Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wanna Know Disney's Best Kept Secret? Hint - It's Not The DVC

I am convinced that the DVC is NOT Disney's best-kept secret, regardless of what all the Disney World buses have plastered all over them (and they've been plastered there for as long as I can remember). I believe that distinction belongs to something else on property.

That distinction would belong to Disney's Fort Wilderness Campgrounds.

The bridge that connects the campsites to the Chip N' Dale's
Campfire site. The Fort Wilderness Campgrounds, like nearly
everywhere in Walt Disney World, is incredibly themed.

Now, I think that a lot of people hear/read the words Fort Wilderness Campgrounds and immediately blow it off. Most people aren't "campers". Most people don't like to "rough it". So they don't even consider it an option when planning a trip to The Mouse.

Well, I can tell you that our family isn't necessarily true "campers". And I can also tell you when you stay at Fort Wilderness, you definitely aren't roughing it.

I used to work for a company that rented an RV campsite every year at Fort Wilderness. They provided a parked travel trailer and kept it there for employees to use - a pretty nice perk. Over time, we ended up using it twice. This opened up the Campground to us; otherwise we probably would have blown it off and never even set foot in there, like I feel so many do. That would have been a big mistake.

There are many ways to stay at Fort Wilderness. Of course, there is the incredible The Fort Wilderness Lodge. That's about as far away from roughing it as you can possibly get. It is a gorgeous hotel, and if you stay there you get full use of the Campground (plus, of course, the grounds of the Lodge itself are incredible). There's the Fort Wilderness Villas. There's the Fort Wilderness Cabins. There's the campsites for RVs. And there are campsites for tents (we do have a large tent and camping supplies, so one day we will try Disney's version of "roughing it", I promise!). All of these range in price greatly, and also provide much different experiences. For now, we can speak to staying in an RV.

First off, there are activities galore. Tons of things to keep you busy. Bring a bike (or rent one), and you can ride the trails for hours - they are expansive and beautiful. You can run or walk those same trails. You can rent canoes, kayaks, fishing poles. Play beach volleyball or tennis. The Segway tour gets rave reviews. CM's constantly run games for the kids to play. The pool is rather plain, but large. There's the beach and watercraft rentals at Bay Lake. From the beach you can see the Electric Water Pageant go by every night or view Wishes. You can take the boat to the Magic Kingdom. Some very highly regarded restaurants are housed at Fort Wilderness: Trails End and Hoop De Doo. And I'm sure I'm overlooking quite a few things as well.

Chance and Katie with Dale at the Campfire.
They loved this free activity.

And there is a best-kept secret at this new best-kept secret: The Chip n' Dale's Campfire Sing-A-Long and Movie. Not many people realize this exists - but it is FUN. Nobody in my family are huge fans of Chip and Dale, but Disney hit the nail on the head with this free activity. Every night at the Campgrounds, they have two big campfires going, along with what's essentially a meet and greet with the two chipmunks, and a live music sing-along. The singing is fun and they encourage participation - the kids loved it. You can also bring s'mores to roast at the campfires (I would recommend you bring your own chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers though - I believe the price was $9 for a small "kit" at the campfire site). Afterward, we watched Monster's, Inc. on their large movie screen. The only other thing I'd recommend is to bring bug spray - the mosquitoes were indeed horrible. So beware.

The roasted marshmallows were a huge hit.
But bring your own - unless you want to pay out the
nose for a s'mores kit at the campfire site.

To talk a little about the actual camping, the campsite was large. Big enough for roughly a 35 - 40 foot RV, and our car with plenty of room to spare around the parameter - picnic table and charcoal grill were both just outside. The pool, campfire and convenience store were all within short walking distance. So were the "hospitality houses"; these were large restroom/shower facilities, and they were beautiful.

Also, there is something about the community at the Campground that is unique. The areas of the campsites are like little neighborhoods and everyone just seems...happy. Friendly. Outgoing. Warm and welcoming. More so than any resort hotel we've stayed at (not that those were bad experiences - the opposite, for that matter). But this was different. It's like the camping lifestyle brings people together in this kind of setting. Everyone says "hi" with a smile. Just an interesting observation because it felt really good to be there.

Anyway, if you want another great but different experience at Walt Disney World - something you may never have even considered - we would highly recommend visiting or staying at the Fort Wilderness Campground.

No comments:

Post a Comment