Where to Stay at Port Orleans Riverside!

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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.

PortOrleansRiversideDisneyOfficialIf 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.

Port Orleans Sign

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you see this sign, you know you're home!
When you see this sign, you know you’re home!

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.

Trees View
Alligator Bayou offers shady paths and expansive areas of lush greenery.

 

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.

RoyalRoomsPortOrleansOfficialDisney
The gorgeously appointed Royal Rooms has lots of hidden touches. Does that rug look familiar? ©Disney

 

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.

So many shampoos at Port Orleans Riverside
Sometimes if you mention that you don’t have any shampoo, they will ensure you don’t have to ask again.

 

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.

Front of Lobby Area Port Orleans Riverside
The food court is located in the lobby complex area.

 

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.

Lobby at Port Orleans with Flowers
The lobby is so peaceful and pretty.

 

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.

Bed Paintings at Magnolia Bend at Port Orleans Riverside
The beds in Magnolia Bed have these lovely paintings on the headboards, with scenes from Princess and the Frog.

 

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.

Horse and carriage at Port Orleans Riverside
Take a carriage ride around the Port Orleans grounds… you probably won’t see *too* many Mickeys!

 

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.

Port Orleans Riverside Boat to Downtown Disney ©Disney
Friendly boat service heading to Downtown Disney from Port Orleans Riverside.

 

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!

 

Katie McNair

Katie McNair was born and raised in Central Florida. She grew up visiting Disney World as often as she could manage. Her favorite park is Epcot, and her favorite attraction is Living with the Land. Katie currently teaches 7th grade language arts.

27 thoughts on “Where to Stay at Port Orleans Riverside!

  • September 2, 2014 at 8:44 am
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    My family and I stayed in POR for our first family trip and loved it. We were in building 34 and it was a quick trip to the bus stop to the parks. It was great! The main lodge was a little bit of a walk but first thing in the morning ( to get some coffee) it’s so quiet and peaceful. Old Man Island pool was wonderful for the kids, my daughter wanted to spend more time there! There are also smaller pools in each of the building areas, we had a small one by us but my daughter liked the large one in the middle. One night we took the boat down to Downtown Disney it was a nice ride, on our way back we actually got off at Port Orleans and walked back to do some sightseeing. It’s a great resort for the price, we hope to go back soon.

    • September 2, 2014 at 11:40 am
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      It really is! I waver between wanting to tell the world how wonderful it is and wanting to keep it secret so it won’t be too crowded for me. Thanks for reading!

  • September 2, 2014 at 10:33 am
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    You forgot to mention Bob “YE HAW” Jackson!!!He is the main reason we always go back and stay at Port Orleans Riverside. Even when we stayed at the French Quarter we walked along the river to go see him in Riverside.The last couple times we went I planned on trying a different resort but we always go back for Bob.Our then 6 year old loved him and has made sure she gets to go see him everytime since and she is now 11 and still loves him!

    • September 2, 2014 at 11:41 am
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      You are right; he’s such a fixture and so much fun. He’s not to be missed, no matter where you are staying at Port Orleans!

  • September 2, 2014 at 10:34 am
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    Going here in Dec! We can’t wait! I have family of 4 who wld like to stay in a Royal room. My sister is going as well with family of 5. Is there any way we can stay close to each other? How is parking there? Is parking lot close to the rooms? We both will have our cars. Drive cars to parks or bus?

    • September 2, 2014 at 12:11 pm
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      While Disney would happily link your reservations and attempt to place you close together (if not in connecting rooms!) the Royal Rooms are in Parterre Place and Oak Manor, which is pretty much as far as you can get from Alligator Bayou (where they have rooms that house 5). You’ll most likely have to just meet up when you get to the parks, or meet in the lobby and go from there.

      Parking is easily accessible and abundant, and I have never had any trouble parking close to my lodge or building, with the slight caveat that some of the Alligator Bayou Lodges are a bit of a walk (but a gorgeous walk!)

      While you can use your parking pass for the hotel for free parking at any of the parks, I always use Disney transportation, as it’s just no thinking and easy. It’s also quicker when going to Magic Kingdom, as the buses drop you at the gate instead of the Transportation & Ticket Center. It’s honestly up to you, but I love nothing more than drowsily sitting on a bus after a long day in the park, without having to pay attention and drive.

