Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fort Wilderness Cabins at Walt Disney World Review

My friend Paula from Magical Mouse Pad has been gracious enough to share her experience of staying at the Fort Wilderness Cabins with my readers.  Paula and I have "known" each other for a while through the Disney Blogging Community.  I'm jealous that she has memories of Walt Disney World, and Fort Wilderness, going back to 1971!  Welcome Paula to A Disney Mom's Thoughts and thanks for sharing your own thoughts here!


Families who are looking to try something new in terms of lodging should try the Fort Wilderness Cabins.  As one of the 5 moderate resort options at the Walt Disney World complex, it provides spacious and unique accommodations.  The Cabins are located in the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. This resort is located south east of the Magic Kingdom on the shores of Bay Lake. The resort opened in 1971 as a destination for campers, but over the years added Cabins for families who aren’t the “camping type” or don’t have access to an RV or tent.



Map of Fort Wilderness
Cabins are located in Loops 2100 - 2800
The Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground has 799 campsites and 409 cabins covering over 700 acres of lush pines and cypress trees.  The cabins, according to the Disney World website, “provides all the comforts of home wrapped in a rustic, American Frontier theme”.  Indeed, these cabins look like mini-log homes, but they are basically small module homes wrapped in a veneer to look like logs.  

Fort Wilderness Cabin exterior
Parking in front with space/charger plug for golf cart
These cabins are roughly 12’ wide x 42’ long.  There is a wood deck on the outside with a picnic table and charcoal grill.  Inside, the cabins have one bedroom with a double bed, bunk beds, and a TV; a full bathroom with tub/shower; full kitchen; living area with TV, dining table for six, sofa and a pull-down Murphy bed.  The cabins comfortably sleep six guests.  The full kitchen has nearly every amenity you’d need to prep a meal.  Also in the kitchen, you’ll find a full-size coffee pot, microwave, full-size refrigerator, electric stove, and dishwasher.  A bonus is that Mousekeeping will do the dishes for you!

Cabin interior layout
 
Cabin kitchen
Pricing for cabin accommodations range from $285 in the value seasons to $450 is the peak holiday seasons.  Standard Disney resort guest perks are included:  Magical Express, daily Mousekeeping, room charging privileges, Extra Magic Hours, package delivery to resort, bus/boat transportation, etc. 

Inside the confines of the resort, there is plenty to see and do.  There are two pools at the resort, a smaller quiet pool, and the Meadows Swimmin’ (no “g”) Pool where the daily activities occur.  The main pool features a wet play areas for little ones, a slide, and a hot tub.  Down by the marina, there is a variety of watercraft to rent for exploring Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon.  Horseback riding is available for guests over 9 years old.  If you can’t find fun by the pool, there is an assortment of other activities offered including hiking, tennis, volleyball, horseshoes, shuffleboard, archery, bike riding, and canoeing.  At one time a real steam train traversed the ground of the Fort.  If you choose to check out one of the many walking trails around the property, you may see the remnants of the original track.  
Meadows Swimmin' Pool
Meadows Swimmin' Splash Pad
If you are looking for supplies for your cabin, there are two main shops:  The Settlement Trading Post located near the marina, and the Meadow Trading Post located in the Meadow Recreation Area.  Both trading posts feature the standard souvenirs and Disney merchandise, but also an assortment of groceries.  The groceries are on the expensive side, but if you need something in a pinch, you can find it there.  For guests with a vehicle, you may consider outside supermarkets for your supplies.  You can also have groceries delivered from Garden Grocer.  You choose the groceries you want and they will deliver them right to your resort!

A long-running specialty of Fort Wilderness is the nightly Chip ‘n’ Dale “Sing-a-Long” and marshmallow roast, followed by a Disney movie on a outdoor screen.  The “Sing-a-Long” is lead by a singing cowboy and Chip and Dale make an appearance to visit with guests and sign autographs.  You may bring your own marshmallows or buy them from the Chuck Wagon.  The Chuck Wagon also serves an assortment of light refreshments during the movie.
Chip and Dale at the nightly campfire
Speaking of refreshments, Fort Wilderness offers a few dining options.  The most well-known is the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, an all-you-can-eat dinner show held nightly at Pioneer Hall.  Mickey’s Backyard BBQ is a barbeque buffet with live entertainment, dance instruction, and appearances by Disney characters.  Crockett’s Tavern, located in Pioneer Hall, features beverages and snacks.  Next door to the Tavern is the Trail’s End Restaurant which provides a sit-down buffet at breakfast and dinner and a la carte items during lunch.  By the pool is the Meadows Pool Snack Bar which serves hamburgers, sandwiches, and assorted small snacks.

