Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter
In this article you will see two different font types. This is a he said / she said, Siskel and Roper kind of thing. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we don’t. This way you get two opinions for the price of one. Hope you enjoy it.
Port Orleans French Quarter
When walking through the actual French Quarter in New Orleans for the first time, I realized that it was not as I expected. I envisioned New Orleans to be a riot of color, hoping for Mardi Gras every day. It is not that way at all. In fact during the day, the street level facades of French Quarter buildings are downright sedate, even drab. The homes looked deserted. On my first visit, I was rather disappointed, until someone explained what I was seeing.
I was very curious about this resort. Seeing that I went over the legal limit of children and had three, Port Orleans French Quarter is one of the resorts that families of five can’t stay at unless you want two rooms.
In Creole culture, it’s considered poor taste to show off what you have. When walking the streets of the French Quarter, you are actually looking at the back of the homes. Windows are shuttered, colors are muted and everything looks very simple. It’s not until you enter the courtyard of these homes that you see the decorative landscaping and beauty of these gorgeous homes.
I am telling you these things because I get the same feeling as I did in the French Quarter in New Orleans as I do when entering Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter. The entrance to this resort is very nice wrought iron fencing with a beautifully landscaped gate area. As with all of Disney's properties, you are greeted with a wonderful array of seasonal foliage. With that said, this resort does not have the “wow factor” upon entry. There are no grand views like when entering the Contemporary Resort. There is no total immersion into a different place, such as when entering the Caribbean Beach Resort. I have always found Port Orleans French Quarter to be a bit plain.
Lucky me, I was touring the resort with 4 people who had just been to New Orleans. You know what that’s like, don’t you? The entire time I had to listen to “doesn’t this remind you of?” and “this is just like...” Meanwhile, the closest thing to a New Orleans experience that I’ve had is from a jar of Emeril’s Essence and box of Zatarain’s rice.
Upon entering the property, you pass through the guarded entrance and into the parking area, which has a very “park-like” appearance. The front of the resort is evocative of New Orleans with classically shaped buildings with filigreed wrought iron balconies. You enter the main building through a large glass greenhouse / atrium structure. It was here, on my last visit, that it hit me. The entrance and building façade are very low key for exactly the reasons I mentioned above. In keeping with the traditions of the original French Quarter, the design of Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter does exactly what it is meant to do. It mirrors the style and substance of the original. While not an exact replica of anything, it’s a distillation of the New Orleans French Quarter, just as Main Street in the Magic Kingdom is the essence of a busy street in a “turn of the century” small town.
“Distillation of the New Orleans French Quarter?” Oh brother, see what I mean? I saw a very pretty resort with a light filled atrium.
With this new found respect, I have re-explored POFQ (I’m tired of typing Port Orleans French Quarter…so get used to POFQ). This resort sits side-by-side with Port Orleans Riverside (PORS …for the same reasons) which used to be known as Dixie Landings. For reasons no one really knows (although there are speculations) Dixie Landings is now PORS. It has a Southern plantation Mark Twain atmosphere, but that’s another article for another time. Back to POFQ….
The check-in area has a pseudo European / Southern feel, just like the real New Orleans. There are many stations available to keep your wait to check in at a minimum. This is a nice but utilitarian space. Across the atrium lobby is the entrance to the resort’s food court, the Float Works . Yo Emeril, there’s a lounge (as in Hurricanes and other adult beverages) directly opposite the registration desk, and to the right of it is the Float Works entry.
New Orleans is famous for it’s “over the top” parades and street atmosphere. This space pays homage to those parades. Hanging overhead are large portions of parade floats (hence the name Float Works). They seem to like big, giant, humongous masks in New Orleans. The food court is a circular area with stations which serve different food choices and a large seating area. The space is surrounded by large windows, several of which are double French doors, which in nice weather gives this an open market feel. If you are there during less than perfect weather, this space can be very loud, when crowded.
