unique woodland-themed activities. While most other Disney World resorts limit recreation to pools, everyone in the family can find something fun at The Fort. Know that an additional fee is included in some of these activities, and we've marked them with a $ sign. Also, some of these activities have age and weight requirements. The activities at Fort Wilderness, like everywhere else at Disney, may be booked up to 180 days in advance. (See our timeline of key Disney planning dates.)
Fort Wilderness Pools
If swimmin' is your thing, Fort Wilderness has you covered. The main pool area is The Meadow Pool. Catering to family-friendly lounging, this large pool features a barrel-themed water slide, hot tub along with lounge chairs and tables with umbrellas. This is the only pool that features a snack bar. For low-key swimming, visit the Wilderness Swimmin' Pool. It also features a hot tub.
The Meadow Pool offers seasonal poolside activities. Throughout the day, kids can participate in various activities and games. Arts and crafts, kickball, Disney trivia (Leap would DOMINATE) and water balloon games are just some of the hourly activities. Every day at 3:00 p.m., kids trade in their water shoes for dancing shoes for the Swimmin' Hole Jamboree. This pool party gets kids—and willing adults—playing games and dancing. Pictured is the pool party staple Y-M-C-A.
The Wilderness Back Trail Adventure Segway Tour - $
Explore the wilderness like the pioneers did—on a segway! No experience is required. These tours will teach you the segway basics before sending you out on a tour around Fort Wilderness. Available Tuesday through Saturday. Call (407) WDW-TOUR to book your tour.
Horseback Trail Rides at Trail Blaze Corral - $
Located near the Outpost, the Trail Blaze Corral is where you'll saddle up for a 45-minute horseback ride. You and your new best friend will travel along a horse trail that winds through Fort Wilderness. Note that cameras and phones aren't allowed, so there will be no selfies with your buddy during your ride. Call (407) WDW-PLAY for more info and to sign up.
Daniel Boone's and Davy Crockett's Wilderness Arcades - $
Located at Meadow Swimmin' Pool and Pioneer Hall, these small arcades pack big fun. Neither of them has "Frogger."
Boat Rentals and Guided Fishing Excursions - $
If Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon are calling to you, feel free to set sail. Rent a motorized boat at the Marina for some water fun. Rentals for Sea Raycers (seat two), Boston Whalers (seat up to six) Montauk or Sun Tracer boats (seat up to 10 people) may be rented by the half-hour and are first come, first served. If fishing is more your style, you can venture out on a guided catch-and-release fishing adventure. Excursions depart from the Marina and are available daily at 7:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Call (407) 939-BASS to reserve a spot.
The Bike Barn - Biking, Canoe, Fishing Equipment and Kayak Rentals - $
The Bike Barn, located near the Meadow Trading Post, is your stop for all kinds of recreation equipment. Rent a canoe or kayak for a tour around the waters of Fort Wilderness. Rentals are per hour. With plenty of space for bikes, Fort Wilderness is a biker's dream. Bike rentals are per day.
Tennis, Volleyball, Basketball and Playgrounds
The court is in session all across Fort Wilderness. Enjoy volleyball on a sandy court at the Marnia. Hoop it up at various basketball courts—each with complimentary basketballs. Channel your inner Novak Djokovic at the tennis courts near the Meadow Swimming Pool.
For your little climbers, Fort Wilderness is full of playgrounds. There is one playground in the settlement near Trail's End Restaurant. The Meadows is home to two playgrounds. A final playground is located near loop 500 by the Waggin' Trails Dog Park. We have more info on pets in a bit.
Fort Wilderness Archery Experience - $
This 90-minute experience will teach you the basics of holding and firing a bow. After training, it's onto target practice. Sign up for the experience at the Bike Barn in the Meadow or call (407) WDW-PLAY to sign up. #katnisseverdeen
Horse Barn and Pony Rides at Tri-Circle-D Ranch - $
PONY RIDES YOU GUYS!! Fort Wilderness's most genuine outdoor experience is the Tri-Circle-D Ranch. Youngsters who have dreamed of riding a pony can live out that goal. Petite ponies are available for a stroll around their pen from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Even if you're tadpole isn't up for a ride, walking through the pony pen is a thrill. Bring your camera. The ponies make for great photo ops.
