Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter, without doubt, has some of the most best themeing of any resort at Walt Disney World. The time and place is the ante-bellum South. The time of year... Mardi Gras.
Night time is a particularly lovely time to visit the French Quarter. As you can see, as we approach the resort at twilight the resort's lights are just starting to come on giving the area a special, magical feeling.
Approaching the resort at twilight.
Inside the entryway at night.
During the day, the resort is still very nicely themed.
The portico during daylight hours.
The entryway during the day.
Of course, the main resort entryway provides access to the whole "town" of Port Orleans. Located off off this fountain and glass- roofed area is the check-in lobby. It's nicely decorated, but not anything really special. One thing that the picture doesn't capture is the fact that there is a small sitting area across from the check-in desk with a TV and some small chairs. The TV has various Disney films playing -- a great place for the kids to camp out during the business part of any stay at a Disney resort.
The French Quarter's check-in lobby.
Directly behind us, as you view the picture of the lobby here, is Jackson Square, the resorts shop. It's a pretty small store for a Disney resort, and I don't have a picture of it. Jackson Square is about half the size of Fulton's General Store, over at Riverside.
Outside the main resort building, though, is where Port Orleans really shines. The whole resort is made up to look like the French Quarter of New Orleans itself. Tree-lined "Streets" make for easy pedestrian access to the various guest buildings (where the resort rooms are located). There's some great details around the resort, like the hitching posts, and the streetlights (which provide much-needed illumination at night).
One of the French Quarter streets.
The buildings themselves are very nicely decorated, too. Check out the ironwork that runs along the balconies. It's very nice, and the coloring and the fact that the ironwork is different over various parts of the building just adds to the authentic look. The nicely trimmed hedges, the high iron fences (around the pool area, specifically), and the architectural details of the rooflines add to the flavor even more -- as if that's necessary.
Ironwork on the guest buildings.
There's really only one more thing I want to point out about the French Quarter. The advantage of staying here is that this part of the resort has a very intimate feeling to it. However, it also means that there are fewer crowds than at Riverside. The drawback to the smaller, more compact design here, is that there is only one bus stop to service the whole place. You will almost certainly find that an occasional bus wait is unavoidable here.
The French Quarter's bus stop.
The bus service, of course, is shared between all areas of Port Orleans Resort.
Since, for many years, this part of Port Orleans operated as the "Dixie Landings Resort," Riverside has it's own check-in area and central guest facilities. The theme here is still ante-bellum South, but unlike the French Quarter, this area is themed to be reminiscent of the bayou and plantation homes that were located along the rivers of the deep South.
The approach to Riverside.
Here we are in the main building entry. The check-in lobby itself, the room that is seen in the background, is where, according to the resort's story, guests buy their tickets for a steamboat journey down the mighty Sassagoula River to Port Orleans. This area also houses, to our left and not visible in the photo, the resort's main store (Fulton's General Store), the restaurants, and the Medicine Show Arcade.
Inside Riverside's entryway, looking toward the check-in lobby.
It's hard to tell from the picture here, but above the columns on the beam above, the main cities that are located down river from the Landing are listed (including Cairo, St. Louis, and Port Orleans, of course.)
Riverside's check-in lobby, where guests booking passage down river.
The Colonel's Cotton Mill is right here on the Sassagoula River. The mill is also the location of Riverside's food court. That waterwheel that you can barely see there, just to the left of the building, provides the power to work the 'gin that separates the cotton from the seeds. Apparently it's big business for the Colonel.
The Cotton Mill and the bridge from the landing to Ol' Man Island.
Just outside of the cotton mill is the landing. Here you can see the mill to the right and Boatwright's on the left, just behind the landing itself.
Looking from the landing toward Boatwright's and the Cotton Mill.
Looking the other way, we can see the check-in lobby and the arcade.
This is one of Walt Disney World's best themed areas, in my opinion. You can also rent boats or get fishing tackle and drop in a line if you'd like.
The landing looking from the Cotton Mill.
Right across from the landing, is a bridge to Ol' Man Island (and from there you can take a different bridge to Magnolia Bend). Immediate adjacent to the landing are the first of the bayou buildings.
The Riverside Mansions, Acadian House, Magnolia Terrace, Oak Manor, and Parterre Place, are collectively called "Magnolia Bend." They are larger three-story buildings that contain most of the Riverside rooms.
Located between the bayou to the North and West and the French Quarter to the South and East, Magnolia Bend is also located right across from Riverside's landing where the resort's main guest services are located.
Here's a view of Oak Manor which is the mansion building located right across the river from the landing.
Oak Manor, viewed from the Landing across the Sassagoula River.
Now here's a great view of Magnolia Terrace from just to the side of the quiet pool that is located between Magnolia Terrace and Acadian House.
And here's another view of one of the mansion buildings. Frankly, I'm not exactly sure which one this is, but I think it's just a view of a different side of Magnolia Terrace.
Another mansion building.
