Camping at Disney World might not be what you think: Here’s why it compares to a Deluxe resort.
You think those people out there camping at Fort Wilderness are kinda crazy for giving up a Deluxe Resort experience? Think again. Here’s why they are the smartest people on Disney property, enjoying a LOT of Deluxe-level amenities at low, low campground prices.
Fort Wilderness is often considered the most roughin’-it of any Walt Disney World experience, but the secret is (that I’m begrudgingly letting out), this resort is like a Deluxe Resort for dirt cheap. Dirt, leaves, trees, horses, and all.
Here my 5 reasons why I think Fort Wilderness compares to the posh side of WDW. See if you don’t agree with me by #5!
1. Catch a Boat to Magic Kingdom
Most Disney guests pay a premium for fast access to Magic Kingdom.
It’s well-known that the Deluxe resorts in the Magic Kingdom area offer some of the easiest transportation straight to the resort. But if you’re not into a Deluxe splurge for your trip, Fort Wilderness has this same amenity for a fraction of the price.
Let’s think about this again… who gets resort boat access to Magic Kingdom? Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge (all starting at around $600 PER NIGHT) ….and the happy campers from Fort Wilderness.
The boat launch to Magic Kingdom is located in the Settlement (north) area of Fort Wilderness. The boats operate about an hour and a half before and after park closure.
2. Stay In a Tiny House
Those looking for a full DVC Studio experience for a fraction of the cost can rent a travel trailer or 5th Wheel camper from a multitude of local providers. And these things can get pretty luxurious.
You don’t need a truck to do it: 5th Wheel campers and travel trailers can be delivered and set up on your campsite for usually about $100.
With nightly RV rental prices ranging from around $80 to $200 a night, that’s a cheap stay in what amounts to space similar to a DVC Villa room (which are anywhere from $600 to over $2,000 per night).
While travel trailers tend to have shorter ceilings and trailer length, 5th wheels are the largest of the rentals and are much like a tiny house.
Here’s what you can typically expect from the space in a 5th wheel:
- High ceilings in the living room and kitchen areas
- Couches and easy chairs
- Full kitchen with sink islands
- Private bedroom with king beds
- Bunk beds for the kids
- Bathroom with shower
- Full entertainment center
- Dining Table
Some even feature ceiling fans, a residential-sized fridge, a pantry, a garage, and even a porch of their own. Just depends on what you want in your price range.
Even the tent camping spots aren’t really as primitive as you may think… each one has electricity, running water, and a picnic table.
3. Archery, Horse Rides, and More
So, Beach Club Resort has Stormalong Bay, and Grand Floridian features a life-sized gingerbread house. Every Disney resort has it’s own unique features and amenities, but we’d argue that Fort Wilderness has some of the most exclusive vacation experiences on property.
Archery – Make like Merida and shoot fer yer own hand! Striking up an arrow is something that can only happen at Fort Wilderness.
Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-a-Long – It’s a character meal without the price! Gather round for this complimentary character experience that happens every night. A live cowboy guitar show and cheery Chip ‘n’ Dale themselves will join as you roast s’mores by the fireside (currently on hiatus).
Wine and Woodshop – Campsites all over Fort Wilderness have a personalized family name plaque to put at the end of their driveways. Wonder where they got those? At Crockett’s Craft Corner, of course! Here you can craft your own personalized sign. The experience lasts a few hours, and small bites are included ($75.00).
Gem Mining – Want to find some fossils? My family is from the Appalachian mountains and this little gem mining station really brought me back to Gatlinburg adventures. Choose from three sizes of bags full of fossils and sand, then sift through the water to discover your real ancient treasures!
Tri-Circle D Ranch – Deluxe Resorts have got nothin’ on Fort Wilderness when it comes to fancy horse wranglin’. This usually posh experience is easily accessible to those saving tons of money on their resort stay. Tri-Circle D Ranch offers carriage rides, pony rides, and horseback riding lessons.
Golf Cart Rentals – Nowhere else at Disney can you zip zoom around in your own golf cart than at Fort Wilderness. You are even welcome to decorate it however you like… and you’ll have some competition because around Halloween and Christmas, these carts get crazy!
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review – This is one of the hottest dinner shows at Walt Disney World, and it’s right here at Fort Wilderness!
Dog Park – Now here’s something that the Contemporary or Grand Floridian can’t keep up with. Pluto has set up a huge dog park for your four-legged friends!
Food Truck Tuesdays and Wednesdays: Starting in September of 2021, Fort Wilderness started welcoming local food trucks to rally up at the Settlement area of Fort Wilderness! This gives you the exclusive opportunity to sample Orlando eats without leaving the resort.
Amenities similar to Deluxe Resorts include:
- Feature Simming Pool with slide, poolside concessions, and big splash pad
- Fishing Gear Rental
- Boat and Fishing Excursions
- Not one, but TWO arcades
- I have to say it again, the boat to Magic Kingdom, I mean, c’mon
4. Park For FREE
As of March 2018, Fort Wilderness Resort is the only resort to offer complimentary parking to Walt Disney World Resort guests.
Here are the current parking rates:
- Fort Wilderness: FREE
- Disney Value Resorts: $15 per night
- Disney Moderate Resorts: $20 per night
- Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts: $25 per night
This means the happy campers over at Fort Wilderness are actually getting a perk that the Deluxe Resort crowd has to pay for.
5. Pack in Up to 10 Guests
While many Disney World resorts have improved accommodations for families of five, the options are still somewhat limited.
Even with the 5-person rooms at some resorts, larger families would still need to incur double the room cost to have six or more join in the magic.
Fort Wilderness is by far the most bang-for-your-buck if you’ve got six or more in your group. AND you can bring up to two dogs per site.
Pair that with a camper, travel trailer, or 5th-Wheel, and everyone has the room they need. For hundreds of dollars less, AND you’re right next door to Magic Kingdom.
Camping at Disney World Is The Good Life
So let’s review these Deluxe-level savings:
- $500-$1500 Value: DVC-tier accommodations via a 5th wheel rental
- $15-$25 Value: Free Parking
- $500 or More Value: Fit 10 people in one site fee
- Deluxe-Only Amenity: Boat to Magic Kingdom
- Exclusive Experiences: Archery, horses, gem minding and more!
There’s so much more to mention other than these obvious money-savers. Sure, you can view animals via night vision goggles at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but you’re not allowed to ride the zebras.
Fort Wilderness Campground is home to Tri-Circle D Ranch, where the horses are more than happy to trot around with the fam. And there’s archery, carriage rides, nature paths, fishing excursions, gem mining, a campfire sing-a-long show, and of course, Fort Wilderness is home to the Hoop-Dee-Doo dinner show, one of the hottest tickets on property.