by Jackie Perrin
One of two Moderate Category properties making up Disney’s 325-acre Port Orleans Resort, the 2,048-room Port Orleans Riverside Resort is just a short boat ride from Downtown Disney, but seemingly worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks.
Theme-wise, the slice of the Old South property is among Disney’s best creative efforts. Lush landscaping and convincing recreations of period architecture are complemented by time-transported opportunities for family fun, and if you’ve got the time or the inclination, you can expand your territory and your cultural horizons at the neighboring French Quarter Resort.
Opened in 1992 as Disney’s Dixie Landings Resort and renamed in 2001, Port Orleans Riverside Resort is divided into two distinctive sections: Magnolia Bend, a collection of stately manor homes, and Alligator Bayou, comfortable, country cottages, some of which feature a single Murphy bed and sleep up to five.
For families seeking a laid-back vacation filled with memorable moments, there are plenty of unique adventures in store. Guests can take a dip in an old-fashioned “swimming hole,” enjoy a horse and carriage ride, search for loot on a pirate treasure cruise or dangle a line in a stocked private pond.
Our Editor Loves
- Waterfall pool
- Cane pole fishing
- Horse and carriage rides
- All Inclusive Rates
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
Slightly more spacious than accommodations at Disney Value Resorts, but with less elbow room than you'd enjoy at a Deluxe Category property, guestrooms at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside are basic, yet functional, with the standard amenities you'd expect to find in a mid-range chain hotel, plus a "Royal"-themed room option with trademark Disney flair.
While you'll pay a premium during peak and holiday seasons, many feel that what rooms lack in luxury or space is made up for in resort recreation, facilities and onsite guest privileges. Whether you're hoping to keep the kids busy -- or reign them back in for some family togetherness -- this resort offers the most diverse recreational options among traditional Moderate category properties.
Standard rooms are 314 square feet and are located in two distinctive sections. Magnolia Bend is a stately neighborhood featuring neatly manicured hedges and grand columned "mansions," while Alligator Bayou has a comfortable, country feel, with lush vegetation and cozy "cottages." Linens and furnishings match the neighborhood theme -- think dark cherry and refined at Magnolia Bend, and hickory wood and rustic at Alligator Bayou, with hidden Mickeys to be found in each.
All guestrooms contain a king bed (surcharge) or two queen beds. Rooms in Alligator Bayou are equipped with a single Murphy bed (suitable for ages 9 and under), as well, making it an attractive choice for families of five who don't mind sharing close quarters. Other rooms with two double beds sleep up to four ($15 night each for third and fourth adult), plus one crib for guests 3 and under. Complimentary Pack 'N Plays and bed rails are delivered upon request, and connecting rooms are available.
Located in the Oak Manor and Parterre Place neighborhoods are 512 "Royal"-themed guestrooms (surcharge). Fun for kids, these storybook rooms feature ornate dÃ©cor and special touches, like fiber-optic headboards and bathroom faucets which resemble Genie lamps. Special view options (surcharge applies) include Garden, Pool or River.
Besides a large armoire, a table with two chairs and a bench, each room features a coffeepot and complimentary Wi-Fi. A mini-fridge is housed in a low-lying, non-locking cabinet -- this may be an issue if you're traveling with little ones. A vanity area contains two sinks, as opposed to the one available at Value Resorts, and a privacy curtain separates it from the bedroom, meaning part of your party can shower early while others sleep in (assuming they're not light sleepers).
I have mixed feelings about this place, so let me start out by saying this is our first time at a Moderate. In the past we have usually stayed at a Deluxe Resort or the Swan/Dolphin. Now that our kids are older and can tolerate the bus better, we decided to save several hundred dollars a night and try a moderate.
First of all, this is a beautiful resort. Beautifully manicured lawns, beautiful flowers, and lots of shade trees. It is pleasant to just walk around and take in the sights. That being said, it is also a massive resort. It can be a long walk to the bus stop, pool, or lobby area so if you have mobility issues, this may not be the resort for you.
Our room was fine. We had a Royal Room in Parterre Place. My 9 year old daughter wanted the Royal Room, and it was fine - although not nearly as wonderful as I think she was expecting. I would have much preferred a remodeled room over the Royal Room, but if you have a young daughter who is really into Disney Princess characters (ours is really too old), they would probably enjoy this room. I do have some complaints about housekeeping. Our room was really clean, but sometimes our room wasn’t serviced until really late afternoon or early evening. They seemed to come just when we were wanting to get ready for dinner or rest after a long day at the parks. This is no fault of the actual housekeepers, but rather the resort. I think it is too big and they just don’t have the staff to keep up with the rooms. One day, no one showed up at all to clean our room, and on another day they replaced our dirty towels with a dirty towel that appeared to have blood on it (it looks like rust in the picture, but it looked more like blood in person). Not a huge deal Bc I’m sure it may have been wadded up in the laundry and didn’t come clean, but I’m surprised the housekeeper didn’t notice it.
