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Planning a trip to Disney World? Want to stay on property, but would rather have somewhere quiet that makes you feel like you are anywhere but at a theme park? Port Orleans Riverside may just be the resort for you! Riverside is a moderate resort at Disney World that oozes peace and tranquility. It will make you feel like you are relaxing along the banks of the Mississippi River instead of in the middle of the largest vacation destination in the world. This review of Port Orleans Riverside will give you all the information you need to decide if this is the right resort for your family.
Riverside is located in the Disney Springs area and sits on the banks of the Sassagoula River. Downriver, you will find Port Orleans French Quarter and Disney Springs. This is a beautiful location. While this resort is further from the parks than some of the other hotels, it is not a big deal. It never seems to take long to get to any of the parks from here.
While Riverside sits next door to its sister resort, Port Orleans French Quarter, don’t confuse them. They are very different resorts. However, because they are sister resorts, if you are staying at one of the resorts, you can use the amenities at both. It is about a 10 minute walk along the sidewalk on the riverbank to get from one to the other. This relationship between the two resorts can be very advantageous to you as a resort guest.
Riverside is quite spread out. It has 2,048 rooms in 20 different buildings, divided into two sections: Magnolia Bend and Alligator Bayou. Depending on where your room is, you may have a bit of a walk to get to the main building or pool. Because the resort is so big, there are 4 different bus stops, located around the edges of the resort. So, while you may have a long hike to the front of the resort, you may still be close to a bus stop.
This sprawling size is definitely one of the biggest negatives to this resort. However, the same can be said for all of the moderates, except for French Quarter. The trade off is that you get beautiful resort grounds that are generally quiet and uncrowded.
Riverside’s theme is derived from the Mississippi River area of the Old South. Magnolia Bend is designed to look like the stately old plantations. This section has 4 large three-story mansion style buildings. In this area, you will see well-manicured lawns, formal gardens, and sculptured fountains. The feel in this part of the resort is one of elegance and sophistication. You almost expect to see a Southern belle in her best ball gown strolling down the pathway at any moment.
Two of the buildings in Magnolia Bend house the Royal Rooms. These rooms, which are some of the most expensive rooms here, are themed around the Disney princesses. The backstory to the Royal Rooms is that Tiana hosted all of the other princesses here during their visit. The princesses each left something behind to remind Tiana of their time with her. These rooms, which are themed above and beyond your normal Disney resort room, are sure to please any little princess.
Alligator Bayou, on the other hand, is designed to look like the more modest homes found in the bayous of Louisiana. These two-story buildings are smaller with a darker paint scheme. They have a more rustic, cottage feel to them. The grounds in this area are less formal and more natural, with tall pine trees. The buildings are tucked into the surroundings instead of being the focus of the grounds like the mansions of Magnolia Bend. Please note that Alligator Bayou buildings do not have elevators. Another major difference between the two sections is that the rooms in Alligator Bayou have Murphy beds, which means you can sleep 5 people per room.
We have only stayed in Magnolia Bend. The rooms in this section are very convenient to the pool and main building. We were very pleased with the room and its location.
You can use Disney transportation to get from Riverside to anywhere in Disney World. To get to Disney Springs, you can take either a bus or a boat. The boat also makes a stop at French Quarter before continuing on to Disney Springs. You must take a bus to get to all of the parks from Riverside. During slower times of the day, Riverside will share buses with French Quarter. However, during busy times, such as at the end of the night, the two resorts will each have their own dedicated buses. When the resorts share buses, they stop at French Quarter first and then Riverside. The buses will stop at all four of the internal bus stops at the resort, regardless of whether they also stop at French Quarter. It doesn’t take too long to get to any of the parks from here on the Disney buses.
My first tip on using Disney transportation while staying at Riverside is to take the boat to Disney Springs instead of the bus. It is almost always faster.
The second tip is one we learned when staying here. Because Riverside is so much larger than French Quarter, the lines for the buses to get back to Riverside at night are always longer than those for French Quarter. Therefore, even if you are staying at Riverside, get in the French Quarter line. Get off at French Quarter and then walk along the river back to your room. Not only will this get you on a bus faster, but it will also allow you to have a nice, quiet stroll back to your room to end your night. This was one of our favorite parts of the day when we stayed at Riverside.
No review of Port Orleans Riverside would be complete without discussing price. The prices here are in the middle range for Disney hotels. The prices here are about the same as you will find at French Quarter next door. Rack rates will range from about $175-300, depending on the type of room you select and the time of year you visit. Prices are higher during peak times. While the prices at the two sister resorts are about the same, usually discounts at Riverside will be bigger than at French Quarter.
During our trip a couple of years ago, we originally booked our stay at French Quarter. However, I changed our reservation over to Riverside because we got a bigger discount. It saved me a few hundred dollars, as opposed to thirty or forty dollars to stay at French Quarter.
Riverside has one table service restaurant and one food court. Both are located inside the Sassagoula Steamboat Company, which is the main building. (It also houses the gift shop, lounge, arcade, and check-in desk.) The table service restaurant is called Boatwright’s Dining Hall. It is themed after a boat-building company. The food court is called Riverside Mill. In the seating area of Riverside Mill, you can see the inner workings of the building’s working water wheel.
We have never eaten at Boatwright’s, but have eaten at Riverside Mill many times. My favorite part of the food court is the make-your-own pasta bar. It was delicious! Also, you can take advantage of the food court at French Quarter if you stay here too. The main draw of the French Quarter food court is the beignets! Plus, the French Quarter food court is not as busy as Riverside Mill, due to the size of the two resorts.
You will find a ton of recreation options at Riverside. Ol’ Man Island is in the middle of the Sassagoula River in the center of the resort. It is accessible by several bridges. The pool, the pool bar, the playground, and the fishing hole are all located on this island. The pool is quite large and includes a small lazy river. It also has a small slide and several fun fountains and sprayers. There is also a kiddie pool for little ones. At the boat dock, you can rent bicycles and surry bikes to ride around the resort and along the river. You can also take horse-drawn carriage rides. For more recreation ideas, see my list of things to do outside the parks.
We have gone fishing at Riverside twice. There is a dedicated fishing dock on Ol’ Man Island. You can rent cane poles for about $12 for 30 minutes. They will also give you worms to use as bait. It is catch and release only. While we have not had much luck catching fish, it is a fun diversion, especially for kids who have never done anything like that before. It makes you feel like you are hanging out with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn!
I know you probably expect this review of Port Orleans Riverside to include my opinion of this resort. While we tend to favor French Quarter over Riverside, this is mainly due to the smaller size. However, this is a wonderful resort, and we loved our stay here. I believe it is one of the best choices when weighing what you get for the price. You should definitely consider staying here, especially if you are looking for a quiet resort.
Riverside is a large, moderately priced resort close to Disney Springs. It is themed around the Mississippi River area of the Old South. Magnolia Bend is designed to look like the old plantations, and Alligator Bayou resembles the humble cottages of the Louisiana bayous. This is one of the most beautiful resorts that you will find. It is quiet, peaceful, and relaxing. Its sister resort, French Quarter, is located just down river from Riverside. There is a table service restaurant at the resort, along with a laundry list of recreation options. For more information on Riverside, see the Unofficial Guide to Port Orleans. For help planning your trip to Disney World, see my best resources, quick tips, and step-by-step guide. I hope this review of Port Orleans Riverside has been helpful to you. Happy travels!