Oh, I wish I was at Dixie…

Recently, Walt Disney World had a post on their Facebook page, asking where the first place you go when you arrive to Disney is.  Well, every single time I go to Disney, I always start at the same place…

The resort.

I’ve never stayed at the same place twice, but, except when I went to Disney for a high school band competition, I have always stayed on the Disney property at one of the Disney resorts.  Three times out of four, my family stayed in the moderate class resorts.  However, this past summer, we decided to try out the high life a bit and went to one of the deluxe resorts.  Here’s the list:

Summer 1994: Dixie Landings (now known as Port Orleans Riverside)

Summer 1999: Coronado Springs

Summer 2006: Caribbean Beach

Spring 2007: Springhill Suites (off the property, but still a lovely place with a great breakfast buffet and make-your-own waffles)

Summer 2011: Animal Kingdom Lodge

We also have the tendency to visit other resorts than the one we are staying at, which I’m discovering is common among Disney travelers.  It’s a great way to extend the Disney experience of seeing the magic at the resorts and get a different view of what the resorts can offer to those staying at them.  It also gives you an idea of where you might want to stay next time.

Every resort has its own unique, wonderful qualities and charm.  Each has a special theme that is enhanced with the magic that Disney is known for, using every detail they can to make it seem like you are entering a completely different world than you are used to.  And specific Disney elements keep you in the Disney spirit.

Let’s start with the Old South.

When I was five, my parents took my brother and me to Walt Disney World in Florida for the first time.  It was very exciting.  We decided to stay at one of the moderate resorts, namely the Dixie Landings.

The Dixie Landings, which is now known as Port Orleans Riverside, opened in 1992 (happy 20th birthday, by the way), bringing guests to the Louisiana Bayou with a beautiful river, gorgeous old-fashioned rooms and mansions, and a slowed-down lifestyle to help you relax and bring you down south.

It is currently on the property for Downtown Disney, so you’re just a hop, skip, and a jump from some good shopping and good eats.

To be honest, I can’t say that I remember an awful lot about that trip.  I was very young, and that was now 18 years ago.  But there are certain things that I will never forget.

The first thing you do at any resort is check in.  Each Disney resort has its special queue for that essential stop.

The Dixie Landings has a special lobby, and, when I first went there, I was in absolute awe.  Though they are no longer running, when you looked up, HUGE pendulum-like fans overhead slowly swung back-and-forth to gently cool visitors of the Old South (or Florida, for that matter).

Food is also a major part of any resort.  If the food isn’t good, or the eating area isn’t unique to that hotel, then it presents a void in your trip.

Dixie Landings has Colonel’s Cotton Mill (now known as Riverside Mill) with its very own watermill included.  It had THE BEST MICKEY WAFFLES.  I don’t know if that’s still the case, but I remember getting the little ones (which are so much better than the large ones for some strange reason) practically every morning for breakfast.  These little Mickey waffles are my breakfast weakness.  But Colonel’s Cotton Mill still sticks in my mind as a really cute place to eat with an Old South feel.  You actually feel like you’re in the South as you look out the large windows onto the dock of the Sassagoula River as boats float with passengers, and you watch the watermill turn.

These are the main things I actually remember from the first time I visited Disney World.  However, this past summer, I went back just to tour the resort and see what I remembered and what had changed.

Visiting the lobby, I was disappointed to see that the fans had been removed.  However, Colonel’s Cotton Mill, though with a different name (now Riverside Mill – just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?), was just as charming as I remembered, though seemed smaller.  I assume this was at the very least due to the fact that I am much older and things appear bigger when you’re little, but no big deal.

One great thing that I tried and was a great adventure was taking a boat ride down the Sassagoula River from Port Orleans Riverside to Port Orleans French Quarter. I had never been to French Quarter but had always wanted to see it, so we took a boat down to the connected resort.  It was so relaxing just to sit on a nice, breezy boat as you float downstream and see the mansions that line the river on Magnolia Bend. It’s a nice way to travel quickly and easily to the other Port Orleans resort while taking in the sights.

Also, though I didn’t get the opportunity to try it, they have horse-drawn carriages waiting to take passengers through the Disney-created Old South.  The horses are large and beautiful, as well as incredibly docile, especially considering the Florida heat.

In my heart, Port Orleans Riverside will always be the Dixie Landings.  I’ve never stopped calling it that, and I doubt I ever will.  I would love to stay there again sometime, and I definitely would suggest it to others, especially if you’re looking for some relaxation amidst the chaos and excitement that is Walt Disney World.  It’s a nice place to catch a breath and wind down.

All pictures used in this post are courtesy of AllEars.Net.  Check them out!

Stay tuned as I continue my hotel reviews in my next post…

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