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Fort Wilderness: Disney World's "hinterland".


Besides the relative luxury, campingat Fort Wilderness Resort in Florida's Walt Disney World is a good way to avoid the traffic congestion of Orlando's giant hotel row. Once you park your vehicle at your campsite, you needn't start it again until your vacation is over--a fleet of air-conditioned buses connects Fort Wilderness to both Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. Besides, camping offers an opportunity to enjoy the Florida outdoors, to see that Orlando is made up of more than tarmac and lines of patiently waiting people.

As visitors quickly learn,Fort Wilderness is not only a campground but a complete miniresort all in itself. It has its own separate day activities as well as its own distinct nighttime program. And it's all real, mostly nonmechanized fun, situated amid 730 acres of natural pine forest.

Disney World may advertise FortWilderness as a campground, but you'll find it impossible to "rough it' there. The term "campground' is a misnomer, for you can rent one of the 363 hotel-suite-style trailers that come complete with daily maid service, cable TV, telephone, and central air conditioning--not exactly the things that normally come to mind in connection with camping. Even the majority of campers, who bring their own tents or RVs to set up in one of the 828 wooded campsites, find themselves pampered. In addition to water, sewer, and electricity at every site, each camping section has its own air-conditioned comfort station equipped with private showers, an ice dispenser, telephones, and laundry facilities.

Room service is another featureyou don't expect at a campground, but you've got it here. Just call the Pioneer Hall restaurant between 8 p.m. and midnight for a pizza or fried chicken with all the fixin's. There's no extra charge.

A Fort Wilderness day starts asearly as you like. For instance, if catching one of Florida's famed largemouth bass appeals to you, take one of two guided pontoon fishing boats that leave at 7 a.m. for a two-hour trip around Bay Lake, which divides Fort Wilderness from Disney World's Contemporary Hotel and the Magic Kingdom. Stocked with fingerling largemouth in 1971 and unfished for almost ten years. Bay Lake is now so loaded with fish that major tackle manufacturers come here to test their equipment; they're that certain of catching large fish! The largemouths average between two and five pounds, and you can take your catch back to camp to clean and cook it.

You can also rent a canoeand go off on your own to fish the miles of canals that wind through the property. Or you can begin your day by being entertained at the newly inaugurated breakfast show, featuring many of the beloved Disney characters, at Pioneer Hall. On a test run through last summer, this song-dance-comedy revue provided a totally different program than Pioneer Hall's evening presentation.

After midmorning, you're apt tofind Fort Wilderness does indeed live up to its name, because it's usually deserted while most campers wander off to the other Disney attractions. If you stay behind, you'll have little competition for a spot on the sandy beach or at one of the two swimming pools. This is also a good time to watch Gary the blacksmith shoe the big Clydesdales, Percherons, and Belgians that pull trolleys down Main Street, U.S.A., in the Magic Kingdom. If you have youngsters along, they'll undoubtedly want to stop at the small goat-filled petting zoo behind the blacksmith's. Bring along a good supply of dimes for the dispenser-supplied animal food.

If you're at all interested in animals,you must visit Discovery Island, Disney's most overlooked attraction. Discovery Island houses 60 rare and endangered species that range in size from free-roaming Patagonian cavies (large guinea pigs) to Galapagos tortoises. You can reach the 11-acre island--beautifully landscaped with exotic flowers, plants, and trees--via the boat shuttle that leaves from the campground marina.

Fort Wilderness may be tranquilduring the day, but come evening it's one of the liveliest places in the entire park. A good way to start off is with a hayride and then a campfire singalong behind the Meadow Trading Post.

Reserve one evening for PioneerHall's wild and woolly Hoop-Dee-Doo-Revue, the second-longest-running show at Disney World. The two-hour-long, energy-packed song-and-dance revue features folk and popular ballads. Chow down on big family-style dishes of fried chicken, barbecued ribs, corn on the cob, baked beans, salad, and rolls. Your servers are gingham-frocked and overall-clad waitresses and waiters who also take part in the show. Generous servings of strawberry shortcake make a grand finale.

Assuming you ever recover enoughto eat again, keep in mind that on Friday evenings the Trail's End Buffeteria offers an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet with boiled shrimp, catfish fillets, broiled fresh fish, linguini with clam sauce, and seafood coquille. Or on any evening, you can become involved in creating your own perfect pizza and adding just the right number and amount of toppings.

As you can see, food is a big part ofthe nighttime entertainment at Fort Wilderness, but it's not all of it. From the beach each evening at 9:45, you can also view Disney World's Electrical Water Pageant, a musical parade of 50,000 colored lights on the water.

With so much always going on, youcan understand why retired New York Supreme Court clerk Joe Scully, of Long Island, has been a regular at Fort Wilderness for the past 15 years. "I know more people here than I do back in my hometown,' he admits. "I've tried staying in hotels, but you can be there for as long as a month and no one even says "hello' to you.

"Camping people are differentpeople,' Scully continues. "They're more interested in each other and what's going on. And there's always something going on here!'

Photo: An intrepid explorer he's not--and youonly have to pretend to be when you stay at Disney World's Fort Wilderness.

Photo: Water Sprites are a great way to buzzaround the Fort's Bay Lake--but please give the fishermen a wide berth. (Right) A body of water sans fish and Water Sprites.

Photo: High-tech Disney World still needs preindustrialhelp. Gary the blacksmith is the man who makes the Magic Kingdom's horses a well-heeled lot.

Photo: Fort Wilderness campers are besieged withproblems in such trailers--unused mosquito repellent, what to watch on cable TV, whether to cat out or order room service.

Photo: Placid by day, Pioneer Hall rocks with theHoop-Dee-Doo-Revue by night. (Right) A surrey with a fringe on top, pedals below.

Photo: Fort Wilderness is convenient to the Living Seas, an Epcot Center exhibit that opened a year ago to spotlight the future of underseas exploration.
COPYRIGHT 1987 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:camping ground at Florida's Walt Disney World
Author:O'Keefe, M. Timothy
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jan 1, 1987
Previous Article:The countess and the devil.
Next Article:The White Queen of the Gulf.

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