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Tucked away into the Disney Springs Resort area, Port Orleans will transport you to another place entirely – Louisiana, to be exact.
This resort is one of the unsung heroes of the Disney resort family, perfect for those looking for a relaxed, homey vacation atmosphere with that special sprinkle of magic pixie dust. Split into two resort complexes, Port Orleans has both the Riverside and the French Quarter areas. While these are technically two different resorts, think about them like fraternal twins rather than distance cousins. Both provide a picturesque look into New Orleans style and culture, just in different ways.
Port Orleans – Riverside has two areas itself, Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend. The first has cottage-style rooms and buildings that make you feel like you’re deep in the heart of the bayou, while Magnolia Bend features stately while plantation-style manor homes to hold its resort rooms. In the center, the Sassagoula Steamboat Company Building and Ol’ Man Island connect the parts of the resort together, serving as a hub to the Riverside community.
Charming, laid back, quaint, and lovable are just some of the words we would use to describe this resort. We’re sure that, just like us, you’ll fall in love with it too!
Table of Contents
- Port Orleans Riverside Snapshot
- History of Port Orleans Riverside
- Resort Amenities
- Sports and Recreation
- Resort Location
- Contact Information
Port Orleans – Riverside, a Gem of the Bayou
As soon as you walk into the lobby of Port Orleans – Riverside, you’ll feel transported away to New Orleans of yesterday. Themed like the inside of a riverboat, the main building is attributed to the Sassagoula Steamboat Company. If you look in between the beautiful columns, you’ll see the different ports that this steamboat supposedly visits, including Riverside, French Quarter, and Baton Rouge.
As you move through the main building, the charm of the South shows in every aspect of the resort theming. To the left, you’ll see Fulton’s General Store, the gift location for the resort. While the merchandise is distinctly modern, the store itself keeps with the old-timey feeling of a mom-and-pop shop that can serve all your needs. Right next-door is the River Roost lounge, with all the charm and comfort of a riverboat parlor or neighborhood watering hole.
Down the hall, you’ll find the two main eating locations for Riverside – Boatwright’s Dining Hall and the Riverside Mill food court. Boatwright’s is a sit-down dining experience, featuring incredible American cuisine with that New Orleans flair. We highly recommend having dinner here one night during your stay! Right past Boatwright’s is the Riverside Mill, an expansive counter service location with a variety of hot and cold food options. This is also the prime place to grab that refill mug, so don’t forget to stop in! With multiple self-serve beverage stations, you might find yourself in here a lot.
Outside, the resort opens into a sprawling riverside town (lending the resort its name). You’ll instantly fall in love, from the gorgeous Magnolia Bend manors to the working water wheel attached to the building. You might even forget you’re at Disney World at all, and want to just explore the area!
Connected to the Sassagoula Company area by a bridge is Ol’ Man Island. This is where you’ll find the main pool complex, and 3.5 acre swimming area themed around an abandoned sawmill. If you’re looking for a pool day, then you’ll certainly find a great one here! If the pool isn’t really your thing, right next to the pool area is a playground area for the kiddos. You can sit in the shade and let your little ones wear themselves out. Ol’ Man Island even has a catch and release fishing spot, really bringing in that down home bayou feel. It’s unique features like this that will make you forget where you really are, and have you feeling right at home.
History of Port Orleans Riverside Resort
The original concept for the resort came long before its existance. In the early 1980s, there was talk of developing a resort area near the Empress Lily (now Paddlefish), a steamboat-themed restaurant, bringing in the traditional feeling of New Orleans seen in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square. However, this project was never to be, as turmoil within the company and national economic issues tabling new ideas.
After the dust settled and the Walt Disney Company enter the Eisner era, new resorts began popping up on property, and the idea for a New Orleans-themed resort resurfaced. The original Disney’s Port Orleans Resort, now the French Quarter section, opened in May 1991, connected to what would become Disney Springs by the man-made Sassagoula River. An expansion came soon after in the form of Disney’s Dixie Landings Resort, opened in February 1992. Both resorts celebrated the unique cultural aspects of New Orleans, from architecture to cuisine, giving guests a taste of the bayou, manor homes, and colorful French Quarter.
