Ft. Wilderness Archives

August 19, 2013

Lawn Mower Tree - Fort Wilderness

Jack Spence is on a leave of absence until 2014. This is a reprint of a blog he wrote several years ago. This blog originally ran in 2007 and was accurate at the time of publication.

For those of you not familiar with the "Lawnmower Tree" it's an interesting oddity located at the Fort Wilderness Campground. It seems that years before Walt Disney World opened, someone leaned an old, push-style lawnmower against a tree and left it there. Over the years, the tree slowly grew around it. When the campground was being developed, the Disney Imagineers noticed this lawnmower half encased in a tree, thought it was interesting, and eventually put up a small sign to highlight this curiosity.

Lawn mowertree at Fort Wilderness

I've been visiting Walt Disney World since 1972 and on each visit have watched the slow disappearance of the lawnmower as the bark continues to in case it. Currently, only a very small part of the blades are still visible at the base of the tree. But I have sad news"¦ For reason I do not know, most of the upper half of the tree has been cut off. Now, only about twelve feet of the trunk remains. Since the tree is now dead, the lawnmower's slow disappearance has been halted.

February 25, 2013

A Carriage Ride through Fort Wilderness

Jack Spence Masthead

Before I start today's article, I would like to fill you in on some things that are happening in my personal life.

Don't worry. I'm not leaving AllEars.


I have decided to downsize from a rather large home to something much more manageable. I have had my house on the market for a short while and it will close escrow next week. I am currently in the process of packing for a move into an apartment while I have a new home built five minutes from Disney World's back door.

After today's blog, I will be running repeats for several weeks until I get settled into my temporary quarters. Once that first move is complete, I will have plenty of time to devote to AllEars and new articles. When my new house is finished in August, I plan on taking two months off from AllEars so I can move in and get settled. Once again, I will post reruns during my absence.

I am extremely excited about this move - and I'm extremely stressed out. LOL. But I'm certain that once the dust settles, life will be even better than before. And I'm going to love living so close to Disney.

By the way, you can clearly see the Magic Kingdom fireworks from my new neighborhood.

I'd also like to share an interesting story with you"¦

I started working at Disneyland in 1971. Over the next several years, I worked my way up to "lead" of the Blue Bayou Restaurant. During this time, I got to know a lot of cast members in New Orleans Square. One of these was a guy named Bob who worked at the nearby Café Orleans.

In 1977, I was asked to transfer to the Club 33 as lead/ maître d'hôtel.

At the same time, Bob was promoted from busboy at Café Orleans to lead at the Blue Bayou. In other words, he was backfilling behind me.

After I left Disneyland in 1980, I lost track of Bob.

Fast-forward to 2013. Bob is buying my house.

It's a small world after all.

Now, on to today's article

I know it is hard to believe for some of you, but I haven't experience EVERYTHING at Walt Disney World. I've done a lot, but not everything. One of the activities that has been on my bucket list for a long time, but I keep putting off, has been a carriage ride through Fort Wilderness. Every time I visit the Settlement for dinner at Trails End or the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review, I see the horse and buggy parked nearby, beckoning me. Well, I finally decided to stop putting it off and go for it.

Horse and Carriage

A carriage ride is offered at a flat fee of $45 no matter how many people ride. The capacity is four adults or two adults and three small children. The first ride leaves the Settlement at 5:30pm. The ride's duration is approximately 25 minutes.

Price Guide

Advance reservations can be made by calling 407-WDW-PLAY. Same day reservations can be made by calling 407- 824-2832. When making a reservation, $45 will be placed on your credit card. However, it will not be charged to your card unless you are a no-show.

Walk-ups are also available if no one has booked the carriage in advance. Note, the only form of payment accepted is cash or a Disney room charge. Even if you've secured the reservation with a credit card, you still will be required to pay cash or use a room charge at the end of your ride.

I was surprised when I crawled into the carriage to find a sign that not only discourages tipping the driver, but actually forbids it completely.

No Tipping

My hostess for the evening was Laurie Lynn. She is the primary driver of the carriages and transports guests around the campground five nights a week. So chances are good if you book a tour, this congenial cast member will be your guide. Laurie Lynn has been tending the reins here for 13 years.

Laurie Lynn and Tom

Before beginning our journey, Laurie Lynn made sure our horse Tom got a good drink of water.

Thirsty Horse

The carriage is quite handsome. Painted maroon, this vehicle features two tan leather seats for guests. One seat faces forward, the other backward. Brass carriage lamps adorn the sides of the carriage. A leather canopy shades the riders.


Jack in Carriage

My journey began across from Crockett's Tavern. As I passed beside this wilderness watering hole, the folks sitting on the porch all took notice.

Crockett's Tavern

Crockett's Tavern

As we continued riding through the Settlement, guests continued to gawk and stare as we drove by.


After leaving the Trading Post, we turned left and headed into the woods. Nature was all around us. The only sounds we could hear was the clip clop of the horse's hooves and the occasional bird chip. I felt miles away from everything.

Riding in Nature

Riding in Nature

Riding in Nature

Riding in Nature

Riding in Nature

Laurie Lynn warned me that we might encounter some wildlife. And sure enough, we spotted deer grazing across a canal.

Grazing Deer

Grazing Deer

After about 15 minutes of riding through nature, we turned into one of the camping loops. Once again, heads turned as we drove by. In addition, ol' Tom piqued the curiosity of more than one campsite dog.

Riding in the Camping Loop

Riding in the Camping Loop



Eventually, we turned onto the main road running through the campground for our return to the Settlement. As we plodded along, it felt a little intimidating when a bus passed us going the other way.

Return Home

Passing Bus

Laurie Lynn told me that the route she takes changes from ride to ride. Much of it depends on her mood, the weather, and the guests.

I enjoyed the carriage ride - and I'd do it again. For most folk, this isn't something they can do back home so it's nice to take advantage of the opportunity when you can.

I purposely booked my ride for 5:30 as I wanted it to be light out while touring. But the carriage ride takes place after nightfall for a more romantic experience.

Disney also offers a 45 minute wagon ride through the campground. The price is $8 for adults and $5 for children. The price is cheaper because you ride with a group of people rather than enjoying your own, private carriage. I have yet to experience a wagon ride, but after my positive experience with the carriage, I might be tempted to do so.

I have created a three and a half minute video of my experience. I hope you enjoy the ride.

March 20, 2012

Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground - Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead

Yesterday I discussed the various campsites and cabins at Fort Wilderness and the transportation options. Today I'm going to talk about the many opportunities for adventure found at the campground.

Most people who visit Walt Disney World focus their attention on visiting the theme parks. But when you stay at Fort Wilderness, you have a slightly different attitude. Yes, the parks are terrific and cannot be ignored. But the campground offers a host of low-tech activities that also command your attention. Let's start at The Outpost.

For those of you with a hankerin' to ride a horse, head over to Trail Blaze Corral (Tri-Circle-D Ranch - The Outpost). Offered several times a day, these rides last about 45 minutes and offer a leisurely walk through the pine forests of Fort Wilderness. All tours have two guides, one who leads the way and another to bring up the rear. If you're an experienced rider, you'll probably be bored with this tour. But if you're a city-slicker with limited opportunities to be around horses, then this adventure will be right up your alley. Riders must be at least 9 years old and 48 inches tall and can weigh no more than 250 pounds. To make advanced reservations, call (407) WDW-PLAY (939-7528). Reservations can be made up to 30 days in advance. To make same-day reservations, call 407-824-2832 or touch 57 on your in-room phone.

