My perfect day at Port Orleans Riverside: Breakfast at the “Riverside Mill & Market”, a trip to Fishing Hole on ‘Ol Man Island for “Cane Pole Fishing” (or maybe a chartered fishing boat), a stroll through the Alligator Bayou, a ride on a Sea Raycer (or maybe a bike), a trip to the Swimmin’ Hole, a few trips on the water slide and some poolside activities: Goofy Bingo & Name that Disney Tune. A snack from “Muddy Rivers Pool Side Bar”, finish in time for the 3:00 Ol’ Man Island Pool Party, some more pool side games or maybe some time on the nearby children’s playground, pool side again for the 4:30 “Best on the Bayou Dance Off”. dry-off (change clothes) and head to the nearby Campfire on de’ Bayou for the 5:30 Disney Storytelling, dinner at “Boatwright’s Dining Hall” (or the dinner food court menu), a Movie under the Stars at 7:00 and Ye Haa Bob at the River Roost at 10:00!
Believe it or not, that’s not everything there is to do there. This episode of Sams Disney Diary is all about Port Orleans Riverside Resort. Read on below the video.
Sams Disney Diary Episode #28 the Video, click the image below to watch.
Hotel reservations tend to be an afterthought when planning a Walt Disney World vacation, with 4 full theme parks and the Downtown Disney shopping district and a limited amount of time. Your room can become a crash pad. You’re in late at night, out early the next morning. Walt Disney World features 24 Disney owned themed resorts (there are 8 more on property not owned by Disney).
Each resort is themed with as much, or more, details than the parks themselves. The magic of Disney parks is removing you from reality: “Here you leave Today and enter the world of Yesterday, Tomorrow and Fantasy. The same holds true for each of the Walt Disney World resorts, entering a nostalgic era captured by Disney as only they can do it.
While most people will hustle to and from as many parks and attractions as possible, most miss the simple details of the resort they are staying in, maybe memorizing the walk to and from the bus stop and restaurant or food court but not much more. It is quite possible to lose yourself in the beauty of any of the resorts and simply spend the day, or morning, or afternoon exploring. Port Orleans Riverside is a perfect place to get lost in the details. Of course there is a swimming pool with a slide that most families will take advantage of, especially in the summer heat. But, did you know you can charter a guided fishing excursion, or stop by the Dockside Fishing Hole… and fish the old fashioned way? The opportunities to just get away are limitless.
Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside opened February 2, 1992, as “Disney’s Dixie Landing Resort”. In early 2001, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort and Disney’s Dixie Landing Resort became “regions” of a united Disney’s Port Orleans Resort. Those regions shortly after became Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter, respectively. These sister resorts are operated independently, but share all amenities.
It’s a short 10 minute walk from food court to food court, allowing guests to experience the theming of the Mississippi Bayou and the romance and pageantry of New Orleans’ historic French Quarter. Guests can also catch the Sassagoula Water Taxi which runs between resorts about every 20 minutes. From Riverside, the water taxi heads towards French Quarter before continuing the trip to the Downtown Disney area, the only Disney area accessible without using the Disney bus service. From French Quarter, you can take the water taxi directly to Downtown Disney or Riverside.
As is typical with Disney transportation, well not so much the buses, the transportation is an attraction unto itself. The Sassagoula River winds from Riverside to French Quarter continuing past Disney’s Old Key West and Tree House Villas then past Downtown Disney West Side, the former Pleasure Island to its stop near the Marketplace (next to Captain Jacks). Take note of your boat and the location of the stop, otherwise you may find yourself on a boat to Saratoga Springs. Regardless, the water taxi is a great way to enjoy the river and relax while heading to Disney’s premier shopping and entertainment district, be it Downtown Disney or Disney Springs. As mentioned previously, the two resorts are considered “sister resorts” and both offer a unique experience complementing each other. There are some differences to consider, but considering the short walk between resorts, it’s more than possible to experience them both. If you do plan to visit both, you may need a day to do so. Even as a huge fan of the parks, getting away from the crowds for a day and just relaxing can add important down time to your vacation. Consider it a vacation within your vacation. Both resorts have a food court, a feature swimming pool, an arcade, a playground, and a lounge with entertainment.
