Ed. – Today the blog is taking you to Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter. These resorts are connected by a very pleasant walk along the Sassagoula River and are favorites on the Unofficial Guide reader survey.
If you are staying at the Walt Disney Resort, one of the first decisions you will make is where you will be staying. If you decide that you are going to be staying on Disney property, next you get to decide between Value, Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villas.
Many people form strong opinions on which hotel is the best, and I’m not here to argue the point. I mean, there’s not really a point to argue, since the clear winner is Port Orleans Riverside.
Once you have made the best (the only!) decision to stay at Port Orleans Riverside, you can either be assigned a location, or you can request a particular area.
The first time I stayed at Port Orleans Riverside, I didn’t know much about it, and didn’t know enough to request a certain area of the resort. Now, after staying there multiple times, I know what I like and I always request an area in advance, though specific room or area requests are just that: requests. While Disney does their best to make you happy, sometimes it’s just not possible to accommodate your request.
The entire resort is gorgeous, but there are obviously some areas that are better than others. Even then, what makes it better for some makes it worse for others, so here’s a question-and-answer guide to help you choose the best area for your needs.
Everyone has told me that Riverside is the best hotel, and they all rave about Alligator Bayou and mansions, but I don’t understand. What…?
This is the perfect question to start out our FAQs! Port Orleans Riverside is a large resort, with 2,048 rooms in total. The hotel is divided into two parts, called Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend. Alligator Bayou is divided up into numbered lodges, and Magnolia Bend is broken into four mansions, named Acadian House, Parterre Place, Oak Manor, and Magnolia Terrace. Each side is themed separately, but the rooms are identical in size and amenities, though decorated differently. Alligator Bayou is made up of individual lodges, and is meant to resemble what you would find in the rural areas of Louisiana, with three different styles of the lodges. There are shady paths meandering between the lodges, with bridges and streams, and is very picturesque. Magnolia Bend is more elegant, with large mansions and sweeping gardens with fountains. Each mansion is also styled differently. While Disney charges extra for rooms they consider to be better for some reason or another, including proximity to the lobby or better views, there is a wide variety of things to do and see as you walk around the grounds of the resort, no matter where you are staying. Sometimes these extras are worth spending a little more, but sometimes they’re just not.
I have 5 people in my family. Do I need to get two rooms?
Port Orleans has the perfect place for your family! In Alligator Bayou there’s a pull down Murphy style bed (featuring Louis from The Princess and the Frog) that will allow a small child to sleep there, as well as either two queen beds or a king (depending on what you choose when you book). The pull down bed is not as big as a twin, and really is quite small, only 63” long and 30” wide, so only the youngest of children will be comfortable there, but it’s perfect for kids under 10. (To give you perspective, a queen bed is 80” long and 60” wide). I have read that adults who are under 5’ could fit, but from the two minutes I spent laying on it to try it out, I was very uncomfortable due to the narrowness of the bed. I am much taller than 5’, but it still wasn’t ideal.
My child/wife/self is obsessed with all things princess. Is this a good resort for us?
Yes! It’s really the perfect resort, with Royal Rooms. The Royal Rooms were added in 2011, and they feature tons of special details. While the rooms are purportedly Princess Tiana’s, more special touches are included as gifts from Tiana’s princess friends, including portraits of them together and the magic lamp as sink faucets from Princess Jasmine in Aladdin. One of the coolest things in these rooms has to be the fiber optic light show that is built into the headboard of the beds. Because these rooms are decorated by Royalty, and look it, there is a surcharge for staying in any of these 512 rooms, and all of them are located in the Magnolia Bend section of the resort. On the other hand, if your child is obsessed with Princesses but you are indifferent, the touches are subtle enough (with the exception of the portraits on the wall) that it just feels like a fancier than usual hotel room.
I want to get started with touring the parks immediately, and I hate a long walk back to my room after a long day in the parks. Where should I stay?
