As an outdoors-loving family, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness cabins are two of my family’s favorite Disney World resorts.
They are similar in many ways.
Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness are both located in the same Magic Kingdom area of Disney World, have similar “great outdoors” themes, and are usually available for similar rates.
However, they also differ greatly in size, room features, dining choices, and recreation.
So, which outdoors-themed Disney resort is better for your family? Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness cabins?
In this blog post, we’ll look at resort size, transportation, resort amenities and recreation, room size and features, price, and more to help you decide whether your family should stay at Wilderness Lodge or the Cabins at Fort Wilderness on your next Disney trip.
(above) Fort Wilderness cabin
(below) Wilderness Lodge lobby
[The Basics] Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness Cabins
Choose Wilderness Lodge if…
- You enjoy restaurants and resort amenities close to your room
- You have a party of 4 or less and don’t need extra room
- You’re relying on Disney transportation (boat and bus)
- You want diverse dining options on site
- You won’t be spending much time in your room
- You prefer a luxurious atmosphere to rustic
- You want deluxe club level treatment
Choose the Cabins at Fort Wilderness if…
- You enjoy privacy
- There are 5-6 people in your party
- You are driving and want your car at your doorstep
- You want a full kitchen and will cook some of your own meals
- You prefer prefer rustic atmosphere to luxury
- You’ll be spending more time at the resort and want the most activities
- You want to bring your dog
“Fireworks view” from Wilderness Lodge
[Beyond the Basics] Choosing the Cabins at Fort Wilderness or Wilderness Lodge
Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness are both located on the shores of Bay Lake in the Magic Kingdom Resort Area of Disney World. They are both prime locations for getting to Magic Kingdom and are the same traveling distance to all other parks.
Wilderness Lodge is one of the most compact Disney World resorts. All rooms and most restaurants and amenities are located in one building. You will only need to leave the main lodge to get to Geyser Point Grill (an outdoor quick service lounge restaurant on the lake), the salon (beside the pool), and the Sturdy Branches fitness room (located in the adjacent Boulder Ridge DVC building, accessible via a covered walkway).
Fort Wilderness is expansive. You’ll have to venture outside anytime you leave your “room” as all cabins are individual buildings. Fort Wilderness has its own internal bus system to transport guests around the grounds, to Settlement area restaurants by the lake, to the main pool in the central Meadow area, and to the Outpost where you enter the resort and catch buses to the parks. The farthest cabins are nearly a mile away from the pool, so walking may not be ideal. Alternatives to the bus system are renting a golf cart on site or bringing your bikes. Daily bike rentals are offered for recreation, but can’t be reserved overnight for the length of your stay.
A resort’s compactness can be a huge benefit when visiting during hot summer weather and when rain storms roll in almost daily, so strongly consider Wilderness Lodge when traveling outside of winter.
Both resorts offer the same Disney park transportation. Boat service is available to Magic Kingdom while buses take guests to the other three parks and Disney Springs.
However, since Fort Wilderness is so large, you’ll need to take internal bus transportation (or your golf cart or bikes) from your cabin to either the boat dock or the bus station. You may park your car at your cabin and can drive to the parks, but cannot drive your own vehicle to other areas within Fort Wilderness.
Resort Amenities and Recreation
Both Fort Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge offer boat rentals, have a main pool with a slide and a second quiet pool, nightly Movies Under the Stars, jogging trails, and an arcade.
Fort Wilderness offers premium recreation activities including archery lessons, pony rides and horseback riding, horse-drawn carriage rides, wagon rides, dockside fishing, canoe and kayak rentals, and bike rentals.
Fort Wilderness also offers a nightly campfire sing-a-long with Chip ‘n Dale (the only way to meet characters at Disney World completely for free!), playgrounds, basketball courts, and sand volleyball. Between the free and paid activities at Fort Wilderness, you may not even have time to visit the parks!
Wilderness Lodge offers most of the amenities you would expect from a deluxe Disney World resort. There is a fitness center, salon and spa, and a beautifully-themed feature pool.
