Camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness

It doesn’t matter how much I love reading Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, camping will never be my favorite activity.

When my dad was growing up, camping was the way his family saw the country. Driving miles by car and spending the night at campsites allowed them to see parts of this continent that I still have not visited, national parks and natural treasures that nurtured his love of the outdoors.

And when I was little, he tried to share that love of camping in hopes that I would enjoy the outdoors, too. Unfortunately, I had too much of my mother’s genes, so our camping experience was limited to one campsite only 45 minutes away, and close to the one outdoor activity I enjoyed: Disney World.

Camping at Disney in the mid 1980’s

Fast forward thirty-some years and I’m proud to say that, despite my own inclinations against sleeping outdoors, our oldest son loved the first camping trip with his Poppop!

Fort Wilderness, Disney’s campground within a short boat ride to the Magic Kingdom, has grown considerably since that old photo. The campsites seem to go on forever, loop after loop of camping pads surrounded by a thin veil of trees. It is the only Disney resort to have it’s own internal bus system, as walking from one end to the other would take the better part of an afternoon.

Our visit was unique, with the family split between two distinct wilderness experiences. Henrik was sharing a tent with Poppop on a campsite alongside my uncle and his son, while the rest of us setup camp in one of the wildness cabins.

These log-cabin-style dwellings have all some of the comforts of home, with a nice kitchen that’s as big as those in a Disney Vacation Club suite, but without the full range and oven. Instead it has a large microwave that can act like a convection oven, and two smaller in-counter hot plates for basic cooking. I guess they expect you to do your cooking outside, which is understandable given the location.

We arrived a couple hours after the rest of the family, and thanks to some quick thinking by my wife, we scored a cabin just around the corner from the tents. Driving into Fort Wilderness with the Model X was one of my favorite moments, the early evening light filtered through the trees. Moments like that always make me appreciate our car’s huge windshield, with a panoramic view of the forest above us.

The cabins have electrical sockets on the outside, as many visitors rent golf carts to get around the property. I plugged in the X hoping to charge overnight, but no such luck. Perhaps they are only turned on for those who rent a cart? We didn’t need the charge, so I didn’t bother calling guest services, but if we decide to go back I will find out.

No green light, where’s the power?

We loved the quiet atmosphere around the cabins, and enjoyed a nice stroll to the campsite where the rest of the family was cooking dinner. The quiet didn’t last, however, as the campsites were jammed with people. The area around the cabins felt like a peaceful nature retreat, but the campsites were more of a weekend jamboree in a huge park.

There is a lot to do at Fort Wilderness, though, and Henrik loved it. From the pancake breakfast outside their tents, to the pony rides, large playgrounds and of course, rice krispy treats in the gift shop, it was everything a kid could want.

Henrik enjoying breakfast

We only stayed one night in the cabin, but Henrik and Poppop spent an extra night in the tent and explored more activities around the resort. I experienced most of the trip vicariously via text message as my dad shared photos of Henrik enjoying his special outdoor time.

Henrik about to go on his first pony ride

I don’t know that we would stay in the cabins again. As Disney Vacation Club members, we are most likely to opt for a DVC resort whenever possible, but since there are two such properties at Fort Wilderness Lodge, within biking distance of the campground, there may be more pony rides in our future.

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