By: Tom Driver
On our last few trips to Disney World we’ve made a point to give ourselves a rest day between park visits to explore hidden gems around the resort. Not only does it give everyone a chance to rest and recover from those long days at the parks but we’ve discovered, especially on a week day, you’re likely to have the hidden gem all to yourself. One of my favorite memories from the trip WT3 took to Disney World last May with my parents came from our excursion to Fort Wilderness campground.
Sydney playing checkers with her Grandpa is a moment that wouldn’t have happened on a typical visit to Disney World.
Sydney discovered the checkerboard, set up on the porch outside the quick service restaurant at Fort Wilderness, the first night of our trip when we attended the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Review. Due to the crowds waiting for the show we weren’t able to sit down for a game. When we returned a few days later Sydney was very excited to see the checkerboard, along with the rest of the place, was all ours. Having learned to play checkers a few months before our trip, Sydney considered herself an expert player. I warned her that I used to play Grandpa all the time and he was pretty good, but she wasn’t fazed. “Game on!”
I love these pictures and I will always remember this moment. Sydney’s looking at him with a “what are you going to do about that?” attitude even though she’s about to get jumped. Dad’s sitting there with his hat and sunglasses looking more like a poker player trying not to give away tells rather than Grandpa playing checkers with his four year old granddaughter.
I love Dad’s posture; hunched over, one hand on his knee while leaning on the other elbow. From the neck down he appears totally focused on systematically destroying his opponent, except for the fanny-pack; hard to look intimidating wearing a fanny-pack. Of course, the little smile on his face is pure Grandpa enjoying time with his granddaughter.
We decided to take the trail from Wilderness Lodge, our hotel for the week, to Fort Wilderness. It was already hot that morning, even when we left around 10AM, but the mini-hike was worth it because we came upon a small herd of six or seven deer resting a few yards off the path. Obviously knowing they were safe, half the deer didn’t even flinch as we stood there gawking and taking pictures.
Did you know Fort Wilderness offers pony rides at the Tri-Circle-D Ranch and Farm? This has become one of Sydney’s favorite things thanks to the rides offered at the Columbus Zoo. Since we were the only family at the ranch we could take our time. We talked with the stable manager and Sydney explored the pony stables. We also let Sydney enjoy two rides around the corral, one on each pony.
We said goodbye to the ponies and walked over to the main barn to visit the big horses. What beautiful animals. I put Sydney on my shoulders so she could get a better view over the stall doors but made the mistake of getting a little too close to one horse. To express his displeasure the horse sneezed all over me. Getting sneezed on by a horse is bad, but it could have been much, much worse for two reasons – 1) it was a dry sneeze, and I can’t fully express my gratitude for that small bit of luck, and 2) since she was on my shoulders Sydney avoided the blast. I, however, was brushing hay, oats, and whatever else off my shirt for the next hour.
After a tasty lunch at the Trail’s End quick service restaurant Sydney was finally able to enjoy the play set at Fort Wilderness. She had been talking about it ever since the night we came over to see the Hoop Dee Doo review. By now the temperature was pushing 90 so we decided to head back to our hotel to change into our suits and cool off in the pool. What a great day.
Thanks to Kelly for the idea of spending some time at Fort Wilderness and researching what they have to offer. Here’s a sample of the itinerary she put together for the day.
Day 5: THURSDAY (5/17/12)-Ft. Wilderness
- Breakfast at the Grand Floridian’s 1900 Park Fare for the Supercalifragilistic Character Breakfast
- Walk to Ft. Wilderness from Wilderness Lodge via trail
- Trots for Tots pony rides at the Tri-Circle-D Ranch and Farm
- Lunch at the Trail’s End Restaurant
- Afternoon at pool
- Dinner at resort
If you’re interested in having We Travelers Three plan your next magical Disney World vacation, or if you already have your plans but are looking for a more detailed itinerary, contact us at WT3 Travel Agency. Our Walt Disney World Itinerary Planning Service will uncover the hidden gems that transform the normal family trip into a vacation full of life long memories. Let us personalize your next vacation to the Walt Disney World Resort.