Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort recently refurbished its cabins, and we had the chance to stay in one on our last trip to Walt Disney World. In this post, we’ll review the new cabins, share photos from inside the rooms, and offer some thoughts about our experience staying in them. (Updated February 12, 2020.)
Note that between now and 2022, there is a tremendous amount of construction at and around Fort Wilderness. This is for the construction of the new Disney Vacation Club resort, Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge being built on the former site of the River Country water park. Consequently, the original Tri-Circle-D Ranch closed last year to make way for a new Draft Horse Barn and Pony Farm that will open in Spring 2020.
There is a lot of visible and audible construction occurring near Settlement Depot (where the restaurants and boat dock are located), as well as the campsite loops near it. The silver lining in all of this is that the cabin loops are pretty far from all of this work. You shouldn’t be able to see or hear it from your cabin, and will only feel the impact when you head to the Settlement…
The Cabins at Fort Wilderness are interesting from the perspective that they’re technically a Moderate Resort, but with pricing and amenities more akin to a Family Suite or Deluxe Villa. Like a growing number of Walt Disney World resort rooms, these really defy categorization within the current system, which is probably at least part of the reason the current tiers are likely to disappear entirely in the coming years.
I’d say the Fort Wilderness Cabins ultimately compare most closely to the Family Suites at Art of Animation, but for parties with very different vacationing perspectives. Not withstanding the rooms, Art of Animation and Fort Wilderness are pretty much polar opposites of one another. One is a not-stop assault on the senses, the other is a place you might find Bear Grylls. Really. I once saw him there, and had to admonish him: “Bear, the Big Blue Pool pool is for families. I don’t think it’s okay to drink urine in it–but if you’re going to, at least put on a swimsuit!”
Joking aside, you can read more about our thoughts on the similarities and differences between the two resorts in our Fort Wilderness v. Art of Animation post. While we actually enjoy both resorts quite a bit, we think there’s a good chance most people reading this will be polarized into one “camp” or the other, with there being an obvious choice as to which resort is right for your family.
We’re also not going to fixate on all the amenities of Fort Wilderness (of which there are many). Simultaneous to this review of the refurbished Cabins at Fort Wilderness, we’re doing a ‘refurbishment’ of our own, updating our Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground Review. There’s a lot to know about Fort Wilderness, so you might check that out if its amenities, perks, buses, etc. matter to you.
In doing research before our stay here, I read a bit of the fan reaction to the new Cabins at Fort Wilderness. Responses seemed generally positive, with the biggest complaint being the mattress quality of the sofa couch as compared to the old Murphy bed. While I didn’t think the sofa couch was bad in my testing, I think the Murphy bed was more comfortable. To the sofa bed’s credit, the mattress in it was thick and was not “springy” (I couldn’t feel any noticeable areas of springs or metal supports below.
It’s worth noting that my testing consisted of pulling it out and lying on it for 90 seconds. I did not sleep in it overnight, and certainly not over the course of a week. My parents did (before you think I’m a terrible son: they were offered the bedroom but wanted the additional space of the main room) and thought the bed was fine but nothing special. It certainly was not as nice as the mattress in our bedroom, which was shockingly comfortable.
In terms of this main room as a whole, here’s a before and after…
Above is the before view. The far wall with the framed tapestry is where the pull-down Murphy bed was previously located. This bed had a “normal” mattress, but (if I recall correctly) was shorter than normal. Reminiscent of the Murphy beds you can now find at some Walt Disney World resorts, albeit not as narrow.
Below is the after view. The main living area offers dramatically more storage space, which was definitely lacking from the previous version of the cabins due to the limitations imposed by the pull-down Murphy bed. Above that storage space, you also get a large television. Like a chump, I neglected to pack my tape measure, but the internet tells me this television is 55″. I’m guessing the old TV was a little over half that.
These are the gains by making the trade-off from the Murphy bed to the sofa bed, and from my perspective, they’re entirely worth it. The larger television alone (which can actually be seen from the entire living area, including the kitchen) would’ve been worth it, so the storage is just icing on the cake.
Despite this blog often reading as if it were written by a 6-year old, I’ve come to believe that most readers of it are adults. Given that and also given that most people who will find the cabins appealing is families with numerous children, the obvious solution here is to make the kids sleep on that sofa bed. Just lie and tell them it’s where their favorite character likes to sleep. Or tell the truth and remind them that until they have jobs and start pulling their own weight, they best not complain about the free shelter you provide them. 😉
One more complaint about this sofa bed before we move on: the sofa’s light and airy colors look out of place with the rest of the cabin. Maybe there’s some convoluted backstory about how early settlers of Ft. Wilderness risked life and limb to import this gem by ox and wagon from the enchanted Victorian homesteads of the Grand Floridian. If that’s the case, then it makes total sense. Otherwise, it’s a bit at odds with the otherwise rustic style.
The good news is that aside from these complaints, the new Cabins at Fort Wilderness are a dramatic improvement over the old ones. As far as “rustic” goes, this is about as high-quality as you’re going to get anywhere.
I think the new rooms do an excellent job of staying true to theme (details like the Fort Wilderness Railroad print, light fixtures, and “carved” chairs are nice touches) while also offering functional and quality improvements to the cabins.
The new kitchen features upgraded appliances that look considerably better. New countertops and cabinets improve the look, with the sink and appliances having been shuffled around a bit. In the process, Disney removed the stove and oven, replacing both with a two burner cooktop and convection/microwave unit.
My general cooking philosophy is “if something cannot be microwaved, it is not worth consuming.” I’m partially kidding there, but the reality is that I have no idea what the difference (in terms of prepared food’s taste) is between a convection and normal oven. Maybe there’s some huge difference and this is a travesty, but I’m clueless on that front. Nonetheless, the kitchens look exceptional–almost too nice for a rustic cabin.
Another significant change is the addition of a queen bed in the bedroom in addition to the existing bunkbeds. This is a bit tighter than before, but it’s still sufficiently open.
Perhaps most importantly, this was the most comfortable bedding we’ve ever had at Walt Disney World.
I’m still not sure whether Disney has been quietly replacing their old mattresses with ones that are not made of plywood, but mattress quality at Walt Disney World has been on the upswing with every refurbishment. This continues–and improves upon–that trend.
There’s also room for luggage storage under the bed. Clearly, that lack of storage space was a common complaint about the Cabins at Fort Wilderness, and with the refurbishment, Walt Disney World has rectified that problem (and then some).
The bathrooms feature a new countertop and tile backsplash. To my knowledge, this is all cosmetic. The downside is there’s still only one bathroom in the cabins (I should’ve mentioned this earlier, but no structural changes were made to the units), but they were nice bathrooms before, so I guess don’t fix what isn’t broken.
Overall, we were incredibly satisfied with the Cabins at Fort Wilderness before the refurbishment and are even more satisfied with them post-refurbishment. I suppose reasonable minds could quibble over the gains and losses in swapping out the Murphy bed for a sofa bed plus 55″ television and storage, but that’s a trade I’ll happily make. For a party of 4 adults sharing a room, perhaps the equation differs. The improvements to the bedroom are unequivocal gains, as are the aesthetics (save for that couch) all around the cabin. If you’re looking for a serene place to decompress after a chaotic day in the parks at Walt Disney World but still want modern amenities and a nice and spacious resort, the Cabins at Fort Wilderness offer an option that’s tough to beat.
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Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of the redone Cabins at Fort Wilderness? What do you think the pros and cons are of the refurbishment? Did you sleep on the sofa bed? Do the Fort Wilderness Cabins look appealing to your party? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!