Throwing the Ultimate Slumber Party at Disney’s Fort Wilderness
Nestled away on a 750-acre, cypress-and-pine forest between the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center, sits the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground in Orlando, Florida. This resort offers the best of the outdoors by staying in a tents, cabins, and RVs.
TIP: Book the 700 loop for RVs, the 500 loop for tents and walking distance to the pool and campfire.
My daughter wanted to invite five friends to birthday sleepover and wanted to go camping in the bargain. To accommodate the girls, three moms and my three-year-old son, we decided to rent an RV and go to a Disney resort.
Renting an RV
The typical rental at Fort Wilderness is one week. We were in the 700 loop, which was very woodsy and quiet. Next time we’ll do a tent in the 500 loop, which is pretty and walking distance to the pool, tennis courts, and nightly campfire and sing along. There are 788 campsites for tents, tent trailers, and recreational vehicles.
The cabins sleep up to six people. All campsites have electricity, running water, BBQ grills and picnic tables. As you might expect “in the wild,” there are rabbits, ducks, geese, deer, armadillos, and peacocks roaming the grounds. We even saw a wild turkey and deer.
Tip: Rent a bigger RV than you need so you have extra room for kids to watch TV and hang out.
Renting an RV, by myself with two kids in tow, driving it on the interstate, parking it in a camping site, and hooking it up to septic, electric, and water did not sound fun. Luckily, I found Florida Camper and Rental, which delivers the RV and sets it up. They even introduced me to a Disney travel agent that helped me secure the right spot for a three-night rental, a short one by their standards.
Florida Camper Rental had good customer service and even texted us when they were running late. Later, we texted for help with turning on the heat and they responded within minutes. They trained us, but it would have been nice to have a book of instructions.
Our 12-person RV was called the Elkridge. The company Facebook page let us see 20+ photos of it before we committed. There was a master bedroom and smaller bedroom with two sets of bunkbeds with a double bed on the bottom, as well as a pull-out sofa with a blow up air mattress.
There were only 10 of us, but we slept comfortably. We never could figure out where the other two people would have slept. It had two bathrooms and a shower. The kids loved the four TVs. I felt like we were in a Barbie camper, but in brown instead of hot pink, with an elk graphic along the side and no personal pool.
The camp site rental was $156/night including tax. The 12-person RV camper was $192/night. We also rented at golf cart at $63/day. The entire three-day weekend came to $411/night. The RV could easily have been split between two families to cut costs.
6:30pm: Campfire Lighting
7:00pm: Campfire Sing-A-Long
7:40pm: DISNEY Movie
Chip & Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long is held nightly at the Meadow Trading Post and begins with a fire lighting (weather permitting). It features a sing-along, Disney movies, and cartoons. Marshmallows can be toasted over the campfires. You can bring your own marshmallows or buy them there. The Chuckwagon sells pizza, hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, candy, and beverages for those who want something a little more substantial.
We did the hokey-pokey and other fun songs at the sing-a-long. There are benches, but we danced and sang the whole time. After all of this, they played a Disney movie—either Cars, Snow White, or Dumbo.
The next day we took the golf cart to get breakfast at Trail End’s Restaurant, a large breakfast buffet. It was a Sunday with no reservations and floating in at 10am they gave us a 60-minute wait. We were hungry, so we walked next door to P&J’s Southern Takeout. We took our breakfast and walked one minute to picnic tables and a playground that overlooked the lake. Kids ate and then played, while the adults got to relax and eat a leisurely breakfast. There were a few playgrounds scattered around the campground.
Tip: If you want a sit-down breakfast,
make reservations ahead of time.
Swimming & Sports
Swimming, tennis, volleyball, and shuffleboard are all available. The larger main pool and kiddie pools are located near the Meadow Trading Post. The pool was heated and had a great slide and separate splash pad. They even had activities at the pool that were free. There are hiking and biking trails as well.
Fireworks and Light Show
We met a cast member that has been coming to Ft. Wilderness for 30 years and she suggested we not miss the free fireworks from the Magic Kingdom at 9pm. I took my children and sat in the golf cart with a few other people and we watched the fireworks over the lake. I felt like I was in a drive in theater for fireworks. Great memories and fun to drive the golf cart around at night.
Also nightly, weather permitting, Bay Lake is the backdrop for the Electrical Water Pageant. Dancing lights on a 1000-foot string of floating barges shimmer over Bay Lake. This seven-minute show can be seen from the Fort Wilderness beach and marina around 9:45 p.m.
Tip: If you are a light sleeper, bring ear plugs. you hear fireworks and music at night that seems to come in from every angle. It’s not scary loud, but you can hear it in the distance.
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground is also home to the award winning Tri-Circle-D Ranch where they keep over 50 draft horses that used to pull the trolleys down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. You can learn the difference between a Clyldales and Belgium draft horse and actually see them in their stables. There is a tiny museum about Walt Disney and his love for horses. For less than $10 you can also do a pony ride in the same area.
Hoop-De-Doo Musical Review
In addition to the hilarious hoe-down-style entertainment, guests are treated to a family-style, all-you-can-eat dinner. While Phantom of the Opera may claim longest running Broadway musical status, the Hoop–Dee–Doo Musical Revue is the longest-running musical in America.
Appetizers and dinner consists of corn bread, salad, country fried chicken, barbecued ribs, corn, beans, mashed potatoes, and strawberry shortcake. Drinks, including beer and wine, are part of the price, but cocktails are separate. This show is held three times daily.
TIP: Because of the “no vehicle” rule at Fort Wilderness, allow yourself lots of time to get there. Internal shuttle buses run to Pioneer Hall.