Tri-Circle-D Rance -- The Outpost

Horseback Riding

The Meadow offers the widest array of activities for outdoor fun. But before we start with the goings-on, let's take a look at the Meadow Trading Post. This spot sells the usual collection of Disney souvenirs, but there are also a few Fort Wilderness exclusive pieces that cannot be found outside the campground. In addition, the store sells a reasonable selection of food stuffs to help accent the groceries you brought with you. Free WIFI is also available in and around this shop. Removable propane tanks can also be refilled here. Packages being delivered from the parks will be dropped off at the Meadow Trading Post for you to pick up at a later time. The Meadow Trading Post is open from 8am to 10pm.

The Meadow Trading Post

The Meadow Trading Post

The Meadow Trading Post

As you might imagine, bicycles can be rented at the Bike Barn. However, other equipment can also be obtained here. Canoes, kayaks, rods & reels (and bait), shuffleboard equipment, tennis rackets, and other sports paraphernalia are available from 9am to 7pm. Note, fishing is on a "catch and release" basis.

The Bike Barn





Paddling the waterways of Fort Wilderness is the perfect way to while away an hour. One of the canals makes a circle in and about the campsites and unspoiled woods. It takes about 30-45 minutes to complete the journey and along the way you'll see a varied assortment of wildlife. You might also recognize one of the bridges that the old Fort Wilderness Railroad once traversed.


Fort Wilderness Railroad Bridge

Water Fowl

Water Fowl

Wilderness Back Trail Adventure offers guests a chance to experience a Segway X2 Personal Transporter. This is an off-road tour that winds its way around the campground with a side trip to the Wilderness Lodge and back. The event lasts two hours including training. For reservations call 407-939-8687. Groups meet at the Bike Barn.


Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Disney offers the Fort Wilderness Archery Experience. At this activity, instructors conduct a short training session, teaching guests how to hold and fire a compound bow and arrow. When target practice begins, the trainers will offer tips and techniques on how to better hit that coveted bull's-eye. The session lasts one and a half hours.


Near the Bike Barn is Meadow Swimmin' Pool. Open 7am to 12 midnight, this pool is the perfect spot to cool down with a dip during the hot Florida summer. Numerous lounge chairs are available for you to sunbathe (don't forget your sunscreen) as are tables for games and conversation. Lifeguard hours vary. Check the posted sign for current times.

Meadow Swimmin' Pool

Meadow Swimmin' Pool

In an effort to pay homage to past Fort Wilderness attractions, the Imagineers designed the water slide at Meadow Swimmin' Pool with something special. The large barrel that anchors the slide used to welcome guests arriving at River Country. In addition, the Imagineers have repainted the barrel to sport the logo from the old Fort Wilderness Railroad.

Meadow Swimmin' Pool Slide

River Country Entrance

Fort Wilderness Railroad Logo

One of the best kiddie pools at Walt Disney World can be found at the Meadow Swimmin' Pool. Two slides, water spouts, geysers, cascading buckets, and more entertain those too young to venture into deeper waters.

Meadow Swimmin' Pool Kiddie Pool

Hungry? Meadow Snack Bar offers hotdogs, flatbreads, salads, and sandwiches. Soft drinks, beer, and a limited selection of cocktails will help quench your thirst. A number of picnic tables are nearby. This spot is open for lunch only.

Meadow Snack Bar

Next to the snack bar is Daniel Boone's Wilderness Arcade. Open daily from 7:30am to 10pm, this is the spot to put your hand/eye coordination to the test with electronic wizardry.

Daniel Boone's Wilderness Arcade

Daniel Boone's Wilderness Arcade

Also in The Meadow area is Chip & Dale's Campfire Sing-A-Long. This is a Fort Wilderness tradition and a must-attend for families with little ones.

Chip & Dale's Campfire Sing-A-Long

Each evening around dusk, a campfire is started. At the nearby chuck wagon, marshmallows and hotdogs can be purchased for roasting over the open fire. Even S'mores kits are for sale. It's a hoot to watch the young'uns attempt to roast their marshmallows without setting them ablaze.

Chuck Wagon

Chuck Wagon


As the evening's guests begin to settle in, a singing cowboy, joined by Chip & Dale, take the stage and encourage the audience to join them in song. Old standards like "Home on the Range" and "She'll be Comin' Round the Mountain" are the songs du jour. These are melodies that everyone knows the words and can easily join in. Even the "Hokey Pokey" is performed with participants putting their left leg in and their left leg out. There is nothing sophisticated about this sing-a-long.

Singing Cowboy and Chip & Dale

When the melodies come to an end, the movie begins. Each evening, a different Disney classic film is shown under the stars. Check the campground information guides for times and movies.

I do need to warn you, the log benches leave a lot to be desired when it comes to comfort. The evening I attended, one seasoned couple brought their own folding chairs.

Movie Screen

The Meadow is a great recreational area. I've tried to discuss most of the activities, but I know I've forgotten a few. In my opinion, The Meadow is the heart of Fort Wilderness.

Now let's move north to The Settlement. The Settlement lies on the banks of Bay Lake and this is where guests can catch boats to Wilderness Lodge, the Contemporary Resort, and the Magic Kingdom.

Boat to Wilderness Lodge and Contemporary Resort

Boat to the Magic Kingdom

Boat Direction Sign

Near the boat dock is the Fort Marina Recreation and Boat Rentals. Here you can rent one of the speedy Sea Racers or a more leisurely pontoon boat. This is also the spot where you can arrange for a two hour fishing trip out on Bay Lake. An experienced guide and fishing equipment are included in the package so all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the experience.

Marina Recreation and Boat Rentals

Sea Racers

Poontoon Boats

On the white sandy beach are dozens of lounge chairs, tetherball poles, and volleyball nets. This is a great spot to relax in the shade of the nearby trees or bask in the sun. Note, swimming is not allowed in Bay Lake.

Sandy Beach and Volleyball


A short walk from the beach is a Fort Wilderness oddity, the Lawnmower Tree. Discovered here when Disney bought the property is an old push-style lawn mower that was left leaning against a tree. As the years passed, the tree began to grow around the equipment. In the early years of Fort Wilderness, the lawnmower was easy to see. But as time marched on, more and more of the metal was obscured by the growing tree. A few years ago, Disney cut most of the tree down. I don't know if this was because the tree was diseased or if this was an effort to stop the eventual total consumption of the lawnmower. But the remains of the tree and lawnmower are still on view today.

Lawnmower Tree

Lawnmower Tree

Near the Lawnmower Tree is the Settlement Trading Post. Like its sister store located at The Meadow, this spot sells Disney souvenirs, Fort Wilderness exclusive merchandise, and groceries.

