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Alright, you’ve chosen to stay at Port Orleans – Riverside! One exciting aspect of your trip has been settled…now what?
Since Port Orleans Riverside is a unique resort experience, you’re going to want to do a bit of researching and planning ahead to get the most out of your stay. Even for Disney vets, if you’ve never stayed here before, there’s a fair amount you might like to know!
Don’t worry though, as always, we’ve got you covered. Here are all the tips and tricks you need to have the best stay possible at Port Orleans Riverside, with a few general Disney vacation guidelines thrown in.
Know Before You Go – Planning Your Stay
1) Riverside or French Quarter
Honestly, you want to do a bit of research to figure out if Port Orleans – Riverside or Port Orleans – French Quarter is more to your taste. Even though the resorts are close in proximity and similar in theme, the fact remains that the overall feel and flavor is different. If you like that woodsy, bayou feeling, Riverside is where you want to be. However, if you want more of that vintage downtown New Orleans feel, French Quarter is probably more your style.
2) Room with a View
Over at Port Orleans – Riverside, there are several different view options when booking your room. Since the view you choose can impact what part of the resort you stay in, you want to evaluate the options well ahead of time. A pool or woods view is likely to put you in Alligator Bayou, while the river view would be more on the Magnolia Bend side. All the accommodations are incredible, but if you have a preference, make sure you consider that when booking.
3) Making Room Requests
Since the resort is expansive, with different theming in different areas, it might be a good idea to submit a room request when booking.
Not only can you request to be on the top floor or near an elevator, you could ask to be placed in a certain area within the resort. That sort of request isn’t always able to be granted based on availability, but it’s worth trying! Just call (407) 939-5277 to make your inquiries.
4) Book Your Experiences
Want to go on a bass fishing excursion or dine at Boatwright’s? Make sure you book in advance. While Boatwright’s can have some walk-up availability, you never want to take that for granted with Disney dining.
Your magic number for dining is usually 180 days before your check-in date (although right now in 2020 it’s 60 days), and you want to take advantage of that window. Believe us, other people will!
5) Let Us Introduce Your New Best Friend
You got it, it’s the My Disney Experience app! This app is an absolute necessity, as it is strongly recommended for guests of Walt Disney World to make reservations, plans, and buy tickets through this app.
With this app, you can check out wait times, find particular souvenir items, and even check into your resort.
Make sure everyone in your party has it downloaded on their phone!
6) What about DVC?
With DVC, you have several different room options available to you, so be sure to pick the one that best fits your party.
Port Orleans Riverside offers studios as well as one, two, and three-bedroom villas. While more space costs more money (or points), you might find that it is worth it to give your kids their own bedroom or have a full kitchen.
7) Know Your Party
With the size and layouts of the rooms at Riverside, you aren’t going to be able to get four, maximum five, people into one room. As that is the case, you might want travel with people you are close to, or at least comfortable in close quarters. This resort is best for families with kids or a group of friends…or parties that will be staying in separate rooms.
8) Upgrade Your Little Kids? Splurge on the Magic
The highest tier of room at Port Orleans – Riverside is the royal guest rooms, which feature a headboard on each of the beds that magically light up into a fireworks display.
The overall Disney theming of these rooms is kicked up a notch, perfect for your little ones that will believe in (and appreciate!) the magic.
9) Plan for a Break
It’s important not to overbook your Disney vacation, as plenty of people have unfortunately found out. Especially at a resort like Riverside, you’ll want to take advantage of all the extras it has to offer.
From the amazing pool complex to a horse ride along the river, there’s so much to do around the resort that you’ll regret not taking a day or two to explore it.
10) Your Own Magic Carpet
As always, if you’re flying into Orlando, we recommend you take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express.
Without a doubt, it is the easiest way to get to your resort from the Orlando airport, and with the location of Port Orleans Riverside you’ll be glad you did!
11) Know What Food to Pack
Unlike other resorts in its tier, Riverside doesn’t have in-room food preparation amenities. While the rooms do have a mini-fridge and coffee maker, you don’t want to bring anything you would want to heat up in the morning.
Opt for items you can eat cold or room temperature, like Pop Tarts or yogurt, rather than Toaster Strudel and Hot Pockets.
12) Bring Your Own Coffee
While complimentary coffee is available, if you have a specific coffee preference or want to save a few dollars, you can plan to bring your own joe.
Every Riverside room has a coffee maker (conventional, not Keurig), so you can make your own coffee every morning. Coffee is TSA approved if you are flying, so no worries there!
Bring your own travel mug or plan to buy one there, but you’ll have your own taste of home to get you up and moving.
