My Disney Top 5 - Reasons to Stay at Port Orleans-Riverside

by Chris Barry, contributing writer

Welcome back to another My Disney Top 5. Thanks for continuing to read this column and please keep your comments coming. This time, I’m going to be talking about one of my favorite places to be when I’m in Walt Disney World.

I’ll preface my commentary by saying that I’m beginning to see signs of what I’ll call “Disney withdrawal.” To be more specific, I’m jonesing to head back to Orlando once again. Maybe it’s the overall lack of magic here on Long Island. Maybe it’s the winter doldrums setting in. Perhaps it’s those new Muppet commercials for Disney World. Whatever it is, I’m ready to go back. What’s really sad is that I was there in September…of 2009…a whopping four months ago! I really have no reason to complain. Some people don’t get to go back for years, but I’ve spoiled myself, and my family for that matter, by taking yearly trips for the last 7 years. So, like I said, I’m ready…already.

It all started a month ago when I was blessed yet again to receive another fantastic offer in the mail with a pin code for 40% off of my next room only reservation. I’ve gotten these before. As a matter of fact, for our September getaway we used one at the Yacht Club and got quite an amazing deal. Before you ask, I have no idea how to go about getting these. They’re linked to your name, so they can’t be traded or published online. I’d like to think I’m getting them because I’ve been there so much, but I know people who are there more than me and have never gotten one, and my best friend Lou went on his first trip ever and received one in the mail 2 months later. Go figure.

That said, the decision to go back brings with it the inevitable question: “Where to stay?” In September, the decision to stay at the Yacht Club was a no-brainer. We’d never gone Deluxe before and 40% off the off-season rate was too good to pass up. This time, a long weekend in spring is needed and I think we’ll save a few bucks and go back to Moderate. That means we’ll probably stay in one of my favorite places in all of Walt Disney World—the Port Orleans-Riverside resort.

Here are my Top 5 Reasons to Stay at Port Orleans-Riverside:

5- The Deal

The Riverside front gate. MousePlanet File Photo.

I’ve long praised Disney for being the best deal in the travel business. There are many people that say staying on property is too costly and there are so many better deals to be found just outside of Disney’s gates. However, I look at it this way: thanks to AAA and staying in the off-seasons, I’ve never paid more than around $149.00 per night to stay at Riverside. I’ve also paid much less. Go find me a place near an attraction as amazing as Walt Disney World with a full service restaurant, food court, free transportation, free river boat transportation to a place like Downtown Disney, 6 pools—including one with major theming, waterfalls and a great slide, amazing landscaping, horse and buggy rides, boat and bike rentals, and impeccable Disney service for less than $150 a night. Good luck.

4- The Jambalaya and the Bananas Foster at Boatwright’s

Boatwright's Dining Hall. MousePlanet File Photo.

I know it’s not Le Cellier or Jiko, but I don’t care. It’s almost always the first place we eat when we arrive and it’s always one of my favorite meals in the World. The Jambalaya’s just perfect and the Bananas Foster Angel Food Cake with vanilla ice cream is awesome. I’ve said it before, but when I’m sitting in Boatwright’s looking at all of those cool tools hanging on the walls savoring that last piece of Andouille sausage while the kids color their menus, I know I’ve arrived in one of my favorite places in the world.

3- The Sassagoula River

A river boat on the Sassagoula. MousePlanet File Photo.

Disney’s other two Moderate resorts, Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs each have a body of water at their center, but only the Port Orleans Resort has a river that serves a purpose. Rather than just zipping around in those cool little Watermouse boats, you can actually get places on the Sassagoula. It’s a short and pleasant ride downriver to Downtown Disney. That opens up a whole other world of dining and entertainment options without getting in a car or on a bus, and without theme park admission. The boat also gives you the option of dining, swimming or just walking around the French Quarter. Many times we’ve caught the Riverside Mill food court at its busiest and hopped on the boat to French Quarter to find their food court almost empty.

2- The Swimming Pools

The pool on Ol' Man Island. MousePlanet File Photo.

One of the Alligator Bayou quiet pools. MousePlanet File Photo.

The French Quarter pool. MousePlanet File Photo.

It’s unfair to compare any pool complex in Walt Disney World to the Beach and Yacht Club, so I won’t even bother. Come to think of it, it’s pretty unfair to compare any pool anywhere to Stormalong Bay at the Beach and Yacht Club, so I’ll disqualify them and say that I think Riverside has one of the top pool complexes in all of Disney World. The main pool on Ol’ Man Island has a ton of fountains and geysers spraying water. It’s got a great slide, many different sections; plenty of shady and sunny spots, and is beautifully landscaped. Couple this with 3 shady free-form quiet pools in the Alligator Bayou section, 2 more conventionally shaped pools in the Magnolia Bend area, and the French Quarter pool with its sea serpent shaped slide and water spraying Alligator Band and you’ve got one heck of a selection of pools to choose from.

1- Alligator Bayou

Alligator Bayou as seen from the Sassagoula River. MousePlanet File Photo.

Now that we are a family of 5, if I want to go Moderate, I have no choice but to stay in the Alligator Bayou section of Port Orleans-Riverside. They have the only rooms that sleep 5 courtesy of those handy trundle beds. That’s just fine with me. I love it in Alligator Bayou. The buildings are smaller than in the more grand Magnolia Bend section of the resort, giving the area a much cozier feel. The furnishings and interior tones have a much more relaxed and calming rustic quality than I’ve found in other rooms on property. I especially like the charming log bed frames. It all makes the room seem very homey after a busy day in the parks. My family loves walking the winding paths and small bridges chasing lizards and rabbits on our way to and from our room. The quiet pools seem to blend in seamlessly with the surrounding landscaping. The landscape itself is beautiful, featuring towering pines and thick lush gardens surrounding ponds and streams. It’s a truly serene place and a peaceful respite from the chaos that can sometimes surround you in the parks. It has become one of my favorite places to be in all of Walt Disney World and that's a pretty strong statement.

There you have it. I’m not going to deny how much we all loved staying at The Yacht Club this past September. It was pretty amazing. The pool complex is second to none. The grounds were impeccable and the short walk to Epcot is just about worth the pricey room rate. Yet, there’s something about Riverside that just cries out home to my family and I. Maybe it’s because we’ve stayed there so many times that it’s become kind of our home resort. Or, maybe it’s just because… it’s just a wonderful place to stay. Whatever the reason, I’m jonesing to get back to Riverside almost as much as I’m jonesing to get back to Walt Disney World and that’s a pretty strong statement as well.

That's My Disney Top 5 for today. What's yours? Click on the "Discuss this article on MousePad" link below and share your list!