Chip and Dale’s Campfire Sing-a-long – A lot of people might say Hoop-Dee-Doo, but to me, this is the most iconic and unique thing at Fort Wilderness. Even if you aren’t interested in meeting Chip or Dale, I still think you need to stop by at least once during your stay. Sit for a moment and enjoy the folksy campfire songs. Roast some marshmallows, or just sit back and enjoy a nice beer or glass of wine while taking in the ambiance of the old stage coach, the perfectly themed faux signage, and intimateness of the open air arena. The best part of all is, of course, that it is completely free so even if you stay for only moments you can take in this unique experience.
Eat at Trail’s End – At least once a trip. It doesn’t matter if it is the buffet for breakfast or dinner, or table service for lunch, but have one meal there. Not so much for the food, which is, of course, good (read my reviews in previous blogs), but for the atmosphere. The soft banjo music. The antler chandeliers. The buffalo head hanging on the wall. The décor surrounding the buffet giving that old timey, log cabin, momma’s country kitchen type of feel. Pioneer Hall itself is perfectly themed to Fort Wilderness with its sweeping porch lined with rocking chairs and checker boards, but Trail’s End is really where it is at. Enjoy it.
Walk One of the Trails – You will find several trails to walk or ride your bike on in Fort Wilderness. There is a pathway through the woods that you can take right to Wilderness Lodge if you like. There are also walking trails behind the loops through the woods. Our favorite is behind the 700 loop. You will start by going down the dog walking trail, but once in the woods things will open up and you can explore wherever you like. You will see part of the old Fort Wilderness railroad, and eventually come to a little bridge leading over a small stream. Don’t worry about getting lost, campsites are always within view and it is pretty clear how to get back to civilization. You may see wildlife, such as deer, turkeys, raccoons, maybe even a small alligator in one of the streams. Walking the less traveled areas of Fort Wilderness is a great way to start the morning.
Take the Boat to Wilderness Lodge and Back – This may seem like cheating, because you are actually leaving the Fort. In truth, however, it’s a great way to see parts of the Fort, or the Fort area, that you don’t get to see within the campground. You’ll pass the shoe tree—a tree rising from the water with branches covered in former Cast Member’s old shoes. You’ll see parts of Discovery Island, looking very mysterious with its overgrown foliage and old buildings. The best thing you will see, however, will be abandoned River Country, eerily preserved since its closing in 2001. You could also rent a water mouse and take in these sites on your own, but taking the courtesy boat is, of course, free.
Catch the Electric Water Pageant- I realize this can be done from any of the Magic Kingdom resorts, but, to me, there is just something different about watching it from the Fort. Standing at the end of the dock, hearing the music, feeling like it is only yours because it’s stopped at a place on Bay Lake that only the Fort can see. The fireworks are great also, but for me it’s the Electric Water Pageant. It’s a great way to end the night before making the slow walk back to your campsite through the darkness of the waterfront area, along the trail leading toward Fort Wilderness Way.
Of course, these are merely a fraction of the options Fort Wilderness has to offer. Some might argue that Hoop-Dee-Doo is a must each trip. Some might say going on a horseback ride, or a carriage ride, is a staple. But these five things, to me, are the baseline of a Fort trip. They are easy, affordable, and give you the feel of Fort Wilderness like no others.