      • September 2, 2014 at 12:54 pm
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        Thanks for the info! Is there any way to get from Parterre Place /Oak Manor to alligator bayou? By car?

        • September 2, 2014 at 2:01 pm
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          The lobby is the central area, and is linked to all parts of the hotel with sidewalks and/or bridges. You can also drive to the different areas, so you could easily drive to the respective parking lots and meet up there. Check out either link above for Port Orleans Riverside to look at the map to see what I mean about the locations. I hope this helps!

  • September 2, 2014 at 11:04 am
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    What about time to wait for buses? When we went last time we stayed in French Quarter because I had read in the Unofficial Guide that you can wait a long time for buses or they may be full because of the amount of rooms at Riverside. I prefer to go in the off season – how would you rate the length of time waiting for buses or did you have to wait longer because some were full?

    • September 2, 2014 at 11:39 am
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      It really, really depends on when you go. Both when you travel and when you’re trying to get to the parks. I have traveled during the busiest months of the summer and the lowest time of the year, and it does make a tiny difference during the busy season, but honestly, Disney sends more buses when they’re full so it is only slightly noticeable. We have had times when the bus is full, but generally it’s when you’re trying to get back to Port Orleans when you’ll have the most trouble. I have only had to wait for another bus once (in my 6 or 7 stays at Port Orleans) to get to a park. If you’re trying to get to the parks first thing in the morning, it’s more crowded, but even 1 hour makes a huge difference. I would recommend avoiding the south depot, as that’s the one that is easily the most crowded for pickups from the hotel. With all of this is the caveat that Disney buses work but sometimes they are SLOW and it doesn’t matter which hotel, you’ll have a wait. At least the surroundings are gorgeous at Port Orleans!

      • September 2, 2014 at 12:36 pm
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        Thanks!

  • September 2, 2014 at 11:31 am
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    We will be staying at POR Riverside for the first time in January for the first 2 nights of our 11 day trip before moving to the Villas at WL and then on to Saratoga Springs. Can’t wait to take a carriage ride and see Yee Ha Bob!! Will be staying in Alligator Bayou as my 12 yr old wants her own bed…hoping she’ll be able to squeeze on to the fold out bed without falling off in the middle of the night!

    • September 2, 2014 at 12:27 pm
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      The carriages are just so pretty! I have wanted to take one, but just haven’t yet. Hopefully she will fit! My students are your daughter’s age, and there’s a huge difference in size… some of them would fit perfectly, and some would find it a tight squeeze! I’m sure you will love the resort!

  • September 2, 2014 at 4:28 pm
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    This is my favorite too! We’re headed to WDW in two days for a 9 night stay (woo-hoo!!) and had originally booked POR, but then our travel agent said that for $90 more (total) we could move to Caribbean Beach and get the free DDP, which was not being offered to POR guests. I’m constantly second guessing whether we made the right decision to switch, but it’s hard to pass up free food.

    • September 2, 2014 at 4:50 pm
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      Okay, even though this is my FAVORITE resort ever, and I love Port Orleans Riverside, I would have totally switched for only $90 difference. Don’t second guess your choice; it was a great one! I have stayed at Caribbean Beach and it was quite nice as well, just not themed quite as much in my opinion. I have been dying to try the dining plan, but it hasn’t made financial sense for me, as an annual passholder who travels when I get a good deal (which generally means no free dining). My next trip will overlap yours, I think… I head to Port Orleans Riverside on September 10th! Have fun!

      • September 2, 2014 at 4:52 pm
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        🙂 thanks – you too!

  • September 2, 2014 at 4:50 pm
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    We stayed there in the 90’s when it was Dixie landings, in the Alligator Bayou. The streams and bridges are a nice touch. At night I noticed a lot of fire flies and frog and cricket songs. Someone told me the fire flies and sounds are ‘Disney magic’ in the bushes.
    Can anyone confirm this?

    • September 2, 2014 at 9:12 pm
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      I haven’t seen any fireflies at Port Orleans Riverside myself, but most of the fireflies have disappeared from Florida, at least Central Florida where I live. There are *tons* of crickets and frogs, though, and I have seen them and filmed them myself, so I can confirm that they are really real creatures! I have spotted tons of wildlife wandering around Port Orleans, so you definitely want to keep your eyes open as you explore!

