Camping at Disney World: Why I’m Obsessed with Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground

Camping at Disney World's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground

I grew up road tripping to Disney World with my family and we always looked forward to our stays at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground aka the Disney campground. Camping at Disney World is such a fantastic way to spend your vacation that we even visited when we didn’t have park tickets just to enjoy the campground and hop a few boat rides and monorails. With far nicer amenities than any other campground I’ve ever been to, and quiet, tree-lined sites, you won’t even realize that you’re within sight of the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks.

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Wait, you can go camping at Disney World?

Camping at Disney World! A beautiful campsite at Fort Wilderness

Photo courtesy Walt Disney World Resort

Yup. Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground wasn’t one of the opening day resorts, but it did open the following month. I’ve probably spent more nights camping at Disney World than any other campground. With 799 campsites and 409 cabins, it stretches for 740 acres. Guests can camp in tents, campers, and RVs or stay at the gorgeous little “log” cabins. Fort Wilderness is located along the shores of Bay Lake in the Magic Kingdom resort area. It used to be the site of Disney’s first water park (RIP, River Country), but it was permanently closed several years ago.

With two trading posts – one at the boat docks by the lake, and one centrally located in the campground – better dining options than any of the value resorts, and a pool with a waterslide (I’m still a little bitter that Disney waited until I was an adult to install the waterslide), you’ll have all the amenities you’ve come to expect from a Disney resort while feeling like you’re out in the country. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve stayed there, and every time I go back it feels like coming home.

Sitting at a picnic table at a Fort Wilderness campsite

I feel like I grew up at Fort Wilderness so it’s near and dear to my heart. This was taken on the first of many visits and I’d like to note that that was my baby brother’s bottle, not mine.

What makes Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground so awesome?

A lot of things, really. First of all, it’s the most affordable option to stay on property at Disney World. You get all the same benefits as a guest at a deluxe resort like the Animal Kingdom Lodge without shelling out hundreds of dollars a night. This includes the Magical Express shuttle, booking your FastPasses 60 days ahead of your stay, booking your dining reservations extra early, Magic Bands, Extra Magic Hours, and transportation to all of the parks and Disney Springs. Campsite reservations start as low as $55/night for a tent/pop-up site and $82 for a full hook up site that can accommodate an RV.

Family at a Fort Wilderness campsite

For those of you counting at home, there are six of us and we would never fit into a standard hotel room.

Fort Wilderness is also great for large families and groups because the sites can hold up to 10 adults. Can you imagine paying for a regular hotel room that would fit that many people? One of the reasons we hauled our pop-up camper down to camp at Disney World was because with two adults and four kids, my family was too big to fit in a standard Disney hotel room during the years we visited most frequently. Even now with family suites at the All Stars and Art of Animation, those rooms start around $300/night. You can fit six people at a campsite for less than $100/night though and have all the Disney magic associated with a WDW trip.

Some people like to cook on vacation (I don’t even cook when I’m not on vacation, so this is baffling to me), and camping at Fort Wilderness gives you the opportunity to grill up a storm. We would almost always cook breakfast at the camper before hitting the parks for the day, and you can save yourself a small fortune doing this. If you’re not into cooking, don’t worry – there are restaurants on site, including a pretty amazing hidden gem of a breakfast buffet at Trail’s End.

As a frequent camper, I’m pretty used to gross bathrooms with bugs, cobwebs, and mildew all over. Not so in Fort Wilderness. The showers are pristine, all of the sinks work, and there’s none of that funky campground bathroom smell. It’s a real treat.

Decorating for Christmas at Fort Wilderness

Getting our campsite in the Christmas spirit, but mostly just enjoying climbing trees.

Campers who visit for Christmas traditionally go all-out to decorate their sites. Even if you’re not staying at Fort Wilderness, it’s worth a visit at night just to see the decorations. People will load up their sites with inflatables and adorn every available inch of trees with twinkling lights. It’s quite a sight to see, and even Halloween is starting to be quite popular for decorating.

Halloween decorations at Fort Wilderness

What was that about those Fort Wilderness cabins?

