My visiting niece, whom we hadn't seen in years, spent several days at the University of Central Florida and wanted to get together when her work there was done. (She works for a company based in D.C. that educates people, particularly young people, on the evils of smoking.) The only problem - for the first time ever her cousin Susie and family were spending that particular weekend at Fort Wilderness. Oops.
So there was I, who hates driving on I-4, fighting my way past downtown Orlando, Sea World, Universal, I-Drive, and all the traffic that goes with four Disney theme parks, plus water parks, plus Downtown Disney, etc., etc. - quickly discovering that the road to Fort Wilderness has grown to something like eight lanes barricaded by toll booths, expecting parking fees. Aargh!
Except . . . when I said we were visitors to Fort Wilderness, we were waved through, after being told to "go right," requiring an interesting maneuver across at least three lanes of traffic. Fortunately, most of the drivers were as bewildered as I was, so no problem.
I know there are statistics somewhere on how many "not acres but square miles" Disney bought when it decided to set up shop in Orlando, but let's agree it's a lot. And all of it heavily landscaped with trees so no matter where you drive, you are surrounded by "wilderness" right up until the moment you arrive at the vast parking lot of the theme park you had in mind. (Apologies to Orlando residents, who know all this, but my blog has readers around the world.)
The Fort Wilderness campground, however, is one vast forest. The natural pine and live oak forest was tweaked just enough to make campsites, each one with trees and bushes separating it from the next site. And it's huge. Almost all families rent golf carts during their stay there, so they can move easily from campsite to pool to lakefront to restaurant, hayrides, and other on-site attractions. There is also a dock at the lake, providing boat service which transports guests from the campsite to the theme parks and/or the many stores and restaurants in Downtown Disney.
My niece and I spent only an afternoon and evening there, but it was a unique experience. I was so busy looking around - and hanging on while my daughter drove a golf cart like she was doing the Daytona 500 - that I didn't take a single photo. The ones below I stole off Susie's Facebook page.
|Cousins - frankly, no one had noticed the resemblance until this photo|
|"Hardshell" camping - they have tent sites as well|
|The real estate broker "gone fishin'" again (near the pool area)|
|Yes, Virginia, there will be boys (pool area)|
|Making s'mores with Daddy|
|Our next-to-the-last activity of the day - a Hayride|
|And for a grand finale, everyone gathers at the lake to watch the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom|
All in all, a delightful experience for a family of non-campers. And, oh yes, a farewell photo before my niece and I climbed into my car and headed back to reality of I-4, leaving the "campers" to a second night in the "wilderness."
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Christmas at Halloween! Ordinarily I'd be grumbling about rushing the season, but below is a photo of Girl Scout Troop 1668 singing their "cookie" song to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" plus several blatantly Christmasy songs in front of the Halloween decorations at Florida Square Mall. The occasion: auditions for Orlando's Christmas festivities at Lake Eola. Believe me, the girls are a "shoo-in." Truly excellent. Cassidy was a featured soloist, Mom directing.
Thanks for stopping by,
Next week: Very likely, Spain
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