At the end of my last post, I said that I didn’t really have any plans for a meal, and after a couple of days I was getting antsy. I kept checking the online ADR system, but there were just too many options and I had no idea what restaurant I wanted to check out next. So, I posted on my facebook page asking for recommendations or ideas about where I should try next. Luckily, Vance Cope responded with a fantastic suggestion, Trail’s End Restaurant at Ft. Wilderness.
I have to admit, I had never heard of Trail’s End. So, the first thing I did was go to allears.net to check out the menu and pricing. Vance said one thing he liked about it was that it was cheap, and he wasn’t kidding! Dinner was only $22.99! Okay, now I realize that in the real world, that’s super expensive…but at Disney, that’s really reasonable for a dinner buffet!
This was a perfect suggestion: it was cheap, it was off the beaten path, it had southern home cooking style food (which is totally my favorite type of food), it was easy to get an ADR (they seemed to have almost completely open availability), and it wasn’t a restaurant I was saving for something special. Let me explain that last one…there are some restaurants that I am saving for something special…like, I want to do Rose & Crown some night late so I can also watch Illuminations from a patio table, and I want to save CRT for when I do Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (Oh yeah, I’m totally going to do that), and I want to do 50’s Prime Time with a large group of people (I need to up the chances of someone getting put in the corner). Anyway, I had no special plans for Trail’s End (obviously, since I’d never heard of it), so I made an ADR for the next day.
After my experience at Hollywood & Vine, I had several people mention that maybe part of the problem was going to the buffet at the end of the serving period. That made sense to me, so this time, I made an ADR for the very first dinner time, 4:30pm.
Once again, I left the house super early. I wanted to have time to explore the resort before we ate, and didn’t want to have to rush. It was a good thing I left so early! Like I said, I’d never been to Ft. Wilderness, so I didn’t know what to expect. I figured I would just pull up and park and walk in, right? *sigh* Wrong again. When you drive in to Ft. Wilderness, you have to park and then bus to the “Settlement” where all the restaurants are. The security guard said it would only be about a 5 minute bus ride though, so no big deal. We took our time walking from the parking lot. They have really pretty walkways with bushes and flowers, we spent quite a while watching butterflies and looking at the horses in the Tri-Circle-D Ranch. Once we got to the bus stop, we sat on a bench to wait for the bus…and waited…and waited…and waited. After about 15 minutes it finally came, and then we discovered that the security guard was a dirty liar. Our 5 minute bus ride, was a 25 minute ride that stopped every 10 feet to pick people up and drop them off…it took forever!
We finally got to the Settlement, and it was really pretty awesome! A giant log cabin type structure, Pioneer Hall ,was the main building, and there was a playground, a beach on the lake, you could rent boats and take carriage rides…and the while thing was beautifully themed! I immediately decided that I need to take my family camping there sometime…it was love at first sight.
By the time we got up to Trail’s End, it was only about 10 minutes til our ADR time, so we checked in and then sat in rocking chairs on the big wrap-around porch to relax. It was only about 5 minutes before we were seated. Even though we had an ADR, we clearly didn’t need one. Lots of people were walking up without reservations and seemed to have the same 5 minute wait that we did.
The inside of the restaurant is decorated in a rustic, log cabin style. It feels very warm and homey, with lots of old timey tools, dishes, and pictures as well as stuffed wildlife heads on the walls. There is a pot bellied stove, and a canoe too…just lots of camp ground and cabin type decorations, the whole place was themed the way that Disney is so good at.
Once we had our drink orders taken (which came in mason jars…I love when country places serve drinks in mason jars!), we headed to the buffet. I was feeling a bit nervous. After the horrid food at Hollywood & Vine, I was worried about a similar experience. As soon as I saw the food, I realized this was going to be different. Everything looked fresh and colorful. The food looked exactly the way it does when my (Southern) mom makes it.
I started at the salad bar where they had a surprisingly large selection of toppings…cheese, olives, croutons, real bacon, shrimp, cucumbers, and a wide range of dressings, just to name a few. We then headed over to the warm section, where they had all the stuff you would be expecting: mashed potatoes, rice, gravy, BBQ ribs, carved beef, chili, macaroni and cheese, salmon, fried chicken, baked chicken, corn, green beans, corn bread, and even pizza. The pizza was totally the odd man out, but I was glad they had it because Malcolm really likes pizza…actually, that’s probably why they had pizza…for the kids who love it so much.
When we got back to the table, and I actually got to taste the food…oh man…it was YUMMY! It was good, old-fashioned, delicious. The salad was so good and fresh, above average for any buffet, in or out of Disney World. There were definitely some things I liked more than others…the rice and mashed potatoes and beef were great…but the gravy made them exceptional. The macaroni and cheese was good, but pretty standard. The chicken may be a bit salty for some, but I really like salt, so I thought it was perfect. Malcolm really enjoyed the macaroni and cheese, and the pizza, but he also ate a TON of green beans and corn. And the corn bread…mmmm…I ate like, 6 pieces of it…no, seriously…it was so good.
Then, there was the dessert table. It wasn’t anything fancy, just soft serve (but with a decent selection of toppings), brownies, cookies, and crisped rice treats. I had one of everything and topped my ice cream with caramel and m&m’s. The desserts were pretty standard, but honestly, it’s hard to mess up the desserts they had. Everything was fresh, nothing was stale or anything, so I was pleased with what they had.
All-in-all, this was one of the best meals I’ve had in a while. The food was great, the service was good, the price was right, and the atmosphere was pleasant. While I was there it never got crowded, and the few families in there definitely seemed to be staying at Ft Wilderness. I understand why a lot of vacationers wouldn’t think to go there…but, it’s a short boat ride from Magic Kingdom, it’s relatively inexpensive, and I’ll be you very rarely need an ADR. So, if you stay on site there, or if you ever find yourself wanting a sit-down meal with no ADR’s, I whole-heartedly recommend heading over to Trail’s End.
After we ate we headed over to the play ground to check it out. It was empty, so Malcolm was able to run around pretty freely. I was a big fan of this play area. We got to run around and work off our dinner, it was shady and breezy, most people were at the parks so we didn’t have to worry about crowds…it was lovely. I think it would be a wonderful spot for me to take Malcolm on days when he is getting antsy from spending all day in his stroller, and it’s just a short boat ride over from the park.
When it was time for us to go, Malcolm threw a HUGE fit! When I would try to lead him away from the playground, he would scream and cry, yank his hand away from me, and make a mad dash back. By the time we got back to the bus, he had created quite the scene! But, as far as I was concerned, he had just given Ft Wilderness his seal of approval. I’m hoping we get to go back really soon to check out some of the other stuff there like the wagon rides, and of course, the Hoop-De-Doo Revue.
Tomorrow, my mom gets in from California for a 12 day stay, so I’m not too sure how much time I’m going to have for restaurant adventures. I know we’re going to Epcot on Saturday, and we have 3 ADR’s for that day, and I know we’ll spend at least one day down at Downtown Disney. I’m hoping I’ll somehow be able to squeeze in another meal at the world this week, but I haven’t seen my mom in 6 months, and I’m not going to go too far out of my way when I want to be spending time with her.
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