29 April 2008

Raised in the woods

As a child, or someone still wishing to be a child, if the sun is setting, and you are not in a theme park, then the best place to be is Fort Wilderness. Around the time the sun has set, around 7:00pm in the Fall/Winter and 8:00pm from April through the Summer, a solitary figure reminiscent of Jimmie Dodd, takes the stage, or rather wagon, perched upon a hill next to the Meadows Trading Post and begins strumming out tunes like My Bonnie, Davy Crockett, and the Mickey Mouse Club Alma Mater. During the half hour sing-a-long Chip and Dale make an appearance to rub elbows with the guests while they attempt to swipe any possible sweets inadvertently left about.

Following the sing-a-long has concluded, and the stars have come out, a Disney movie is played on the outdoor screen. The movies that have been selected for the month are posted at every Comfort Station, on the back of the Fort Wilderness map, and throughout the internet. Some of these movies, Freaky Friday, The Game Plan, High School Musical 2, etc., play to an older crowd, but on most nights the film presented is a classic Disney film in every sense of the word, and suitable for a few hours of joint family entertainment.

Yet, the highlight of the entire campfire experience may very well take place before even one song has been sung. Approximately one half hour before the sing-a-long begins large fire cauldrons are lit at opposite ends of the campfire complex. Here guests of all ages may roast marshmallows and create s’mores. In case you didn’t come prepared with your own stick, marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate the Chuckwagon, located directly behind the stands of the campfire compound, offers packages for both Marshmallows enthusiasts (with 2 roasting sticks for 2.15) and the complete S'mores package (also with 2 roasting sticks for 4.93). If you should need an extra roasting stick or two, they can be purchased for 33 cents apiece. The moments and memories made here roasting and creating gooey treats will more than last a lifetime.

Another magical family moment takes place daily on the beach of Bay Lake, near the Settlement Trading Post and Pioneer Hall. This is where, on most nights, a few dark screens drift along in the dark water before bursting to life with song and electrical lights. The aptly named Electrical Water Pageant was the first of the electrical light parades, before SpectroMagic and the Main Street Electrical Parade, and takes place nightly at approximately 9:45pm after making stops at the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Wilderness Lodge but before the Pageant reaches the Contemporary or Magic Kingdom. From sea serpents, dolphins, whales, turtles, to King Triton and other creatures of the deep, all make an appearance before the spectacular, and patriotic, finale. The Pageant, in my opinion, is best viewed from Fort Wilderness due to the open and mostly dark spaces surrounding Bay Lake as well as the fact that crowds tend to be lesser on Fort Wilderness’ beach at night than any other resort in the Bay Lake/Seven Seas Lagoon area.

While inclement weather may cause the Electrical Water Pageant, campfire, and movies to be cancelled, most evenings the sing-along will still take place on the porch of the Meadows Trading Post.

Both of these daily events are simple, yet truly magical, ways to conclude a day at Walt Disney World. And I recommend to everyone to try and make some time to catch one, or both, of these fantastic treasures on your next trip.


Ed South said...

The last time I stayed at Fort Wilderness (for more than a night) was 1982 and I still remember those simple things that you've mentioned. You could make a whole vacation out of just Fort Wilderness. Thanks for the great post!

Princess Fee said...

What a fantastic post! One my favourite 'hidden treasures' of WDW is there at Fort Wilderness! And I love the Electrical Water Pageant - when we stayed at the Grand Floridian, we would always try and peer out our balcony at it, listening to the tune it played... Definitely a must see!