  • September 2, 2014 at 7:12 pm
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    We stayed in a royal room in Oak Manor last Nov. The theming of the room was such that my DD6 loved it, but it wasn’t too much for my DS10 or my non-fan DH. The main pool, lobby, and food court were all a short walk away. We really enjoyed hanging around the pool (it’s heated) & walking around the resort during our midday breaks from the parks. However, we joke that the longest wait of the trip was waiting for a midday bus from MK to POR the 1st day. Actually, no joke, it was the longest wait. We flew into SFB, so we had a car. Parking was close and plentiful in the slower season, so it wasn’t a big deal. I think we’re going to try Beach Club next time, but we enjoyed our time at POR very much 🙂

    • September 2, 2014 at 9:14 pm
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      I will admit that Disney buses are hit or miss. When they work, they’re amazing. When they don’t, they’re quite horrible. I have visited people staying at the Beach Club and it was completely gorgeous. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it… but you’ll return for the allure of Port Orleans Riverside. 🙂

  • September 3, 2014 at 10:59 am
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    We loved our two stays at Port Orleans Riverside, but given the respective ages of our two kids we simply can’t justify putting them in the same bed and neither can we justify having two rooms (coming from the UK). I wish that Disney did more bunk bed rooms as they do for Wilderness Lodge. We will be staying at Wilderness Lodge next year for the second time, but we would love to stay back at Riverside again. We always visit when we return to WDW as it has the very best atmosphere of any resort in our opinion.

    • September 3, 2014 at 8:09 pm
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      I totally understand, and it would be great if Disney offered more options for family suites like they have at Art of Animation. I’m sorry it doesn’t work out for a stay at Port Orleans… at least you can visit and enjoy the atmosphere while you’re visiting!

  • September 3, 2014 at 1:06 pm
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    Great post Katie, thanks for the helpful information! My wife and I will be staying at POR in December and have booked a room with a King bed, and we’ve received conflicting information from our Disney-specialized travel agent and a resort employee. Do you know whether the King bed rooms in the preferred buildings in Alligator Bayou are meant for people who paid for a preferred location? Or do those rooms typically go to people who booked a King bed room? I’ve consulted multiple sources and no one seems to really know! The King bed room concept at POR is already confusing – with maybe getting a garden view, pool room view, or a view of a beautiful well-trimmed picturesque parking lot – but I think I understand everything aside from this preferred building question.

    • September 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm
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      Thank you! 🙂 All King rooms are the exact same category, and you can be assigned anywhere. You are paying a supplement to stay in the King room, but you will not be charged an additional supplement if you are assigned to the Preferred location. The King rooms will go to people who booked a King room first. Yes, I agree, it is definitely a random, confusing thing, but if you go armed with knowing which area is a good bet, you have a better chance of landing in a great room. Be sure to use the Touring Plans room finder to figure out where you would like to request! You can see exactly where the room is as well as the view from that exact room.

      • September 3, 2014 at 4:35 pm
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        Thanks Katie, that’s good news. I’ve used the room finder which is a great tool, and now that I know what I’m eligible for, I can narrow down my preference.

  • September 9, 2014 at 7:00 am
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    Can you explain how the buses work? Does a bus start at the south stop and then work its way around to all the other stops at the resort until the bus fills, or does each bus stop get its own bus? What bus stop would you say is the fastest to get to the parks (doesn’t have as many stops), and which do you prefer?

    • September 9, 2014 at 12:01 pm
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      Generally, the buses stop at all the stops, unless it gets too full to accept additional riders. The buses follow a schedule, based on the destination. Buses to the Magic Kingdom stops first at West Depot, then North, East, and South. The other buses stop first at South Depot, then go West, North, and East. The buses may also stop at Port Orleans French Quarter first, but that is depending on how Disney is running the buses and overall crowd levels at any given point. In my experience, the fastest bus trip is the West Depot, for getting off, but sometimes if the buses are in high demand, you have difficulties getting on the bus, as it’s filled already. I do prefer the West Depot, though!

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