13) Collapsible Duffel Bag
Admit it, you know you’re going to come home with more stuff than you started with.
With all your souvenir options, from lightsabers to plush toys to simple t-shirts, you might find it difficult to get everything in the suitcase.
However, if you plan ahead and bring a collapsible duffel bag, you can throw all those souvenir items in the bag and check it at the airport. Small and compact, it won’t take up much space heading to Florida, and then you’ll open some room in your bag on the way home.
14) Budget with Gift Cards
Trying to watch your spending while on vacation?
Get a few Disney gift cards, pre-load them with a set amount, and then when it’s gone, it’s gone. You could even separate the funds out onto individual cards for particular purchases, like dining and souvenirs.
Obviously, this trick doesn’t work if you’re planning on using rideshare, but it will definitely help to prevent you swiping your MagicBand without a thought to the expense.
Going Down the Bayou: Staying at Port Orleans Riverside
15) Use the App for the Map
Trust us, you want the resort map. Riverside is a fairly large resort complex, and you might have trouble navigating your way around.
With your My Disney Experience app, you have the map at your fingertips at all times, which will be convenient when trying to get from point A to point B.
16) Don’t Stop for the Picture
We know it’s quite tempting to stop and get a picture of the sign at the Port Orleans – Riverside main entrance, but don’t. It is frowned upon, as it blocks traffic and can potentially cause accidents.
As we’re sure that’s the last thing you want to start your vacation, settle for getting pictures elsewhere at the resort.
17) Use Online Check-In
As an expansive resort area, the map will be useful in finding your way and exploring all Saratoga Springs has to offer.
Using your My Disney Experience app, you can check-in without ever going to the Front Desk, or even the resort!
That will have you off starting your vacation right away, and you’ll receive a text when your room is ready. You may still want to stop in the lobby so you can get a couple of pictures of the gorgeous riverboat décor, but you won’t have to wait in line to get your room information, which is plus!
As an expansive resort area, the map will be useful in finding your way and exploring all Saratoga Springs has to offer.
18) Drink a lot of Soda? You want the Mug
Since the invention of the Disney Dining Plan, resort guests have been able to purchase a refillable mug for all self-service beverages.
Whether you have the plan or not, you can buy the mug for $19.99 at the main quick service location at the resort. If you tend to spend a lot of money on nonalcoholic drinks (soda, juice, coffee, etc.), the mug can save you quite a bit! The free refills are only good for the length of your stay, but as the mugs change in design from time to time, they make great souvenirs.
You can often get seasonal refill mugs as well at prime times like Halloween and Christmas or for special anniversaries.
19) Riverside Mill has the Mug
Trying to find your refillable mug?
Riverside Mill Food Court is where you want to go. Pick up your mug here, then return again and again for your refills.
With four self-service stations, it’s the prime location to load up and head out.
20) Get Unpacked
Once you’re in your room, get unpacked and settled right away.
With a smaller room set up, this is especially important as it will make things easier on your park days if you know where everything is and don’t have to dig through the suitcase for it.
That goes double for your kiddos.
While there’s plenty of storage space, you might have to be creative in your unpacking, so you might as well get it out of the way on your first day.
21) Royal Guests Should Take a Video
For those staying in a royal guest room, don’t forget to video the amazing magical headboard!
That’s a memory you’re going to want to have when you get home, trust us.
22) Have Dinner at Boatwright’s
Boatwright’s Dining Hall is a must-do on your Port Orleans – Riverside checklist. This restaurant has some of the best comfort food at Walt Disney World, with twists on some of your favorite Southern dishes. If you’re a fan of down home cooking, you’re going to love it here!
23) Shop at Fulton’s General Store
Not all Disney gift shops are created equal, and that is certainly the case with Fulton’s. This adorable gift shop location is modeled after an old-fashioned general store, filled with store-specific merchandise, sundries, and cute vintage touches. You definitely want to swing through here during your trip!
24) Port Orleans Riverside Merch
Many of us like to collect items from the resorts we’ve stayed, whether it is a pin, t-shirt, or Christmas ornament.
Fulton’s has plenty of items that will be specific to the resort that you won’t be able to find anywhere else, so if you are one of these collectors, make sure you stop in to grab your item.
25) Check out French Quarter
Riverside’s sister resort is well worth your notice, and the theming is different enough that you’ll enjoy exploring the area!
While you’re over there, take some pictures and explore the different areas. This is a great activity for a day off, or if you’re not really a swimming group.
26) Explore New Flavors
There are so many unique food opportunities to explore between Riverside and French Quarter!