Across from the pony rides, you'll find the horse barn. Tri-Circle-D Ranch is home to all of the horses that you see inside the Disney World parks. So the horses that carry you down Main Street U.S.A. or the ones hooked up to Cinderella's Coach? They all live right here in Fort Wilderness.
The horse barn lets you get close to all of the horses, while a display in the barn features a history of Disney horses—complete with narration! The horse barn is also home to the Dragon Calliope. Walt Disney purchased this horse-drawn musical instrument for the Mickey Mouse Club Circus Parade at Disneyland Park in the 1950s.
Horse-Drawn Rides - $
If riding them isn't your thing, there are other opportunities for horsing around at Fort Wilderness. Wagon rides, carriage rides and seasonal holiday sleigh rides are available. Prices vary on these experiences. Book them at (407) WDW-PLAY.
Fort Wilderness Restaurants
Fixin' to rustle up some grub? Fort Wilderness has refreshing spots for down-home cookin' and tasty vittles.
Trail's End Restaurant
The only casual service restaurant at Ft. Wilderness, Trail's End serves up all-you-care-to-eat buffets for breakfast, brunch and dinner that more than satisfies your stomach and wallet. Both adults and kids will find something to enjoy.
Prepare for a breakfast buffet beyond comparison. Mickey waffles, breakfast pizza, freshly baked pastries, scrambled eggs, biscuits and sausage, gravy, breakfast hash—need I say more?
OK then, let's move onto dinner. IT'S. EVEN. BETTER. Smoked Pork Ribs, Pizza, Peel-n-Eat Shrimp, Soup of the Day, Chef's Choice of Vegetables and Hand-Carved Roasted Meats—it was brisket when we dined. Oh, then there was dessert. Red velvet cupcakes, brownies, small 'smores bites and soft serve for days.
With your belly full, you're more than pleased for the check. As of this writing, it costs $34.00 for an adult plate. Breaking that out into an appetizer—dinner—desser scenario, the price of Trail's End buffet can't be beat. The food is high quality, and the service is top-notch.
P & J's Southern Takeout
When you're hungry for fast fixins', this is a quick-service winner. The counter is attached to Trail's End Restaurant and serves many of the same items in a faster fashion. On our breakfast visit, we had the Mickey Waffles, which are the same kind as served in Trail's End.
Located in Trail's End Restaurant, this lounge performs double duty as a sit-down bar or walk-up window, Crocket's Tavern serves beer, wine, mixed drinks and snacks. We sipped on Blackberry Lightnin' Moonshine as we waited for our dinner reservation.
Meadow Snack Bar
Serving up salads, sandwiches, beer, wine and other munchies, this snack bar is located just outside of the Meadow Pool. We recommend Guerdie's Loaded Chips—fresh chips with pulled pork, cheese sauce and jalapeños. Go ahead. It's vacation.
Chuck Wagon Fresh Fixin's Food Truck
Found next to Chip n' Dale's Sing-Along, this truck serves burgers, salads, beer and soda. The food is fine BUT OMG THE DESIGN. Cleverly disguised as an old RV, it's adorned with classic RV staples—the map of the U.S. showing where the RV has traveled—and the old school Walt Disney World stickers on the back. This throwback truck is a perfect example of Disney theming done right.
Fort Wilderness Dinner Shows
While we didn't have time to see either of these shows during our stay, we couldn't leave out why many people visit Fort Wilderness—the two family-favorite dinner shows.
Mickey's Backyard BBQ
Located near Tri-Circle-D Ranch, this all-you-care-to-eat BBQ dinner show features a country-western band. Yes, there's line dancing led by your favorite Disney pals. Mickey, Minnie and other pals are available for photos and autographs.
The Hoop-De-Doo Musical Review
The longest-running live show in Disney World continues to pack Pioneer Hall. With lively skits, sing-a-longs, Vaudeville comedy and dancing, this show delights adults and kids alike. You'll dine on all-you-care-to-enjoy fried chicken, smoked BBQ pork ribs, tossed green salad and—SPOILER—strawberry shortcake.
Fort Wilderness Shops
Everything from hair gel to groceries to Disney souvenirs can be gained at Meadow Trading Post and Settlement Trading Post. Part convenience, part Disney gift shop, these two posts are great for forgotten items or emergency supplies, such as pints of mint ice cream.