Settlement Trading Post

I have never attended Mickey's Backyard BBQ Dinner Show, so I cannot offer any firsthand information, but here's what Disney says:

Mickey's Backyard BBQ Dinner Show is an all-you-care-to-eat Disney Character dance party with live entertainment. Frolic with Mickey, Minnie and Friends at this neighborly outdoor picnic in the middle of the covered, open-air Pavilion at Fort Wilderness. With foot-stomping music from a country-western band, line dancing, rope tricks and kid-friendly fun, you won't sit still for a second. Little ones can even dance a jig with their favorite Disney Characters on the dance floor! Enjoy a delectable buffet featuring all your beloved country vittles: barbeque smoked ribs, smoked chicken, hamburgers, hotdogs with all the trimmings, corn on the cob, watermelon and more. It's a mouth-watering, knee-slapping good time!

Mickey's Backyard BBQ

Mickey's Backyard BBQ

Mickey's Backyard BBQ

Pioneer Hall offers three treats: Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review, Trail's End/Crockett's Tavern, and Rocking Chairs.

Pioneer Hall

Let's start with the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review. For me, this is one of the best experiences to be had at Walt Disney World. I absolutely love this show. Every time I see it, tears run down my cheeks I laugh so hard at the corny jokes. This show offers something for everyone. However, since I've written an entire blog on this subject, I'm not going to go into detail here. To read my complete review, click here.

I do want to mention, the title song, "Hoop-Dee-Doo Polka" has been replaced by a new number. From what I understand, Disney did not have the rights to use the song and a replacement was needed.

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review

Trail's End offers a buffet breakfast and dinner and menu-service at lunch. At one time, lunch was also a buffet, but this eatery is so sparsely attended mid-day that Disney found it financially impractical to maintain the buffet at this time.

I like Trail's End, especially at dinner. The buffet offers a decent salad bar including peel-your-own shrimp. For entrees there are fried chicken, BBQ ribs, pulled pork, a nightly carving item, fish, several vegetables, potatoes, and great chili. Dessert includes soft-serve ice cream, cobbler, cake, cookies, and pecan pie.

There is nothing fancy about Trail's End. The surroundings are rustic and the food uncomplicated. But everything tastes great and the service is friendly. I highly recommend this spot for your evening meal.

Trail's End

Trail's End

Trail's End

I saved the best for last - rocking chairs. Lining the porch of Pioneer Hall is a number of rocking chairs. For me, sitting here and enjoying the atmosphere is a fantastic experience. Once, I literally sat here for over an hour with my brother and sister-in-law who were vacationing from California. This was the perfect spot to reconnect after a long time between visits. Crockett's Tavern offers nearby window service in the afternoon/evening so a refreshing beverage is also close at hand while rocking away the hours.

Rocking Chairs

Crockett's Tavern

In the evening, 45 minute Wagon Rides are offered which take you on a leisurely jaunt through Fort Wilderness. And if you're in the mood for something a little more romantic, private Carriage Rides are also available.

Wagon Rides

Private Carriage Rides

Have you ever wondered where the horses that pull the trolleys on Main Street go when their shift is over? Well, they live at Tri-Circle-D Farm & Ranch (The Settlement). By the way, have you noticed the "tri-circle" creates Mickey Mouse?

Tri-Circle-D Farm & Ranch

A large barn, which is open to guests, can be visited during the day and you can have a peek at the living conditions these four-legged cast members are provided.




Horse Name Tag

Outside the barn you'll often find the white Shetland ponies that are used to pull Cinderella's glass coach for weddings and parades. The ponies are also available for rides for the younger set. Children must be at least 2 years old, weigh less than 80 pounds, be under 48" and led by an adult around the small course.

Shetland Pony

Pony Rides

Also at the ranch is a real blacksmith. This is one of the rarer cast member designations. If you time your visit right, you can see him shoeing a horse or fixing a wagon wheel.


I said earlier that I'm a champagne and caviar type of guy. Yet, I still love Fort Wilderness Campground. This is a wonderful spot that seems miles away from the hectic theme parks. I love to walk the sidewalks and trails here and inhale the rich scent of pine. This area clears the cobwebs out of my brain.

I have tried to touch on the highlights of this wonderful resort, but there is no way I could adequately describe all the activities there are to enjoy here. And remember, with the exception of the swimming pools, the rest of these offerings are open to everyone. Just because you're staying at the Grand Floridian doesn't mean you can't come over to Fort Wilderness for some archery or bike riding or a meal at Trail's End. So on your next trip to WDW, take the time and spend an afternoon poking around this wonderful retreat. You'll be glad you did.

For a more detailed look at Fort Wilderness, check out the AllEars Fact Sheet.

As always, I have created a video highlighting the various activities found at Fort Wilderness Campground. Enjoy.

March 19, 2012

Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground - Part 1

Jack Spence Masthead

Fort Wilderness Logo

I have written several blogs touching on the various activities found at the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, but two recent events have prompted me to revisit this resort in-depth. First, I stayed in one of the cabins for the first time. And second, while I was there, I created a comprehensive video of this sprawling campground. So here goes, a look at one of the best loved spots at Walt Disney World that has perhaps the most loyal following of any resort.

One of the first things I notice whenever I visit Fort Wilderness is that the other guests staying here are extremely outgoing. Everywhere I wander, people say "hello" to me when I pass them on a sidewalk or while I'm browsing at one of the two trading posts. There is just something about this place that makes people friendlier. I'm normally a "keep to myself" kinda guy, but this sociable attitude is infectious and in no time at all, I'm initiating the greetings. If you've visited here before, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't ventured to this portion of Walt Disney World yet, you're in for a treat.

Fort Wilderness officially opened on November 19, 1971. It has grown over the years and currently covers over 700 acres with 409 Wilderness Cabins and 784 campsites designed to accommodate tents and recreational vehicles. The name "Fort Wilderness" came from the fort found on Tom Sawyer Island located at Disneyland.

Fort Wilderness has three distinct areas, The Outpost, The Meadow, and The Settlement. Campers arrive at The Outpost via Vista Boulevard. Like all Disney resorts, a large sign welcomes guests to the property. Those driving RVs proceed to a special "drive-thru" check-in counter. Visitors staying in a cabin should park their vehicle and check-in at the Reception Outpost. Guests staying in tents may use either check-in spot. The Reception Outpost was constructed out of pine logs imported from Montana.

Fort Wilderness Sign

RV Check-In

Cabin Check-In

After finishing the required paperwork, the receptionist will give you a map and driving directions to your campsite or cabin.

There is limited automobile parking at The Outpost and none at The Meadow and The Settlement. Guests who wish to take advantage of the various activities available at Fort Wilderness should walk, bicycle, use the internal bus system, or use an electric cart. Electric carts can be rented at Reception Outpost and cart and bicycle parking is available at all three areas of the campground. If you do rent an electric cart or bring your own, be sure to read the "Rules & Regulations" guide given to all guests at check-in. Electric carts can be reserved in advance by calling 407-824-2742. Drivers must be at least 16 years old with a valid driver's license.