The Fort is serviced by the Magical Express, should you be coming from the airport.  The process is similar to the other resorts.  Your bags will be "magically" delivered to your room while you are bussed from the airport to the Fort.  Check-in is at the Reception Outpost.  Here you will receive all your resort information (room key, tickets, maps, etc), and a copy of the Fort Wilderness Gazette.  The Gazette will contain information on the campground, directions for transportation, campfire movie schedule, activity times and locations, and maps.  

Driving, except to and from your campsite, is not allowed in the Fort.  A series of internal buses provide transportation throughout the resort.  Guests can also rent golf-carts to get around inside the Fort.   Advance reservations are highly recommended for the golf carts.  

So, now you know the specifics, I know you want to know how the cabins really are.  The following is my review of the Cabins from my trip in June 2011.  

I grew up camping at the Fort with my parents in the 70’s and 80’s.  We traveled in a RV and spent many fun summers there.  I have very fond memories of Fort Wilderness.  It was a great place for my brother and I to explore.  In 2011, I went back with my two children for 10 days and we stayed in the Cabins.  While I enjoyed the trip very much and it was perfect for our situation at the time, I’m not sure if I would consider the Cabins again.  For me, the cons far outweighed the pros.  But what may not be suited to my tastes, may fit another family extremely well.  The best advice would be to try it if you think you may like it.  

Pros:  
  • Room for 6 - we were traveling with my Mother and it was nice that she could have her own space (living room/murphy bed)
  • Spacious cabin with room to spread out, inside and outside.  As soon as the kids are dressed and ready, we pushed them out the door to explore around the cabin while the rest of us got ready.  
  • Full kitchen.  Loved having a full size coffee maker (you have to bring your own coffee, though)!
  • Two TVs.
  • Quiet and peaceful surroundings.  It’s hard to imagine you are in the middle of a sprawling theme park complex when you are at the Fort.  
  • Wildlife.  We saw lots of animals, bugs, and reptiles that my kids loved.  I didn’t care too much for the lizard in the closet, though.  
  • Boat access to Magic Kingdom.  There is something special about arriving at the Magic Kingdom via boat. 
  • Pool amenities - the Meadow’s Swimmin’ Pool is large and nicely laid out.  Nice splash area for the younger kids.

Cons:  
  • Size.  The Fort is a sprawling complex.  It’s not easy to walk from the cabins to entertainment areas, or the front reception area.
  • Transportation.  I hated the internal buses.  The Fort used to be serviced with open-air trams.  As a kid, it was fun to ride these trams.  Plus they had cool names for each camping section or loop, like “Jack Rabbit Run”, or “Armadillo Way”.  The driver would announce each stop distinctly.  Now the drivers barely know what loop number they are at.  Plus, I don’t like riding the bus from the pool in wet bathing suits.  We rented a golf cart during our stay and only experienced the buses when our group separated.  I would highly recommend to anyone staying at the Cabins to rent a golf cart.  It was a life-saver, but added to the cost.  
  • Lack of quick service dining option/food court.  Because the Fort’s main purpose is for campers who have their own cooking facilities, there is little in the way of quick service dining options.  We were on the dining plan during our visit and had to plan our quick service meals at other locations (parks or other resorts).  We did use the Meadows Snack Bar a few times and the food was good, but it’s not open very late.  
  • Distance from everything.  Boat to the Magic Kingdom often shared with Wilderness Lodge, and bus service everywhere else.  It took some time to get to our destinations.  
Have you ever stayed at the Fort Wilderness Cabins at Walt Disney World?  I'd love to hear your own thoughts!

7 comments:

  1. Great review, I often stayed at Fort Wilderness in an RV as a kid, we got to stay in the cabins a few times after they were brought in. We loved the cabins, but I agree Fort Wilderness is built for RV's and camping so you should be prepared to cook your own food or have to jump on a bus to get to get to a quick service style restaurant. If you have a group they can be a lot of fun.

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  2. While the idea of staying in a cabin has not always appealed to me, I must admit these cabins look very cool! We always wanted to check out the Chip and Dale Sing Along. It looks like a lot of fun!

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  3. Chip 'n Dale's sing along is on my short list for next trip.

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  4. So many neat activities at Fort Wilderness! The sing-a-long sounds like fun!

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  5. Thank you so much for the trip down memory lane. As a child we camped at Fort Wilderness every other year, until we outgrew the camper and tents and moved into a cabin. What a treat that was! I have to add, if you have the opportunity to stay there with children- DO IT! It's a wonderful place with adventure around every corner. Your kids will love it. Although we stay at BLT just about every trip, we always make it a point to visit the Fort one day with our entire family. Great Post!

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  6. Looks like it would be so much fun to stay there. We almost did it once when my sons were very young and then changed it to the Contemporary. Someday I'd like to.

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  7. Awesome review!! We love visiting Fort Wilderness but haven't stayed here yet

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