Each resort has its own special character such as the Louisiana-influenced architecture and atmosphere of Port Orleans Riverside. Together with Port Orleans French Quarter these are my favorite resorts at Walt Disney World.
What many people don’t realize is the Walt Disney World is a great place to visit and just relax like any other vacation spot. Yes, the theme parks are an important component of your visit, but not the only thing you should consider doing. There is a lot going on outside the parks, which is why I recommend staying on site and taking advantage of what your resort and other properties offer.
So let’s say you decide to stay at the hotel one day; what is there to do? For Port Orleans, I’ve used a great reference source, The Unofficial Visitors Guide to Riverside and French Quarter, which is the http://www.portorleans.org/ web site. I also want to thank PortOrleans.Org for allowing me to select from their wide variety of photographs as illustrations for my article. So let’s take a walk around the first of two resorts at Port Orleans… Riverside, or POR.
POR is likely the most extensively landscaped of all the Disney Moderate resorts. There are two distinctly themed housing areas, the stately white-columned Magnolia Bend "mansions" and the "cottages" of Alligator Bayou, combined for a total of over 2,000 guest rooms. The Bayou has a rustic look with log furniture and patchwork bedspreads. Magnolia Bend includes plantation home facades, lovely fountains, extensive flora and the lazy river alongside.
The main building is the Sassagoula Steamboat Company, which like other welcome areas includes the check-in and other customer service and Concierge, a comfortable sitting area, Arcade and Fulton’s General Store. Fulton’s is actually one of the better supplied retail outlets in the entire of WDW. Be aware that this is a very large resort, with a massive island in the middle connected by bridges. If you have special needs, make it clear because you will be doing a lot of walking from one place to the next.
Down the hall you pass the River Roost Lounge. Guests from all over the “World” will stop here on selected evenings just to watch Yee Ha Bob Jackson (check out the video at the story end). This is a real treat for the whole family. Continue walking and you have the Riverside Mill which is a food court, plus the table service restaurant at Port Orleans which is the Boatwright’s Dining Hall. Here’s the dinner menu and the dessert menu. Boatwright’s has a southern shipyard theme with the hull of a large fishing vessel straddling the dining area. It’s a cozy location but with all the accoutrements, it’s quite interesting.
Over at the Marina you can rent watercraft from kayaks to pontoon boats, but also bicycles (for use on dry land of course). The boats rent in 30 to 60 minute periods. Mary Ann and I took a Sea Raycer for an hour, travelling up and around the Sassagoula River seeing resorts and Downtown Disney along the way. Bicycles are for one, two and four persons. Here are the current prices .
Speaking of prices, rooms here are the typical wide range of nightly rates, from a low of $149 during weekdays of value season to over $200 a night on the holidays. So it’s important to watch for specials, such as the current 30% off at select resorts from May to August.
Recently I read on the Disney Moms panel web site about The Bayou Pirate Adventure at Port Orleans Riverside that takes place on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 9:30 until 11:30 in the morning. “The pirate cruises are available to children between the ages of 4 and 12. Lunch is included. If you sign your little pirate or pirate princess up to attend, rest assured that he (or she) will have an adventurous time searching for (and likely finding) a slew of treasure. Reservations are required and can be made up to 180 days out by calling 407-WDW-DINE”. The Disney Moms Panel is also a nice resource and fields questions about anything at Walt Disney World .
Something we’ve always wanted to do but haven’t yet is a horse-drawn carriage ride around the pathways of the entire Port Orleans resort. It’s about a half hour for under $50 and provides a very romantic interlude for young people like me and Mary Ann (no comments from my children please). Reservations are required. But if you don’t need the horse to pull you around, there is are nearly 2 miles of walking and running trails around the entire resort and along the river.
Water resources and entertainment is particularly featured at the resort. One is the Water Taxi ride to Downtown Disney. This is a real convenience and lot nicer than taking the bus. The boats are quite frequent from 10:00 am until 11:30 pm. If you finish your shopping after that, you can always get Disney buses back. The boat ride is about 20 minutes each way.
The Port Orleans resort is so large in fact, that there’s an island that includes the 225,000 gallon main resort pool, water slide and hot tub. There are also five quiet pools and a Fishin’ Hole where you can rent a cane fishing pole and bait for some catch and release of catfish, blue gill and bass. There is also a playground for the kids. For the more dedicated fish pursuers there is the Guided Bass Fishing Excursion, something that is available at many WDW locations. It’s a two-hour excursion on a 21-foot Tracker pontoon boat. An experienced guide along with your gear is provided for up to four at $260.
This really is a family-friendly resort, because there is something for everyone to do, but also to do together. Another example is the Campfire on de’ Bayou. This is a seasonal activity hopefully repeated in 2010. Sit by the fire, listen to stories, sing songs and burn marshmallows and s’mores behind the Muddy Rivers pool bar. It was $7 a person, and a great way to enjoy the evening sky. Then after, head for the heated pools.
Getting back to the River Roost Lounge, you want to try some of the specialty drinks (if you’re of age, of course). And then check your resort Sassagoula Times newsletter for days and times, but Yee Ha Bob normally performs Wednesday to Saturday at 8:30 pm. Bob also has his own website . Here’s a sample of how Bob entertains and involved his audience from 2008 from the Main Street Cinema by Greg McNaughten .
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Corporate Description: Disney's Port Orleans Resort — Riverside is a 2,048-room hotel inspired by rural Louisiana that flows alongside the picturesque Sassagoula River.Located near:Epcot theme parkDowntown Disney AreaDisney's BoardWalk AreaWelcome back to a time and place where everything seems to move a little slower and simple pleasures flourish like magnolia blossoms in the springtime. Enjoy the tranquility of the Louisiana Bayou and the hospitality of a picturesque waterfront Resort hotel that embodies the traditions born of steamboat travel, formal garden parties, mint juleps on the front porch and life along the mighty Sassagoula River.The Guest rooms at Disney's Port Orleans Resort — Riverside are divided into 2 distinctly themed parishes: the stately white-columned Magnolia Bend mansions and the quaint backwoods cottages of Alligator Bayou.The Colonel's Cotton Mill building contains a variety of helpful facilities. With its soaring columns and high ceiling the Main Lobby resembles a steamship ticket station. Shop at Fulton's General Store, grab a quick bite to eat in the Riverside Mill food court, sit down for a meal of Cajun specialties at Boatright's Dining Hall, sip a cocktail at the River Roost lounge or play a few video games at the Medicine Show Arcade.Located in the center of Disney's Port Orleans Resort — Riverside, the 3.5-acre Ol' Man Island is encircled by a bend of the Sassagoula River. Tom Sawyer would love Ol' Man Island—it features an extensive pool ...