In 2001, Dixie Landings went through a rebranding, including a name change, to Port Orleans – Riverside. The original Port Orleans resort received the tag of French Quarter, effectively linking the two resorts in name. While the reasoning for the change has never officially been released, it is thought that the shift from Dixie to Riverside was meant to be more culturally sensitive, moving away from the cotton plantation theme and the painful history associated with it.
Resort Amenities at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside
As it is such an expansive resort, you won’t be short of room options here at Port Orleans – Riverside!
The rooms fall into two categories – standard rooms and royal guest rooms. Within these categories, the accommodations are further divided into views, with some views being more expensive than others. Furthermore, some rooms also sleep more than others do, so you’ll want to be sure you’re making the right selection when booking!
Standard rooms have the typical amenities of a Disney resort, including a mini-fridge and free WiFi services. All rooms also have a coffee maker, which is crucial for those early rope-drop risers. The views vary between standard, river, pool, and woods, with the standard views almost guaranteeing a view of the parking lot. You might find it convenient to be so close to the lot, especially if you have your own vehicle, or you might want to be more secluded. Again, pay attention to what you’re choosing during the booking process so you can end up where you want to be.
These rooms vary in configuration, however most have at least two queen beds. You can also choose a room with a king bed, however that limits the size of the party. Additionally, some rooms have what is referred to as a “fifth sleeper,” or a child-size pull down bed. You can request this in either type of room, which is nice if you need just that little extra space.
Royal guest rooms are much the same in terms of view, but are only available with two queen beds. What makes these rooms “royal” is the addition of special, magical headboard that creates a fireworks display. On top of that, the theming of the rooms has been ramped up for maximum guest enjoyment. We recommend this option if you’re vacationing with littler travelers, as the awe and wonder on their faces will be worth the extra you spent!
Ol’ Man Island
We can’t rave enough about Ol’ Man Island and the sawmill pool complex! You’ll be amazed at its size and scope, not to mention the 95-foot water slide that will have your kids freaking out.
Relax in the shade of the trees or grab a seat in the sun among the poolside lounge chairs. There are a few umbrellas here and there as well, but the majority of the shade comes naturally from the surrounding foliage, fitting with the abandoned sawmill theme.
There’s also a smaller wading pool for your littlest swimmers, surrounded by lounge chairs and plenty of shade.
In short, you won’t be short on relaxation and fun while you’re at this pool!
If you want a slightly quieter atmosphere, there are five leisure pools throughout the resort complex. Three are in Alligator Bayou, and two are found in Magnolia Bend. These leisure pools are also a nice option if your room is located a ways from Ol’ Man Island, so you don’t have to hike quite as far for your swim.
Leisure pools are often unguarded, so if that matters to you, you might want to stick with the main pool complex. However, if your group is adults-only, you might prefer the less crowded and laid back feeling of these pools.
The leisure pool areas are also where you will find the laundry services. Each leisure pool is connected to a 24-hour laundromat, so if you need to do some laundry, bring it with you to the pool and relax while it washes!
If you’re planning to have your own vehicle while at Disney World, you will have to pay an overnight parking fee for each night of your stay. As a moderate level resort, the parking fee here will be a bit cheaper than at other resorts. At Port Orleans – Riverside, the fee is twenty dollars a night, added to the bill at the end of your stay. This resort does not offer valet parking.
For those planning just to visit Riverside, whether it’s for dining or shopping, daytime self-parking will not cost you anything.
Front Desk & Other Services
Like all other Disney resorts, Riverside offers the option for Online Check-in through the My Disney Experience app. That means you can skip the front desk and head straight to your room, or even check-in while you’re at the parks and return to your room later in the day.
However, if you need personal assistance, the Cast Members at the front desk are always available to help answer your questions!
You can also visit the front desk if you have items you want to mail, like packages or postcards, which can be a fun treat with the Disney postmark as the mail travels to its destination.