Both are also considered “moderate” resorts within Walt Disney World Resort complex and are priced accordingly. In my opinion, they are the best value on property. The recreation activities alone rival those available at most of the deluxe resorts. The theming and amenities far exceed anything in the value resort space. Riverside is clearly the larger of the two resorts and is the central location for most resort wide activities. Riverside has 2,048 rooms compared to 1,008 at French Quarter.
Most guests will find themselves traveling from French Quarter to Riverside for extended resort activities; however, the sprawl and size of Riverside may position your room farther away from registration and the food court. I’ll spend most of this blog/video/podcast reviewing the Riverside Resort I had the opportunity to visit recently (two separate occasions). The first was my first stay at Riverside; I had previously stayed in the French Quarter back when it was still known as Dixie Landings. I’ll focus on the Riverside section of Port Orleans for this blog.
Riverside itself is divided into two unique and complementary themes. The Alligator Bayou is a series of smaller “lodge” buildings set in the rural bayou of Southern Louisiana. The Alligator Bayou includes 17 individual two story buildings. The second half of the resort is the Magnolia Bend, a series of majestic southern plantations complete with white columns and majestic staircases leading to the second floor. There are four uniquely themed mansion buildings representing the different styles of southern architecture: The Acadia House, Magnolia Terrace, Oak Manor and Parterre Place. The total number of rooms is roughly identically split across both sides of the resort.
The rooms, like the theming, are quite different. Obviously the décor matches and extends the outside theme; but more specifically, the Alligator Bayou rooms feature a trundle bed and therefore represent one of the limited locations at Walt Disney World that 5 can stay in a single room. Another note:
The two story Alligator Bayou lodges do not have an elevator while the three story mansion buildings do. Disney recently converted two of the mansions to “Royal Guest Rooms”. According to the story (The Princess and the Frog), Tiana frequently entertains her princess friends, and these Royal Rooms feature special mementos she has left for her friends. The bathroom faucets are in the shape of the
Genie’s lamp for example, and the headboards are illuminated with fiber optic special effects. The perfect touches for your princess. Enough about the rooms… with so much to do at the resort, you won’t be spending much time in them.
As you would expect, the theming starts even before you check in. You are pulling up to the “Sassagoula Steamboat Company” as you enter the lobby, and you are registering for your Sassagoula river voyage. Check-in, to your right, is themed to resemble an old-style river boat complete with Mississippi River ports of call and a few Hidden Mickeys. HINT: if you can check-in on-line, DO IT! There will be two check-in lines, one for pre-registered guests and the other for everyone else. That pre-registration is your fast-pass for check-in. Just past the registration desk is the Medicine Show Arcade, a surprisingly large facility packed with over 70 of the latest video games. It is much bigger than I had expected and bigger than most of the arcades found at deluxe resorts.
Left of the main lobby you’ll find the gift shop, “Fulton’s General Store” featuring a standard collection of Disney vacation merchandise along with a nice selection of groceries. Beyond the general store is a hall leading to “The River Roost Lounge”, “Boatwright’s Dining Hall” and the “Riverside Mill & Market Food Court”. All are themed to keep the Mississippi Riverside look and feel including a working mill inside the food court and the look of a working shipyard in Boatwright’s Dining Hall, the sit down restaurant. All of these locations are housed in a single building, designed to look and feel like a
riverside village. Stepping beyond the main building you are fully immersed into the Sassagoula Riverside village. You have stepped directly into the Sassagoula River Marina area, the entertainment center for the resort. At the nearby “Riverside Levee”, you can rent your favorite watercraft: A 21 foot Sun Tracker Pontoon, 17 foot Boston Whaler or smaller two person Sea Raycer. You’ll be able to find a motor craft for you. Canoes are also available if you would rather skip the motor, and if water isn’t your thing they have bicycles and surrey bikes available as well. With about 2 ½ miles of river, you can do some exploring on the waterway. You can take the bike all the way around Port Orleans, including French Quarter. The bike trail doubles as a jogging path around the entire resort. There is also a pin board at the rental counter… do you have your traders?