Inside one of the Fort Wilderness cabins

Photo courtesy Walt Disney World Resort

Well, in the late ’90s, Fort Wilderness started adding family “log” cabins. They’re super cute and absolutely gorgeous inside. They also can accommodate a larger party (up to 6) than your average hotel room, and as kids, we loved the bunk beds when we stayed in one. Starting at $333/night, they’re priced like deluxe resorts, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. You also get a full kitchen and a charcoal grill – and housekeeping service that includes dishwashing. These are great for guests who fly to Orlando since it’s hard to lug all kinds of camping gear on a plane.

Things to do at Fort Wilderness

Sometimes it’s nice to have a break from the hustle and bustle of days at the theme parks. We would always schedule non-park days on our trips, and Fort Wilderness is a great way to spend a day like that. You could truly spend a whole vacation just hanging out around the campground without even needing to buy park tickets – and we definitely did that at least once during my childhood. I’ve camped all around the country, and have yet to find a campground that could even come close to Fort Wilderness.

Pool time

Fort Wilderness has two pools, and the one located near the Meadows Trading Post, now features a small waterslide – it didn’t for most of my childhood visits – and pool time is a great way to spend an afternoon. The Wilderness pool, tucked away closer to the front of the resort, is quieter and more out of the way.

Chip ‘N Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long

Every night, Chip ‘N Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long gives guests a chance to hang out around the campfire with Chip and Dale. It’s one of the few ways to meet Disney characters without a park ticket, and one of my favorite free things to do at Disney World. If you have s’more ingredients, you can roast your own over the fire (you can grab what you need at one of the trading posts too). After the sing along, stick around for the free showing of a Disney classic movie. You don’t have to be staying at Fort Wilderness to participate, so it’s a great evening activity even if you’re staying at one of the hotels.

Electrical Water Pageant

The Electrical Water Pageant, like Fort Wilderness itself, didn’t quite debut when Disney World opened, but it began within a few weeks of opening day and has continued with some modifications since then. The concept is simple – every night (assuming the weather cooperates) – a chain of floats parades around Bay Lake with simple, light-up screens with colorful creatures like seahorses, dolphins, and crocodiles while playing music (you’ll recognize some of The Little Mermaid’s iconic soundtrack. The floats stop at the other Bay Lake resorts and the Magic Kingdom (the park doesn’t always get a show, so check the schedule) so you can catch it elsewhere too. The show is short – it’s really just a few minutes long – but it’s a nice little evening activity. Depending on the schedule, you can watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks right from the docks.

Back Trail Segway ride

Back Trail Segway tour at Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground

Photo courtesy Walt Disney World Resort

If you’ve ever wanted to ride a Segway, you can take an off-road tour on them at Fort Wilderness. Their fleet of Segways features rugged tires designed to handle more types of terrain than traditional ones (though any kind of Segway is super fun to ride) and you can explore Fort Wilderness on a two-hour Back Trail Adventure. Note that guests must be at least 16 and weigh between 100-250 pounds. Make sure you check the Fort Wilderness website for additional information and shoe requirements.

Tri-Circle-D Ranch

Horseback riding at Fort Wilderness at Disney World

Photo courtesy Walt Disney World Resort

If four-legged tours are more your thing, check out the Tri-Circle-D Ranch (If you don’t get the name, think about the famous character whose silhouette can be made by three circles.), which houses and cares for all of the horses at Disney World, including Cinderella’s ponies and the horses that work on Main Street. It’s also home to a horse-powered musical instrument that was originally purchased for Disneyland. Guests over the age of 9 can take 45-minute long guided horseback rides through the campground. Younger guests can take pony rides. If you’re not confident on horseback, try an evening wagon ride, horse-drawn carriage ride, or sleigh ride (offered seasonally). Check out all of the options here.

Recreational Rentals

Fort Wilderness also offers a variety of rentals, from bikes to boats. My favorites are the Sea Raycers, little speedboats that seat two guests and zip around Bay Lake. You can also rent larger pontoon boats, kayaks, and canoes. Bike rentals include child (with or without training wheels), adult, and surrey bikes.

Other recreation

Deer along the paved walking trail at Fort Wilderness

Other recreation options include two arcades, playgrounds, basketball and volleyball courts, archery, and a paved trail that wraps around Bay Lake to the Wilderness Lodge. I used to roller blade that trail a lot when I was a Cast Member and there were almost always deer right along the pathway. There are also two trading posts – one at the Settlement and one at the Meadows – and a beautiful front lobby.