One of the best conveniences at Disney World, particularly for shoppers, is merchandise pick-up. We’ve all been in that situation – you’ve found a souvenir you (or little tyke) just have to have, but it’s too bulky, fragile, or valuable to carry around the parks with you. That’s where merchandise pick-up comes in. When you purchase the item, simply tell the Cast Member that’s helping you that you would like to send your purchase back to your resort. After arriving back at the resort, head to the pick-up location to grab your goods and be off to your room! At Riverside, you can find your souvenirs at Fulton’s General Store.
Sports & Recreation
While Port Orleans – Riverside doesn’t have a fitness club, if you’re looking for fun outdoor activities or a way to work your muscles on a day off, you won’t have to go far!
Aside from the pools, you can enjoy biking and running along the shady trails of the Riverside resort. Some of these paths even connect over to the French Quarter side if you want to extend your route. For fun for the whole family, try out a surrey bike and explore the resort in style. Make sure to let the others on the path know you’re coming with the bell!
If you happen to have lovers of fishing in your party, there’s not one, but two places to fish at Port Orleans – Riverside. The first is over on Ol’ Man Island, a small catch-and-release fishing area features old-fashioned cane fishing. You’ll love this historical lesson and sports experience all rolled into one. For those that prefer boat fishing, you can sign up for a bass fishing excursion at the Riverside Levee Marina.
There are plenty of other ways to get some fresh air and relax, even if you aren’t looking for a work out. Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride along the banks of the Sassagoula River, each carriage fitting four adults. You can of course simply walk the resort, exploring the unique area and the beauties of the natural assets.
In the evening, enjoy a campfire with your family, roasting marshmallows and enjoy each other’s company. Afterwards, head to the Magnolia South Pool deck for a movie under the stars. These are excellent family bonding opportunities, so grab your sweatshirts and a couple of blankets and snuggle up together. The movie is always a family-friendly Disney favorite, so you never need to worry about your kiddos.
One of the best ways to travel from Port Orleans – Riverside is by water. Take a fifteen minute boat ride down peaceful Sassagoula River to Disney Springs, taking in all the scenery and passing the Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs along you way. While this is certainly the most peaceful way to travel, it won’t take you to any of the parks, so this is better for a down day.
When travelling to the parks, you’re going to need to take a bus, rideshare, or a Minnie Van. You could of course take your own transportation if you have your own vehicle, although you will have to pay to park at the theme parks. What we suggest is if you have to be somewhere at a certain, or you’re looking to be at a park well before opening, you call for a rideshare. With this option, you can beat even the busses to the parks, getting ahead of the resort rush.
If time isn’t an obstacle for you, the buses are good, not the least of which because they are complimentary. For those coming to and from Orlando International Airport, you will definitely want to consider Disney’s Magical Express. One of our favorite services, Disney’s Magical Express is a complimentary bus that will bring you from the airport to your resort, and then back to the airport again at the end of your stay. You do have to reserve this service ahead of time, so they know to expect you, but it is absolutely free!
If you’re taking Magical Express or a rideshare from the airport, you won’t have to worry about getting to the resort yourself. However, if you’re driving, sometimes the signs and exits can all be a bit overwhelming. It’s best to know exactly where to go ahead of time, alleviating stress and preventing you from getting lost.
Port Orleans – Riverside is considered to be a Disney Springs resort, although it is a little ways from the shopping area. When coming to Riverside, you will want to get off Florida I-4 at the route 535 exit, and then get onto Hotel Plaza Boulevard. From there, you will hop onto East Buena Vista Drive, and from there to Bonnet Creek Parkway. Port Orleans – Riverside will be on your right. Remember, there are two Port Orleans resorts, so make sure you don’t pull into French Quarter. Riverside is just a couple miles down the road, trust us, you’ll find it easily!
1251 Riverside Drive
Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830-8514
If you’re using your GPS, you shouldn’t have any problems. Again, just make sure you don’t accidentally end up at Port Orleans – French Quarter.
To directly call the resort, the number is (407) 934-6000. However, if you have a question about your booking, you should call (407) 939-5277, as that is Disney’s vacation assistance line.
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.