Finding the perfect resort for your Walt Disney World vacation that matches your dream vacation wish list and your budget can be one of the harder decisions when planning your visit—there are so many choices! As a category, I think the Moderate Resorts have so much going for them: fun themes, gorgeous landscaping, and great food. Caribbean Beach Resort, Coronado Springs, and Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter are the core of the moderate category (even though Disney also includes the cabins at Fort Wilderness). I love the moderate resorts and here are my top 10 tips & secrets for them:
10. The Stories
Did you know that many resorts, including the moderates have elaborate background stories that the Imagineers used to design and develop all of the details of the resorts? The fantastic unofficial website, portorleans.org has a whole page dedicated to re-telling the backstory for the Port Orleans Resorts (http://www.portorleans.org/backstory.php). Mouse Planet also has a detailed version of the story by Jim Korkis: https://www.mouseplanet.com/9603/The_Forgotten_Story_of_Dixie_Landings It involves the original French settlement by “Pierre d’Orr” of Port Orleans in 1704, selling it to the Spanish and the movement up the Sassagoula of Jonathan Colby Peace in the 1800s to settle “Dixie Landings” now Riverside. Back in the day guests at the resort received newspapers and postcards in their rooms that told the story—I remember getting one on my family’s first visit to Dixie Landings in the early 1990s. Similarly, Caribbean Beach Resort published a “Tradewinds” newspaper conveying it’s backstory to guests. Allears.net shares the story of Coronado Springs written by Jack Spence: http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/2010/08/coronado_springs_resort_part_o.html where the explorations of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and the pueblos, haciendas and cabanas he encountered while in Northern Mexico and what is now the Southwestern US on his search for the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola and the riches to be found there. I think it makes the resorts a little more interesting when you know what the Imagineers had in mind when planning all of the aspects of the resorts.
9. Boat to Disney Springs
Transportation at the moderate resorts is usually via a bus to the theme parks, but did you know that if you stay at Port Orleans Riverside or French Quarter, Disney Old Key West Resort, & Disney’s Saratoga Springs Spa & Resort, you can take a leisurely boat ride down the beautiful Sassagoula River to Disney Springs? With all of the restaurants and shopping at Disney Springs it is a must visit destination on your Disney vacation and being able to take the boat over is a nice little perk! Along the way you will pass through peaceful, natural scenes with lots of water birds and the Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs before you open up into the lake surrounding Disney Springs.
8. Carriage Rides
If you are looking for a romantic evening activity, or a unique family outing a carriage ride around a resort is a great option. Port Orleans Riverside offers carriage rides (for a fee) through the resort on a couple of different routes—often they go by Port Orleans French Quarter as well. This is a unique vantage point of the resort and it definitely fits in with the theme of both resorts. You can call 407-WDW-PLAY to make advance reservations (recommended) for the 25 minute ride.
7. Pirate Cruises!
One of the favorite activities my kids did when they were younger was to take a pirate adventure cruise. This kid-only activity takes place at several resort areas in Walt Disney World—including 2 of the moderate resorts. Port Orleans Riverside hosts the Bayou Pirate Adventure where kids sail along the Sassagoula River searching for the treasure of famous New Orleans Pirates; and Caribbean Beach Resort has the Islands of the Caribbean Pirate Cruise hearing all about Old Port Royale and its pirate past. These cruises do cost an extra fee and are for children ages 4-12 (must be potty trained). The 2 hour morning adventure includes the treasure hunt and a snack. Reservations are required, call 407-WDW-PLAY. (PS—it means 2 hours of adult time with the kids in a trustworthy and fun activity)
6. Themed Rooms
While all of Walt Disney World’s resorts have meticulously themed exteriors, sometimes the inside of the room itself is a little more generic. All 4 moderate resorts have “standard” rooms that are well themed to the resort (tree branch beds, crate furniture & “wood plank” flooring at Port Orleans Riverside’s Alligator Bayou section; purple & gold fleur de lis at French Quarter; Southwestern dark woods at Coronado Springs). But, at Caribbean Beach Resort and Port Orleans Riverside you can reserve a special category of room where the theming is over the top. At Caribbean Beach there are Pirate themed rooms where your little buccaneers can sleep on a pirate ship, and furniture is “crafted” from crates and barrels. Riverside has the Royal Garden Rooms where Princess Tiana has invited her royal friends, and the details are over the top. Starting with a letter from Tiana on the table, a rug (in the carpet) that looks like Aladdin’s flying carpet, Aladdin’s lamp for the faucet, Princess portraits & snapshots taken around Riverside, and the piece de resistance: fireworks over the Bayou in the headboard! Both of these room categories must be booked when arranging your package, and normally they are a bit more expensive than a standard room category at these resorts.