Dining at Fort Wilderness

Sure, you can always cook at your campsite, but if that’s not your thing, there are plenty of great options for dining at Fort Wilderness. There are two different dinner shows available, plus a buffet, bar, quick service carryout, and food truck for you to pick from, so you won’t go hungry during your stay.

Hoop Dee Doo Revue

Cancan dancer at the Hoop Dee Doo Revue at Fort Wilderness

This is me, fulfilling a lifelong dream of getting picked to be the cancan dancer at the end of the show.

The Hoop Dee Doo Revue is one of my favorite things to do on property. It’s full of cheesy humor and stars one of my childhood crushes, Jim Handy. I’ve seen it enough times that I could probably fill in as an emergency understudy if one of the Cast Members fell ill during the performance. Why is it under the dining category? Well, it’s a dinner show so you get a hearty meal with your entertainment. You start off with some of the most amazing cornbread I’ve ever had and it only gets better from there. Buckets of ribs, fried chicken, beans, veggies, and strawberry shortcake (the dessert gets its own dance number, so if you were wondering why I love this show so much, that’s part of it). Grown-ups even get sangria and beer included – and if your group is big enough, they’ll bring it to you by the pitcher.

The Hoop Dee Doo is performed three times a night at Pioneer Hall in the Settlement area, and you’ll definitely want reservations, and unlike most Disney World dining reservations, this one requires pre-payment. Click here for the booking website. There are three categories of seating, though the difference between Category 1 and Category 3 is less than $10 and the quality of the view is way better in Category 1, so I’d pay the extra few bucks to sit closer to the stage. The dining plan can be used for it, but it requires two sit-down credits.

Mickey’s Backyard BBQ

This country picnic takes place in an open-air pavilion and gives you a chance to sing along to a good old-fashioned hoedown with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Chip, and Dale. It’s accompanied by a feast of ribs, chicken, corn on the cob, mac & cheese, and more. Tickets for Mickey’s Backyard BBQ also require pre-payment, and you’ll definitely want to make reservations in advance. This dinner is only offered a few nights a week, so make sure to check your dates before making plans. You can use the dining plan for it, but it takes two sit-down credits. Click here for the booking site.

Trail’s End Restaurant

If you’re looking for dining at Fort Wilderness without all the hoopla, try the hidden gem buffet located at the Settlement along Bay Lake. It serves breakfast and dinner daily and does a weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Their breakfast buffet is heavenly, and with its location right by the boat docks leading to the Magic Kingdom, it’s a perfect pre-park meal. Reservations and menus can be found here.

Easter at Fort Wilderness

We spent Easter at Fort Wilderness too. Also, we’re dropping our new single next month.

P&J’s Southern Takeout

If you’re looking for a lighter (or faster) breakfast at Fort Wilderness, try this quick-service takeout option located in the same Settlement building as Trail’s End. You can get quick breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for those days when you’re on the go. Hours and menus can be found here.

Crockett’s Tavern

Crockett’s Tavern shares the same building as Trail’s End, but it has a much smaller menu (think appetizers) and offers a full bar. They used to serve up some amazing pizza, but that’s in the past. Hours and menu can be found here.

Meadow Snack Bar

This quicks-service spot at the Meadow pool serves up sandwiches, pizza, and salad. It’s your standard Disney quick-service food, but it’s handy for pool time lunches. It doesn’t serve breakfast, but you can get lunch and dinner here. Hours and menu can be found here.

The Chuck Wagon

Food trucks are everywhere these days, and you can even find one at Fort Wilderness. Serving up sandwiches, snacks, desserts, and moonshine, you can grab a quick dinner on the run here. Menus and more information can be found here.

Camping at Disney World's Fort Wilderness Resort in the '90s

This is our camper (and my brother) circa 1994.

How to make Fort Wilderness reservations

You can book campsites and cabins at Fort Wilderness on the official Disney World website (UK link here). You should also check Undercover Tourist as they occasionally offer discounts on Fort Wilderness cabin rentals. You can also get discounted park tickets there (They’re an official partner so the tickets are legit and I saved $40 on mine for my most recent trip), and I’ve used them for my last several trips (boy do I miss getting free admission as a Cast Member).