Here are just a few pictures from the bayou area of Riverside. This one is taken from the foot bridge the crosses from Ol' Man Island over to Magnolia Terrace looking toward building 38. These buildings are much less pretentious in outward appearance compared to the mansions, but the rooms inside are just as comfortable stay in. They're just a little bit more homey with their bunkbeds (in some of them, anyway) and their quilted bedspreads.
A view across the Sassagoula River towards the Bayou.
The bayou buildings are very nice, too. The whole area is quite a bit more wooded. There are small streams and meandering pathways throughout the area. It's very secluded and a bit more quiet than the landing area upriver. You'll also find that the buildings are only two stories high here.
A close up view of a typical Bayou building.
Here's a picture of one of the walkways in the bayou area. It's a walk along the river that actually wraps all the way from the Riverside Landing past the bayou and mansion buildings, and continues on, as the "carriage walk" to the French Quarter. The bridge in the picture connects from near buildings 27 and 38 to Ol' Man Island.
The Bayou walking path.
Port Orleans Resort boasts two themed pools and several smaller quiet pools scattered about the Riverside area.
One of the most popular themed pools in all of Walt Disney World is Doubloon Lagoon. Doubloon Lagoon is one of the reasons why so many families with younger kids enjoy the French Quarter. It's a great themed pool, very festive, but with a slide that's not too intimidating even for the younger kids. Of course, the Mardi Gras theme is all over the place here. The jester that greets you just outside the pool area, the dragon- parade- float- themed pool slide, and the other area decorations are all examples.
In the picture of Doubloon Lagoon to the below, you might be able to see a band "shell," to the rear left, that contains a group of alligators silently playing a bunch of jazz tunes (I would presume) to entertain the swimmers.
The pool is a great attraction at night, too. In the night time picture below, I'm actually standing in that band shell. You can see some streams of water that are constantly squirting into the pool to cool the folks in the lagoon below.
Doubloon Lagoon's sea serpent at night.
Obviously, even in the later evening, the pool is fairly busy. Keep that fact in mind when you're trying to decide on your room location requests. Although rooms at the Disney resorts tend to be well sound-proofed, the noisy pool area may be a detriment if you or anyone in your group is particularly sensitive to noise.
Over at Riverside, the rural area of Port Orleans Resort, there is an Island in the Sassagoula River called, Ol' Man Island, which has a great pool (personally I like it better than Doubloon Lagoon) as well as a snack bar and playground area for the kids.
A couple of views of the Waterin' Hole on Ol' Man Island.
The slide is a lot of fun, too. The line isn't too long, maybe it would take a couple minutes before it's your turn, but it's a pretty long ride from the building at the top of the little hill here, down to the water.
The Waterin' Hole slide.
The Waterin' Hole is a great place to catch a swim, although it does get very crowded during mid-day. As an alternative, you might want to use one of the quieter pools that are scattered around the bayou and mansion homes in Riverside.
Here, for example, is the quiet pool that is located between Magnolia Terrace and Acadian House. By the way, that little white building just beyond the pool is a full laundry room (you do have to pay to use the machines) that can be very convenient during a longer trip.
The Magnolia Bend quiet pool between Magnolia Terrace and Acadian House.
There are three quiet pools scattered around the bayou buildings in Riverside.
One of the bayou quiet pools.
Another view of one of the bayou quiet pools.
On the North side of the main French Quarter building is the location where Bonfamille's Restaurant used to be and where the Scat Cat's Club lounge remains (at least for now). Bonfamille's closed down in 2000, a victim of lower crowds than at most of the other resort's restaurants. Just down a short hallway is the Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory food court. Never, outside of the Crescent City itself, has such a large collection of masks, floats, and other decorations been brought together. Check out the Mardi Gras floats and decorations hanging from the ceiling here. It makes for a festive, if somewhat weird, feeling as you snack on your meal.
Sassagoula Float Works.
The food here is limited, but good. Prices are pretty decent, too. Beignets, a deep-fried pastry well-known in the French Quarter, can be purchased here. I hear they're especially fresh and tasty as a quick breakfast.
Sassagoula Float Works seating.
There are three places we can get some food here over in Riverside. Boatwright's Dining Hall, a very decent full-service restaurant, is themed to appear to be an actual boat construction shop! Boatwright's is a great place to get a big breakfast, or home-cooked food at dinner time. In my experience, the food is always good and the service is good to excellent (especially when you consider the fact that the prices are so moderate). Bananas Foster is the restaurant's signature desert.
Boatwright's Dining Hall.
Just down the hall, toward Riverside's signature cotton mill, you can pick up some less expensive food at the Colonel's Cotton Mill food court.
The Colonel's Cotton Mill counter area.
Right in the middle of the food court's seating area is the cotton 'gin... just to give some atmosphere to the place.
The Colonel's Cotton Mill seating area.
Muddy Rivers is a small counter service snack bar located over on Ol' Man Island, near the Waterin' Hole themed pool. It's not open all the time, just during the mid-day hours and mostly during the busier times of the year, but it's in a very convenient location for folks that want to have a lighter lunch poolside.
Muddy Rivers snack bar.