Saturday, June 2, 2012

Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Review

I have been wanting to go to Disney World for a long time, but it took several years just to convince my husband to go and then a couple more to save up enough to pay for the trip.  A big question when you go to Disney World is where are you going to stay at because there are sooo many different options.  You can stay on site at Disney or get an off site hotel.  We decided that on site was for us because with Disney you can fly into Orlando and they will pick you up and take you to your resort and from there you can take their transportation anywhere you want on their property so we wouldn't need to rent a car.  After we decided to stay on site we had to decide which resort to stay at.  Disney has over twenty different options for resorts which range from value to deluxe villas.  Now while I would love to stay at a deluxe villa our budget just did not allow for it and I've stayed at one of Disney's values before and the small rooms with double beds and loud kids running around everywhere just did not sound like a fun vacation.  So we settled on Port Orleans Riverside which is one of Disney's Moderate resorts.  The pictures of the amazing landscapes, winding river, quiet pools, queen size beds and boat ride to Downtown Disney had us hooked.  Riverside has two types of hotel buildings; Mansion Buildings or Bayou Buildings.  Port Orleans has recently had several buildings refurbished and is in the middle of refurbishing their main lobby and some of the final hotel room buildings.  We stayed in one of their new Royal Rooms in the Mansion buildings (Oak Manor and Parterre Buildings).  You can find my review of those rooms HERE.  But in this post I wanted to review some of the different things to do and see at Port Orleans Riverside. 

Size of the Resort
I had read a lot of other reviews and had heard how large this resort and how there were multiple bus stops to go through all the time.  I found the resort to be large but not anything that wasn't manageable.  Just make sure to always leave yourself enough time to get to where you need to go, that way you can have a pleasant stroll and enjoy the resort.  The same goes for the bus service because while there are multiple bus stops at the resort, it does not take all that much time to go around to all of them and as long as you give yourself enough time to get to where you are going just sit back and enjoy the ride.  We never did make it over to the Bayou buildings on the resort because all you really need to get to is your room, a quiet pool, the main pool, a bus stop and the main building.  There is really no reason to go to the rest of the resort unless you just want to.  So you can knock off a big chunk of that big resort feel and it is much more manageable when you figure out the most direct pathways to the areas you want to go to.

Main Building
The main building holds the check-in area, gift shop, lounge, a restaurant, arcade and a food court.  The check-in area was in the middle of being refurbished when we checked and half of it was new and half of it was the old by the next morning they had a wall up around the old area and the new area was being used along with some temporary tables in the lounge for check-ins and other services.  I wish I would have gotten a picture of the check-in area when they had both the old and the new sections shown together but we got to the hotel late and we were just wanting to get checked in and find our room.

Bus Stops
There are 4 bus stops at Riverside (North, South, East & West Depot) there is also one additional bus stop at Port Orleans French Quarter that may also be in a bus route going to or coming from the parks (but normally not in busy hours).  We used the South Depot that was at the main building and found it to be busy but we were always able to get on the first bus that came (sometimes my husband did have to stand during really busy hours). 

The Magic Express stop is right in front of the check-in area of the main building and is the same place that you will get picked up at when you go back to the airport.  (Note that we were the last of 4 stops the Magic Express made when going to the resort but coming back they only picked up at Riverside and went right to the airport.  I'm not sure if that is normal)

One of the Bus Stop Buildings at the South Depot

Food Court (Riverside Mill)
This was one of the best food courts I have been to.  They had a lot of choices that you will not find in other food courts.  We really liked having the option to get the turkey meal with mashed potatoes and corn there was also a kids option for this meal.  Then the last day I tried the create-your-own pasta where you got to pick the extras you wanted in the pasta and the type of noodles and sauce and then they put it all in a pan and heated it up.  It was really good.  I wish that I would have tried this before the last day because I would have gotten it several other times.  The line could get a little long for the pasta because it was made on demand but it was worth it.  We were also on the quick service dining plan and got a dessert with our adult meals and there was lot of options to choose from in the Bakery.  The ice cream sundaes were huge.  We also tried the cakes, brownies, hand dipped shakes, Mickey rice crispy treats and several other things.  The only thing that I didn't really care for was the hamburger and while it wasn't terrible it just wasn't my favorite.  The food court also has some small tables with small chairs that has a bucket of crayons and coloring pages.  After your kid colors a picture there is even a Mickey Mail box for them put put it into if they want.  There is also a large TV beside this area which is nice if you are just wanting to waste some time after you have checked out of your room.
We didn't eat at Boatright's which is the sit down restaurant at Riverside, but I was surprised that some of the restaurant is open when you are walking to the food court.  I was expecting it to be in a separate area but the hallway that connects the main lobby to the food court goes right in front of some of the restaurant's seating area.  I don't think we were missing anything by not going here because the food court was great.

Breakfast in the food court

Sundae in the food court

Create-your-own pasta meal in the food court w/sauceless kids spaghetti meal

Ferry Boat
We used the ferry boat on several days to go to Downtown Disney and really enjoyed it.  I think going to the Downtown area by bus is faster but the boat is nice for a slower pace and letting you look around at the wildlife and the surroundings.  What I was not expecting from the boat ride was how loud it was.  You get used to it after a while but still it's pretty loud.  The boat also makes a stop at the French Quarter so if you are wanting to checkout that resort without having to walk down there you can always take the ferry.

