An Ode to (Port) Orleans
Well, not technically an ode since I’m bad with poetry, but I liked the way that title sounded. In any case, in honor of Port Orleans’ 25th Anniversary, we wanted to share this post today. We’ve stayed at Port Orleans several times in the past couple of years, and in the process, have developed a much greater appreciation for it.
Since we’ve repeatedly praised Port Orleans Riverside on the blog, naming it the #1 or #2 Moderate Resort in our rankings over the years, it’s hard to imagine developing a ‘much greater appreciation’ for Port Orleans. However, that’s exactly what has happened. That, plus my personal ‘a ha’ moment with French Quarter has led to us staying at Port Orleans more, and we think it might be worthwhile to cover the why of that here.
This is a post we’ve been putting it off since we have vlog material to accompany it from our stays at both resorts this summer and fall, but since we’re short on time and this post has already been delayed longer than I’d like, here it is. We’ll add the vlog footage later, if/when we eventually get it edited…
Before we get to the ‘why’ of our frequent stays at Port Orleans the last two years, since it is Port Orleans Riverside’s/Dixie Landings’ 25th Anniversary, I think a brief (personal) retrospective is in order. I still remember my first stay at Dixie Landings.
My family had gone from driving down and staying at Fort Wilderness in our camper on our annual trips to staying at Shades of Green every year once that opened/was converted. However, during our 1996 spring vacation, Shades of Green had overbooked, so we were moved to Dixie Landings. This was our first stay at a “real” Disney resort hotel, and it was a memorable experience for me.
My most vivid memories of Dixie Landings that trip were the unmistakable Southern feel to the resort, going from the bayou to even staying in a real mansion! For whatever reason, I also recall our meals at Riverside Mill Food Court, where I ordered the delicious Cajun fries every night. I also recall the resort having some rooms that were located in huge trees, which it most certainly did not.
Fast forward another decade, and Sarah and I stayed at Port Orleans Riverside during our engagement trip. The hotel would forever have a soft spot in our hearts after that, and I still remember the boat ride to Downtown Disney (Springs), as well as wandering the grounds late at night and early in the morning.
Port Orleans Riverside oozed a romantic feeling, but of course being freshly engaged didn’t hurt with that, either…
We’ve since stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter or Riverside more times than I can count (maybe 8-10 stays?). For a while, I felt that French Quarter was overrated; only a good option for families with small children or those with mobility issues due to its compact size. That assessment was wrong—I missed the point.
My preference is for a larger resort experience, something that I initially felt was missing from Port Orleans French Quarter. I also lamented its comparatively sparse amenities, particularly a lack of table service dining. Then I did what should have been the obvious thing, and took a stroll over to Port Orleans Riverside while we were staying at French Quarter…
This changed my perspective. I now view Port Orleans French Quarter’s compact size—when coupled with its proximity to the sprawling Riverside—as an asset.
If you want a resort with an easy walk to breakfast or the centralized bus stop, you have it. You’re always within a 5 minute walk of whatever amenity you want to enjoy. Contrast this with Caribbean Beach or Coronado Springs, where you could be 10-15 minutes away by foot.
If you want a resort that allows you to wander, explore, and escape the hustle and bustle of the main amenities, you also have that at French Quarter by virtue of wandering the short distance over to Port Orleans Riverside.
My personal preference remains a sprawling resort with a feel of seclusion rather than intimacy, making Port Orleans Riverside an ideal pick for me, but I’ve found French Quarter represents an excellent “compromise” resort. It’s really the best of both worlds.
In terms of both theme and atmosphere, Port Orleans (collectively) also brings a lot to the table—more than any other resort hotel at Walt Disney World. Port Orleans French Quarter has an intimate and cozy feel, as if you’re walking the streets of an idealized version of New Orleans.
As you walk to Riverside, you transition to the rural areas on the outskirts of town, where there is more space between. The larger size also allows Riverside to convey multiple themes, from the rustic and densely wooded bayou to stately manors on perfectly-manicured grounds. When viewed collectively, an argument could be made that these two resorts are the thematic and atmosphere pinnacle of Walt Disney World’s hotels.
In fact, it’s an argument that we find quite compelling. We would go as far to say that if your primary concerns are, in this order: 1) cost, 2) theme, 3) atmosphere, 4) room quality, then one of the Port Orleans resorts is your best choice.
If you prioritize room quality over theme, atmosphere, etc., but still want a Moderate, our pick is Caribbean Beach. Port Orleans’ rooms are by no means bad; just not as good as Caribbean Beach or Coronado Springs. (Speaking of which, I’ve also updated our Port Orleans Riverside Review with new room photos.)
On long weekend visits or trips when we intend upon spending less time in our hotel room, Port Orleans has become our go-to pick. (Hence so many stays here over the last couple of years.) I love Riverside for the isolation and seclusion it offers, while French Quarter is gaining momentum for its compact layout. I enjoy being able to get up early or stay out late wandering in a satisfying environment, and Sarah likes the value and convenience the Port Orleans hotels (particularly French Quarter) offer.