In New Orleans’ French Quarter, there is very famous place called Café du Monde. (Name dropper.) It’s an “open air” restaurant / market/ live music kind of place and it’s famous for its atmosphere, but more importantly for it’s beignets and chicory coffee. Beignets are fried pastries, sort of like a cross between donuts and a funnel cake. They are served hot and fresh, sprinkled with powdered sugar. (Are you sure this isn’t a Zeppoli?) Chicory coffee has the chicory added to make a more mellow taste. You cannot visit New Orleans without visiting Café du Monde. (I think it might even be a law). Again, my reason for telling you this is Float Works offers a version of beignets. When I was there, they were cooked to order, but had very little in common with their original namesake. For about 3 bucks, you got 3 pieces of fried dough that were tough and a bit greasy. For another 2 bucks, you can get a bottomless cup of Disney coffee (whoopee ). It is my opinion that, unless you are staying at POFQ and looking for convenience, there is little reason to make the trip to the Float Works. True of most Disney resort counter service restaurants. Fine for something quick if you’re staying at that resort, but not worth taking a special trip to dine there.
As you leave the lobby area, you walk out into the heart of the resort. If you notice these sorts of things, you will see that there is a very different feel to the outside areas of POFQ. It’s almost an urban feel. The area has the look and feel of a lovely city park, broken up into different named town squares. I found the resort to be intimate and romantic. The wrought iron balconies, the flowers; it was very pretty and cozy. Also, take notice of the sidewalks and walkways. There are curbs, something you don’t see in other resorts, but are subtle theming devices used to make you feel that you are in a city. As in the original French Quarter, there are decorative tiles embedded in the sidewalks showing the names of the streets (my personal favorite …Rue de Baga.) These small things are all part of what we love and expect from Disney. Ahem, Mr. Louisiana forgot to mention the hitching posts.
If you travel a bit further, you will find the pool area. This is where the Mardi Gras theme comes alive. The pool area has several large alligator sculptures, standing on their back legs and playing musical instruments. One of the sculptures will even help you shower off your sunscreen prior to taking the plunge. In keeping with the Mardi Gras theme, the centerpiece sculpture has parade doubloons embedded in the concrete. All of this is very cool, but if you have kids…..they will not notice the subtleties. Winding in and around the pool area is a GIANT alligator water slide. Alert! Alert! It’s a Mardi Gras dragon slide, not a ‘gator. Must be the after effects of the bad beignet he consumed. There are stairs to climb and you slide down the ‘gator’s (dragon’s) tongue and into the pool. The last time I was at POFQ, it was 56 degrees and the pool and slide were full of kids. This water slide is a big deal when staying at this resort. When I was a kid…it would have been enough to keep me busy for days.
The rooms at POFQ are standard rooms for one of Disney’s moderate resorts. They are beautifully furnished with heavy, dark wood furniture. (Just a side note, if you like a light and airy feeling, ask for a corner room. Instead of having just one window, there are two, one on each side of the corner.) This is where I step in. The rooms are great. The windows have fabulous Plantation shutters. There are two pedestal sinks outside of the tub/commode area. What’s very nice is that there’s a curtain that can be drawn so that the vanity is private from the rest of the room. The two double beds are longer than the average, and there are hidden Mickey’s in the Mardi Gras themed bedspreads. The moderate resorts have all gotten refrigerators and coffeemakers, which means you can make your own awful coffee right in your room. A very nice layout for a family of 4.
The resort sits along the Sassagoula River. Running along the river is a wonderful walking / biking / jogging path. There is also a boat dock and from there, you can access PORS, the newest DVC property, Saratoga Springs and Downtown Disney (Market Place and Westside). My esteemed colleague has me confused. The boat is shared by PORS and POFQ and goes to the dock at the Marketplace. You’ll pass Saratoga Springs, but if you want to go there, you either have to dive into the water and swim (which is frowned upon) or catch the Saratoga/OKW boat once you’re at the Downtown dock. Ditto for West Side. It’s a different boat.
If you are looking for a quiet activity, take a ride on the boat, It offers a view of an undeveloped side of Disney World and the boat drivers are full of information. One young lady recently told us why the water in this river looks like tea. One of the trees along the Sassogoula River drops its leaves seasonally and these leaves contain tannin (just like tea) which stain the water. It’s not harmful to the environment or the wildlife. This area is also designated as a protected area and no further development will be allowed. I don’t know about you….but I love learning stuff like this. If your kids aren’t interested in why the water is that color, they will also learn that ‘gators have been seen in this river. That should keep them busy. Disney offers something for everyone.
I guess the wrap up to this article is that I originally missed the beauty of this resort by comparing to other Disney Resorts. I have since come to see that as being unfair. It took my going back and taking some time to see the subtlety and details to appreciate Port Orleans French Quarter for what it really is…..another great Disney Resort. Ditto.