FW Map

Walking at FW

Bicycling at FW

Buses at FW

Electric Cart

If you don't have a bike or electric cart, you will probably be using the internal bus system within the campground. Three routes navigate the 700 acres and take guests to the various loops, The Outpost, The Meadow and The Settlement. The routes are designated by color -- Orange, Yellow, and Purple. All bus stops have maps with easy-to-read indicators. Like all Disney buses, the ones at the campground are clean and reasonably efficient. However, some people dislike the fact that in order to go to any theme park or Downtown Disney, you must first take a campground bus then transfer to another bus or boat. This can easily add 15 to 20 minutes to your journey.

Buses at FW

Buses at FW

FW Bus Stop

The designers of the campground did their very best to disturb as few trees as possible when creating Fort Wilderness. This area is a surprise to most first-time visitors. They have no idea that such a peaceful spot exists on property. Groves of pine and cypress surround the campsites and roadways. Combine this with numerous canals and grassy knolls and you have the perfect spot to pitch a tent or park your RV. Fort Wilderness Campground consistently receives AAA's Level 3 rating (their top) and Trailer Life Magazine awarded this property with a 10/10/10 rating, the highest possible.

The campground is divided into 28 loops. Some of these loops are designated for cabins, some for RVs, and some for campers and tents. Most sites are separated from one another with a barrier of bushes and trees, adding a secluded nature to the area.

The loops for RVs have concrete pads ranging in size from 25 feet to 60 feet deep and widths of up to 25 feet. Those intended for tents have a concrete pad for your car and a sandy patch in which to set up camp. All sites have electricity (120/220 volts), city water, charcoal grill, picnic table, and cable TV hookup. All but 90 sites offer full sewer hook-ups. The ones that don't are intended for tent campers. Check-in time for campsites is 1pm and check-out at 11am.

RV Loop

RV Parking

RV Parking

Tent Campsite

Tent Campsite

There are a number of comfort stations located around the campground. These are clean facilities that offer toilets, showers, laundry facilities, ice, and campground information. I was especially impressed with the showers. Each shower is individual with its own, private dressing room. Unfortunately, I could not get an adequate picture of the shower and dressing room to share with you here.

Comfort Station

Comfort Station

Laundry Room

Campground Information

Ice Machine

The campers at Fort Wilderness love to decorate their campsites. Christmastime is especially festive with strings of multicolored lights and holiday adornments. However, Christmas isn't the only time campers pull out all the stops. Take a look.

Campsite Decorations

Campsite Decorations

Campsite Decorations

Campsite Decorations

Campsite Decorations

Pets are welcome at several of the loops at Fort Wilderness. When making your reservations, make sure to let the cast member know you will be bringing your animal family with you. While enjoying the campground, pets must remain on a leash. However, Waggin' Trails Dog Park offers a wonderful, fenced-in grassy field where you can let Rover run free with other vacationing K9s. The dog park is located next to the playground at loop 300. A number of signs point the way so you can easily find this doggie retreat from anywhere within the campground.

Sign to Dog Park

Dog Park Rules

Waggin' Trails Dog Park

For those of you who like the idea of spending some time communing with nature, but have neither an RV, camper, or tent, Disney offers the Wilderness Cabins. Introduced in 1997, these "cabins" are actually modular homes that have been given a rustic feel both inside and out. The exterior of the cabins is covered in real timbers. A deck, complete with picnic table, is accessible from both the living room and bedroom. A charcoal grill is just a few feet away. Note, there is only room for one car.

Wilderness Cabin

Cabin Porch


An extensive use of wood is applied to the interior of the cabins. Combine this with country furniture, "lantern" style lighting, and Native American rugs and bedspreads, and you've got yourself a real rustic retreat.

The cabins measure a little over 500 square feet and can sleep six, four in the bedroom (one double bed and twin bunk beds) and two on the Murphy bed in the living room.

The living room has a loveseat (that will comfortably seat two adults), a coffee table/ottoman, and a children's table and two small chairs.

The dining area features an oval table with a bench seat and three full-sized chairs.

The kitchen has a stove/oven, microwave, full-sized refrigerator, dishwasher, and a double sink. The kitchen is fully stocked with cooking utensils, pots and pans, dishes, and flatware.

The bathroom has a combination shower/tub, a sink, and toilet.

In the two closets are a vacuum cleaner, iron and board, collapsible crib, safe, stepladder, and broom.

There are two TVs, one in the living room (with DVD player) and one in the bedroom.

High-speed internet connections are available for a fee. WIFI is not available in the cabins. I do not know if Disney plans to add it in the future.

Cabin Floorplan

Pictures of the Living Room:

Cabin Living Room

Cabin Living Room

Cabin Living Room

Cabin Living Room

Cabin Living Room

Pictures of the Dining Area:

Cabin Dining Room

Cabin Dining Room

Cabin Dining Room

Cabin Dining Room

Pictures of the Kitchen:

Cabin Kitchen

Cabin Kitchen

Cabin Kitchen

Cabin Kitchen

Cabin Kitchen

Pictures of the Bathroom:

Cabin Bathroom

Cabin Bathroom

Cabin Bathroom

Pictures of the Bedroom:

Cabin Bedroom

in Bedroom

in Bedroom

Things I like about the Wilderness Cabins:

The cabins are located at Fort Wilderness. This is fantastic! If you're not a camper, but still want to experience the rustic appeal of this wonderful portion of Walt Disney World, the cabins are the way to go.

The kitchens and bathrooms have recently been refurbished.

The kitchens are well appointed. Just about anything you'd need to prepare a meal is here.

The Murphy bed is far easier to open and close than the convertible sofas found elsewhere on property. Since the beds use cables to counterbalance their movement, even a person with limited strength can effortlessly operate them.

What I don't like about the Wilderness Cabins:

The cabins are advertised as "sleeps six." I would not like to put this to the test. In the bedroom, the double bed is pushed up against the wall. If the inner sleeper needs to get up in the middle of the night, they must disturb their companion. The same is true of the Murphy bed. One side of the bed is a mere six inches from the couch when open. It is impossible to enter or exit the bed from this side.

The bathroom only has one sink. If six people were really using this cabin, two basins would be most useful.

The living room only has seating for two adults. Others must sit on the less than comfortable dining table chairs to watch TV.

Although the kitchen and bathroom have been recently refurbished, the rest of the cabin has a dingy feel about it. I realize it's supposed to feel rustic, but the rooms at the Wilderness Lodge accomplish this with a cleaner feel.

I'm hoping this last complaint is just a misfortunate oversight rather than being indicative of the overall housekeeping provided at the cabins. During my stay, I found a number of items that should have been attended to before I arrived.

A can of beer was left in the refrigerator.
Empty bags were found in a kitchen cabinet.
The top of the refrigerator was very dusty.
A dead and dried lizard was found lying in the middle of a counter.

Would I stay at the Wilderness Cabins again?

Probably not. If I want the "home-away-from-home" feel a separate bedroom and kitchen provide, I would rent one of the DVCs found at other resorts around property. However, I'm a champagne and caviar type of guy. I've never really been into camping. I'm sure others love these rustic cabins and can't imagine staying anyplace else.

I have created of video of the Fort Wilderness Cabins. This should give you a good idea of what they offer.

That's it for Part One. Check back tomorrow when I discuss the many activities that can be found at Fort Wilderness.