Getting to and from Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness is part of the Magic Kingdom resort area, so if you’re driving, you should follow the signs for that area and then look out for the one pointing you toward the campground. At the entry gate, you’ll tell security that you’re checking in. Only cars belonging to registered guests are allowed into the campground, so if you’re only visiting for a meal or dinner show, you’ll have to rely on the special buses that run throughout the campground. Magical Express is also available for Fort Wilderness.

Fort Wilderness can be accessed by Disney’s regular bus service. Buses will drop you off at either the entrance or the settlement, and you can hop an internal Fort Wilderness bus route from there. Boats run regularly to the Magic Kingdom from the Settlement Outpost.

Kids camping at Fort Wilderness

Things to pack for camping at Disney World

(Other than that awesome Daisy hat I’m rocking in the picture above, of course.) You can check out my full camping packing list, but here are a few essentials for camping at Fort Wilderness:

  • Reflective blankets: Our old camper didn’t have air conditioning and it gets super hot in Florida. We used these to cover the cloth bunk ends and reflect some of the sunlight. The temperature difference inside was dramatic and these are great for either tents or pop-ups.
  • Bug spray: Fort Wilderness is wooded and lush so naturally it’s a breeding ground for mosquitos. As much as I love the place, all of my fond childhood memories also involve mosquito bites. Protect yourself with some bug spray.
  • Tent: If you’re packing a tent, I’d recommend a nice Coleman one. This type has dark panels that block some of the sunlight so you can sleep in a little if you want to and stay a bit cooler.
  • Towels: Unlike hotels, you have to provide your own towels if you’re camping. Even if you’re not swimming, you’ll need them to shower. I like to get in the Disney spirit with themed towels. How pretty is this Mickey silhouette one?
  • Bathing suit: You’ll definitely want to hit the pool while you’re there. Do it in style with a Disney themed bathing suit. You can get kids’ bathing suits anywhere, but ones for adults are harder to find. This one is very subtle, but I’m a fan of going all out in this Little Mermaid one.
  • String lights: The campground is pretty well-lit overall, but we always travel with these to liven up our site. The mason jar style is perfect for Fort Wilderness.
  • Extension cord: Whether you’re in a tent or a camper, you’ll definitely have some electronics that you want to plug in. A hearty, all-weather extension cord like this is perfect.

Check out these other Disney posts with my insider tips from my time as a Cast Member:

Don’t forget to save this for later on Pinterest!

Fort Wilderness Campground is my favorite place to stay at Disney World. Camping at Disney World is unlike any other campground. With great dinner shows, easy transportation, all the perks of staying at Disney hotels, and a budget-friendly price, consider staying at Fort Wilderness for your next trip to Disney World.

Fort Wilderness Campground is my favorite place to stay at Disney World. Camping at Disney World is unlike any other campground. With great dinner shows, easy transportation, all the perks of staying at Disney hotels, and a budget-friendly price, consider staying at Fort Wilderness for your next trip to Disney World. Fort Wilderness Campground is my favorite place to stay at Disney World. Camping at Disney World is unlike any other campground. With great dinner shows, easy transportation, all the perks of staying at Disney hotels, and a budget-friendly price, consider staying at Fort Wilderness for your next trip to Disney World. Fort Wilderness Campground is my favorite place to stay at Disney World. Camping at Disney World is unlike any other campground. With great dinner shows, easy transportation, all the perks of staying at Disney hotels, and a budget-friendly price that allows you to save money at Disney World, consider staying at Fort Wilderness for your next trip to Disney World. Fort Wilderness Campground is my favorite place to stay at Disney World. Camping at Disney World is unlike any other campground. With great dinner shows, easy transportation, all the perks of staying at Disney hotels, and a budget-friendly price, consider staying at Fort Wilderness for your next trip to Disney World.
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About

Kris's suitcase never rests. She's either traveling the United States for business or exploring somewhere exciting and new for vacation. She's a former Disney World Cast Member and loves writing about Disney parks almost as much as visiting them.

