A stay at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside’s Alligator Bayou

2013 will go down in Mouse Holiday history as the last year our family fit into nearly all of the moderate-level resort hotel rooms (the exception being the Fort Wilderness cabins, if you choose to lump them in the same category). This is incredibly bittersweet for us. On the one hand, our family has now outgrown the majority of hotel rooms in the Walt Disney World Resort. On the other hand…we no longer have to wedge a Pack ‘n Play into the room, and all family members can be expected to sleep through the night. So, yes, bittersweet.

That sentiment aside, we were psyched to fit in a stay at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside last fall before time ran out. We were assigned to a room in the Alligator Bayou section of the resort. The 16 two-story “lodges” of Alligator Bayou are themed to resemble old rural communities of Southern Louisiana and fan out from the banks of the Sassagoula River.

MH disney's port orleans riversideAlligator Bayou guest rooms will sleep a family of 6 (including one under 3 in a crib), but it’s a snug fit in a 314 sq. ft. room. Beds include 2 queens and a bonus pull-down Murphy bed that is suitable for a shorter person. Also taking up space is a table with two chairs, a small fridge, and the bath area, divided from the sleeping space by a curtain. We were charmed by the subtle Princess and the Frog theming — Louis the gator featured prominently on the Murphy bed — as well as other touches of the bayou such as log bedsteads, a sugar sack-print privacy curtain, lantern light fixtures and carpeting made to mimic a wood plank floor. Our lodge’s location was a long hike from the “Sassagoula Steamboat Company” Main Building (and dining options), but we were conveniently close to one of the resort’s four bus depots. Proximity to the depot was important, as we utilize the Walt Disney World Resort transportation system in lieu of renting a van.

We’re not ones to spend a whole lot of time at our resort during Disney trips, but we made sure to leave a bit of time at the end of the day to unwind at Port Orleans Resort – Riverside. The feature pool on “Ol’ Man Island” called to the kids with its sawmill water slide and waterfalls. We often grabbed a late bite (or six) to eat at the Riverside Mill Food Court and, depending on the baby’s mood, ate inside, by the pool, or back in the room.

There are quite a few reasons to bug out of the parks early and head back to Port Orleans. I wish I could say we had time to take advantage of all the recreational opportunities at the resort:

  • Five quiet pools in addition to the “Ol’ Man Island” feature pool
  • Horse-drawn carriage rides along the banks of the Sassagoula River
  • “Ye Haa” Bob Jackson’s piano comedy show at the River Roost Lounge
  • Cajun “Campfires on de Bayou” complete with smores!
  • Bike and surrey bike rentals
  • Medicine Show Arcade – one of Disney’s largest
  • Catch-and-release with a cane pole at the Fishin’ Hole
  • A Bayou Pirate Adventure for young swashbucklers

Plus! – You can take a free Sassagoula River Cruise to Downtown Disney directly from the Riverside Marina. The ferries depart about every 20 minutes throughout the day and the leisurely trip to Downtown Disney takes about as long, winding past Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter, the treehouse villas of Saratoga Springs Resort, and on into the shopping and dining district.

Our family will miss the laid-back charm — and certainly the price point — of this moderate level Walt Disney World Resort hotel. It was great fun while it lasted!

Shop: The LEGO Store in the Downtown Disney Marketplace

The LEGO Store in the Downtown Disney Marketplace will forever be known as the site of our two-year-old daughter’s biggest meltdown to date. She was that upset about having to share space at the littlest outdoor Duplo table. A (very) small fraction of me was happy she was so engaged in building her masterpiece. The rest of me was frazzled and disappointed that we had to vamoose so quickly from Downtown Disney.

At least we were able to fit in some fun activities at the LEGO Store before our hurried exit:

Such as scoping out the massively cool LEGO sculptures on display – Prince Phillip facing Maleficent as the fire-breathing dragon, for one, and a vignette of the Seven Dwarfs.

MH LEGO store downtown disney

The LEGO bricks for building vehicles and the track for racing them were a hit with our nearly-nine-year-old son. He was also drawn to the computer stations inside the store where LEGO enthusiasts can get help designing and building models.

And, of course, there was some shopping going on. The Downtown Disney LEGO Store has got a great selection of kits as well as two sizes of cups you can purchase and fill with your choice of individual LEGO bricks. Our seven-year-old daughter picked out her trip souvenir here; though it was on the spendy side, I was pleased to learn the price was the same she’d pay at the local Target back home.

We could have done without the toddler tantrum, but it sure made for a memorable trip to the LEGO Store.

Location: Find the LEGO Store in the Marketplace area of Disney Springs, Walt Disney World Resort. A similar LEGO Store is located in the Downtown Disney District, Disneyland Resort.

Shop: World of Disney store in Downtown Disney

Wander into one end of the mammoth World of Disney store in the Downtown Disney Marketplace – especially with kids in tow – and it may take you a good hour to disgorge yourself from the other end. This was our result after bringing the children to do some end-of-the-trip souvenir shopping on a recent trip. We had gone no further than five feet into the gigantic emporium when the kids paused at a huge collection of Minnie Mouse merchandise. Twenty minutes later, we had gone no further.  That’s when I realized we might truly go no further that day at Downtown Disney – at least to souvenir shop. But given the spectrum of goods to choose from, that didn’t turn out to be a problem.

Divided into themed rooms, the merchandise runs the gamut from pricey princess gowns to reasonable knickknacks with everything in between: clothing, toys, plush, kitchenware, home décor, jewelry, collectibles, and more.

MH bibbidi bobbidi boutiqueWorld of Disney is also home to one of the resort’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiques – a magical salon where, for a hefty sum, your little girl can be made-over into a princess. One of our own little princesses came away from the store with a book that teaches the art of drawing Disney characters, instead. Our son loved the selection of Disney-themed classic board games. The younger girls were happy browsing the candy, charms for bracelets, and plush Minnies.

Part of what makes the World of Disney store an attraction in its own right are the awesome store displays. Look skyward in the Great Hall and pick out Peter Pan and the Darling children in flight. Find Pocahontas and John Smith sharing airspace with Tigger over the women’s clothing selection. Our toddler daughter, Erin, was terrified of the lifelike Pirates of the Caribbean display – but the rest of the family loved it! And be sure, on a hot day, to position yourself just so beneath the giant Stitch crowning the store entrance nearest the Ghiradelli shop!

With so much to do, see, and shop for at the World of Disney store, plan on setting aside a decent chunk of time.

Location: The World of Disney store is located within the Downtown Disney complex (known as Disney Springs officially since 2016) , Walt Disney World Resort. There is a second location in the Downtown Disney District at the Disneyland Resort, Anaheim.

Touring Tip: Parking and admission to Downtown Disney (Disney Springs) are free. There is also complimentary transportation to/from Downtown Disney from most areas of the Walt Disney World Resort.