Value Resorts remain the most economical pick for commando tourists who are spending every waking hour at Walt Disney World in the parks, but for people taking fast-paced trips with a larger budget, we favor Port Orleans. We feel the cost of the upgraded accommodations, amenities, and theme is well worth the money (at least to us), and represents a “sweet spot” between the Value and Deluxe tier. I’m pretty sure we’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Port Orleans is like a Deluxe-caliber resort in terms of theme on a Moderate budget. Now that you know how we feel about Port Orleans, what do you think? Are you one of its avid fans, or do you not see the appeal?
We just got back from our honeymoon trip at POR after staying there many times previously. It is definitely the most romantic option when you are looking to stay on budget. As a kid, we used to stay at the campground as well, but would always quick stop at Dixie Landings for the food court because it had so many choices! Definitely are big fans of POR. Would like to check out POFQ at some point as well, but haven’t had the chance yet. We were also very pleased to discover that the river boats now run until past 11pm to Disney Springs, which is a nice break from having to take buses everywhere else. Great post! Would love to see a comparison post on PO vs Deluxes!
I Love, love, love POR. You can’t beat the ambiance and immersive feel. The only frustration I have had there was a stay in November 2016, Port Orleans always seemed to have the worst bus lines coming from a park. All the other resort guests seemed to have short waits comparatively. I remember one night coming back from Hollywood studios all the other resort bus lines were empty and port orleans had at least 2 busses worth of people waiting. It was very strange.
I stayed in Port Orleans Riverside during my last trip to Disney (August 2015) I believe we decided on it after reading your review and I am so grateful! We stayed in the alligator bayou section and I loved the peaceful, secluded nature-y feel!
I just love PO French Quarter. We began our stays in Disney at the Moderates and then switched to the Values to save. While the value resorts are fine , the walk to and wait for the buses at the end of the night just put the end to those stays. We then switched back to the Moderates and tried all of them and like Goldilocks some were too big, had too many bus stops and one lacked that Disney feel. This visit we treated ourselves to the Polynesian for a short visit and you cannot beat the ambiance and amenities that are offered there. But back to fiscal reality for us. So we returned to the French Quarter and there we will stay. Perfect in size ,ambiance , and location. Another added plus is the boat to Disney Springs. it puts you right in the area that we want. I don’t want to walk a mall (no matter how nice ) when I go to Disney. I can do that at home. Your article was great but where was Arneil? He is the face of French Quarter to me.
Our family has stayed at Port Orleans Riverside twice (2012, 2015). We absolutely love it. The grounds are beautiful, the pool / waterslide is tons of fun, and we enjoy activities such as fishing, bike riding, and hammock snoozing. Our one disappointment has been when they phased out the ability to rent boats to take out on the water. Now we just have to leverage the boat ride to Disney Springs.
My boyfriend and I are staying at Riverside for the second time for the Dark Side Half, and this article really cements that we made the right choice. 🙂
I recently decided on a Bachelorette Party in Disney World and my Bridesmaids landed on Port Orleans River Side. Your posts have helped us understand the resort and how the vibe of the weekend will be. The only complaints I can find is long wait times for the bus, but you never seem to mention any issues on your end so I think their decision for POR will be a good one. Thank you so much for all of your helpful posts.
If you Google “[any resort name] + slow bus service” you’ll get a ton of results. That’s especially the case at any resort with multiple bus stops.
In reality, the bus service at Riverside isn’t any slower than the other resorts. Transportation takes slightly longer because there are multiple stops, but it’s possible to have poor/slow service at Riverside, or exceptional/fast service. It’s really a matter of luck–just as it is at any of the hotels.
We are going to Riverside for the third time (and second consecutive) in late April. We like it for all the reasons that other people have given. Great theme , boats to Disney Springs, quiet, peaceful walks. We also like Coronado Springs, but for different reasons. Pepper Market, viewing alligators in the ponds near the bus stop (from across the road), opportunities for getting our steps in before breakfast. We have stayed at the French Quarter once, and it was perfectly fine. In fact, one of my fondest theme-related experiences was when I realized that I was strolling along the Rue D’Baga.
Great post. We have yet to stay at Riverside, but did spend a few days at French Quarter last year. I regret now not making the walk over to Riverside while there, but I did thoroughly enjoy walking the grounds of French Quarter.
My wife and I are taking my niece on her first Disney trip this summer. We are currently trying to decide between Port Orleans and Coronado Springs. I’d love to give Riverside a try, however Coronado has a soft spot in our hearts (our first trip together we stayed there), and we know my niece would love the pool at Coronado (its our favorite of all the places we have stayed at in WDW). I know in the past, Port Orleans is not always eligible for room discounts offered; any idea if this is still the case?
We stayed at Riverside for the first time last summer and loved it! I thought the Southern theming was really spot-on and our river-room in Alligator Bayou was gorgeous to walk out of in the morning. My boys (6 and 4) didn’t enjoy the pool as much as CBR’s, but the alligator themed room with murphy bed made up for that! My husband and I just stayed at French Quarter a few weeks ago for a weekend getaway and I was very pleasantly surprised! The compact size of the resort was fabulous. It didn’t take more than a 2 minute walk to get to the dock, Quick Service location or bus stop. We also loved that there was only one bus stop – it minimized the travel time to and from the parks without the additional pick up/drop off locations! We’re now big fans of the entire Port Orleans resort.