October 4, 2010

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue

Whenever I have out-of-town friends or family visiting Disney World for the first time, I insist they spend one evening at Pioneer Hall at Fort Wilderness and see the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. For me, this show epitomizes what Disney is all about. It's good ol' family entertainment at its best. Young children, teenagers, parents, and grandparents all find this show extremely entertaining. Even the crankiest curmudgeon will find something to smile about at this extravaganza. It's a hoot!

During the first few years of Disney World's existence, there wasn't much to do after the Magic Kingdom closed (as early as 6pm during the slower seasons). People could attend the luau show at the Polynesian or see a name entertainer at the Contemporary. There was also a lame "midnight" cruise sailing around Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake (with nothing to see along the way). And of course, the Electric Water Pageant could be enjoyed as it floated by. But other than these few entertainment options, it was boring after the sun set during the fall and winter months. Disney realized early on that they needed more nighttime activities to keep their guests happy.

Although the Contemporary and Polynesian hotels had a number of restaurants when Disney World opened, Fort Wilderness had none. Since campers wanted options other than BBQ and campfires, Trail's End Restaurant (a cafeteria style eatery) found its way to the Imagineer's drawing boards early on. Plans also called for a large auditorium/theater (Pioneer Hall) to be located adjacent to Trail's Inn. The original thought was that diners could bring their food into this room and watch nature films and hear guest lecturers. After much consideration, it was realized that most guests would find this type of entertainment boring and new ideas were pondered. It was eventually decided that a live show, with a separate ticket price, would be staged at Pioneer Hall.

During the first several months of operation, a number of different acts performed at Pioneer Hall. At the same time, a new show was being developed by Robert F. Jani, and co-written by Tom Adair, Paul Suter and Larry Billman. On June 29, 1974, the temporary acts were replaced with the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue starring student actors from CalArts, a school created by Walt Disney in the early 1960s. For the next ten weeks, this band of three men and three women entertained guests with corny jokes, sappy songs, and unbridled enthusiasm. The show was an immediate success and the decision was made to make this theatrical a permanent fixture at Pioneer Hall. A cast of professional actors were auditioned and hired and they took over the roles on September 5, 1974. This show has remained virtually unchanged since its opening 36 years ago and has been performed over 35,000 times to more than 10 million guests.

For those of you who have never experienced this rip-snortin' good time, this is a dinner show with lots of interaction between the actors, serving staff, and guests. There is nothing sophisticated about this evening. It's just silly fun and good eats. This show is so popular that it's presented three times a night, 5pm, 7:15pm, and 9:30pm. Reservations are an absolute must and I'll discuss the details at the end of this article.

Guests are asked to arrive 30-40 minutes prior to the show so they can pick up their tickets at the nearby Guest Services window. For those of you staying at a Walt Disney World resort, tickets can also be picked up at your hotel's concierge desk.

Pioneer Hall

Tickey Window

Arriving 30 minutes before the show should not be looked upon as a negative, but rather a treat. Fort Wilderness is one of the most magical places at Walt Disney World and there is plenty to do while waiting to be seated.

First, there is shopping. The Trading Post offers the typical array of Disney souvenirs and a handful of Fort Wilderness specific merchandise.

Trading Post

For the kids, there are nearby jungle gyms and a swing set. In addition, horseshoes, giant Jinga, and a few other games are available to pass the time.

Jungle Gym

Swing Set



Want a mechanical foot massage? Then try "Barrel of Fun." For 25¢ you can cool your heels, jingle your chaps, and sooth your sole.

Mechanical Foot Massage

Soft drinks and cocktails are available at Crockett's Tavern. A limited number of chairs and barstools are available inside and a take-out window offers convenient service for walk-up guests.

Crockett's Tavern

Crockett's Tavern

A photographer is on hand to pose some fun pictures using humorous props. Your PhotoPass is good here and your pictures will be delivered to you during your meal.

Photo Op

But perhaps the very best thing to do while waiting for the show to begin is to sit comfortably on the porch and while away the time in a rocking chair. The evening air is calming and the scenery is relaxing. Even the dozens of people milling about don't detract from the peacefulness. However, you must arrive a lot earlier than 30 minutes before the show if you want to snag one of these rockers. Once someone settles in, it takes a crowbar to pry them from nirvana - just ask the people who wanted me to move.

Rocking Chairs

Shortly before show time, the doors to Pioneer Hall will open and people line up to be seated. Since your table has been pre-assigned, there is no need to rush. Once you're seated, you'll find bread with honey butter, a pewter kettle filled with a fresh green salad, and pewter plates at each setting. Service is family style so pass the goodies and dig in.

Pioneer Hall

Table and Place Setting

Just as you're about to finish your salad, a troupe of zany actors barge in from the rear of the theater and make their way through the hall and eventually onto the stage. It's at this moment you realize you're in for a hoedown of a good time. Once on stage, this group of six breaks into their own version of the Hoop Dee Doo polka. If this tune sounds familiar, Perry Como, Kay Starr, and Doris Day all had big hits with this song in 1950.

The show stars three couples, Johnny Ringo & Claire de Lune are the dancers, Jim Handy & Flora Long are the singers, and Six Bits Slocum & Dolly Drew add comic relief. Of course they all sing, dance, and bring humor to the evening. After about 15 minutes of antics, dinner is announced and your farmer-clad server appears with all-you-can-eat Ma's Delicious Fried Chicken, Smoked Barbecued Pork Ribs, Mashed Potatoes, and Country Style Baked Beans. The chicken is especially good and it's estimated that more than 800 pounds of ribs are served each night. Beverages include unlimited Coke products, mike and chocolate milk, coffee, ice and hot tea, pomegranate lemonade, draft beer, wine, and sangria. At one time, your server would bring you specialty drinks from Crockett's Tavern, but this practice has been discontinued. However, Ultimate Margaritas can be order from your server for $7.25.

Hoop-Dee-Doo Muscial Revue

Hoop-Dee-Doo Muscial Revue

Hoop-Dee-Doo Muscial Revue

Hoop-Dee-Doo Muscial Revue

Hoop-Dee-Doo Muscial Revue

Hoop-Dee-Doo Muscial Revue

Hoop-Dee-Doo Muscial Revue

If you have special dietary needs, you need to tell the cast member WHEN YOU MAKE YOUR RESERVATION. You will be given a phone number to call at least 48 hours in advance to make arrangements for your meal. Last minute request may be honored, but it will take longer than if you preorder. I ate here once when I was trying to shed a few pounds. I decided to preorder the vegetarian dinner and I have to tell you, this was one of the best meals I have ever eaten at Walt Disney World. It was outstanding. I'm a meat lover, but I did not feel like I was sacrificing for the sake of my diet.

Our hearty band of performers take a break when dinner is served, but they return shortly thereafter to continue their zany performance. The finale includes audience participation and a tribute to Davy Crockett. And let's not forget about the strawberry shortcake for dessert.

Tibute to Davy Crockett

Strawberry Shortcake

For a number of years, each guest was given a souvenir "newspaper." This was a comical description of the evening's events and it also included the menu. Sadly, this keepsake was discontinued in an effort to save money. I have scanned an old copy for your enjoyment and you can view it by clicking here.

Spoiler Alert!

