Ever since we got our little vintage camper up and running we’ve been mapping out the places we’d love to take her. I thought it would be fun to camp in Florida and have always wanted to go back to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. Thanks to my spontaneous husband and father-in-law who decided at Christmas time to book our spots, the dream was made a reality!
We loved camping at Fort Wilderness
My family had camped there very briefly when I was young and I really couldn’t remember anything about it other than, it was fun. I was so excited to see it all again and find out for myself if it was a place worth recommending.
We’ve stayed at several other Disney value and moderate resorts. My husband and his parents have experienced some of the more premier resorts. We’ve also made our rounds to many of the quick service and character dining experiences at these locations. We are huge Disney resort fans. From the service you receive, the themed rooms and fun kids activities, free transportation and easy access to the parks, we’ve really never had a bad experience.
With all that being said…
Even though it’s called a “Resort and Campground”
it’s really a campground, and it’s important to remember that.
It’s not a hotel.
If you’re reviewing it by comparison to other Disney resorts, you could easily be disappointed. But, if you’re thinking of it as a campground, it just might be the best campground you ever stay at!
What Ages is it Best For?
Our group consisted of my husband and I, our three kids (the girls age 9 and 5 and a 7 year old boy), and my husband’s parents (aka Papa and Grandma). We ALL had a great time, though I would say it really was perfect for the ages my kids are at now.
The pool area is so well equipped for the toddler years and my 5, 7 and 9 year old all loved the water slide. They loved that they could stand in line and go down it all by themselves. The pool would probably be less appealing to teens as it is only 3 feet deep and full of young kids. I know teenagers would enjoy the horseback riding and other outdoor activities, but if they’re hoping for an impressive arcade area they will be disappointed.
What We Loved…
Here are a few of the things we loved most:
- Easy, fun (and free!) boat ride to the Magic Kingdom, Wilderness Lodge, Contemporary Resort and Polynesian Resort
- Magic Kingdom firework viewing every night!
- Electrical water parade every night!
- Kid-friendly pools and water slide: gated water area for toddlers with toddler size slides and shallow water, small baby pool, kids pool and slide that’s only 3′ deep with several life guards on duty and plenty of lounge chairs in view meant I could relax a little more than normal at the pool!
- Several eating options right on the premises… we LOVED the Hoop-Dee-Do Review!
- The peacefulness – Even at full capacity, the camping areas were much quieter than I would have expected!
- If you take your own fishing supplies, you can fish in so many different areas around the park for free – otherwise, bait is available to purchase and fishing poles are available to rent.
- The sites are large and clean. I was pleasantly surprised by how wooded and shaded each spot was.
- Access to the same, helpful concierge service you would receive staying at any Disney resort (where you can conveniently purchase park tickets, ask questions and make dining reservations).
- Chip and Dale’s campfire singalong and movie every night!
- Special activities/games by and in the pool every day. The kids especially enjoyed the Disney Jr. Pool Party.
- Very nice laundry facilities.
- You’re given magic bands just like you would get at any of the other resorts which can be loaded with park tickets, linked to a credit card so you don’t have to carry your wallet and used as a key for return entry to the campground.
- Plenty of other optional activities available: We didn’t have time to take in all that the campground had to offer such as archery, horseback riding, carriage rides, wilderness exploring, etc. There are lots of options though, for kids and adults of all ages!
- If you have a large family and have outgrown the max allowed number in a Disney value resort – the campground may be a great option! Every site is allowed an RV, trailer or pop-up and a tent (though some spots have sandy spots for a tent and others don’t) for up to 10 people/per site. There are also cabins available throughout the park and RV rental!
- Group camping spots are available and they did a great job of putting our campsite right across from my in-laws. At many of the Disney resorts, they cannot guarantee family groups will be near each other, so we were pleasantly surprised by how close we were able to be.
- It’s the only place to stay at Disney that is pet friendly! They have a very nice dog park and also offer pet boarding for the days you are away or in the park (for a fee of course).