Good question! Remember, Port Orleans is very large, so there are four bus stops for the resort, South, North, East, and West. The South depot is the the one that services the lobby area, and is the largest of the four depots, with two covered areas dividing up the destinations. Because the resort hotel is so very large, some areas will indeed have a long walk to a bus depot. If you want to be as quick as possible from room to bus and back, request Alligator Bayou buildings 24, 25, 34, or 35 for the West depot, or Alligator Bayou buildings 36 or 37 or anywhere in Acadian House for the North depot (though half of Acadian House will be better served going the other way to the East Depot). All of Magnolia Terrace is close to the East Depot, but be careful to say Magnolia Terrace (versus Magnolia Bend, which is the the collective name of the four mansion buildings). Disney does have an area of Alligator Bayou that they consider a preferred location, and charge more. Some of the preferred rooms still have a long walk to a bus depot, but a shorter walk to the feature pool or the lobby, so booking a prefered room isn’t a guarantee of a short walk to the bus.
I will be using the Disney Meal Plan when I stay at the resort, so I want to be close to the food court. Where should I stay?
Another great question! The Disney Dining Plan gives you, in addition to your dining entitlements, a refillable mug that is good at your resort for the length of your stay, so being close to the food court makes it easy for you to fill up on your way to the parks. The preferred rooms in Alligator Bayou are a good choice for you, if you are willing to pay the extra for them, or Oak Manor if you don’t want to pay the upcharge.
We are coming from up north, and my kids are almost more excited about the pool than visiting the parks. Where’s the best place to be close to the pool?
This question is not easily answered, if only because the resort has multiple pools in multiple locations. There is one large feature pool in the middle of the resort, located on Ol’ Man Island, which has a water slide, wading area for kids, and hot tubs, as well as five quiet pools scattered around. Presuming you want to be close to the action-packed feature pool, you will want to stay in Magnolia Terrace, Acadian House, or Alligator Bayou building 38. If you just want access to a pool, any pool, you can actually stay anywhere, as the pools are pretty evenly spread out. If you want to be sure you will have quick access, you can choose to book a Pool View room, but keep in mind that the quiet pools are open 24 hours a day, which can sometimes be a bit less than quiet when kids are swimming at midnight.
I can’t climb stairs, but Disney hotels always have elevators, right?
No, actually. All of Alligator Bayou is individual two story buildings, none of which have elevators. If you are unable to climb stairs, you can either make a special request to be in a ground floor room (which could be either in Alligator Bayou or any of the buildings in Magnolia Bend) or you can request to be in Magnolia Bend. Magnolia Bend’s mansions are three stories tall, but they have elevators. In addition, there are ADA compliant accessible rooms, which you can book if that is a requirement for you.
I hate Mickey Mouse and all things Disney. Will I have all these things shoved in my face?
Part of me wonders why you are are staying at a Disney resort, but maybe you are being a great parent or spouse and staying in spite of your preferences. Well, the good news is, while there are definite Disney touches, they are not overt (provided you skip the Royal Rooms which are pretty awesomely Disney princess themed). The rooms have some hidden Mickeys (like the support for the shelves on the wall) and nods to The Princess and the Frog in the curtain dividing the room from the sink area in the Alligator Bayou section (made to look like Lottie’s father’s sugar plantation’s bags), but nothing is truly in your face. The resort area is themed to evoke the South, without the larger than life characters you will find at the value resorts. I can’t promise you’ll be completely safe from spotting Mickey, but it will be doable to forget you are on property at times.
My favorite thing to do after playing in the parks all day is heading to Downtown Disney to shop and eat. I have heard that this resort is considered a Downtown Disney resort. What does that mean?
Each resort is characterized by its location near the various parks or areas. This hotel is close to Downtown Disney, making it a Downtown Disney resort. Good news for you! Since this hotel is close to Downtown Disney, you have multiple ways to get there. You can take a bus, like always, but you also have access to a river boat, which will stop at Port Orleans French quarter on the way to the dock at Downtown Disney. The boat trip takes around 20 minutes, and it’s a nice, relaxing trip. While sometimes you may have to wait for space on a boat, the nice thing is you’ll always get to sit down, unlike on the bus.
I am bringing my pet along with me, and I wanted to be close to the Best Friends Pet Care. Is that possible?
Yes! Port Orleans is your best bet for being close to your pet, if you want to check in or visit while you’re staying on Disney property. To be fair, Port Orleans French Quarter is actually right across the street from the Best Friends Pet Care Center. But since you are interested in staying at Port Orleans Riverside, the closest area of the resort would be Parterre Place. This will be a quick trip by car to check in on your pet. Make sure you make time to take your doggy to the splash park just for dogs!
So did I miss your question? Do you have any other questions you would like to see answered? Is there anything else you would like to hear about Port Orleans Riverside? Let me know in the comments!