Our girls (ages 9 and 12) spent a great deal of time at the pool, but they much preferred the pool at French Quarter over the one at Riverside. My husband and I enjoyed the pool bar at Riverside.
I read lots of negative comments about the buses, but we were here during a very busy time and didn’t experience any of that. We were always able to get on the first bus - even if we had to stand. The bus at Riverside does stop at 4 different stops within the resort so it can take a bit of time to get on your way.
Overall this resort was fine, but if we decide to stay at a moderate again, we would probably choose French Quarter because it is smaller, has only one bus stop, and according to my kids, a much better pool.
Our second time visiting from the UK and we weren’t disappointed.
The minute you’re dropped off by the Magical Express you’re greeted by such charm. The entrance, lobby, grounds and cast members are fabulous.
The rooms are nice, the pool options are great, the river and boat ride to Disney Springs are a delight, the food Hall (in my opinion is superior to that of the sister hotel at French Quarter), even the shop (Fulton’s) is excellent. If I had to focus on improvement it would be Boatwrights restaurant as I feel more work is needed with the menu and layout. That’s the only negative I can think of for the hotel however and from a constructive angle.
Subtle touches remind you you’re staying at a Disney resort without flooding your mind 24/7 like Art of Animation and others do. After a long day at the parks it’s nice to switch off with just a hint remaining of Disney in the bank ground just in case you forget where you are.
Quite simply an amazing hotel and one of my all time favourites anywhere in the world.
Ol' Man Island & Pools
Built around a towering 85 ton Live Oak tree, 3.5-acre Ol' Man Island is a center for resort recreation and includes a themed feature pool and a kiddie pool, as well as a fishing pond and a playground. Designed to resemble an old-fashioned swimming hole, the main pool features multiple waterfalls and a waterslide and is surrounded by a sizable sun deck.
Unlike the Fuentes del Morro Pool at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, the Ol' Man Island Pool doesn't offer zero entry, but set back in a cozy corner nearby, there's a one-foot-deep kiddie pool, suitable for little ones. Five quiet pools are located in and between lodging areas, and laundry rooms are adjacent to each, so it's easy to get a load in while you take a load off in a lounge chair. For those seeking a work-free vacation, valet service is available.
Feature pool hours are 7 a.m. to midnight and lifeguard hours fluctuate with the season.
The early bird gets the worm at the Fishin' Hole at Ol' Man Island, as well as first dibs on cane poles and prime space at the dock overlooking a pond stocked with bass, bluegill and catfish. The format is catch-and-release and the cost is $4.26 for one or $13.32 for a family (up to six) for 30 minutes. Bait is included, but bring your own bug spray. Hours are 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Riverside Levee Marina
At Riverside Levee Marina, you can get a hair wrap ($2 per inch, beads extra) or borrow bikes and take a leisurely ride along the Sassagoula "River." For an extended adventure, rent bikes for the day and head to The French Quarter for lunch and a swim in its popular sea serpent slide pool. Surrey bikes and quadricycles are available by the hour or by the day. Baby bike seats and training wheels are available, too.
Bayou Adventure Pirate Cruise
Aspiring buccaneers ages 4 to 12 can join a nautical treasure hunt on a two-hour Bayou Pirate Adventure Cruise. The cost is $36.21 per child and includes a snack and some loot. Times are 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 407-939-7529 for reservations.
Medicine Show Arcade
The sizeable Medicine Show Arcade contains more than 70 games, as well as a few offerings for small children, like a bright yellow construction truck ride. Located in Riverside Mill, it's open 24 hours (but don't tell the kids)! Nearby, a Caricature Artist creates playful renditions of parents and kids enjoying their favorite sport, hobby or occupation. Choices range from black-and-white face portraits to full-body color pictures. Hours are 6 to 11 p.m. daily.
Horse Drawn Carriage Rides
Carriages seat four adults or two adults and three children, and are $45 for 30 minutes. They are offered from 6 to 9:30 p.m. daily. Book in advance by calling 407-939-7529 or make same-day reservations at 407-824-2832.
Campfire on de Bayou
On Ol' Man Island, next to the playground, roast marshmallows and sing songs with the kids at this nightly celebration.
Movies on the Lawn
In the Oak Manor Courtyard, kid-friendly movies are screened nightly. Hours vary by season. Check the Resort Activities schedule for details.
Riverside Mill Food Court
Housed in a replica cotton factory, Riverside Mill Food Court features five specialty shops (Bakery, Grill, Pizza & Pasta, Specialties, Carving Station, Salad & Sandwich), as well as a Grab 'N Go section with healthy items like fresh fruit and salads. If the weather's nice, grab a table outdoors on the patio, where you can catch a glimpse of the Mill's working waterwheel, as well as boats passing by on the scenic Sassagoula "River." Hours are 6 a.m. to midnight; specific hours vary by station, and highchairs are available.