I have created a ten minute video of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue showcasing a few of its highlights. If you've already seen this show, then by all means relive some fond memories and watch this video. But if you haven't seen the presentation and are contemplating doing so, you might want to skip this video. This show is meant to be experienced "fresh" when seeing it for the first time. It's far more wonderful to be surprised by the corny jokes and unexpected happenings than know what's going to happen in advance. I can assure you, once you see this show, you'll be coming back for an encore. For many, this is a "must see" on every trip to Walt Disney World.

Now, on to the logistics.

As I said earlier, reservations are an absolute must. DO NOT show up a Pioneer Hall hoping to be seated. I won't say it's impossible, but it's highly unlikely. You can call (407) 939-3463 or book online 180 days prior to your visit. Pre-payment is required and charges will be levied if you cancel without sufficient notice. Tables are assigned when making your reservation, so the earlier you call, the better your table.

The hall is divided into three categories.

Category 1 is on the ground floor and offers the best views of the stage.

Category 2 is divided into two sections. One section is on the ground floor directly behind Category 1 and the other section is located on the back balcony. Some people actually prefer the back balcony as it provides an overhead view of the entire production.

Category 3 seating is also on the balcony, but located on the right and left sides of the hall. I actually prefer this category over the tables on the ground floor in Category 2.

Guests in need of wheelchair accessibility may only be seated in Category 1. Guests seated in the balcony will be required to climb a flight of stairs as there is no elevator.


For the current prices, either check out the Allears Hoop-Dee-Doo page or call Disney.

The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review offers specialty celebration cakes for an additional charge. These can be arranged by calling (407) 827-2253 48 hours or more in advance. Celebrations are acknowledged during the show.

I cannot stress this enough; the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review is a MUST SEE show! Many people would not dream of visiting Walt Disney World without seeing this thoroughly entertaining production. If you already have hotel reservations for your next trip to Orlando, and you're within the 180-day window, CALL NOW and make your reservation. You will write me later and thank me for making you do this.


Reminder: If you send a comment, you must write "blog" in the final field or your comment will end up in the Junk Folder.

July 25, 2009

Fort Wilderness Railroad

It's interesting what fond memories the Fort Wilderness Railroad conjures up in so many of us considering its short life. It only ran between 1973 and 1977. Still, this little train made a big impact and continues to cause us to wax nostalgic when we think of it.

Fort Wilderness Railroad Poster

Originally built at a cost of $1M, these trains were used to transport guests around Ft. Wilderness in the same manner the buses do today. They ran from 7am to 11pm and guests could ride all day for $1. The scenery was magnificent as you traveled beneath a pine and cypress forest, over canals, and through meadows. You didn't need a destination. Riding was sufficient.

Fort Wilderness Railroad Artist Concept Drawing

Fort Wilderness Railroad

If this train was so great, then why did the Fort Wilderness Railroad have such a short life? Well, there are several reasons and they all combined to create a headache for Disney - a headache that aspirin alone couldn't cure.

The design for the Fort Wilderness Railroad was based on narrow-gauge plantation locomotives that were used in Hawaii to haul sugarcane and pineapples from the fields to the docks. They were reliable and considered steadfast workhorses.

The four Fort Wilderness engines and rolling stock (five cars per train) were built in California by Mapo, Disney's engineering and development department. Built at 4/5 scale, these engines had a 2-4-2T wheel design and used diesel fuel to heat the water for steam. Fully loaded, each train could accommodate 90 passengers.

Fort Wilderness Railroad

The total length of the Fort Wilderness track was twice as long as the track that circles the Magic Kingdom. Yet, the Fort Wilderness engines only held 225 gallons of water and 175 gallons of fuel compared to the Magic Kingdom's engines which carry 1,837 gallons of water and 664 gallons of fuel. This decreased capacity required the trains to make frequent stops to replenish their supplies - an often overlooked detail. It wasn't uncommon for a train to run out of "gas" and be stranded on the tracks.

Much of this inattention could be attributed to Disney's desire to save money. Rather than hire a professional railroad crew, inexperienced workers were employed off the street. These cast members were given the "basics" of steam train operations, but in essence, they were simply ride operators with no experience in running a railroad. A steam engine is a complicated piece of machinery with temperaments that require constant attention, something these undertrained cast members simply weren't equipped to provide.

Another problem had to do with the roadbed. Corners were cut while laying the rails, installing the spikes, and placing the ballast. Because of this, the tracks often shifted and derailments were common. Repairs and maintenance were an ongoing nightmare.

There were also complaints from guests that the trains were too noisy and disturbed the tranquility of the campground. Since they started operation at 7am, campers did not appreciate being jolted out of their sleeping bags to the sound of the engines' whistle. In addition, there were no barriers between the track and the campsites. There was nothing to prevent a child from wandering onto the rails as you can see in this next picture.

Fort Wilderness Railroad

Eventually it was decided that the Fort Wilderness Railroad was more trouble that it was worth and Disney did not want to invest any more capital to fix the problems. The trains were retired and eventually found themselves in a field exposed to the elements. After years of neglect, several members of the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society purchased the decaying trains and have restored them to their original beauty.

Two of the coaches were briefly used as ticket booths at Pleasure Island, but they too were eventually replaced by permanent structures.

All of the track has been removed from Fort Wilderness, but you can still see some of the trestles that once spanned the canals.

Fort Wilderness Railroad Trestle

It's a shame this endeavor wasn't undertaken properly in the beginning. If it had been, maybe we'd still be riding this lovely train today rather than buses on our way to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review.

May 31, 2009

Fort Wilderness Swimming Pool Update

Fort Wilderness Pool Entrance

Back in April, I wrote a blog about Fort Wilderness activities and the reopening of the swimming pool. At that time, the kiddy pool was not complete and I promised to return and take pictures once it opened. Also, a number of you requested additional swimming pool pictures. So today (May 29, 2009), I returned to Fort Wilderness with camera in hand.

First the bad news. The kiddy pool still isn't ready.

But the good news is, it appears that the kiddy pool will open any day and I was able to get some pictures that will give you a good idea of what to expect once it's done. It looks as if the water surrounding this slide is only a couple of inches deep. It also seems that their might be some water sprays emanating from the top of the structure.

Fort Wilderness Kiddy Pool

Fort Wilderness Kiddy Pool

Fort Wilderness Kiddy Pool

Fort Wilderness Kiddy Pool

Next to this new slide is another children's wading pool. The depth here is about one foot.

Fort Wilderness Wading Pool

Fort Wilderness Wading Pool

Here is a picture of the spa.

Fort Wilderness Spa

The following pictures are of the main swimming pool and the new slide. As I mentioned in my previous blog, the barrel on the slide came from River Country.

Fort Wilderness Swimming Pool

Fort Wilderness Swimming Pool

Fort Wilderness Swimming Pool Slide

Fort Wilderness Swimming Pool Slide

Fort Wilderness Swimming Pool Slide

A number of construction fences still surround various portions of this area. But from what I could see, everything looks close to completion and I have to believe Disney is doing their best to finish everything before summer.

April 21, 2009

Fort Wilderness – Swimming Pool Rehab and More

The Ft. Wilderness swimming pool has been down for rehab for several months and just reopened last week. This prompted me to take a drive to the campground and check things out. I wanted to snap a few pictures for the Ft. Wilderness Fact Sheet on the website.

