Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Port Orleans resort in Disney World: French Quarter vs. Riverside

Disney World has so many great resorts to stay at, and I am making it a goal to stay at each one, eventually. My family stayed at Port Orleans in December and again last weekend, which gave us the chance to see both the Riverside portion of the resort and the French Quarter side.

Actually, Port Orleans is almost like three resorts in one. There are separate entrances for Riverside and French Quarter, with walking paths that connect them so guests can visit either end. However, within Riverside, the resort is further divided into the Magnolia and Alligator Bayou themes. The Magnolia buildings look like antebellum mansions, with their large columns and other grand touches. Alligator Bayou offers the homespun side -- the "backwater," more country-feeling part of the resort.

Port Orleans is one of three Disney Moderate resorts -- it's not a Deluxe resort, but it's not the most basic Value resorts, either. (The other two Moderate resorts are Coronado, which has a Spanish/Latin theme to it, and the Caribbean.)

I had been wanting to stay at the French Quarter for a long time just because it sounded romantic. And it is! I loved the architecture with its pretty French touches here and there.

The grounds are designed to look as though you're staying in the heart of New Orleans.

You'll even find "streets" among the buildings where the rooms are located, with street lamps and signs that have fun or punny names.

The pool area is gorgeous, and the centerpiece is a water slide that looks like a sea serpent with King Triton sitting on top.

It was even great to hear Dixieland music playing while you walk around the resort.

Inside our room, the beds and amenities were pretty standard and well maintained, with a definite New Orleans feel to it.

Contrast that to Riverside, where my family stayed in the Alligator Bayou part of the resort, whose rooms have comforters with a quilt design printed on them (look for the Mickey Mouse ears!) and the beds have the appearance of being made out of logs. I have gone camping and stayed in cabins before, but for a hotel, this was a bit too country for me.

However, I loved the grounds at Alligator Bayou because the landscaping was natural and not the manicured lawns of French Quarter or Magnolia.

This is what the real Florida looks like to me -- thick stands of trees and even swamps. I half expected to see a deer peek out of the wooded areas we walked through (but we saw only squirrels).

My preschooler loved seeing the big wheel of the "mill" near the restaurant, Boatwright's.

What is nice about both French Quarter and Riverside is you can take a boat ride on the Sassagoula River past the Saratoga Springs and Old Key West resorts to Downtown Disney and back. My family did that one evening, just for the experience. We thought it was fun, but we didn't like waiting 40 minutes at the end of a long line of other people who wanted to do the same thing. The boats are popular! If you get a fun captain, the ride can be even more entertaining.

Also, you can take a horse-drawn carriage ride at either French Quarter or Riverside.

At Riverside, you can rent a variety of boats, bicycles and surreys (which are canopied carriages that you pedal like a bicycle). You can even go fishing! The French Quarter showed Toy Story 3 on a huge outdoor screen one night.

I didn't see anything spectacular about the pool area we visited at Riverside, but I guess that's in keeping with the theme. There are several pools throughout Riverside.

There are also several theme park bus stops at Riverside -- which my husband and I felt was one of the downsides to staying at Port Orleans. When we stayed at French Quarter, one of the buses picked us up first, and then we had to stop at all of the bus stops at Riverside before even leaving the parking lot. Port Orleans is pretty spread out.

Like other Disney resorts, both the French Quarter and Riverside have quick-service restaurants, playgrounds and arcades. They both have lounges that seemed to be hopping every night.

My husband and I liked staying at Riverside. We can't say it's our favorite resort overall, but I would say the French Quarter and Caribbean are a tie for me for first place in the Moderate resorts. Laissez les bon temps roulez!