Pools and Pool Activities
Port Orleans has one main pool and 5 quiet pools and if you want to change it up a little you can go to the French Quarter and they have another main pool.  We only used the main pool one time after it got dark.  Even though the temperature while we were at Disney was in the low 90's the main pool had pretty cool water.  So we soon got out and went to the quiet pool closer to our building to see how it was.  The quiet pool's water was much warmer.  I'm not sure why but we stuck to going to the quiet pool after that.  The main pool area is nice and has a hot tub, a children's pool area and the main pool has a slide but it can get crowded.  The quiet pool was more of our speed and even if it had several families using it there was more than enough space for everyone to have their own area.

The main pool has act ivies in the afternoon every day.  We were playing at the playgrounds one day and got to see and listen to some of the act ivies.  It seemed like everyone was having a good time and it was fun that we could hear some trivia questions and we could play along even though we were not over by the pool.  They would play music at the pool also which made for a really fun atmosphere.

Campfire on de' Bayou
This was my daughters favorite activity at the resort.  They give you (kids & adults) each a dowel rod and let you roast as many marshmallows as you want for free.  After you are done they break your stick in half so they don't give it out to someone else and they throw it in the fire when they need a little more fuel for the fire.  You can buy smore kits from the gift shop if you want to but I didn't see anyone doing this.  One of the girls who was helping run it said she had people who brought their own hotdogs and have roasted them also.  The campfire lasts for about an hour and it can get a little crowded at times but it quickly thins out after some people do a marshmallow or two and then leave then you may find yourself to the whole area for yourself.  There is several benches to sit at but be careful that you make sure it is dry first.  Because this area is close to the main pool I had some swimmers sit on a bench before I got there and quickly found myself with a wet behind because I did not check the bench. 

Movies Under the Stars
The resort has nightly movies shown on the lawn by the Oak Manor building (shown below).  Check with the schedule of events that they will give you when you check-in to see what movies will be showing.  We did this 3 times during our visit and had a really good time.  They bring a wagon full of pool towels and let you take as many as you want.  We had our own little towel island area with towel pillows and my daughter even had a towel blanket.  We brought snacks and had a little picnic with our movie.  Take time to relax after the parks some night to enjoy a movie here some night if you have time.

Movie Screen at night.  Sorry about the blurry picture.

Horse-drawn Carriage Rides
I was not planning on doing a horse & carriage ride but our daughter wanted to so we did it.  The lady that did the horse ride was really nice and gave us lots of great information about the resort and Disney world.  I would recommend it if you have an extra 25 minutes and $45 to spare.  We took our ride down to the French Quarter but they also do rides to the Bayou section of the Resort.  My husband wishes that we would have gone to the Bayou section because we could see the French Quarter from the ferry ride but maybe we'll do that next time if we ever get to go back to Disney.

There was a pretty large play area at the resort.  The picture below only shows half of the playset.  There are benches around this area also for adults to sit and watch their kids.  The trees around provide a lot of shade but it's not totally shaded so check the slides for hot areas before your kids go down to make sure they are not too hot from the Florida sun.  The ground around the playset was that rubber mulch stuff so it was really good for the kids that were running all around.

Cane Pole Fishing
We did fishing on the last day.  It is only about $5 for 1/2 an hour of fishing with one pole.  Now I wouldn't expect to catch any fish.  We didn't even get a nibble but it may have just been the day or time that we went that the fish didn't like.  But the fishing hole is a nice shady area so if you are looking for a short slow paced activity on a hot day this would probably be a good choice.  There were steps in several areas around the fishing area so kids can have a step up and be able to fish easier.

"Ye Haa" Bob Jackson @ River Roost Lounge
I wanted to checkout "Ye Haa" Bob's show because I had heard great things about it.  My husband was less interested so we didn't go to the lounge area for his show.  I did catch a little bit of his show as we were going to the gift shop one night and I decided my kids probably wouldn't have liked it, not that it didn't look like a lot of fun, but his speakers are kind of loud and my kids have problems with loud noises.  So we skipped it, but it did look like the people watching it were having a good time so you should probably check it out.

My husband spent a lot of time & money at the arcade.  It was a rather large arcade I thought for a resort and it was really nice with lots of things to do.  The games do not give tickets out for prizes or anything like that but it is a nice place to spend some extra time if you get rained out from some outdoor activities or just have a few spare minutes.


  1. It's a wonder that you had time to go to the park with all the stuff to do on the resort! How many days did you spend in the parks? Were meals included in your stay at the resort?

  2. We were at Disney World for 5 1/2 days/6nights (we got there right at night time the first night). We went to the parks for 5 days but didn't stay at the parks all day. We could have used a % off of the room discount or I got a pin for a free meal plan. We used the free meal plan (see blog post FULL TRIP REPORT COMING SOON WITH DETAILS ABOUT OUR TIME IN THE PARKS...STAY TUNED.

  3. Great review - if anyone wants the current Port Orleans "Movie Under the Stars' schedule, you can see it at - it is updated on the first of every month.

  4. What a brilliant report - very detailed and thank you for even adding info about activities you didn't do - I've been trying to find out about cane fishing and couldn't find info for POR anywhere.


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