5. Rooms for 5!
As a family of 5, this is awesome news! In recent years the moderate resorts have been modified to accommodate families of 5 in a single room. Previously you would have to pay big bucks for a larger deluxe resort room or a villa or suite to accommodate more than 5 people. Currently Port Orleans Riverside and Caribbean Beach Resort have the rooms that hold up to 5 people with 2 queen beds and a fold down murphy style bed that is slightly smaller than a twin bed. And bonus—when you fold down the bed there is super cute Disney character artwork behind it!
4. Shhh! Secret Fireworks Views
I know, we normally think of Deluxe resorts like the Polynesian, Contemporary and Grand Floridian for fireworks views; or the Yacht & Beach Club and Boardwalk for a bit of an Illuminations view . . .but, did you know that some locations at the Moderate resorts can also see fireworks? The most prominent place that everyone can access is the beach at Caribbean Beach Resort—over near Old Port Royale, but a helpful Cast Member may be able to point you in the right direction before the fireworks start. There are some trees in the way, but you get a pretty nice view of Illuminations and no crowds to fight out of the park. When the Star Wars or special event fireworks are going on at Hollywood Studios you can also see those from around the Old Port Royale area. At Coronado Springs I have also been able to watch distant fireworks from the walkway outside my upper level room, but those are more of you have to be in the right place to catch them.
One of the moderate resorts in particular, Port Orleans Riverside, is often a destination in the evenings for families who are not even staying there for one reason: Yehaa Bob. This hilarious musician presents a family friendly show on select evenings in the River Roost Lounge. Come early to get a seat and interact with this high energy entertainer. You can check out Yehaa Bob Jackson’s own website for his schedule during your vacation: http://www.yehaabob.com/
2. Food Court Specialties
Going along with the theme of each resort, the food courts at the moderate often offer a specialty dishes that you can’t find anywhere else on property (and they are very tasty). My personal favorite is found at Port Orleans French Quarter: the beignets! At Riverside and French Quarter you can also find southern and New Orleans specialties like Gumbo, Friend Chicken, Shrimp Po’Boys, and Muffuletta Sandwiches. At Caribbean Beach Resort is currently under refurbishment but good things are to come! Coronado Springs’ Pepper Market has southwestern and Mexican themed dishes like nachos, tacos, empanadas and enchiladas that may be easier to find in other restaurants, but there is also a unique Yucatan Roast Chicken.
1. Location, Location, Location
This may not be too big of a secret, but it is something that many people may not think about when looking at their moderate resort choices. While we know the monorail resorts and Epcot resorts are extremely convenient to the theme parks, the moderate resorts have a lot going for them as far as location within the Walt Disney World resort—especially the two Port Orleans Resorts and Caribbean Beach Resort. Although you will be relying on bus transportation to the parks, they are pretty close to Epcot, Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios meaning shorter bus rides after a long day in the parks. Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter have a nice “back way” into Magic Kingdom past Golden Oak development and Fort Wilderness that is particularly helpful.
There are so many wonderful things about moderate resorts to help you make the most of your Walt Disney World vacation—do you have a favorite moderate resort? (please don’t ask me to choose!)