16 Comments

  • Vicki Morton July 24, 2018 at 10:14 am Reply

    I miss seeing the armadillos and peacocks around. One of my favorite memories was of the crazy woodpecker who kept trying to pack his way into a metal fixture that was realistically designed to look like a tree! I, too, always felt like I was coming home when we arrived at the campground with the welcome sign with Mickey wearing a Davey Crockett-style coon-skin hat!

  • Mijia Eggers July 25, 2018 at 5:38 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing. it sounds nice. We are thinking about to camp in USA with our kid as well.

  • Meggan July 25, 2018 at 7:00 pm Reply

    I have been to Disney but we stayed at one of the All-Star resorts and much like you have in the early part of your blog – wait, you can go camping at Disney World? was one of my first thoughts! 🙂 It sounds more affordable yet it doesn’t lose the magic that is Disney World. I loved all of your old pictures and it really sounds like it holds a special place in your heart. I have a campground like that here in Nova Scotia – but it is not Disney! Thanks for sharing your memories and the information!

  • mayuri July 26, 2018 at 2:38 am Reply

    Looks like a amazing trip. I can see how happy you are when you visit this camp site! And you look soooo adorable as a kiddo (i didn’t even pay attention to your brother’s bottle)
    Thanks so sharing such amazing pictures from your childhood days

  • Aimee Horgan July 26, 2018 at 6:00 am Reply

    Wait a minute, you can camp at Disney World – I’m so out of the loop lol. I’ll have to bring my better half here as he’s always wanted to go to Disney World and he loves camping (the Fort Wilderness Cabins are more my style) . Anyways, this is such a detailed post I’m gonna have save and re-read when we get around to doing this. The photo of you with your family is so sweet, you all look so happy to be there.

  • Anna July 26, 2018 at 7:48 am Reply

    Camping and Disney are two of my favourite things!!! I’ve stayed in one of the resort hotels in Disneyland Paris before, but have always been too scared to go to Disney World because I thought it would be too expensive to stay. I clearly didn’t do enough research! I love the idea of staying in the log cabins, because I do prefer glamping when I can get it 😉

  • Monica July 26, 2018 at 11:46 am Reply

    Thank you for opening my eyes to something I had NO idea existed!! Going camping are some of my favourite childhood memories as well. I love that there are options to make it both affordable and memorable to visit Disney and to turn it into a multiple day adventure!

  • Nicky July 26, 2018 at 3:31 pm Reply

    Do you know what… it never would have occurred to me to camp at Disney. Thats a great idea to have some head space from the somewhat overwhelming theme parks and to get back to nature. Love it!

  • Tiffany July 26, 2018 at 7:00 pm Reply

    This is super cool, I had no idea that Disney had a campsite. Of course, they couldn’t just be a regular campsite, they have amenities like restaurants, sing-alongs, horseback riding. I love this post because its super informative and I learned something new today. I can’t wait to visit Disney World one day.

  • Soraya July 27, 2018 at 8:50 am Reply

    Sounds like an incredible fun place to stay while visiting Disney. I even love the fact that you’ve even come to visit and stay even without visiting Disney World. I can’t believe how huge this place is! 740 acres is an incredible size so I bet the atmosphere would be so great.

  • Sarah July 28, 2018 at 11:56 am Reply

    We love the cabins! It is one of our favorite places to stay on-property and great for large families. Love seeing all your photos!

  • Jessica July 28, 2018 at 3:57 pm Reply

    I had no idea you could camp there! Amazing!!

  • Yasmin July 28, 2018 at 6:45 pm Reply

    Disney truly is the most magical place on Earth right? 🙂 No idea you could camp there, definitely adds a new taking on glamping!

  • Clare July 29, 2018 at 2:22 am Reply

    This is really interesting as I always wondered what camping at Fort Wilderness is like. We will be going there for an afternoon on our Disney World trip in a couple of weeks and doing the Hoop Dee Doo Review, the campfire and hoping to catch the water pageant too.

  • Lydia August 1, 2018 at 8:50 am Reply

    This is the first time I am reading that Disney has a campsite and that it is possible to do that there. You definitely had a blast and a completely unique experience. I am adding Fort Wilderness to my bucket list. When is the best time of the year for camping there?

    • Kris August 1, 2018 at 9:11 am Reply

      I love it in the winter – especially at Christmas time – because the weather is a bit cooler and the campsites are decorated like crazy for the holidays.

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