Monday, July 20, 2009

Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground..... A Long Lost Attraction

Let me start, right off the bat, by addressing your possible reaction to my title this week...Yes, Fort Wilderness Campground is still there, and yes, it is now, and has always been, a very popular destination at Walt Disney World!!!

What I am refering to is a Fort Wilderness that existed a long time ago, in a much simpler "World".

Every year, Mom and Dad would pack my 2 brothers and I into the plush and roomy back seat of Dad's 1974 AMC Hornet (that car was one sweet ride), and make the 1000+ mile pilgrimage down to a Walt Disney World that was a mere speck compared to the World we all know today. A resort so different, that most years we were lucky enough to spend a few days in every resort on property...both of them!!!

On these vacations, which usually lasted 10 days or so, we would hit the park (yes, I said park) almost every day. Disney World fans of today would more than likely go stir crazy if they were to spend all of their time in just one park, but back in the day, we were absolutely thrilled to do it...perhaps, it was because it was all we knew...even with just a single park, it was still, far and away, the most magical place you could ever think of.

With up to 10 days to enjoy in The World, we were always on the lookout for new and exciting of our favorites was The Fort Wilderness Campground. Now, I know many of you have been there, many have stopped by for a night at The Hoop Dee Doo Musical Review or maybe the Backyard Barbeque. But for us, Fort Wilderness was so much was truely a must see attraction. As important to us as Space Mountain or in later years, Big Thunder Mountain (that bad boy didn't open until a few years into our relationship with The World...scary considering it is almost 30 years old now), a day at Fort Wilderness was one of the most magical moments of any vacation.

Coming from New York City, (the Bronx to be precise) where we grew up, this was truely THE WILDERNESS. At least one day on every trip we would run down to the dock at our resort, hop on the launch and head over for a day in the great outdoors.

My brothers and I could hardly wait to get down to the TriCircle D Ranch to visit the farm and pet the goats, sheep and other critters that called it home (This was also home, in later years, to the World Famous Minnie Moo). We would then head on over to the stables and saddle up for our very own cowboy adventure...(an adventure which became even more poignant, come 1980, when my Urban Cowboy obsession obsession which is more than apparent my choice of head wear in these photos)...thinking back now, I can remember, more than once, peering down on alligators from the back of my trusty steed, as we would enjoy a trail ride through the campground and surrounding "wilderness".

But the GRAND FINALE of our day at Fort Wilderness, each and every vacation, was our feast (or at least that is how 3 young boys looked at it) at the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Review. I still to this day, sing along (under my breath, of course, so as not to scare off my fellow vacationers) to all of the classics songs at this amazing show.

Now I could also go on and on about all of the good times we had at, what we considered our own personal swimin' hole, River Country, but I will save THAT one for another blog.

The real point I am trying to make here, is that while I would never give up all that we have to enjoy nowadays at our World, I do sometimes long for the simpler pleasures of those Disney Vacations. Back before the days of "GOING COMMANDO" through the parks. A time when we could really enjoy the little things the resort had to offer. Amazing, hidden treasures that I still to this day dream about.

Now that I myself am a Dad, I am trying to expose my own little guys to these wonderful, laid back, experiences of the World and I whole heartedly urge you to do the same...slow down, snoop around, see what you can find...there is so, so much out there that even many veteran Disney World Commandos don't know about.


  1. Great article, Tony! I look forward to taking it slow in WDW this September.

  2. I visited FW for the first time a couple of weekends ago. It really is something to see! If it wasn't for the Disney Bus you would almost think you were somewhere in Vermont!

  3. No surprise, this was my home away from home as a child. Going back now always give me a little sting because so much has changed, but I still love that place more than any other spot (outside of the parks) in Walt Disney World!

  4. I have never made it over there, but will in October since we are going to see the Hoop Dee Doo review. Thanks for the nice article, Tony.

  5. I can believe spending 10 days in the Magic Kingdom... between two trips I've spent a whole seven or eight days just in Disneyland (without enough California Adventure to matter) ^_^

    Fort Wilderness does sound pretty wonderful though. I have very little knowledge of the state of things now, but if I somehow ever got to WDW, I'd want to take time out to head down to the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness to see all that area.

  6. Do you have any pictures of the train ride that used to be there?

  7. Nicholas, I will see what I can dig up.
    I had some, actually my Dad's. since I was very young when it was shut down...

  8. I am a HUGE fan of the Ft. Wilderness Campground, and have brought my 3 daughters there four times in the last year. Wish we could get do Thanksgiving there - way too popular! Thanks for your endearing article.

  9. Tony, this was the first resort I ever stayed at as a child and I have wonderful memories of it and how magical it truly was. Thanks for the post.