Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside is a Moderate Resort at Walt Disney World. In our Moderate Resort Comparison, we previously ranked it as Walt Disney World’s top Moderate, on par thematically with some Deluxes! As mentioned there, the theming really shines at Riverside, which draws is themed to a rural Louisiana port city that is along the Sassagoula River. Riverside is divided into Alligator Bayou (bayou) and Magnolia Bend (mansions), which assists it in offering more thematic variety. In addition to these two different styles, each building within the sections uses different materials based upon its location on the river. The backstory is interesting and engaging (and is executed cleverly throughout the resort), and the quiet pathways that litter Riverside make it a great place to take a romantic stroll. The grounds are absolutely stunning, with rich wilderness in the bayou and perfectly manicured gardens around the mansions.
This variety of theming is really quite impressive and is pulled off remarkably well. The mansions of Magnolia Bend are surrounded by large, perfectly manicured lawns and beautiful gardens, which provide a stark contrast to the untamed wilderness and seemingly uncontrolled growth in Alligator bayou. In Alligator Bayou you feel you’d be at home floating down the river in a rickety boat hunting for crawdads. In Magnolia Bend, you might be better suited donning your dress seersucker, putting on a bow-tie, and drinking some mint juleps.
Due to Riverside’s sprawling layout, these differing styles don’t visually clash with one another. However, this layout may be perceived as a negative by some guests who aren’t fans of walking or internal transportation. We don’t mind either, and found the transportation to be more than adequate. We found that the larger layout gave us more to explore and a larger area to wander for romantic nighttime strolls (or carriage or bike rides if that’s your thing).
The area around the Main Lobby ties all of this theming together perfectly with its steamship theming, providing an excellent transition between the bayou and the mansions. In addition to the variety of boat and bike rentals available outside, inside there are a number of dining and shopping options. Boatwright’s Dining Hall is the table service restaurant at Riverside, and it is themed as a Southern, shipyard warehouse, complete with tools lining the walls and a large wooden hull of a fishing boat suspended from the ceiling. We didn’t have a chance to eat at Boatwright’s, but I’ve heard some very good things about the restaurant, and I did get a chance to spend some time exploring the details before the restaurant opened, and they were pretty cool. A lot of the restaurant’s story is told by the tools and artifacts hung from the walls.
Riverside Mill Food Court and River Roost Lounge are the other two dining options at Port Orleans Riverside, and both are excellent. The food court is themed as a riverside mill (I’ll bet you would have never guessed that based on its name!) and this is carried out excellently–it probably has the coolest theming of any food court at Walt Disney World. The menu is also fairly diverse at Riverside Mill, with plenty of options for guests. River Roost is similarly excellent. The bartenders are knowledgeable and the entertainment, in the form of Yehaa Bob, is some of the best at Walt Disney World. Bob has long been considered a hidden gem, and I would put him right up there with the dueling pianos at Jellyrolls in terms of nighttime entertainment in Walt Disney World.
Riverside has several pools, with the main pool being located on ‘Ol Man Island in the middle of the resort, where the playground is also located. I wouldn’t necessarily call the pool disappointing, but it’s probably our least favorite pool at any Moderate Resort. The complex is nice and large, and the pool is nice, but the theming leaves something to be desired. It’s difficult to say what could have been done better with the theming, but I far prefer the approach taken by Port Orleans French Quarter, which combines uses fun gators and a serpentine to overcome what otherwise might be “bland” Louisiana theming for its pool. This is a relatively minor complaint at what is otherwise the best-themed Moderate Resort at Walt Disney World.
As far as rooms go, Port Orleans again shines in this department. During our stay, Riverside was in the process of receiving room renovations to many of its rooms. Our room looked spectacular, and set the mood well. I had read complaints prior to the refurbishment that the rooms felt old fashioned and dated. That is definitely not the case anymore. Our room felt modern and clean, and although it wasn’t overtly “Disney,” it was very well-themed and looked nice. If you are traveling with small children, this might not be for you, and you might want to instead consider a different resort (Caribbean Beach Resort has some very festive rooms) or one of the Royal Guest Rooms.
Although we didn’t stay at the Port Orleans Riverside Royal Guest Rooms, we have to admit, they look like the perfect rooms for kids and would make a great compromise for families looking for an incredibly well-themed Moderate Resort that also has a liberal helping of classic Disney theming. Disney markets these rooms at families looking to give their prince or princess the royal treatment. The Royal Guest Rooms are brought to life by Disney Characters, and special “royal” touches like custom drapes and linens and ornately decorated beds. The headboards on these beds glitter with fiber optic “fireworks” lights. There is a nightly upcharge for these rooms, but the theming likely appeals more to kids than most Deluxes, and the rooms are cheaper, too!
Riverside is also conveniently located just a 10 minute walk from Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter, where guests can find a cooler pool and a creepy food court. French Quarter doesn’t have its own table service restaurant, but it’s still worth a visit to the (smaller and more centralized) grounds to see the New Orleans theming. There are also boat rides available from both resorts to Downtown Disney, and bus transportation to the parks. The boat ride on the Sassagoula is nice and relaxing, even if there’s really not much that is worthwhile at the ultimate destination (besides, of course, Earl of Sandwich).
Overall, Port Orleans Riverside is the perfect resort for guests looking for exquisite theming without breaking the bank. The theming is definitely Deluxe quality in many regards, although I wouldn’t put it above any Deluxe Resort in terms of overall quality. Families looking for distinctly Disney (character) theming may not find quite so much to love in Riverside unless they stay in the Royal Guest Rooms, but couples looking for a romantic resort-hotel should definitely give Riverside a look. I could definitely see saving a little bit by staying at Riverside over a Deluxe Resort and reallocating that money on dining or other experiences.
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Do you agree with us that Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside is the best of the Moderate Resorts? Do you dislike Riverside?! Share your thoughts in the comments!