I have been fortunate enough to grow up with Disney. My first trip was when I was just 18-months old and I’ve visited at least once a year every year since then. Walt Disney World feels like my home, and the first place on property that truly felt this way was Fort Wilderness Resort. My grandparents had a great, big RV that they would road trip in from Connecticut to Florida and would always stay in the 100 loop at Fort Wilderness. For the longest time, this was the only way I knew to spend a Disney trip! My alarm clocks in the morning were the resident peacocks on their morning stroll. And every single breakfast (and often dinner) was at Trail’s End. Even now, it’s so nostalgic for me. So I was beyond excited to return “home” several months ago to do a dining review of Trail’s End!
My dad, fiancé, and I went for dinner and really had no idea what to expect. We had heard things would be a bit different in the age of COVID, but we were excited to try it out anyway. We leisurely made our way over through the resort and stopped to show my fiancé memories of “little Molly moments.” Very embarrassing, but very lovely. We sadly passed by Hoop-Dee-Doo and wished that it would return soon. And finally, we made it to Trail’s End, which felt strangely like greeting a long-lost friend.
We had an incredibly early reservation for some reason, so the place was near empty when we got there, but that was fun too. The inside of Trail’s End looked exactly like it did 25 years earlier, with rustic and quirky decor that most people wouldn’t believe would actually be in a Disney World restaurant. That’s one reason I love Fort Wilderness: it’s so unassuming. It’s different from everything else. And its charm is timeless!
After the decor, the first thing I noticed was that there were a bunch of plants over where the buffet line usually was. This immediately made me worried. “Dad, what’s up with the buffet?” He had no idea either. It was only after we thought about it for a second that we realized there would of course be no buffet with COVID. Trail’s End, like most buffet heavy restaurants on Property, had switched to a fixed menu dining option. I was honestly very disappointed. I should have seen it coming, but I was bummed to not have the experience of grazing the buffet with my fiancé. But we quickly let that disappointment go and got excited about the meal coming to our table!
Our first course was the bread course, which I never turn down. I was super excited to see Trail’s End’s famous cornbread in the basket! This bread basket also included hush puppies that were so good! If you happened to see my review of Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ restaurant, you’ll know I wasn’t a fan of their hush puppies. These were SO much better. It’s also so fun to have all of our drinks come in mason jars. The atmosphere is so relaxed and homey. It was a great first introduction to our meal.
Next, came the salad course. This was just a giant bowl of mixed greens and chopped-up veggies. The salad itself was honestly nothing super special, but I loved the dressing. It was a bacon vinaigrette (in a tiny mason jar!) and was delicious. I ate more salad than I probably would have normally just to taste more of that dressing.
The main course is the Family Skillet, which is exactly what it sounds like. This sizzling, hot dish comes with a full meal for at least three people (they bring bigger trays for more guests). It included pecan-smoked brisket, rotisserie chicken, andouille sausage, fingerling potatoes, corn on the cob, and green beans. We enjoyed everything. But the big stars for us were the pecan-smoked brisket and the green beans, of all things! I know, I was surprised, too. The cool thing about this style of meal is that if you want more of something, they just bring it right out! So when we asked for more of each of those, we got an entire plate of piping hot brisket and green beans. Delicious.
Dessert was weird but on brand. The dessert itself is pretty simple: an ice cream sundae with a brownie. But it was served inside a ten-gallon hat! Yes, you read that right. Oh, and did I mention the chocolate-covered bacon? Like I said, very on-brand. This dessert got a definite chuckle out of us, even though we didn’t finish the whole thing. I even tried the bacon and didn’t hate it!
Overall, we loved our experience at Trail’s End. It was truly a wonderful thing to visit our old stomping grounds again. The biggest downside of our dinner was that we didn’t love our server. She didn’t seem as excited to be there as we were. But even still, being at the old, quirky restaurant again was comforting and nostalgic. And we really did enjoy our meal. While this won’t be an “every trip” place for me, I am so glad we went, and I will gladly go again – hopefully, sooner than 25 years from now!