I am not a camper. My idea of a vacation is a luxury hotel room with maid and room service. So you might find it odd that I would rank Ft. Wilderness as a "must experience" part of Disney World. But there are many very good reasons for my feelings which I will try to describe below.

This area is a surprise to most first-time visitors. They have no idea that such a peaceful spot exists on property. The designers of the campground did their very best to disturb as few trees as possible when creating Ft. Wilderness. Groves of pine and cypress surround the campsites and roadways. Combine this with numerous canals and grassy knolls and you have the perfect spot to pitch a tent or park your RV.

The campground does not allow personal vehicles to traverse the area other than arriving and departing. All transportation within this area is either by Disney bus, electric golf-carts, or foot. This keeps everything very quite.

I arrived at the Ft. Wilderness main entrance located off of Vista Blvd., parked my car, and caught a bus to the Meadows, which is located smack-dab in the middle of the campground. This is where you'll find about half of the activities offered here - including the swimming pool.



To my eye, it didn't look like much had changed in this area other than to refresh everything in order to keep it up to Disney standards. However, one nice upgrade has been added - a slide.



At first glance, I didn't think it was as elaborate as some of the slides Disney has been adding to other resort pools. But upon further thought, I realized that it fits in perfectly with the rustic surroundings. And here's a nice bit of trivia for you. The large barrel that the slide snakes around is from River Country. The Imagineers wanted to save a little of Disney's original water park and incorporated it into this new structure.

After writing this blog, one of my readers, Jim, was kind enough to let me know that a hot tub was added in addition to the slide.

Also on hand is the Meadow Snack Bar where sandwiches, salads, and pizzas are offered.


Still under construction is a children's play area adjacent to the pool. When completed, this spot will have water-spouts, nozzles, and moving objects to delight the little ones.


Please note, this pool is ONLY available to guests of Ft. Wilderness.

After I completed my mission of taking pool pictures, I decided to stroll around the campground and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere. Then it struck me. I should blog some of the many activities that are available to anyone vacationing in the area. With this in mind, I headed for the Bike Barn which is just a short distance from the pool.


As you might guess, this is the place to rent bicycles. These are definitely low-tech models, perfect for flat terrain. Bike paths crisscross the campground and this is the wonderful way to enjoy a cool summer morning or lazy afternoon. Prices are $9 per hour or $18 for the day.


The two gentlemen below are riding their bikes to their favorite fishing spot. Bass, catfish, and panfish are all waiting to grab hold of your hook. Note, all fishing at Walt Disney World is strictly "catch & release." Cane poles can be rented for $4 for 30-minutes and $9.50 per day. Casting rods rent for $6 for 30-minutes and $12.50 per day. Worms are $5 per package and nightcrawers are $6.



Canoes and kayaks are also for rent at the Bike Barn for $6.50 per half-hour and $11 for 60-minutes.



Paddling along these canals is a most peaceful way to wile away an hour. One of the Ft. Wilderness canals makes a circle in and about the campsites and unspoiled woods. It takes about 30-45 minutes to complete the journey and along the way you'll see a varied assortment of wildlife. You might also recognize one of the bridges that the old Ft. Wilderness Railroad once traversed.



A short distance from the Bike Barn you'll find Wilderness Back Trail Adventure. This is an off-road Segway tour that takes you all the way to the Wilderness Lodge and back. The event lasts two hours including training. The price is $85 but a 15% discount is available to DVC members, Annual Passholders, AAA members, and Disney Visa Card holders.


Also located in the Meadows is the Chip 'N Dale Campfire Sing-A-Long. Each evening (weather permitting) you can join these crazy characters in song and a marshmallow roast.




Located nearby is a chuck wagon that sells snacks, soft drinks, and adult libations. When the festivities settle down, it's time to enjoy a Disney movie under the stars. Please note, there is no charge for the Chip 'N Dale Campfire Sing-A-Long (except for marshmallows), but it is intended for Walt Disney World guests ONLY.



In the mood for a trail ride? Well that's available here too. Call 407-WDW-PLAY for advance reservations and 407-824-2832 for same day reservations. Tickets can be picked up at the Ft. Wilderness Kennel Club located near the entrance of the campground. Then proceed next door to the Trail Blaze Corral where you'll saddle up for a leisurely ride through the forest and meadows.



Don't worry about mounting and dismounting. Disney has built a platform that allows guests easy access to their steed.


Note, this is a guided trail ride. No galloping or cantering. You follow a Disney cast member for an unhurried 45-minute walk through the wilderness.


The price is $46. Children must be 9 years old and 48" in height. There is also a weight limit of 250 pounds. In addition, no cameras are allowed (or any other carry-on) as guest need to concentrate on their riding and not be distracted by photo ops.

At the north end of Ft. Wilderness is the Settlement. This is where you'll find the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review, Crockets Tavern, and the Trails End Buffet. Also in this area is the Tri-Circle-D Ranch. This is the location where all of the horses seen on Main Street are housed each evening. A large barn is open to all and you can see for yourself how well these magnificent creatures are cared for.



Each horse has its own stall, complete with name tag and some interesting "horse" facts.



Also found in this area is the Tri-Circle-D Farm. Here you can discover Cinderella's ponies, used to pull her glass coach for special events and weddings.



Pony rides are also available in this area. Children must weigh less than 80 pounds, be under 48" and led by an adult around the small course. The cost is $5 paid in cash or applied to a Disney room charge.


Mickey's Backyard BBQ, located in the Pavilion, offers a nightly hoe-down. Ribs, chicken, corn-on-the-cob, and baked beans are served in a down-home style.



Throw in some Disney characters, a live country band, and line dancing, complete with lessons, and you have a hoop-hollerin' good time. Dates for this show change by season and advanced reservations are required. Call 407-WDW-DINE. Children: $26.99 Adults: $44.99

Ft. Wilderness offers more than what I've described here. Of course, there's the ever popular Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review. And don't forget boat rentals at the beach , Trail Blazin' Bingo in the woods, and archery events on the green. And I'll be trying an evening carriage ride in the near future (watch for my blog).

But I wanted to save my favorite Ft. Wilderness activity for last -- rocking peacefully on the porch of Crockett's Tavern. Nothing can beat the pleasure of sitting here with a good friend or loved one and talk about everything or absolutely nothing.


So next time you're vacationing at WDW, set aside some time to visit Ft. Wilderness Campground. Even if you don't take part in any of the activities I've described, you'll be happy you spent some time exploring this wonderful spot.

November 9, 2008

Trail’s End Lunch Menu -- Revised


Back in August, I reported that the Trail's End lunch buffet had stopped serving "hot" entrees in favor of "make your own" sandwiches. I actually liked this change, but apparently I was in the minority - a very small minority. It seems that Disney received numerous complaints about this scaled-back menu. Many guests quipped, "If I wanted a sandwich, I could have stayed at my campsite and fixed one." To remedy this problem, the Trail's End Restaurant has removed the sandwich portion of the buffet and once again offers hot items for lunch.

