Monday, November 15, 2010

Back at the House of Mouse

We are at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort, in the 1700 loop (map) where we stayed a few years ago and just across the way from where we were at Christmas, 2008. We pulled in yesterday around 2ish, after having spent Saturday night at our secret spot in an industrial park across town (map), where we'd also parked back then on either end of our Disney stay, and again on our way north to the inauguration. It would appear that the building next door has not had a tenant since we vacated it at the end of 2008.

After we checked in and got the handout on this week's park hours, we learned that last night was the only evening of our stay with "Extra Magic Hours" for the Magic Kingdom, from 8-11, and so we decided to hit the park after a light dinner at Crockett's Tavern here in Fort Wilderness. In stark contrast to our last experience at Christmas week, the park was virtually empty, and we whizzed right on to Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and many other attractions that normally have at least some wait. It was odd to be in the Haunted Mansion with so few people that the guides could not even use their standard joke about filling in all the "dead" space.

The park was, in fact, so empty that we managed to see and do absolutely all of it between the end of "Wishes", for which we arrived right on time at 8pm, and park closing at 11, and I dare say we don't need to return to the Magic Kingdom on this visit. And while it may seem wasteful to have blown a park admission ticket on a mere three hours, in fact I picked up a pair of 5-day passes at the 3-day rate at one of the many ticket discounters in Orlando Saturday afternoon. We really had only been shopping for a 4-day pass anyway, giving us essentially one "free" day we didn't need, so the last-minute decision to visit the park last night was easy.

Staying out till past 11, by the time the boat brought us back from the park and we rode back to our site, really knocked us out, and here we are still sitting around the bus at 3pm. This afternoon we will head off to Disney's Hollywood Studios, where again we have "Extra Magic Hours" till 11pm (the park closes to non-resort guests at 8). I'm hoping to get in to the Brown Derby there for dinner tonight, even though we could not get a reservation. We have reservations at Il Mulino in the Swan, a short boat ride away, as a backup.

These extra resort-guest only hours at the parks is one of the great perks of staying at Fort Wilderness. On some days the extra hours are in the morning, and on others they are in the evening, but we're never up and ready to go even when these parks open at their normal hours, so having an extra hour starting at 7am is not for us. Besides which, the extra morning hours tend to be busier than the evening ones, considering the number of families here with small children. That said, we still saw plenty of toddlers at 11pm, struggling to stay awake, being dragged around the Magic Kingdom by parents intent on squeezing every cent from their admission tickets.

We were once again very lucky to get the satellite on-line here, with all of the pets-allowed camping loops in the park being under heavy tree cover. We're shooting through perhaps a 4' wide gap in tree cover a good 60' up, and I think we'd be off-line if I moved the bus a foot in any direction. Even so the signal strength is a bit low and the best symbol rate the system will allow me is the first step of three available, so things are a bit slower than normal.

We're looking forward to a very pleasant stay and another three or four park visits before our scheduled departure on Friday. I again expect that we will then just roll across town for another casual night in our stealth spot before having to leave Orlando for points unknown. I'm afraid I have not done any real work on where we will head next, and, of course, the Thanksgiving holiday will mean we need to be settled in someplace before the hordes of holiday campers descend on all the good spots.


  1. Did you hit that parking position by accident or do you finagle around to make sure you get a shot at the satellite?

  2. @Lance: As I am driving up to the site I am aware of where the bird is relative to our position and orientation, and I try to line the dish up with any possible gap in the trees when I park. Usually I expect to have to jockey the coach around a little bit, after the dish is already mostly pointed, in order to acquire the signal. This time I got lucky and hit it on the first try; Louise keeps telling me I have a knack for finding the gap. Frankly, I only gave us 50% odds of getting on as we pulled up to the space - the gap looked like it might just be a tad too high for this latitude.

  3. Just curious, since this park gets somewhat mixed reviews, how is entering the resort with an RV, and how is negotiating through the campground and backing into the site? Some say it's tight at every turn and others say it's great.

  4. @Anonymous: Make sure you are clear with them on the size of your rig when you book, as some sites may have difficulty accommodating larger equipment. Also note that premium sites are larger and have larger pads, so they may be better choices for bigger rigs.

    We have generally had no problems with our 40' coach. We are always in the least expensive loops, which are among the tightest to negotiate, and I would say all of the loops are doable by even the largest rigs. That said, all the sites are back-ins, and a few of them are not angled well for backing large rigs in from the roadway. I think we could get into any site there, with some jockeying, but large fivers or maybe 45' coaches might have trouble with a few of the sites.

    Usually it is not a problem to change sites if they assign you to one that is too difficult. On this visit, the first site they assigned us to was still occupied by a late-departing guest when we pulled up, and the second one was challenging to access. That new site would also have kept us off-line, and so we called the desk to say we couldn't get into it and they assigned us a different one a few spaces away.

    We saw quite a number of 45' coaches and even a 50' fifth-wheel with six slides, so they have spaces that can handle any size rig. And remember, this is Disney, and they are very focused on customer service. They will make sure you have a site that you can get into.

    There is a hitch/unhitch area on the entrance road (after the check-in area) and you should unhitch your toad there, as there is really no place to do it in the loops themselves. We saw some folks who ignored that and had a difficult time making some of the turns.


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