Beyond the requisite chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese, kids' selections include Mickey Mouse waffles for breakfast, and pasta with marinara sauce and a turkey sandwich for lunch or dinner. Kids meals (ages 9 and under) come with 1-percent milk, apple juice or water and a choice of grapes, carrot sticks or applesauce. For older kids and adults, Create-Your-Own Parfait, Pasta and Salad stations are reliable palate pleasers.
Disney Quick Service Dining Plan credits are accepted. For a one-time fee, you can purchase a refillable mug, which entitles you to unlimited hot and cold beverages at the food court drink station for the length of your stay.
Boatwright's Dining Hall
This is a nautical themed sit-down restaurant featuring Southern and Cajun specialties and shipbuilding decor. Kid-friendly touches include tin pails full of crayons, Mickey Mouse-shaped kids' meals with both fruits and veggies, and a special occasion menu, where you can order up treats like Personal Pirate Chest or Princess Jewelry Box Cakes, Pop-Up Cards or Goodie Bags, complete with a party hat and games. Restaurant hours are 5 to 10 p.m. nightly and advance reservations are suggested.
Muddy Rivers Pool Bar
With a wraparound deck overlooking the Ol' Man Island feature pool, Muddy Rivers Pool Bar (open 11:30 a.m. to dusk, weather permitting) is a popular perch for parents who want to keep an eye on the kids while enjoying a cold drink.
River Roost Lounge
River Roost Lounge (open 4 p.m. to midnight) at Riverside Mill features regular live entertainment. Entertainer Bob Jackson's sing-a-long show is a longtime family favorite.
Sassagoula Pizza Express
If you're too tired to trek to the food court, Sassagoula Pizza Express will deliver pizza, salad, beer, wine and dessert to your resort room from 4 p.m. to midnight daily.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Overnight guests enjoy a number of special perks, like early-entry and late-stay theme park privileges (Extra Magic Hours), free onsite transportation, free parking, the ability to make FASTPASS+ reservations 60 days in advance and the opportunity to participate in a Disney Dining Plan with a Magic Your Way Package. Additional privileges include online room check-in (up to 10 days in advance), resort airline check-in and airport transportation service via Disney's Magical Express.
If luck follows you, you might enjoy some "surprise" benefits, as well, such as towel animals courtesy of Mousekeeping and special occasion treats like birthday buttons and character phone calls (note special event at time of registration).
A 0.7-mile paved jogging trail runs parallel to the Sassagoula River, between Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter Resorts. Saratoga Springs Resort offers a full spa, as well as an on-site Health Club. Gym access is free to Port Orleans Riverside guests ages 14 and up (Key to the World Card required). Guests ages 14 to 17 must be accompanied by an adult.
Kids Nite Out, an independent agency, provides in-room resort childcare. Rates are $16 per hour for the first child, with a four-hour minimum and a $10 caregiver transportation fee.
If you're visiting with kids under three, you'll need to bring, rent or buy a stroller. Fulton's General Store sells a reclining umbrella model for around $50. Local services that deliver include All About Kids, Orlando Stroller Rental and Owner's Locker.
The Art of Smart Timing
When traveling to Walt Disney World Resort, it's best to avoid peak travel periods. Generally, these times include holidays and the summer months -- in other words, any time schools are out of session. If you do opt to visit in summertime, pack sunscreen, hydrate frequently and, unless you want to squander your souvenir money on ponchos at the parks, don't forget your raingear.
Fortunately for travelers on a budget, the least expensive times to visit Walt Disney World theme parks (Value Season) tend to coordinate with dates when crowds are the lightest. If your kids aren't in school yet, September is a great time to visit. Another prime time is after Thanksgiving through early December, when parks and resorts are decked out in holiday splendor.
From Orlando International Airport (MCO): Free roundtrip airport transportation via motorcoach is available to guests (advance reservation required; limited hours) via Disney's Magical Express. To reach the resort by car, take the South Exit Road from Orlando International Airport to SR 417 Toll Road (GreeneWay) West and follow signs to Walt Disney World/Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort. Plan on about $3 in tolls.
Free transportation to and from Walt Disney World theme parks and water parks is provided by bus. Bus stops (four) are located near lodging areas and Riverside Mill. Complimentary daily boat service is provided to and from Port Orleans French Quarter and Downtown Disney. Hours are 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Boats depart every 20 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and every 10 minutes from 4 to 11 p.m.
Parking is free to resort guests and parking lots are located adjacent to lodgings -- a major advantage over some Value or Deluxe properties, where access tends to be less convenient. Those planning to rely on resort transportation can reduce transit time by requesting a room near the resort center, close to both the food court and South Depot bus stops. Some buildings don't have elevators, so if you're traveling with a child in a stroller, be kind to your back by requesting a ground floor room. If you must have a water view (river or pool), expect to pay a surcharge.
For Mom and Dad
Take a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride or board a boat for the French Quarter for a spicy evening of jazz and jambalaya at Scat Cat's Club and Sassagoula Food Factory. If you prefer natural scenery, consider a peaceful (and free) river cruise to Downtown Disney. The last return launch of the day departs Downtown Disney at 11:30 pm.