If you ask 10 different Disney fans about their favorite traditions at Walt Disney World, you'll likely receive 10 different answers. But if you ask that same question to 10 different Disney fans who've been going to the Vacation Kingdom since it first opened in 1971, the odds are good that quite a few of them will mention visiting Fort Wilderness.

Walt Disney World's Campground opened in November of 1971, and ever since, it's had a small and devoted community of guests who swear that, at the end of the day, the Fort Wilderness experience is the best way to vacation at WDW. But even if you aren't a Fort Wilderness groupie, there are plenty of reasons to check out this rustic, classic piece of Disneyana – history, value, and uniqueness being principal among them.

If you do, perchance, decide to rough it on your next trip to Walt Disney World, here are six things that you just have to do while staying under the stars at Fort Wilderness.

1. Grill out

(Photo via Flickr, by cdharrison)

Each campsite and cabin at Fort Wilderness comes with a small charcoal grill that's perfect for a classic campground cook out. If you forgot to load up on supplies before checking in, there are two convenient trading posts at either end of the resort (accessible by bus) that sell all the fixings required for delicious burgers, hot dogs, and sides. And if you did plan ahead, it's actually a pretty cost-conscious way to dine.

But more importantly, Disney's regular dining experiences aren't always the best for socializing or relaxing. While the food at Walt Disney World can be astoundingly delicious, there's something to be said for just kicking back in the outdoors with a grilled burger, laughing with your family and friends, and enjoying the quiet company of the people you went on vacation with. After a day of regimented fun at the theme parks, a meal like that can be quite reinvigorating.

2. Watch an outdoor movie

(Photo via Flickr, by lorenjavier) 

While outdoor movies are a mainstay of the Disney resort experience, none do it with quite the same level of pomp and circumstance as Fort Wilderness. The whole event is known as Chip n Dale's Campfire Sing-a-Long, and takes place every single night at the campground. And, most importantly, it's free.

The show begins with a cowboy performing a few classic songs before being joined by Chip and Dale for some more sing-a-long fun. Meanwhile, kids can roast marshmallows over the nearby campfires and scope out seats for the evening's film.

The movies are shown on a large, purpose-built screen – not one of those inflatable screens you might see at other resorts. Surrounding it are dozens of wooden benches and steel bleachers providing ample room for any guests who wish to attend. The films run the gamut from Disney classics like The Little Mermaid and Sleeping Beauty all the way up to the modern blockbusters like Frozen and Cars.

All in all, it's a great experience and a wonderful way to end the night. And, you know, it's free.

3. Visit the Tri-Circle-D Ranch

(Photo via Flickr, by doctorow) 

One of the particularly cool facets of Fort Wilderness is the Tri-Circle-D Ranch – an area of the resort dedicated to housing some of Disney's equine cast members: the horses. There are actually two separate ranch areas – one is for the horseback rides for guests, while the other houses the horses that perform in the Resort's parades and shows. Both experiences are very cool, and rather unique to Fort Wilderness.

Most importantly, the cast members who work in these areas are very knowledgable and care deeply about the horses in their care. If you have any questions, or if you're a trainer yourself, they're always eager to share information about the animals they love.



This is a great review of some of the highlights of the Fort. It is one of the quieter treasures at Walt Disney World and very much worth a visit.

For those who may enjoy a more detailed look at the campground, ThemeParkPress just published the book Camping Disney, the Field Guide to Fort Wilderness. The book covers the tips we gleaned from many trips to the Fort to try, well, just about everything there.

Are there any permanent residents in Fort Wilderness?

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