Camping Out at Walt Disney World
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is one of the most exciting accommodations available on Walt Disney World property. At ‘the Fort,’ guests can rough it in style. With a charmingly rustic theme, this resort gives you the most luxurious outdoor experience you’ll probably ever have.
There are three levels of campsites to be found at the Fort. All sites include 115/220-volt electrical outlets, a sturdy charcoal grill, a picnic table, a fresh water faucet and cable T.V. access (bring your own cable and television set). For a fee, you can also get high-speed internet access; however, you can also get free Wi-Fi at common areas, such as the pools.
Some many sites come with full sewer hookups, and there are sites large enough to accommodate larger RVs.
Campsites range in price from $48 per night for a standard tent or pop-up site in the off-peak season to as high as $126 per night for a premium site (bigger, better location) during the peak season.
Fort Wilderness is very lush and green, and Disney landscaped with trees and bushes to give each site a reasonable amount of privacy. One standard campsite is large enough for 2 or 3 tents and can comfortably house up to 10 people. There is lots of wildlife in the fort, including squirrels, raccoons, armadillos, snakes, lizards, deer and otters. Some you might consider yourself lucky to catch a glimpse of (and some you might not be so happy about if they slither onto your campsite), so be prepared.
There are also campsites that allow pets, however, animals must be secured in a kennel, cage or air-conditioned camper during the day when guests leave for activities, and they must be quiet and not disturb other guests.
If camping isn’t your style, you might consider renting a cabin instead. These log cabins keep in line with the rustic wooden décor, however, they sleep up to six people (most Disney hotel rooms only accommodate four). They also contain a kitchenette complete with a refrigerator, sink, stove, microwave, and dishwasher.
Cabins run anywhere from $285 per night on off-peak seasons to over $450 per night at the peak busy seasons. This might seem a bit costly for camping, but it’s pretty luxurious accommodations for a log cabin, with a lot of conveniences and amenities, and they’re well suited to a large family.
Is Fort Wilderness a Bargain?
It really depends; on off-peak seasons, standard tent campsites can be found for as low as $48 per night. Considering even Disney value resorts are almost twice that much, and you’re getting all the amenities of a moderate resort, at a glance Fort Wilderness is not only the cheapest accommodations on Disney property but cheaper even than off-property bottom-budget motels (which really take you away from the Disney magic).
This is a great price if you own a camper or live close enough to Disney World to haul your tent, air mattresses and all your camping gear with you.
If you don’t own camping gear or a camper, if you’re going to have to rent or purchase a lot of equipment special for this Disney trip, then you’re really not going to save any money. You have to decide if the camping experience in itself will make Fort wilderness worth it for you.
So if cost is a major concern, the criteria you need to consider is how prepared you are for camping? The more prepared you are for a campout, the more money you’ll save at Fort Wilderness. The less prepared, the more you’ll end up spending.
Getting Around Fort Wilderness
To keep the atmosphere at the Fort open and pleasant, Disney has banned cars from parking in most areas there. There is a parking lot when you first arrive near the entrance, and every campsite and cabin site comes equipped with a paved driveway for your vehicle.
However, you cannot park your car anywhere else. For this purpose, many campers bring or rent golf carts (cart rentals are offered at $62 per day) to get around the grounds. Others bring bikes, skates or other personal transport devices.
Conveniently, the Fort has an internal bus system that runs continuously throughout the day and most of the night (from about 6:30 am until 2 am or two hours after park closings). The buses come about every 20 minutes and take you to all the common areas of the Fort, and back to your personal camping loop. If you wish to use them, Disney allows you to request campsites closer to the bus routes.
One of the best reasons to stay at a Walt Disney World resort is that you are fully immersed in the magic that is Disney. Disney resorts are incredibly clean, and the Cast Mates (staff) is friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating.
Every camping area at Fort Wilderness offers campers a convenient comfort station with bathrooms, sinks, private showers (accessible showers are available) and a laundry room with washers and dryers. They are generally spotless and the staff is on top of keeping them clean and sanitary.
Fort Wilderness guests get all the perks of staying on Disney property. This includes free parking passes for all Disney theme parks for your stay (a $15 per day value). If you prefer to leave the driving to Disney, they also have a continuous free bus and shuttle boat service throughout the day to theme parks, water parks, Downtown Disney and other resorts.
As an added bonus, all Disney resort guests can enjoy Extra Magic Hours. Select theme parks on select days of the week open an hour early or remain open an hour or two later for only resort guests, which considerably reduces the crowds.
Activities at the Fort
There are plenty of places to play, including playgrounds, tetherball, tennis, volleyball, hiking, and biking trails and even a dog park. For additional fees, other activities include canoe and watercraft rentals, bass fishing excursions, archery, horseback riding, wagon and carriage rides and pony rides.
