Disney done right: Disney’s Port Orleans Resort

I wrote recently on the benefits of staying on-site in Walt Disney World. Of course, deciding a Disney resort is right for you and your family hardly narrows down your field of options, given that at last count, there were almost 20 of them to choose from. For our Disney World vacation, we finally settled on Disney’s Port Orleans Resort, Riverside, and we never once regretted our decision. Why?


1. Location. Port Orleans is one of Disney’s largest resorts, but due to its beautiful and extensive landscaping, winding pathways, and sweeping public areas filled with magnolia blossoms and lawn, you’d never know it. It includes two distinct and separate complexes: Riverside and French Quarter, both of which have their own restaurants, pools, and recreational activities, connected by the river walk along the Sassagoula River. We stayed in Riverside, which was, yet again, divided into two sections: Alligator Bayou and Dixie Landings. Maybe we’re just not used to Southern ambiance (and hospitality), but we felt tucked away from the bustle of Disney World throughout our stay. Despite being just minutes from the theme parks by way of Disney transportation buses and even closer to Downtown Disney by boat, Port Orleans felt quiet and tranquil. Not easy to come by in Orlando! (Note: I’d heard complaints about the walk from the far buildings to the lobby/dining area (Riverside Mill). We were quite far from the center of things in Building 36, and didn’t mind the ten minute walk in the least. Ol’ Man Island, the main swimming complex, is situated in the middle of the buildings (think of a hub and spokes), and is easy to access for everyone.)

2. Amenities. Port Orleans isPort Orleans Disney listed as a ‘moderate’ Disney resort, which distinguishes it from the lower-cost ‘value’ resorts in two main ways that made a difference to our family (and might make a difference to yours): recreational opportunities and dining. Each moderate resort has at least one themed pool and several ‘quiet’ pools (we had one right outside our door and loved it!), and other recreational opportunities such as canoe or boat rentals, video arcades, and thematic activities (in Port Orleans’ case, cane-pole fishing). Ol’ Man Island features a free-form pool, slide, hot tubs, and a pool-side bar (values do not have slides or hot tubs) that we used nightly (the pool and the bar). In addition, each moderate resort features at least one sit-down restaurant in addition to their food court, Riverside Mill. (Value resorts do not.) If you envision yourself and your family spending even a moderate amount of time (no pun intended) at the resort, and don’t want to drop the dough for a deluxe room, a moderate such as Port Orleans might work best for you.

Disney's Port Orleans pool

3. Price. In my opinion, you get far more for your resort dollar at a moderate than you would at a value, and not much less than you would at a deluxe. (That sounds like a riddle!) Let me try that again: you get almost as many bells and whistles as you would at a deluxe for up to half the nightly room rate. (Note: Port Orleans’s Alligator Bayou rooms fit families of five…provided that one family member can fit on their ‘trundle’ bed, which pulls out from underneath one of their standard ones. Our youngest son found it quite comfortable, but I wouldn’t try it with anyone over the age of 6-8.)

What not to miss: As I hinted at above, staying in a Disney resort is almost like visiting an additional theme park: there’s a lot to do and see, and you want to make time to enjoy it. We took an entire day off from the parks just to explore Port Orleans, but even if you can’t spare that kind of time, make sure you swim at Ol’ Man Island (and maybe fish for bluegill in their stocked pond), take a cruise down the river to Downtown Disney (have your kids ask your boat captain for a Disney Transportation captain’s card), take in the evening comedy show at the River Roost, and take the plunge on the dragon slide at the French Quarter pool (guests of Riverside has use of the French Quarter pool, and vice versa!).

Room Rates: $130-150 at time of our visit. Check for most up-to-date rates.

Main Dining Options: Riverside Mill Food Court and Boatwrights (both on the Disney Dining Plan). Snacks available at the general store. Rooms have mini-fridges, which we used to fill with breakfast supplies and snacks. If you’re flying to the resort, as we did, consider pre-ordering groceries to be delivered to Port Orleans on the day of your arrival with Garden Grocer.

Distance from the parks: Under five minutes. (Note: we’re big believers in leaving the car behind and using Disney transportation. We never waited longer than ten minutes for a bus at any of the Port Orleans bus depots.)

Read more Disney Done Right articles on our Family Vacations page.

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