Although expensive, this is a must-do. For two adults and two children, it came to $200 for this show and dinner. I almost hurt myself eating the all-you-can-eat fried chicken and BBQ. The food was actually really delicious. And the entertainment was all Disney, so excellent. They sang while you ate and had some intermissions. We booked 6 to 8 weeks ahead of time and could only get a balcony seat, which really turned out to be a great view. The balcony was a better view than all the way in the back on the floor. Tickets and seating can be made up to 2 years in advance. This is a must see, must do!
We didn’t get to try perennial favorite of guests, an all-you-can-eat buffet features everything you would expect at a barbecue and much more. There is also a variety of live entertainment, including character appearances.
As the name suggests, it includes everything you’d find at a barbecue/picnic, with carnival type games, food, music, dancing, storytelling and best of all, visits from Disney characters. The all-you-can-eat food includes BBQ pork ribs, baked chicken, hot dogs with all the fixin’s, corn-on-the-cob, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, corn bread, watermelon, marble cake. Unlimited draft beer, wine, lemonade, and iced tea.
Trail’s End Restaurant
Found in Pioneer Hall, it is a buffeteria that features all-you-can-eat breakfast and dinner and a menu for lunch.
TIP: Eat a huge breakfast at P&J’s Snack Shop for $9.50 vs. $17.99 for the buffet at trail’s end.
The cabins looked fun, too. Air-conditioned, free-standing dwellings are approximately. They’re 12 x 42 feet. Each cabin has a separate bedroom with a double bed, bunk beds, and a pull-down bed in the living area. The cabins will sleep six people. There is a full bathroom and a living-dining area with a sofa and cable TV and DVD. The dining area has seating for six.
The kitchen has all major appliances: a microwave oven, dishwasher (with packets of soap), coffee maker, refrigerator with ice maker, stove/broiler and toaster. It is fully equipped with cutlery for 6, paring knives, manual can opener, serving spoon, measuring cup, pitcher, casserole, dinnerware service for 6, platter, Dutch oven, saucepans, skillet, paper towels, dish towel, sponge, and a drainboard. Outside each cabin, there is a small deck with your own charcoal grill and picnic table. Daily maid service is provided.
Check-in is 3 pm and check-out is 11am. Guests must park at Reception Outpost and check in at the front desk there. There is parking for one car at the cabin. Please note that vehicular traffic is restricted at Ft. Wilderness. The cabins have free wireless Internet.
Fort Wilderness Campsites
Lush wilderness provides privacy for the 784 campsites throughout the 20 loops. The sites range from 25 x 25 to 25 x 65 feet. They are a combination of paved driveway and sandy pad. All sites have running water, electricity, charcoal grills, and picnic tables. There are full hook-ups for sanitation.
TIP: Preferred hook-ups are near the Settlement Trading Post, Pioneer Hall, and marina.
The preferred spots cost a little more & are found in Loops 11 through 500, and Loop 700. For the Meadow Trading Post, campfire program, and main pool, request Loop 600, or Loops 800 through 1600.
Air conditioned comfort stations are found throughout the resort. They have restrooms, private showers, laundry facilities, an ice maker, and phones. All but the laundry facilities are open 24 hours a day. There is camping gear available to rent for those in need. Pets are allowed in designated areas or can be boarded in a kennel near the entrance to the resort. Check-in time is 1 pm and check-out is 11am. Guests checking in to the campgrounds may register at the drive-through windows at the Reception Outpost.
There is one special cabin available. It is 12 x 15 feet and has no inside sink or toilet. There is a comfort station in the vicinity, however. Sleeping accommodations consist of two sets of bunk beds, one being a twin over a full size, so the cabin can sleep 5. It is not air-conditioned and guests must bring their own linens. No maid service is provided here. It could be an inexpensive choice of accommodation for those who enjoy “roughing it” with a roof over their heads.
Keeping with the wilderness theme, guests can go horseback riding, have pony rides, visit the petting farm, and go on nightly hay rides or on fishing excursions along the campground’s canals or on Bay Lake. Fishing equipment is available to rent, along with bait for purchase. Those wishing for a little more exercise can rent bicycles, jog on the 2.3 mile jogging trail, do the Fitness Trail, play beach volleyball, basketball, shuffleboard, horseshoes or tetherball, or go on a nature walk.
At the marina, guests can rent canoes, kayaks, pontoon boats, or water mice. There are two arcades and playground areas for children as well. Two lighted tennis courts are available for tennis buffs. Forget your racquet? No problem, equipment can be rented.
In keeping within the “eco” theme, motorized vehicle transportation within the grounds is prohibited unless entering or leaving the resort. Alternatives are bicycles, golf carts, the internal bus system or walking. The two internal buses are called Chip and Dale. The external bus routes are the Crockett and Boone.
Visiting Other Disney Parks
Magic Kingdom: Take an internal bus to the marina and take the Magic Kingdom boat
Epcot Center: Take an external bus to the TTC and take the Epcot monorail
Disney Hollywood Studios: Take an external bus to the TTC and take the Disney Hollywood Studios bus
Disney’s Animal Kingdom/Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park: Take an internal bus to the Settlement Depot and take the Disney’s Animal Kingdom/Disney’s Blizzard Beach bus
Downtown Disney Marketplace, Downtown Disney West Side, or Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon: Take an external bus to the TTC and take a bus from there.
The Settlement Trading Post sells gifts, sundries, groceries, snacks and beverages. The Meadows Trading Post is similar to the Settlement Trading Post, but includes a deli as well. I bought two Miller Lite beers and it came to $12.75!
TIP: Buy your supplies before you arrive.
Golf Cart Rental
I rented my golf cart direct from Disney at $59/day + tax. You can rent golf carts from outside vendors for $10 per day less.
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground address:
4510 N. Fort Wilderness Trail
Lake Buena Vista, FL, 32830-1000