Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground Archives

October 14, 2017

Headless Horseman returns to Disney's Fort Wilderness with movie screening and meet-and-greet


The Headless Horseman has long had a place at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. After all, that is where his horse is stabled.


It used to be that the only place at Walt Disney World to see the famed Headless Horseman from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” story was at the Magic Kingdom before Mickey’s Boo To You Parade at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. This year, the party added a PhotoPass Magic Shot with the Headless Horseman that can be taken in front of the train station. (Guests will pose with both surprised and happy expressions and the Headless Horseman is edited in afterward.)


Then, years ago, Haunted Carriage Rides were introduced at the campground. Guests began their adventure at the Blacksmith's Shop at the Tri-Circle-D Ranch, where four open carriages lined up on the half hour for a 25-minute journey. They headed out past Pioneer Hall and the Settlement Trading Post and into the woods. The driver started the telling of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and then a recorded narrator picked up the tale, as the carriages traveled through the trees and along the shore of Bay Lake, stopping at key places mentioned in the story. The Headless Horseman made a surprise appearance during the ride.

My family and I loved that experience because it was just the right amount of thrill without being too scary for our then-7- and 9-year-old kids. We were disappointed when the Haunted Carriage Rides were discontinued five years ago despite their immense popularity.


Now, a new Headless Horseman experience has debuted at Fort Wilderness called Return to Sleepy Hollow. During the month of October, guests can attend a viewing of the 1949 Disney animated classic film inside the resort’s Tri-Circle-D Ranch stables. Expect the unexpected during the event, we’re told. Afterward, guests will have the opportunity to take a photo with the Headless Horseman. (This is not just a Magic Shot; the actual Disney Headless Horseman is there.)


Two types of tickets are available: General seating is $22 per person and premium seating, which includes first access for photos and a Halloween treat bag, costs $38 per person. Guests in both seatings, ages 3 and older, also receive an exclusive limited edition pin. Guests ages 2 and younger receive complimentary admission with their families, but are asked to sit in a parent’s lap.

Remaining screenings take place at 8 and 10 p.m. on October 14 to 16, 19 to 23 and 26 to 31.

Unfortunately, this experience has been fully booked since before Sept. 1. I bring it to your attention because, like with any experience at Walt Disney World, cancellations do occur. Guests have until 11 p.m. the night before the date of their Return to Sleepy Hollow experience to cancel without a penalty. So, a cast member told me the best time to try to catch an open spot is to call 407-WDW-TOUR between 10:30 and 11 p.m. This event can only be booked by phone; there are no online reservations.

Or, if you’re going to be at Walt Disney World in the fall of 2018 and are interested in this event, make a note to see if the Headless Horseman will be returning. This event was first announced in March this year so I’d check in March next year, as well. Reservations can be made 180 days in advance.

June 22, 2013

Don't miss: Roasting marshmallows and making s'mores at Walt Disney World hotels


Many of us, the young and the young-at-heart, have fond summer memories of roasting marshmallows and making s'mores. Whether you enjoy the sweet treats blackened or just lightly toasted, you can make your dessert just the way you like it at Walt Disney World.

Most of the moderate and deluxe hotels at the Disney resort offer their guests complimentary supplies (marshmallows and roasting sticks) each night at a bonfire staffed by a cast member. For my family, this never gets old, so when we stay on property, we have to make sure we're at the hotel at least one of the nights at the proper time in the evening. Be sure to look at the activity sheet for your specific hotel to see when the fire is started each night.


At Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground, though, guests can be immersed in the traditional campfire experience. Two fires are lighted about 7:30 p.m. in the summer -- an hour later than the rest of the year -- and cast members let them burn throughout the evening so guests can cook whatever they'd like, from hotdogs to marshmallows.


The nearby Chuckwagon sells supplies, but guests are welcome to bring their own food, as well. If grocery shopping already is part of your vacation, bringing your own food will save you a bit because the prices are somewhat steep for s'mores ingredients. Here is a list of what you can buy. Come prepared with supplies or money to purchase your treats because there are no complimentary treats at the Fort Wilderness Campground like there might be at the other resorts.


At 8 p.m., an entertainer leads guests in a singalong, which includes kid-friendly dances such as the Hokey-Pokey and the Chicken Dance. Don't forget your autograph books because Chip 'n Dale make their way through the crowd, stopping to visit with each guest.


Finally, a Disney movie under the stars starts at 8:40 p.m. For nights with a double-header, the second movie begins at 10:15 p.m. The movie schedule is posted at the beginning of each month throughout the Fort Wilderness Campground. Many of the Disney World hotels also show outdoor movies at night, weather permitting, on their lawns or beaches. Bringing a blanket or some towels is likely to help kids get more comfortable so they can lounge, snuggle under them, and even fall asleep after a full day at Walt Disney World.

The campfire singalong is free and open to all guests staying on Disney property, not just those at Fort Wilderness.

October 11, 2012

A look back at discontinued Haunted Carriage Rides at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground



I was surprised, and disappointed, to learn that Walt Disney World has discontinued its seasonal Haunted Carriage Rides at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. When we stayed in the cabins last fall, we took the ride for the first time and enjoyed the special Halloween experience. It was just the right amount of thrill, without being too scary, for our then-7-year-old and 9-year-old.