What We Didn’t Love…
Here are a few of the things we didn’t really like:
Having to walk so far to the pool
We chose a premier spot that put us closer to the lake/boats, fireworks and restaurants but farther from the pool. We definitely preferred to be where we were, as it was a short stroll down to the beach every night for fireworks and to the restaurant for beverage refills. What we did, was load our pool gear into a wagon and walked down to the pool with everything we needed to stay for a few hours before coming back. This worked well but if you are one to come and go, you will find it’s a pain unless you’ve rented a golf cart.
A few tips we picked up from our experience:
The campground its self is so large
There is absolutely no parking throughout the park aside from the room for one car at your site. With how large it is, most places you’ll want to go are quite a far walk. But, because there are no places to drive your car to, most people just leave them at their sites. I love the fact that you don’t have to worry as much about the traffic. Our kids were able to walk around and ride their scooters without the fear of constant cars going by. But, it made getting to places a little less than ideal.
Your options for getting around the campground are:
- Taking your own golf cart or renting one for $60/day – The price is steep, so we never rented one, but thought it might be nice for a day or so if you plan on staying around the park all day.
- Taking bikes or scooters OR renting bikes – We didn’t have room for bikes so we packed scooters for the kids. They actually worked out really well and eliminated the griping and complaining we would normally hear about walking so far!
- Walking – The park is exactly one mile from one end to the other.
- Riding the bus system that has plenty of stops throughout the park – After careful observation, it seemed you may end up waiting quite a while for a bus to arrive and they didn’t seem all that dependable.
Buy the refillable resort mugs
if you plan on staying for a while. They seem pricey, but we found them to be really nice at the pool where you could get unlimited refills. You can also refill them at the quick service restaurant on the premises and at other Disney resorts.
Don’t feed the wildlife!
We noticed the first day we got there that the squirrels were exceptionally friendly (as well as the ducks for that matter). Too many Disney princesses have called the woodland animals in and fed them from their campsites. Believe me when I say, no food is safe. See the below picture for proof of what they are capable of! The nice thing is, I called this in to report it and a very nice maintenance/pest control man came out to take a look and they refunded us money for the damages.
The price fluctuates depending on season
Go on the off season if possible, you can see a price calendar here. Sites are as low as $55 on the off season and can go up to around $150 for a premier during peak season.
Choose your spot wisely
When making your reservation, you are able to request a certain site and loop. We chose the premium spots in the 400 loop (they are larger, include cable and are located closer to the lake and restaurants). If you don’t plan on seeing the fireworks every night or eating at any of the restaurants, you may want to choose a spot that’s closer to the Meadows pool.
There really didn’t seem to be a bad spot in the park. Every spot has shade, is level and within walking distance to a nice bathhouse or “comfort station” But, because the park is large, you will want to choose a spot closer to the activities you think you will be utilizing.
On the map below, I have circled the 400 loop that we stayed in, as well as the other points of interest. There is a small “Wilderness Pool” located near the front of the park for those camping so far from the large pool, but it’s not nearly as exciting as the Meadows Pool. Plus, the Meadows area is a one stop spot with drink refills, food, store, bike rental and activities.
—> This post does a great job of breaking down each site and helping you choose which one is best for you: Fort Wilderness for First Time Visitors
I highly recommend staying at the Fort Wilderness Campground… if you’re into camping!
Where else can you:
- Experience a healthy dose of Disney hospitality
- See fireworks every night
- Catch a water parade
- Sing around a campfire with Chip and Dale
- Watch Disney movies under the stars
- Enjoy a boat ride with views of Cinderella’s castle
All at the same time?
If you’ve stayed at other Disney resorts, you do have to remember that this is a campground, not a hotel. There are obvious differences, yet you are able to benefit from so many of the same perks. It’s really the best of both worlds.
Go prepared for the large size and plan on walking a lot. With that being the biggest and only real drawback we experienced, our crew gave it a big thumbs up!
Here are a few sites I found helpful in planning our stay:
- Fort Wilderness Campground
- Rate Details: Click on “rate details” under each class of site and then “seasonal pricing” for an overview of the price differences based on the calendar day.
- List of Amenities and Services
- I found this post gives a more in depth explanation of the differences between campsites and helps you choose which loop, type of site, etc. is best for you. I didn’t find any of this info on Disney’s site.