However, things aren't exactly as they once were. The buffet does not offer as many selections for lunch as they once did. One noticeable omission is pizza, a kid's favorite. However, Mac & Cheese has returned. I also felt that there weren't as many entrees as before. Here's what was on the lunch menu today (November 9, 2008) when I ate there.

Three premade salads: Caesar, Chinese, and Strawberry and Blue Cheese.
Make-your-own salad
Potato Salad
Soup du Jour
Fried Chicken
BBQed Pork and buns
Mac & Cheese
Vegetable of the day
Cookies, brownies, and soft ice cream bar

Breakfast is served from 7:30am to 12 noon
Children: $7.99
Adults: $11:99

Lunch is severed from 11:30am to 2:30pm
Children: $8:99
Adults: $12:99

Dinner is served from 4:30am to 9:30pm
Children: $10:99
Adults: $18.99

From 11:30 to 12noon, both breakfast and lunch are served. If you arrive before 11:30 (check the time-stamp on the receipt the hostess gives the server), you pay the breakfast rate for both meals. If you arrive after 11:30am, you pay the lunch rate.

I have some good news and bad news for those of you waiting for the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue. First the good news. A number of oversized games have been added to the area to amuse kids (and adults) while waiting to be let into the show. These include Ring Toss, Horseshoes, Jenga, Dominos, Chess, and more.

The bad news is this. Several of the rocking chairs have been removed from the porch to make room for these games.

August 6, 2008

Trail End New Lunch Menu - Walt Disney World

Just yesterday, I finally finished writing my last Tokyo Disneyland blog. It won't be posted for at least another week or so, but now I'm free to return to Disney World and look for local things to report on.

SIDE NOTE: The Tokyo Disneyland blog will resume in several days. If you need to catch up, here's the start of the Disneyland blog.

Today I decided to check out the new lunch menu at the Trails End Restaurant at the Fort Wilderness Campground. It seems that a decision was recently made to stop serving a full "hot" buffet at lunch in favor of a simpler "cold" buffet which includes soups, salads, and sandwiches. I wanted to see exactly what was going on here and find out why this change was made.

Lunch Buffet Trails End Restaurant at the Fort Wilderness Campground

Lunch service now begins at 11:30 and I was there 11:31. Upon being seated, my server Lynda explained that breakfast is served until noon so there is an overlap of 30 minutes where both menus are available. Breakfast and lunch both are priced at $11.99. (Lunch with the hot buffet has been $12.99). I decided to take advantage of this overlap and helped myself to a small serving of scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage. I also ordered a glass of orange juice that is included in the price, along with refills.

At 11:30, all of the breakfast items are consolidated into one area to make room for the lunch items.

Breakfast Buffet Trails End Restaurant at the Fort Wilderness Campground

Be aware, this "overlap" is an experiment on Disney's part to see if this might entice additional guests to eat here. At the moment, the jury is out so don't be surprised if this feature is extended or discontinued.

As I was taking pictures of the new lunch buffet, Chef Bob approached me and quizzically asked me if I had any questions. So I was blunt and asked why they had changed from a full "hot" buffet to a simple "cold" buffet. His answer, "To assure better food quality for our guests."

It seems that lunches at the Trails End Restaurant can be patronized by as few as 40 guests to as many as 200 - and they have no way of knowing from day to day what their head-count might be. Because of this, a lot of food was being thrown away at the end of lunch or they might not have enough of a given item because larger than expected crowds materialized out of nowhere. A simpler buffet allows for less waste and easier replenishment when things get busy.

Personally, I have no problem with the scaled down lunch menu. I usually didn't want that much food for my mid-day meal anyway. And rest assured, the breakfast and dinner menus have not changed.

First let's start with the soups. Three different soups are offered daily along with their delicious chili. Today's offerings included Chicken Noodle, Vegetable, and Beef Barley. I tried the vegetable and enjoyed it.

Soup Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground

As you would expect, the salad bar is more extensive than on the old lunch menu. First, three premade salads are available, Caesar, Blue Cheese & Strawberry, and Chinese. The Caesar was excellent and the Blue Cheese & Strawberry was also quite good. I did not try the Chinese Salad.

Salad Bar Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground

If you want to create your own salad you can choose from iceberg lettuce or mixed greens. Toppings included beats, cheese, mushrooms, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, olives, garbanzo beans, radishes, bacon, and croutons. Five different dressings were on hand along with cottage cheese. I've seen more elaborate salad bars, but there were certainly enough choices here to satisfy the vast majority of people.

Salad Bar Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground

The sandwich bar offers the following breads, white, wheat, multigrain, hamburger bun, and French roll. Also included in the bread section were several breakfast style sweet rolls.

Bread Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground

The sandwich toppings included beef, ham, turkey, tuna salad, and three selections of sliced cheese. Mayonnaise and mustard are available along with several side dishes like pasta salad, potato salad, and coleslaw.

Meat Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground

Side Dishes Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground

The fried chicken at Trails End has always been a perennial favorite so "picnic" chicken is being served at lunch. Picnic chicken translates to cold fried chicken. This is the same chicken that is served at the Hoop Dee Doo next door.

Chef Bob told me that all of their fried chicken and BBQed ribs are prepared right there. Approximately 1,200 pounds of each meat are served every day. He went on to tell me that one cast member arrives daily and starts breading the chicken and will do nothing else for an entire eight hour shift. Shortly thereafter another cast member arrives to start frying the chicken for his entire eight hour shift. Wow! This preparation is for both the Trails End and the Hoop Dee Doo.

The dessert bar at Trails End has been expanded for both lunch and dinner. Now available is a soft-serve ice cream machine with a decent topping bar featuring Gummi Bears, M&Ms, nuts, cookie crumbs, chocolate chips, and several sauces. Also available for dessert are several varieties of cookies, Rice Crispy Bars, and brownies.

Soft Serve Ice Cream Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground

Dessert Bar Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground

I have heard a few parents are unhappy that the new lunch menu isn't "kid friendly" since pizza and mac & cheese are no longer available. I don't have kids so I can't say, but I would think that there is enough variety available here to please even the pickiest eater.

Personally, I like the new lunch menu. Because of its reduced price and lighter fare, I'll be tempted to eat here more often. However, I can certainly understand that if you weren't aware of this change and showed up expecting a full-scale buffet, you might be disappointed. But I left today completely satisfied!

September 3, 2007

Lawn Mower Tree

For those of you not familiar with the "Lawnmower Tree" it's an interesting oddity located at the Fort Wilderness Campground. It seems that years before Walt Disney World opened, someone leaned an old, push-style lawnmower against a tree and left it there. Over the years, the tree slowly grew around it. When the campground was being developed, the Disney Imagineers noticed this lawnmower half encased in a tree, thought it was interesting, and eventually put up a small sign to highlight this curiosity.

Lawn mowertree at Fort Wilderness

I've been visiting Walt Disney World since 1972 and on each visit have watched the slow disappearance of the lawnmower as the bark continues to incase it. Currently, only a very small part of the blades are still visible at the base of the tree. But I have sad news"¦ For reason I do not know, most of the upper half of the tree has been cut off. Now, only about twelve feet of the trunk remains. Since the tree is now dead, the lawnmower's slow disappearance has been halted.

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About Ft. Wilderness

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in the Ft. Wilderness category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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