French Quarter is my absolute favorite. I would love to stay deluxe, but can’t justify the cost. I got a pin code in November and FQ ended up being about $150/night! Can’t beat the convenient buses and the peaceful boat ride to DS and getting a good peek at those tree house villas!
I love the bayou sounds they play on the bus or boat when coming back to the resort. I also love the smell of the lobby! (anyone know what it is?). Almost as good as that first scent you get when walking into The Land pavilion for the first time each trip!
Thanks for all these resort photos… they truly take me back to my favorite place on earth!
The bayou sounds on the bus! LOVED that.
We’ve stayed at POFQ, CSR, and CBR, and I love them all. I couldn’t pick which is my favorite. However, we tend to travel during “Free Dining,” and POFQ has been notably left off the list for the last five years or so (We got it during spring of 2011 there), which makes me sad.
I’ve tried to get POR, but it’s always been filled up when Free Dining arrives.
There really isn’t a 10-15 minute walk to a bus stop or breakfast at Coronado Springs. You’re never more than about five minutes away from both. The four stops on the resort’s bus loop are located to allow at most around a five-minute walk to the nearest stop, and if you’re more than five minutes away from El Centro, then you’re less than five minutes away from the Dig Site pool, where Siestas pool bar serves breakfast for the benefit of guests staying on the far side of the resort.
Dixie Landings was my first Disney hotel as a kid. One night we walked over to Port Orleans and I was fascinated by the sea serpent slide…but never got to go on. So, on my first visit to Disney as a solo adult, I picked POFQ so I could go on that slide. I was so happy with my choice. I’m glad you’re coming around!
I love Riverside, it’ll always hold a special place in my heart. Family vacations, I have fond memories of running around the resort with my younger brother and all the great memories we made there. Fast forward 10 years later, it’s where my wife and I honeymooned and celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary. We’ve even made it a point to spend a full day on property each time we visit. You guys hit the nail on the head with this one, coupled with the French Quarter it’s the best moderate option DW offers.
Our family loves Riverside and the bayou section. We love the quietness and calmness of the whole area and the fact that in minutes you can be in Disney Springs after a great little boat ride. The kids love the pool and water slide and it just overall has a welcoming feel to it. After a long, crazy day at the parks coming back to a late night beignet and a walk along the river makes it perfect. We are doing a split stay this spring at Riverside/Caribbean to see what we think of that resort. Thank you so much for this blog and especially your photos and lens reviews too! I re-read so many of them.
Room quality experiences (read: beds) at both French Quarter and Riverside have been lows in my book, which makes me less likely to stay at them again, but I definitely love the transportive theme!
Our bed the last couple of times at French Quarter has been exceptional. We’ve stayed at Riverside more recently and I don’t even remember how that was (so I’m guessing not as good).
Stayed at PO numerous times. As we’ve gotten older, our Disney itineraries have changed, meaning we spend more time at the hotel and Disney Springs, and less at theme parks, so PO is the perfect location. Which side you decide to stay on depends on what you’re looking for.
We book Riverside for May because we consider that trip a hotel/swim vacation. We visit theme parks only a few times during this stay. The rest is spent at the pool (I know, it’s crazy. Why go to WDW just to swim. It’s simple, we are older now and view this as our island vacation, Disney style). The Manor rooms at Riverside facing the quiet pool are the perfect location for this.
We book PO FQ for a week, beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving, because that is the perfect time for a Christmas/theme park trip. The compact size of FQ allows us to be in close proximity to the food court (request bldg 3, 4 or 5) and the buses. We have tried other hotels (including Deluxe) but find PO FQ to satisfy all our needs, and at a moderate price. Much rather use the money on some of those great Disney restaurants.
Perfect breakdown and philosophy–thanks for sharing this!
We have stayed at all the monorail resorts and Wilderness Lodge, and while we loved our stays at all of them, we absolutely love Port Orleans Riverside and feel it is a great value compared to the Deluxe level resorts. We love taking the boat to Disney Springs, which really has a wonderful choice of restaurants now. We will be going back for our third stay at POR for the Halloween party in October. I love your blog and find it really has helped me plan our Disney trips and has really upped our enjoyment level. Thank you for this blog!
You’re welcome–thanks for reading and sharing your feedback! 🙂
French Quarter is my absolute favorite. First Disney resort we stayed at more than 20 years ago and I still love it. I love the compact size, and it is wonderful to roam the streets after dark feeling like you are walking in what I imagine the real French Quarter looks like. And how can you not love the leisurely boat ride to Disney Springs? I have also stayed at Riverside, Coronado and a couple of the value resorts, but my heart belongs to French Quarter.
You and me both! I love the compact size, the convenience of the single bus stop, and the theming is really soothing. I don’t usually eat at the resort, so an occasional beignet breakfast is pretty much all I want. Sure, I’d love to stay at the Poly, but I feel like I can justify the pricing at POFQ, so it’s my most-stayed resort!
Ooh, I forgot the beignets! Just another reason to love French Quarter.