Sure, Walt Disney World Resort offers memorable moments beyond the fabulous attractions, dining, shopping and resort hotels. From the elegant, Victorian-themed Disney’s Wedding Pavilion to a luxurious cruise aboard the 52-foot Grand 1 yacht, the options abound. But did you know that you can take a private horse-drawn carriage ride through the verdant back trails of Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground?
I recently took one of these treks, and it was definitely memorable.
Parked under a sprawling moss-covered cypress tree outside Crockett’s Tavern, where the rides originate, my carriage was maroon with caramel-colored leather seats, two old-fashioned brass hanging lamps and spoked wooden wheels. Totally vintage looking. It was also covered (not all are, though), which comes in handy during light drizzles and when our familiar Florida sun graces us in all its glory. Ivan, my horse, was a 7-year-old dark brown Percheron draft horse, a breed originally hailing from France. Huge and muscular, Ivan was off with a command from Chris, my driver.
“I assume the horses are treated well,” was my first question for Chris. “Oh yeah,” he chuckled. “They are spoiled.”
We went past Fort Wilderness Pavilion and Tri-Circle-D Ranch and its stables. Numerous white ponies and other Percheron draft horses were out munching on hay in the pens. Then we headed down a paved trail at the back end of the property.
Along the way, I was surrounded by the lush nature that is Fort Wilderness with the clippity-clop of Ivan’s hooves filling the air. Pine and cypress trees. Thick, green foliage. Hawks screeching above. Chris was friendly and affable, answering my questions and offering tidbits on the area’s history. I was lucky enough to see three deer and some wild turkeys behind a stand of pine trees. Wildlife usually comes out around dusk; you might catch a glimpse of rabbits, ducks or even a bobcat.
After a while, we turned around (“a horse U-turn,” Chris called it), and headed back to Crockett’s Tavern, where Ivan’s trough of refreshing water was waiting. The ride lasted about 25 minutes.
Romantic and enticing, a private horse-drawn carriage ride is perfect to share with your significant other. “We have couples who get engaged on our carriages, then return year after year to celebrate their anniversary,” Jay K. Sanderson, Assistant Animal Operations Manager, Tri-Circle-D Ranch, told me.
But, with carriages holding four adults or two adults and three children, they’re also suitable for everyone. “Kids love hearing all about the horses: what their names are, where they live, how much they eat, everything,” Jay said.
You could consider these jaunts (also available at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — Riverside) one of the unsung treasures of Walt Disney World Resort. A true ride to remember. Maybe not as well-known as other experiences on property, these charming outings are worth seeking out.
Rides commence at 5:30 p.m. and are open to all (in other words, you don’t have to be a registered guest of a Disney Resort hotel). Walkups are welcome, but it’s best not to leave availability to chance. Book early and inquire about rates by calling 407-WDW-PLAY (939-7529). Holiday update: From November 29 to December 30, holiday sleigh rides replace carriage rides at Fort Wilderness.