You’ll want to grab a hot and delicious beignet at Scat Cat’s Club Lounge along with your other Creole favorites, or if you’ve never tried New Orleans-style food before, try a bit of everything.
27) Take a Boat to the Springs
If you’re headed to Disney Springs, skip the bus and take the boat. While the trip might be just a touch longer, the boat will drop you off in a more convenient location than the bus depot, and it will be a more enjoyable experience by far. The afternoon pleasure cruise down the Sassagoula River can’t be beat!
28) And Visit the Springs!
While we’re on the subject, you definitely want to go to Disney Springs. Over the last few years, this incredible shopping area has been built up into a bustling area full of places to have fun, shop, and eat.
Especially if you’ve never been to Disney World before, you have to check it out.
29) Spend the Day Swimming
Ol’ Man Island is one of the most amazing resort pools complexes on Disney property, so you’d been take advantage of it!
Three and half acres of pool area, shielded by natural shade of the trees of the island, is the perfect place to spend the day. Your bigger kiddos will love the ninety-five foot long water slide, mimicking a sawmill log flume.
The wading pool is perfect for littler splashers, with surrounding chairs for watching parents.
For the grownups in your group, you can hit the Muddy Rivers pool bar for a cool beverage. All in all, an ideal place to relax and chill!
30) Bring Pool Snacks
Either stop off at Riverside Mill before hitting the pool, or pack snacks to have poolside.
While the Muddy Rivers pool bar has a delicious array of drink options, it doesn’t have any food available.
If you know you or your kiddos are going to want something to eat during a pool day, you need to come prepared!
31) Pool Day? Pack a Charger.
If you’re going to spend the day at the pool, you’ll want to throw a charger (preferably of the portable variety) in your pool bag. Particularly if you’re going to hang out at the Luna Park Pool rather than one of the leisure pools, some of the rooms can be far away from the pool area.
If you don’t want to hike back to your room and then be without your phone why it charges, you’ll take advantage of this tip.
32) All Adults? Try a Leisure Pool.
If you only have adults in your group, you might find Ol’ Man Island overwhelming.
Fortunately, there are five leisure pools spread throughout the resort area, which are intended to be a quieter swim location.
Smaller, more remote, and potentially less kids, this would be ideal if you want to avoid the theme pool.
33) Go Fishing!
There are two different ways for you to fish at Port Orleans Riverside. One is the small fishing hole on Ol’ Man Island, where you can use old-fashioned cane poles to get the real bayou river experience.
If you’re a fan of boat fishing, book a bass fishing excursion and head out on the river.
34) Take a Walk
Plenty of interconnected paths cross over this resort, many of which are covered by the shade of the trees.
If you enjoy a nice walk in the evenings or after a large meal, this is a great place for it! Just don’t forget to use the map so you don’t get too turned around!
35) Where’s the Gym?
Speaking of the paths, Port Orleans – Riverside is one of the few resorts that doesn’t have a fitness center. With that in mind, you can use the pathways for running or jogging in the mornings in lieu of a gym workout.
36) Ride in a Carriage
Port Orleans Riverside is one of the only resorts on Disney property that offers daily horse drawn carriage rides!
This is a great way to spend a leisurely afternoon with your loved ones, taking in the picturesque sight of the river in such a charming mode of transportation.
Make it a date for two or a family outing, just remember to book in advance!
37) Rent a Surrey Bike
Surrey bikes are family bicycles that can seat four adults and two additional children (depending on the bike).
You can take these family-fun machines all over the Riverside paths, just be aware of the pedestrians as you go. Your littlest rider will love ringing the bell to let people know you’re coming!
These bikes do require a bit of push power, so make sure everyone going is up to peddling.
38) Photo Scavenger Hunt!
Between both Riverside and French Quarter, there are some amazing and unique picture opportunities. On a day off from the parks, take some time to collect these fun photos! Whether you use this one we found online or create your own, this is a great activity for your older kids and preteens.
39) Plan Rainy Day Fun
For those traveling to Disney World in the summer months, odds are it will rain at least once…a day…during your trip.
Occasionally, you’ll find yourself at the resort on a rainy day with kids who don’t want to be cooped in the room all day.
With all that in mind, plan ahead! Bring cards with you, and drivers can bring larger items like board games.
Scavenger hunts are also a great option, and many of the photos for the one we mentioned are located inside.
Sometimes a spontaneous character meet and greet will occur in the main lobby, so you’ll want to throw on a poncho and check out what’s going on!
40) Suits Go in the Shower
All the showers have retractable drying lines created for the purpose of hanging your wet clothes, so make sure you use it!
There isn’t a good place to hang wet items, like bathing suits, outside. At any rate, that practice isn’t permitted at Disney resorts, so your best bet is to use the drying line.