The Fort has two main pools: the Meadows Pool and the Wilderness Pool. Both also provide hot tubs, which you will be so grateful for after a long day at the theme parks.
The Meadows is the main recreation area and is more centrally located. The Meadows also has a snack bar, a children’s wading pool, a water slide, and a kiddie pool jungle gym. Throughout the day there are events and activities held at the pool, including a daily 3 pm pool party.
Every night (weather permitting) there is a Campfire Sing-a-Long, featuring a visit from the loveable chipmunks Chip ‘n Dale. Families can roast marshmallows over an open fire, enjoy the live music show, then get to meet and pose for a photo with Chip or Dale. The duo hangs around for about a half hour, and as a finale, you get to dance the Hokey-Pokey.
Check it Out:
After the campfire, there are outdoor movies every night (also weather permitting). When you arrive, you’ll be given a movie schedule.
Fort Wilderness also has a beach where you can swim or rent water vehicles. In the evening, this beach is a prime viewing area for the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom or the Electric Light Parade on the lagoon.
Aside from your own camper/cabin kitchen or barbecue grill, Fort Wilderness offers a range of dining opportunities.
Trading posts offer quick, convenient foods such as wrapped muffins, coffee, tea or frozen microwavable packaged meals that you can prepare in your tent or camper.
Snack bars give you a variety of beverage options (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) as well as quick meals such as sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, personal pizza, salad and ice cream.
The Trails End restaurant has a take-out service where you can get a fried chicken dinner (complete with sides and biscuits) or pizza to go. Alternately, you can dine in. Trails end provides a sumptuous breakfast buffet ($17 to $20 for ages 10 and over; $10 to $12 for ages 3 to 9, plus tax and gratuity) and dinner buffet ($22 to $25 for 10 and over; $13 to $15 ages 3 to 9, plus tax and gratuity). Lunch at the Trail’s End is a la carte.
For a more exciting dining experience, consider the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review. Satisfying, down-home comfort food is served during a knee-slapping, hand-clapping dinner show. There are three shows per night—but better make reservations for this one, as it is very popular! Depending on seating location, dinners cost $30 to $35 for ages 3 to 9 and $59 to $68 for ages 10 and up (plus tax and gratuities, alcoholic beverages cost extra).
Finally, you can join Mickey’s Back Yard BBQ Dinner Show, where classic characters like Mickey and friends come to dance and mingle with guests. The BBQ spread is a buffet of typical barbecue fare: ribs, chicken, burgers, hot dogs, coleslaw, corn on the cob, potato salad and garden salad. Desserts include watermelon and ice cream. This event is held outdoors, rain or shine, seasonally. It is best to make reservations to catch this one; $54.99 for guest ages 10 and up and $31.99 for guest ages 3-9 (plus tax).
Is Fort Wilderness for you?
You May Like Fort Wilderness If:
- You are an outdoorsy person and intend to spend a lot of time at your resort enjoying sports, nature, and recreation
- You really enjoy a rustic, old country western/pioneer style atmosphere
- You like to camp and have your equipment
- You own a camper and prefer it to a hotel room
- You have a large family and prefer cabins with kitchens to standard rooms
- You have a large family and prefer a campsite where your kids will have plenty of room to run around and play
- You are comfortable with camping and want to save money
- You have always wanted to camp but want to do it in luxury
- You want to stay at a Disney Resort that is very homey and neighborly
- You have a pet and want to bring him on your vacation
You May Not Like Fort Wilderness If:
- You dislike being in nature or around wildlife
- You don’t have, and wouldn’t know what to do with, camping equipment
- You are flying to Disney World and don’t want to lug camping gear
- You’re on a budget but have no camping gear
- You can’t survive without air conditioning
- You are going to Disney World from June through September (temperatures can get into the 90s, it rains practically daily and it’s hurricane season)
- You really prefer room service and regular hotel accommodations
Note: the prices listed in this article are subject to change, so please check the Fort Wilderness website before you go.
Chen (author) on October 23, 2012:
That's the best thing about Ft. Wilderness-- it's not just camping, it's luxury camping. It is one of Disney's moderate resorts so you get a lot of excellent amenities. Even for people not going to the parks, it's a great place to take a camping trip. Everyone's so friendly, there, too.
Dan Harmon from Boise, Idaho on October 19, 2012:
We camped at Ft. Wilderness years ago with our two children, both under 12 years of age. It was a fabulous experience, and although the campsites were spendier than we generally see they WERE on site and were without doubt the best camp sites I've ever stayed at.
Should we ever return, it will be to camp once more.