If you're staying at one of the cabins, groceries can come to you! The Meadow Trading Post offers a convenient delivery service. By filling out and sending or faxing in an order form three days before your arrival date, you can arrive home to a fully stocked fridge and kitchen. Our visit to the cabins was short (teardrop), so we didn't have a huge order. Sure enough, upon check in, we arrived to see all of our items on the kitchen counter and beverages cooling in the fridge.
Fort Wilderness Evening Activities
When the sun goes down, the fun doesn't stop at Fort Wilderness.
Chip 'N' Dale's Campfire Sing-Along
Brush up on your John Denver lyrics. Starring everyone's favorite chipmunks and led by a guitar playin' cowboy, this evening show is a lyrical way to wind down for the evening. Set inside an outdoor amphitheater in the Meadow area, you're encouraged to sing out loud to country-and-western favorites while Chip and Dale wander the crowd for photo ops.Yes, the hokey pokey is involved. A fire restriction prevented the "campfire" part of the sing-along from taking place during our visit. Arrive about an hour early if you're visiting during a busy time if you want a seat.
Movies Under The Stars
Immediately following the sing-along, you're invited to stay to watch a classic Disney film. The schedule is listed online as well as at the campsite. On our visit, it was "Moana," which made it a night of back-to-back sing-alongs. #yourewelcome
Magic Kingdom Fireworks
The Marina at Ft. Wilderness provides a great view of the nearby Magic Kingdom fireworks. The music from the show is piped-in, so spending a few moments on the beach watching the night light up with wonder is pretty cool.
One thing to note is that the new show "Happily Ever After" isn't as heavy on the fireworks as previous show "Wishes" was. Seeing this new show from the beach isn't high on the wow factor. The new show is designed to be seen in front of the castle. In viewing it from the beach, you'll find there are periods where you're listening to music but there's nothing in the sky.
Electrical Water Pageant
LOVE THE WATER PAGEANT. This classic Disney World show makes a nightly stop at Fort Wilderness. First appearing in 1971, the Electrical Water Pageant show dazzles with twinkling lights, appearances by sea serpents, dolphins and King Triton—all set to an upbeat electrical score. It's a Main Street Electrical Parade on water.
Taking Your Pet to Fort Wilderness
While this doesn't apply to the cabins, it's worth noting that Fort Wilderness is the only Disney World resort that is pet-friendly. People staying in campers or RVs are welcome to bring their pets and stay in a pet-friendly loop for a small additional per-night fee. Pets are not permitted in tents, pop-up campers or cabins. Dogs must be on a leash when outside, except for the Waggin' Trails Dog Park.
Best Loops To Stay In
One of the questions we're asked about most is —"What Are the Best Loops To Stay In"? The answer depends on what your individual needs are. What do you want to be closest too? Another thing to realize is the closer you are to places, the noisier it can be. It's peaceful at night, but daytime swimmers can interrupt naptime if you're too close.
For the Cabins, the only thing you're truly close to is the Wilderness Pool. Everything else is a bus ride or a walk. With all of that out of the way, here are the closest loops to various Fort Wilderness points of interest.
Meadow - 600, 1000, 1300, 1500
Settlement - 100, 200, 400, 700
Wilderness Pool - 2500, 2600
Dog Park - 300
For families who enjoy the great outdoors, Fort Wilderness is the perfect place to stay. With an abundance of activities, this is a great spot for folks that have visited Disney World numerous times and are in search of something different. If your family does parks open to close or it's your first Disney visit, we recommend staying somewhere else. The Fort Wilderness transportation system can eat up a good amount of travel time. Even reaching things such as dining and swimming will take time. You won't get the full Fort Wilderness experience unless you take a day or two for the various activities. Here is our full comparison of all Disney World hotels.
Hopping back to the cabin kitchen for a bit—having a fully stocked, ready-to-use kitchen can save you a TON of money on your vacation food bill. With one stop at a grocery store, you can fill your kitchen with food for the week. Cabin-prepared meals or sandwiches can keep costs down. For families who enjoy a downtime while staying on-property, the convenience of the kitchen, as well as the comfort of a spacious living room can make staying at a Cabin at Fort Wilderness at Disney World a solid choice.
Have a question about Fort Wilderness or want to tell us what you love about it? Drop us a line in comments below! Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? We've got a ton of helpful information—including an interactive trip planning timeline—inside our Orlando vacation planning guide.
Related: Camping at Fort Wilderness