If you’re worried about air circulation, leave the fan on to help assist with the drying.
41) Order Pizza
Riverside is one of the resorts that offers what Disney calls “In-Room Dining,” which is different from Disney’s typical room service.
You can order a meal for your whole family (rather than separate meals) straight to your room!
If you’re staying for a week and you aren’t using the Disney Dining Plan, this is a great cost-effective option to feed your whole family at once, especially since you can’t cook anything in your room.
42) A Night Out…side
Port Orleans Riverside is one of the many resorts that has outdoor evening activities for families, such as roasting marshmallows over a campfire and a family-friendly Disney movie out under the stars.
However, there’s something even more special about the nighttime outdoor fun along the river and out among the trees.
If you have little campers, indulge them in a late night.
The full schedule of these activities is available at the Front Desk, so be sure to check them out!
Have a Magical Day: Planning Your Park Time
43) Breakfast? Get in, Get out
Riverside Mill is where you want to head if you’re planning to breakfast at the resort before you go, but you may want to get there early or take your food back to your room to eat.
Since this is the main counter service location, you’re going to find lots of other families with the same idea.
44) Use Ride Share…
One drawback to Port Orleans – Riverside is the bus is the only way to get to the parks.
With that in mind, you might want to plan on using a ride share service if you want to arrive at any of the parks at a particular time. This way, you can control exactly what time you leave and expedite your travel time rather than waiting on the bus.
Especially on Extra Magic Hour days, if you use Lyft or a Minnie Van you can beat the busses and the rush, putting yourself closer to the turnstiles for rope drop.
45) …Or Drive Yourself
If you brought your own car, you should take advantage of having it!
Since you’ve already paid the parking fee at the resort, you won’t have to pay to park at the theme parks, and your own transportation will be much faster than the bus.
This is doubly true if you have members of your party that need assistance, like car seat tots or those in wheelchairs.
46) Plan Around Break Time
If you want to come back and take a break in the middle of the day, depending on what park you’re going to, you’re going to want to account for the travel time.
It may take you even an hour to get all the way back to your room from the park, so if you know you little one needs a quiet nap or you want a dip in the middle of the day, don’t plan to leave the park fifteen minutes before you know a meltdown is coming.
47) Know Your Stop
Disney bus transportation is convenient though, so we won’t be surprised if you do decide to use the bus at some point.
However, you will want to check the map to make sure you know which bus stop is closest to your room.
While you can always get off at the main lobby, that might be more of a walk than you might like!
48) Park Closers? Rideshare Again
Honestly, even though it’s an extra cost, you will be so glad you did.
Since you’re solely dependent on the bus to get to and from the resort, you may find yourself waiting longer than you would like to get back.
Additionally, the Port Orleans bus is often shared between Riverside and French Quarter, with the French Quarter stops coming first.
If you have little ones in your group or you just are ready for your bed, beat the crowds and get back quickly with a rideshare option.
Heading Home – Prepping for Departure
49) Pack the Night Before
It may be the last thing you feel like doing, particularly if you spent your last day at the park, but you’ll be glad you did in the morning.
Leave out your outfit for the next day and your essentials, but get everything else ready to go.
Your departure will be much smoother, and you will be less stressed, with this one big to-do item checked off your list.
50) Have Breakfast Before You Leave
You might think it’s better to get up and moving on your departure day, especially if you have a flight to catch.
However, if you plan ahead, there will be enough time for you to have a meal before you head out, and we suggest that you do.
Heading away from Walt Disney World on an empty stomach not only will make your departure harder, but will most likely make your whole party miserable (especially the kids).
Riverside Mill opens at 7:00am, but if that isn’t early enough for you, consider getting some snacks from Fulton’s to hold you over until you get to the airport.
51) Take Advantage of Airline Check-in
Port Orleans Riverside is one of the many Disney resorts that has Airline Check-in, a free service where have the ability to check you in for your flight, including your luggage, before you even leave the resort.
The Airline Desk is right outside the main lobby of the Sassagoula Steamboat Company, so if you’re using Disney’s Magical Express you’ll definitely want to stop there first.
Your entire party does need to be present to use this service.
Have you stayed at Disney’s Saratoga Springs? Share some of your own tips and insights in the comments!
Written by Grace Hoyos, Staff Writer
Grace is a life-long lover of all things Disney, particularly the parks at Walt Disney World. She is also an avid Disney Cruise Line enthusiast who regularly dreams of the white sands of Castaway Cay. Grace loves the fact that her Disney trips give her time to spend with her family, enjoy incredible food, and try new experiences.