Disney's Port Orleans Resort might feature a design of stately mansions and refined landscaping, yet it offers plenty of fun amenities and activities for kids. My family and I happily discovered this when we stayed at Riverside in one of the new Royal Guest Rooms.
These Disney story rooms are designed to appeal to those who love Disney Princesses. (You can read about all the incredible details in my AllEars post: http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/2012/03/disney_worlds_royal_guest_room.html.) But whether you stay in a Royal Guest Room or a New Orleans style room, there are so many fun options to fill a day at the resort that you probably won't spend all day in the rooms.
The Sassagoula River winds between the Riverside rooms and another themed set of buildings called French Quarter, creating a beautiful setting for paths that are used by runners, walkers, bike riders and horse-drawn carriages. Along the way, guests will be immersed in award-winning landscaping and gardens reminiscent of the old South.
There are seven swimming pools interspersed throughout the grounds, and Riverside and French Quarter each have a main pool with a slide and hot tub. There are even spigots for "jumping water." I think my kids could have played all day at the Riverside pool, which also features an afternoon party with games and music for kids.
Adjacent is a small playground and an area for the nightly campfire, where families can toast marshmallows and make s'mores. After the fire, movies are shown on a large, inflatable screen on one of the mansion's lawns.
The hub of activity for the resort, which houses the registration area, gift shop, restaurant and food court, looks like a riverboat dock. Its centerpiece is a large, water-powered mill at one end of the food court. At the opposite end of the dock, guests can rent kayaks, two-seat speedboats, pontoon boats, Surrey bikes and quadricycles.
My husband and son went out exploring on the Sassagoula River in a Sea Racer, which only goes about 5 miles per hour, the cast member on duty reassured my speed-averse son. They meandered past the French Quarter, Old Key West Resort and eventually into the lake that borders Downtown Disney. It's a great way to see some of Disney's resorts -- and golf fairways -- from a unique perspective not otherwise seen by guests.
Another boating excursion is offered just for kids ages 4 to 10, the Bayou Pirate Adventure Cruise. According to the description, "Legend has it that a pirate captain lost his treasure somewhere along the Sassagoula River. Join in this two-hour adventure that includes a boat excursion and a snack." It costs $34 per child. Reservations can be made by calling 407-WDW-PLAY.
Kids might also be interested in catch-and-release fishing on Ol' Man Island, getting their hair wrapped at a dockside stand or taking a turn in one of the largest video arcades at Disney World.
For a snack or a meal, families can visit the Riverside Mill Food Court, which has various stations open from 6 a.m. to midnight. There are so many choices -- from carving stations and a speciality shop to fresh tossed salads and a bakery -- that it's an eatery that will appeal to a wide variety of tastes. Plus, who can resist sitting near the giant waterwheel that turns constantly?
Next door is Boatwright's Dining Hall, a table-service restaurant that features many traditional Creole dishes, such as jambalaya, crawfish and gumbo. It's a comfortable atmosphere made even cozier by a fireplace in the center. We all enjoyed a delicious dinner there. The highlight for both of my children was the make-your-own-sundae that topped off the meal. (See menus and pricing for Boatwright's Dining Hall and Riverside Mill Food Court at http://allears.net/menu/menus.htm#res)
Too tired to get cleaned up for dinner? Sassagoula Pizza Express will deliver to your room from 4 p.m. to midnight.
The previous post in this blog was Disney World's Royal Guest Rooms designed for princesses.
The next post in this blog is Disney World's Storybook Circus improves area for kids.