Looking to horse around at Tri-Circle-D Ranch? Well, then let’s giddyup! (Okay, I’ll stop with the horse puns. I can see you starting to make a long face.)
One of the most wonderful things about visiting Walt Disney World Resort, especially for those with multiple trips under their belts, is to take a step back from the theme parks and discover some of the other unique offerings on this vast property. Each hotel resort boasts something special and is worthy of a visit even if not a guest. The Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort is no exception.
Accessible by car, Disney bus, or boat launches at Magic Kingdom Park, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, or Disney’s Contemporary Resort, visiting the Ranch is a great way to spend a relaxing morning or afternoon to disconnect from the crowds. Plus, don’t forget the nearby restaurants, playground, and Settlement Trading Post (FYI: great pin trading there!)
We discovered the Ranch one evening before attending the nearby Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue and knew we had to make a future visit during opening hours. On our next vacation, we came back with the intent of taking our daughter on her first pony ride but also learned what more the Ranch has to offer. I’ll get back to the pony ride in just a bit.
Tri-Circle-D Ranch is named after the three circles that make up Mickey’s silhouette and the “D” is for Disney. It was established before opening day at Walt Disney World for Walt Disney had envisioned horse-drawn trolleys and vehicles at Magic Kingdom Park as seen at Disneyland. While researching this article, I learned that there are over 90 horse and ponies of various breeds that call the Ranch home.
It’s comprised of two sections, located a mile apart. The Trail Blaze Corral is near the main entrance to the resort and offers horseback riding while the Draft Horse Barn is located near Pioneer Hall and the settlement area. The barn house is the main part of the Ranch and here I encountered some of the largest horses I’d ever seen. Cast Members are on hand to answer questions, and they informed me that some horses can grow over 70 inches tall and can weigh 2,000 pounds. That’s a lot of horse! Each draft horse has his/her own stall and they’re pleased to make your equinetance (had to sneak in one more!). I learned that these horses are charged with important duties such as pulling trolleys down Main Street, U.S.A., leading hayrides, and starring in parades and shows. Cinderella’s Shetland ponies, all white with stunning manes and famous for leading her carriage, are in a surrounding paddock. I couldn’t help but admire them for several minutes.
DIStracted Tip- As when visiting other animal attractions, I recommend strolling through the ranch in the morning hours during the hotter months. The horses and ponies will be a bit more lively and it’s a joy to see them romping around.
The Draft Horse Barn is also a great place to visit for those who enjoy historical Disney relics. Here, you’ll find the 1907 Dragon Calliope that Walt Disney purchased for the opening of Disneyland and the Mickey Mouse Club Circus parade back in the ‘50s. It’s larger than life and is a gem that shouldn’t be missed. Across the way is a collection of photographs featuring Walt Disney and his horses. I learned his love for horses started back during his days growing up in Marceline, Missouri.
Guests can visit the Tri-Circle-D Ranch daily. Aside from walking around the Ranch, there are ride opportunities as well for a fee. Guests 9 years and older (48” minimum height requirement) can book a 45-minute guided trail ride ($46/pp). In addition, private (and quite romantic!) horse-drawn carriage rides may be reserved for $45. During the month of December, one can take a “sleigh” ride through the resort at nighttime. While you won’t find snow, the carriage is beautifully decorated for the holiday season. The price for this activity is $79.
DIStracted Tip- Reservations are highly recommended and can be made 180 days in advance by calling 407-WDW-PLAY.
Departing evenings, up to 35 guests are welcome to board a horse led wagon that tours the scenic Resort. Wagon rides are first-come, first-served and operate weather permitting. The charge is $8/pp (ages 10 & up) and $5/pp (children 3-9). Children under 3 may ride free with an adult. The wagon rides are a nice add-on opportunity for those attending the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.
As promised, I’ll end with a brief overview of the pony rides—the whole reason we visited the Ranch in the first place! Pony rides are available for preschoolers on a walk-up basis. When my daughter expressed wanting to ride a pony, I knew her first ride had to happen at Walt Disney World. After all, she had her first haircut at Magic Kingdom Park, so it only made sense to have another ‘first’ here. For $8, children (at least 2 years old and no taller than 48”) can enjoy a ride on a beautiful miniature pony. Disney provides the helmet and a parent/adult guardian may guide the pony around the trail. Our daughter loved her first ride and still remembers it fondly.
So when you’ve exhausted your FastPass+ and are done with riding water slides and shopping, come hoof it on over to the Tri-Circle-D Ranch. Those four-legged beauties would love to have you stop by and visit their neigh-borhood.