The reservations filled up quickly -- months before the October rides -- so it's curious that Disney would put a stop to something so popular. The only information the recreation department could offer was that an outside vendor runs this experience and it was their decision. Disney fans have speculated that the rides are being updated or moved to another location.

Haunted Carriage Rides were one of only two places on Disney World property that guests could see the Headless Horseman. (The other is at the start of Mickey's Boo To You! Halloween Parade during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.) He didn't appear right away at Fort Wilderness, though.



Guests began their adventure at the Blacksmith's Shop at the Tri-Circle-D Ranch, where four open carriages lined up on the half hour for a 25-minute journey. They headed out past Pioneer Hall and the Settlement Trading Post and into the woods. The driver started the telling of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and then a recorded narrator picked up the tale, as the carriages traveled through the trees and along the shore of Bay Lake, stopping at key places mentioned in the story.


The shoreline was windy and the woods were dark for the later carriage rides, which added to the spooky atmosphere. My children understood that at some point, they likely would encounter the headless horseman, and they kept an eye out. When he did gallop alongside the carriage toward the end of the ride, they were surprised.


The Haunted Carriage Rides were $60, and each carriage held four adults or two adults and three children.

Regular carriage rides still are available at Fort Wilderness, and guests who book this are likely to see many elaborate Halloween decorations that campers traditionally put up around their campsites. The cost for the non-themed rides is $45 for the 25-minute trip.

July 7, 2012

Mickey's Backyard BBQ is great All-American activity for the summer




Heading to Mickey's Backyard BBQ for the first time on the Fourth of July, I was a little skeptical about how the Fort Wilderness dinner show would play out -- especially for my kids, who have experienced other similar dining experiences elsewhere at Walt Disney World.


Many of those other dinner shows were the subjects of glowing online reviews, and my family and I usually had an idea of what to expect before we showed up for the first time. Not so with the Backyard BBQ, though. In fact, what little information I could find online even contained several negative comments about the food and the experience.


But all seven people in our party had a great time, and there were no complaints about even the smallest detail. We took AllEars.Net readers' advice and arrived about an hour before the start time. Although this did mean some standing around, it also allowed us to be near the front of the line for our choice of seats. (There is a playground near Pioneer Hall, so the kids could burn off some energy and break up the wait.) Cast members even walked the queue, serving drinks.


When it was time to enter the outdoor pavilion, cast members took groups of 20 to 25 guests and led them to picnic tables with benches. No stampede at this rodeo! We requested a table in the front, bordering the main dance floor. Cast members assured us there were no bad seats in the pavilion, but I do think our location was perfect for our two families. It allowed the elementary-school-age kids to come and go on the dance floor, in view of the adults who were eating and hanging out.


As soon as you are seated, cast members invite you to visit the buffets. There are four lines serving the identical menu, so we never really saw a long queue form. Guests can choose from BBQ chicken, pork ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, tossed salad, potato salad, cole slaw, corn bread, baked beans, corn on the cob, watermelon and ice cream bars. Lemonade, ice tea, beer (Bud Lite) and wine (red, white or blush) are included, too, in this all-you-care-to-eat dinner. The food remains available almost until the end of the 90-minute experience. Everyone in our party enjoyed the meal, and we actually found the food to be even more flavorful than we expected, given the venue's outdoor setting and the food choices. (Those with special dietary concerns can request ahead of time to be served meals that meet their needs.)


Live entertainment begins shortly after everyone is seated. This means the dinner experience is loud, so if you are sensitive to noise, you might want to reconsider. We had to shout to hear each other, but that didn't bother us at all. There was too much going on to have an in-depth conversation anyway. The live country-western band was good, playing popular and patriotic songs. A cowboy performs rope tricks and even invites a few lucky kids in the audience to join him. Plus, there is line dancing to well-known favorite songs.


Throughout the evening, Disney characters are circulating among the diners. They dance with the kids and pose for photos. If they are not on the dance floor, Mickey Mouse and his pals might even sign autographs. Please know that this is not like other Disney World character meals; the characters do not come to each table, so you are not guaranteed to see each one. I'm told that the usual characters at Mickey's Backyard BBQ are Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Chip and Dale.


For our Fourth of July dinner show, we also saw Donald Duck, Pluto, Phineas and Ferb. The characters were decked out in their Colonial-era threads, though they usually wear western get-ups. Another difference for the holiday was that Mickey and Minnie stayed outside the pavilion posing for photos the entire time. They did not join the festivities on the dance floor, which they normally would do.


All-in-all, we enjoyed Mickey's Backyard BBQ immensely. Perhaps the guests who did not have a good experience were ones who had different expectations for the meal and the dining ambience. But make no mistake: This experience is not comparable to an indoor character meal. It's an outdoor, casual picnic with rollicking entertainment to delight youngsters and get everyone out on the dance floor.


For our celebration of the Fourth, the experience was as summertime-appropriate as the Mickey ice cream bars the kids enjoyed for dessert afterward.

Prices, which include tax and gratuity, are $54.99 for adults and $31.99 for guests ages 3 to 9. Mickey's Backyard BBQ is open seasonally.

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