Fort Wilderness Orlando

Fort Wilderness Resort at Disney World

We had visited Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort years ago and then only for the musical dinner show. So we were pleasantly surprised to find the entrance just beyond Golden Oaks on Vista Blvd., less than 15 minutes from our condo. You park at a visitor lot after checking in at the gatehouse (we always say we’re going to eat) by the Outpost registration building. Here you have to catch a bus to take you to the rest of the place. Guests either bring their own RV to the campgrounds or rent a log cabin, fully stocked with modern amenities and kitchen facilities. These sites are interspersed among a vast property filled with tall trees dripping with Spanish moss. It’s a lovely setting, like entering a nature park.


Our first stop at the Settlement brought us to Trail’s End restaurant where we had lunch a la cart. I wasn’t thrilled with my vegetable flatbread. It seemed to consist mostly of arugula, diced tofu, and balsamic vinegar with other undefined chopped morsels. And it was too spicy for my taste. I’ve had better flatbreads at other places. The burger or a salad might be a better choice here. The cornbread side is a good item. There’s an adjacent tavern that presumably only opens at night. Other meals at Trail’s End are a buffet breakfast and buffet dinner, and reservations are recommended. The rustic atmosphere is fun and so is the overly cheerful waiter who greets you with a “Howdy.”

Trails End

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Located in this district also is the musical revue and a nighttime barbecue, both in separate locations. The revue is indoors while the BBQ has outdoor seating under a roof. Further along is a broad lake with a beach that has lounge chairs, fishing, boating, and playgrounds. It’s like being at a park.

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We took the bus next to Meadows Trading Post, a combo souvenir shop and grocery. Beyond is a big pool with water slide and nearby kids’ playground and tennis courts. We wandered around here looking for walking trails and got plenty of exercise strolling down the shady campground lanes.

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With all the activities, including carriage rides, horses, and a petting zoo, this would be a great place to stay with children. The only downside is the limited dining. You’d have to eat out at the other theme parks before returning to the campsite each night because you might not want the buffet more than once. Otherwise, this park is peaceful and rustic and a lovely place to enjoy the tranquility of nature.

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We would definitely return here for the scenic views and numerous walking paths.


Harry Potter

We finally got to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando. The weather, cool and sunny, was a delight and perfect for entering Hogsmeade with the “snow-covered” rooftops. The village is quaint like in the stories. The tall buildings have slanted roofs with fake snow and chimneys and historical looking shop window displays. Some are real; some are not, like the old bookstore with Lockhart Gilderoy’s (sp?) books on view. You can go into the candy shop, although there was a line the day we went. Prices are high for things like chocolate frogs, jelly beans, and such.


The magic shop didn’t seem to have anything unusual either. Wands cost $28.95 in an assortment of styles. Scarves were popular in the cool weather, and I indulged in buying one myself. I got the red Gryffindor scarf, made in China, acrylic fabric, for around $30. You could buy a school robe for $99 if you need an expensive costume.


After waiting in line for over an hour, we entered Olivander’s wand shop where the old shopkeeper himself chose a “student” from the crowd and matched her to a wand amid special effects. It was cool, and she got to keep the wand, but this was, like, a ten minute show after a very long wait.


We went into The Three Broomsticks for lunch. Here we entered another line to place our order wherein we were given a number and shown to a table. We ordered the platter for four, consisting of barbecued chicken and ribs, corn on the cob (with decorative husks still remaining), roasted potatoes and vegetables, and salad. It was a pretty good deal considering the feast we got, $49.99 for four. We all got Butterbeer with its white foamy top. You can get it with or without a souvenir plastic mug. It’s like very sweet cream soda with maybe a hint of root beer. Too sweet for my taste.


I had Pumpkin Juice later, which comes in a cute plastic bottle topped with a little pumpkin. This was also heavy on the sugar with apple juice and pumpkin puree. Anyway, the décor in the restaurant is cool. There are very high slanted ceilings with wood staircases going in all directions like you see in the movies. Tables and chairs are all wood. You can almost imagine the dining hall where Harry and friends eat, except there weren’t any floating candles in the air.



Hogwarts Castle is very imposing, a huge mountain of a fortress atop a fake hill, looking every bit as ominous as in the movies. We had no wait when we entered. There were two lines, one for people going on the ride (they had to wait inside as they wound around the premises) and one for people just wanting to tour the castle. Here we split up. I went into the latter line and followed the narrow passages inside the structure.


As you climb a staircase, figures in portraits on the walls talk to each other. In one room, you see Dumbledore’s office as the headmaster addresses you from afar. Another chamber is like a great hall with a balcony at the far end. Standing on this balcony are holographic type images of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. They make snow fall and use their invisibility cloak. It’s all very cool. Too bad it was dark inside and photos wouldn’t come out. Inside one display case was a newspaper with a talking photo. That’s all I remember. Our son said the ride was fun. You’re strapped in and have to leave loose items in a locker. Your feet dangle and you twist and turn, sometimes on your back, but it isn’t a roller coaster or a simulator. Sounds like a cross between Soarin’ and the dinosaur ride in Animal Kingdom.

We enjoyed the food and the ambiance and the reality of this adventure, but it would be nice if there were more shops to explore with less crowds and perhaps some interesting merchandise beyond souvenirs. Since we’re not thrill ride lovers, we didn’t partake of much else in Islands of Adventure.