You can also sign up for the “Bayou Pirate Adventure”. This two hour cruise for children ages 4-12 takes young adventurers who will join Captain John Lafitte on a pirate adventure down the Sassagoula River.
Hair wraps and braiding are available at the marina dockside, and you’ll also find horse-drawn carriage rides nearby. It’s a scenic ride along the banks of the Sassagoula toward French Quarter, and there you make your way around the New Orleans-style streets on the way back towards Riverside. It’s a very relaxing way to see some of the neighboring resort, including a glimpse of its feature pool, Doubloon Lagoon.
Speaking of pools, if your kids are like mine, the pool is the first thing that needs to be checked out. What I found most enjoyable about the pool at Riverside is that it’s more than just a pool. “Ol’ Man Island” is a 3 ½ acre island in the center of Riverside. Though it feels secluded, the island is easily accessible from the main building and guest rooms. As you enter, you’ll find the marquee with the “Legend of Ol’ Man Island”. The sign reads:“Settled in 1835 by a young man, the island became his home in the solitude of the bayou country. Years later Riverside was settled and prospered, and Ol’ Man island was discovered by the children of the town. They would steal away to play on the island where a wondrous world had been created. The Island is a tribute to the Ol’ Man and the happiness he gave the children and all of Riverside’s neighbors”
It’s more than a swimming pool. You’ll find the feature pool “the Swimmin’ Hole”, Muddy Rivers Pool Bar, hot tub, children’s pool, children’s playground, campfire site and fishing hole. Be sure to check the recreation activity schedule when you check in. It should also be posted near the entrance to the Island. These activities will keep the family busy all afternoon. The schedule changes daily and typically starts just after lunch. A sampling of activities: Goofy Bingo, Water Relays, Disney Charades, Water Basketball, Name that Tune, Don’t forget the Disney Lyrics, Disney Memory, Match Game and Duck, Duck Donald. There is also a daily Ol’ Man Island Pool Party at 3:00 and a “Best on the Bayou Dance Off” at 4:30. Then at 5:30 head over to the nearby Campfire on de’ Bayou for some Disney storytelling, and there is even a Movie under the Stars on select nights near the Oak Manor mansion building.
In addition to the ‘Old Swimmin Hole, there are 5 quiet pools through Riverside, 3 in the Alligator Bayou and 2 in the Magnolia Bend. During peak season, there is an outdoor movie near one of the quiet pools in the Magnolia Bend.
Are you hungry? At poolside you can grab some light dining at Muddy Waters Pool Side Bar, or maybe head to the “Riverside Mill Food Court”. It features 5 serving stations, and you’ll find something any time of day. Salads, sandwiches, pasta, pizza and a bakery provide a variety of quick options. You can ask for any of the offerings “to go” for a quick trip pool side or a snack at one of the quiet pools.
If you’re looking for a sit down dinner, Boatwright’s Dining Hall is the only table service restaurant at the resort. Open from 5:00 to 10:00 daily, Boatwright’s features southern hospitality in a casual but creative setting. N’Awlins favorites like Cajun crawfish bites, gumbo and jambalaya are some of the features.
If New Orleans cuisine isn’t your thing, remember you’re only a short boat ride away from Downtown Disney. If you’re heading downtown, make sure you leave enough time to experience Riverside’s live entertainment. Wednesday-Saturday nights, the River Roost Lounge is home to the famous “Ye Haa” Bob Jackson. Bob’s Family Friends sing-along comedy show is a must see, especially if you’re staying at Riverside. Remember that quick boat ride to Downtown Disney also serves as a transportation route for others staying on property, all to see Bob’s show!
The interactive audience participation show can be seen inside the River Roost, but if you would rather watch from afar, there are plenty of comfortable places between the General Store and the lounge itself. Bob absolutely takes requests. Is there any place else on property you can hear “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes” or “SpongeBob?”
Bob is a recipient of the Walt Disney Legacy Award, the highest honor a cast member can receive and an honor well deserved. You can be sure the video and podcast edition of SamsDisneyDiary will have an extended look at Bob’s performances. It is the perfect way to cap off a night at Port Orleans Riverside. What are you most fond of at Port Orleans Riverside?
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More Pictures From Port Orleans Riverside: