Resort Exploring: Vol. 2 – Port Orleans

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To continue my series on resort exploration (you can read about the Caribbean Beach Resort here), I’ve decided to lure you onto my Magical Express to Port Orleans Resort.  As you may know, the resort is split in two; Riverside and French QuarterPort Orleans Riverside is itself split in two, with Magnolia Bend representing the southern mansions and Alligator Bayou representing the more rustic bayou living (although everything gets properly Disney-fied).

In reality, these were once two separate resorts and they still are.  The only thing they share (apart from the occasional bus) is the Port Orleans name which does nothing but confuse people.  I will warn you now that French Quarter is one of my favorite places, and I have spent more time there than any Disney resort.  I will try not to gush too much.

Riverside - Food Court and Marina

First a quick reminder that this series is all about the beauty and theme of a resort, not about its rooms, amenities, or services as that information can already be found on this site.

Let’s start to the north with…Riverside

Port Orleans Riverside is a large, sprawling complex with over 2,000 rooms.  It is centered around the Sassagoula River which gives it a very lovely, picturesque setting.  Unfortunately, the presence of the river also means that guests may have a bit of a walk from their room to the central food court area.  Luckily that walk will be beautiful.

Alligator Bayou

Everything about this resort feels relaxing.  The food court and check-in area abuts the marina, where the dock makes a wonderfully restful area for a morning coffee.  Crossing a beautiful, old looking bridge toward Ol’ Man Island gives you a fantastic view of the giant waterwheel that rotates along next to the food court.

Upon reaching Ol’ Man Island, you are met by a brilliantly overgrown pool area with a free form “swimmin’ hole” (don’t worry, it’s a real pool) and fishin’ hole that reminds this nostalgic kid-at-heart a little bit of the now forsaken River Country.

Magnolia Bend

As I mentioned above, Riverside is divided into two sections; Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend.  The differences between them are the size and decoration of the building exteriors and the landscaping (the rooms are identical in size and amenities).  Alligator Bayou is meant to look slightly rustic and cottage-like, with thicker wooden railings and heavy shutters.  Magnolia bend is stately, with soaring columns and grand staircases.

Pool at Riverside

The landscaping also changes based on the area.  Alligator Bayou consists of streams and ponds spanned by rough hewn bridges and surrounded by wildflowers (and it makes me want to wrassle gators…well, almost).  Magnolia Bend continues the mansion theme into the gardens, with neatly manicured hedges and gurgling fountains (and it makes me want to carry a parasol).

Port Orleans Riverside is a place you can lose time in, not to mention a few rolls of film (if cameras still used film, that is).  It successfully takes you to a calmer, quieter place that is reminiscent of the “old south” without beating you over the head with stereotypical “southern” things.  I would never hesitate to stay and always love to wander the grounds.

Now on to…French Quarter
As mentioned, I love Port Orleans French Quarter because, much like Riverside above, it’s all about the calmness instilled by the theme.  I think the name French Quarter is a bit misleading because, while the resort could be mistaken for its Louisiana namesake, that is only true if one catches the New Orleans French Quarter on an unusually clean, quiet day (and squints…a lot).

French Quarter

The real French Quarter often devolves into a liquor strewn trough where you are just as likely to notice a barker luring people into a “gentlemen’s” club or a woman “earning” beads than the wonderful old architecture and beauty of the area.  Since the Disney version obviously omits the seedier elements, what’s left is quaint cobblestone walkways, intricately designed iron railings, calming fountains, and beautifully manicured courtyards.

Since French Quarter is about half the size (number of rooms-wise anyway) of Riverside, it feels very personal in a way that Disney resorts (and especially moderate resorts) usually don’t.  Walking the grounds early in the morning can result in finding a beautiful little courtyard with no one in it.  Also situated along the Sassagoula River, French Quarter has just as many fantastic photo opportunities as Riverside.

The pool area at French Quarter is also very interesting.  Guarded by a harlequin and several jazz-playing gators, the centerpiece is a giant serpent being ridden by King Neptune that serves as the waterslide (you slide out of the monster’s mouth…ewww).  I always find the gators to be especially photogenic.

French Quarter Pool

I could go on and on, but I’ll end with one particular feature about the two Port Orleans resorts that really brings home a great theme; the music.  Jazz, ragtime, Creole, and Dixieland are heard throughout both resorts and do nothing but add to the ambiance already present.

Think I was too over-the-top in my praise?  Not enough over-the-top (yeah, I don’t know either)?  Let me hear it!

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Posted on September 13, 2011

16 Responses to “Resort Exploring: Vol. 2 – Port Orleans”

  • Lovely article. I have stayed at both, and I love the charm of the French Quarter and the peacefulness of Riverside. We just came back from POFQ last week. We managed to see a horse drawn carriage riding right past our hotel room! It was quite lovely.
    I love to branch out and see other resorts, but I will be hard pressed to NOT return to POR or POFQ next Disney trip (it will take A LOT of convinving to get me to stay elsewhere). I simply love both resorts too much!

    P.S. POFQ is a godsend after a long day at the parks. You don’t have to walk a mile and half to your room because it is so much smaller than a lot of other resorts.

  • I actually prefer the Riverside over the French Quarter. The French Quarter almost feels cold and sterile, where I think the Riverside feels very warm and inviting. It is completely an individual choice. I do love the way the walk ways in the French Quarter look like streets. That theming element is great!

  • We stayed at French Quarter and LOVED it. You were not over-the-top enough!! The grounds and music and pool and ambiance . . . . everything is beautiful. My husband especially like the curtain seperating the room from the bathroom area. He said it reminded him of Streetcar Named Desire. Everytime he went behind the curtain he’d yell, “Stella!”

  • We just returned from our first stay at POFQ in August. I think your praise is highly justified. The grounds were beautiful. The resort was a nice size – especially after a long day in the parks, there was not a lot of walking. And it was quiet. I would definitely stay there again.

  • My family and I have stayed at the WL, the POP, and POFQ. While WL had the deluxe amenities; the charm, solitude, and size of the POFQ makes it our favorite. An added benefit is that the bus picks up and drops off guests at POFQ first followed by POR.

  • we’re just back from FQ and loved it as well! we went to the food court one rainy afternoon for a snack and found cast members in there waiting to play board games with the kids…what a pleasant surprise that was! the rooms are beautiful and still ‘new’ feeling, my only complaint was that the pillows feel like rocks~definitely should have gone to the nearest wal-mart and bought a softer pillow for myself. we will definitely stay there again, but i will want to try the princess room at least once:)

  • My wife and I honeymooned at FQ (back when it was the only Port Orleans), then my brother-in-law and is wife honeymooned there… It is simply our favorite resort on property (even over the Contemporary and the other deluxe resorts)!

  • We’re huge fans of the Port Orleans resorts. I love the small scale of FQ, but find the food court selections woefully inadequate for a vegetarian diet. The food court decor “creeps out” my 7 yr old, so we tend to avoid it unless it’s raining or we’re in a hurry to eat and catch a bus to the parks. The pool, however, wins us over. The pool shape allows for different types of experiences in different areas. It’s like having three separate pools. Love it.

    Riverside is awesome – the lush foliage and winding walkways are the main attraction for me. The food court has both a salad and a pasta station (and all the other yummy options), which makes it our go-to food court even when we’re staying in another WDW resort or even off-property. The pool, while beautiful, is kind of a big splashing area – no secluded parts at all. It’s for fun & games only. We tend to stick with the quiet pools by the Magnolia Bend buildings when we stay at POR. DD& finds it easier to make friends in the quiet pools, and we get to float peacefully. I prefer the Bayou side for the small-scale buildings and lush foliage, but we don’t like the quiet pools there as much as on the Magnolia Bend side. We don’t make room requests, and we’re happy to enjoy either side of the resort for its own unique benefits.

    My only quibble about Port Orleans is that on recent trips (to both FQ and POR), we felt that mousekeeping was inadequate. Showing up very late in the day; not showing up at all… I think Disney needs to staff up. We don’t need a room makeover every day; we need dry towels and coffee/cups replenished. If we have to wait until 4pm, then we don’t get to use the room for afternoon naps.

  • Just stayed at PO Riverside and loved it. Agree with the calm, peaceful nature. We were in Bldg 18, only a short walk to the main building, which is beautiful to look at inside and out (check in area most impressive). Food court gets very crowded at breakfast, but lines move efficiently. We took the boat ride to Downtown Disney and enjoyed seeing the Magnolia Springs and FQ architecture. Interesting how the basic design of many Disney hotels is the same (room shape), just with different decorating. POR has the trundle beds for getting five in a room. POR also has bike rental for touring the expansive property. Definitely a “resort feel” and I liked the bar by the pool area to relax while the kids were playing. Friendly staff. Agree about inconsistency with mousekeeping, good most days, but a few days were late or didn’t fully replenish. However, whenever had to call front desk (extra blanket for trundle bed, new box of Kleenex), always received prompt friendly service. I would stay here again.

  • So glad to read the article and the comments! We’ll be staying at POR in Nov. for the first time. We usually stay at CBR, with a few stays at Poly and BC over the years. I’m hoping to stay at Magnolia Bend – more our style. Any recommendations for building requests there? Also, how easy is it to walk from POFQ to POR? Our family loves New Orleans and we’d love to walk over to try some beignets and cafe au lait at POFQ one or two mornings!

  • Great article! French Quarter was our first moderate, and I love how it just feels so far removed from the hustle and bustle of the parks! We’ll be staying at Riverside for the first time in December for 8 nights, and I am now looking forward to it even more!

  • We just stayed at POFQ this past September and we adored it! It felt very secluded and peaceful compared to our last stay at POP. The pool was fun, but not overly crowded. The food court was NEVER overrun with guests.

    We would get back from a busy day at the park and we felt like we were walking down a quiet street in New Orleans as opposed to walking through a Disney Resort. It was wonderful! I would definitely stay there again.

    Next November, we are staying at POR to compare!!!

  • POR was the first Disney hotel we actually stayed at. We were upgraded from a value resort (unsure why), but I fell in love with staying at Disney on that visit (we have family who love 45 min from Disney). It is very peaceful & has multiple pools :) As a guest of POR, you can pool hop over to POFQ’s pool too! Great resorts – you will not regret staying at either one!

  • It’s obvious from what you write about the real french quarter that you have only been there during Mardi Gras. The real french quarter is quite lovely and clean during the day and other times of the year. I love walking around looking at the architecture and checking out all the art galleries and antique shops.

    Also, a few years ago the real french quarter started doing what they call “Disney-like” cleaning so it’s not as dirty as it once was.

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