Fort Wilderness has a greater variety of outdoor activities while Wilderness Lodge’s are fewer, but more upscale. Of course, none of these activities other than the pools are exclusive to resort guests. While you can only use the pool at the Disney resort where you are a guest, you may enjoy other activities so don’t let recreation be the sole deciding factor in your decision unless it’s your top priority. A boat route on Bay Lake travels between Fort Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge, making it easy to travel between the resorts.
(above) Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness
(below) Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge
Fort Wilderness is home to the long-running Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show with several shows each night. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets are served at Trail’s End. P&J’s Southern Takeout offers southern-style quick service food to go with very limited outdoor seating and Crockett’s Tavern is the Fort’s bar. Food can also be ordered from the Chuck Wagon food truck in the Meadow area and the Meadow Snack Bar at the pool.
Fort Wilderness has no proper quick service restaurant with an indoor dining area. Considering many guests are cooking in their RV or cabin’s full kitchen, the dining choices aren’t as strong as other resorts.
Wilderness Lodge offers character dining at dinnertime with Story Book Dining at Artist Point with Snow White. A table service restaurant, Whispering Canyon Cafe, is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Territory Lounge is Wilderness Lodge’s fantastic bar. And there are two quick service restaurants – Roaring Fork with ample indoor and outdoor seating at the lodge and Geyser Point Bar & Grill on the lake with casual dining and a bar.
If you are relying on your resort to provide your meals, Wilderness Lodge is the clear choice for cuisine variety and dining options.
(above) Standard room at Wilderness Lodge
(below) Bedroom and kitchen in at Fort Wilderness cabin
All cabins at Fort Wilderness are the same with a living room, dining space for 6, full kitchen, separate bedroom, and one bathroom. They have a queen bed and twin bunk beds in the bedroom, and a double-size sleeper sofa in the living room. These cabins allow up to 6 adults.
You can park your car right outside your cabin, making traveling to the parks by car quite convenient. Packing and unpacking at the start and end of your trip is also a breeze!
Wilderness Lodge offers standard rooms with 2 queen beds, bunk rooms with one queen bed and twin bunk beds, and single king bed rooms. There are also several view categories including courtyard, fireworks, nature, and “standard” which will usually overlook rooftops. Queen and bunk rooms sleep 4 adults while king bed rooms sleep 2. Additionally, Wilderness Lodge offers a few “deluxe rooms” that sleep 6 adults with 2 queen beds and a queen-size sleeper sofa. All rooms come with coffee makers, but no microwave ovens or any other way to cook.
Like all deluxe resorts, Wilderness Lodge has club level rooms. All “deluxe rooms” are on the club level along with standard rooms.
If you have more than 4 people in your party, the cabins at Fort Wilderness are a clear choice. If bunk beds aren’t appealing and you want two real queen beds, choose Wilderness Lodge.
Private Outdoor Space
Want to relax outdoors after a long day in the parks?
Fort Wilderness cabins each have a deck with a picnic table.
All Wilderness Lodge rooms have private balconies with two chairs and a small table. You may or may not be able to see your neighbors’ balconies, depending on your room’s location within the resort.
Fort Wilderness is one of only four pet-friendly resorts at Disney World. Your dog can stay in your cabin and the Fort has a dog park as well.
Wilderness Lodge is not a pet-friendly resort.
Cabins at Fort Wilderness and “standard view” rooms at Wilderness Lodge both “start at” $369 as of Spring 2020.
Other room categories cost more at Wilderness Lodge, up to $579 for a “nature fireworks view”.
While they have identical “starting at” prices, Wilderness Lodge standard rooms will usually be slightly higher on any given day and the lower priced rooms will fill up more quickly than the premium view rooms.
However, considering the transportation situation within Fort Wilderness, you might want to figure in the price of a daily golf cart rental in your Fort Wilderness stay. These run $62.91 per day excluding tax.
Discounts are usually more plentiful at Fort Wilderness most times of the year, making the price difference even greater. One notable exception is in October, especially Halloween week which is extremely popular at the Fort, and during Christmas.
Which outdoors-themed resort does your family prefer?