We are preparing to check out. I glanced out the window and saw the Downtown Disney balloon ride coming in for a landing. Too cool!
© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
We’re taking a cruise down the Sassagoula! All aboard the river boat, and let’s see where it takes us.
The Sassagoula is a man-made waterway that connects several Disney resorts with Village Lake, around which Downtown Disney and the Saratoga Springs resort are clustered. Guests can embark from Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, Old Key West or Saratoga Springs to get to one of the other resorts or to Downtown Disney.
Guests are transported to and fro in blue and yellow flat-bottomed river boats. There are actually three routes – one for the Port Orleans resorts, one that services Saratoga Springs and Old Key West, and one that taxis guests back and forth between two Downtown Disney docks (the West Side and the Marketplace). The boats play a soothing mix of instrumental-only Disney tunes, many of them having to do with boats and waterways. It’s not unusual to hear Just Around The Riverbend from Pocahontas followed by Candle on the Water from Pete’s Dragon.
Aside from going back and forth between Downtown Disney and the resorts, you can also resort-hop. Over the years, I have read the same question over and over on many internet boards – “What can we do at Walt Disney World that’s FREE?“. Well, you can take a trip on the Sassagoula River! For instance, you can park at Downtown Disney and hop aboard the boat that goes up to Port Orleans Riverside. You can get off there, take a stroll around the scenic grounds, grab a bite to eat at the Riverside Mill food court or even go shopping at the market. There’s also a table service restaurant called Boatwright’s Dining Hall.
Suppose you prefer the ambiance of historic New Orleans – in that case, make your stop at Port Orleans French Quarter. This is a small, quaint resort styled after “the Big Easy”, featuring authentic Mardi Gras theming, beautifully landscaped “neighborhoods”, and humorous street signs. If you stop to have lunch at the Sassagoula Floatworks, be sure to have the chicken Caesar salad – my family really loves it, but if you are calorie conscious or just don’t like your salad drowned, be sure to ask for the dressing on the side.
I’ve stayed at the French Quarter a few times, and during one of those trips, one of my co-workers and his wife were also in Orlando, staying at the Old Key West resort. So one afternoon I set out on the river boats to go and visit them. As mentioned, there are several different routes; Old Key West and the French Quarter are not on the same route, so it’s necessary to change boats at Downtown Disney. The boat dock is right near the Rainforest Cafe, within sight of the Saratoga Springs resort across the lake. I didn’t have a long wait at all, and before I knew it, the Old Key West boat arrived to take me the rest of the way to my destination. It probably would have been faster to drive, but it would not have been nearly as pretty or relaxing!
The trip along the river is very pleasant and uneventful except for the occasional “water mouse” that speeds by. “Water mice” are little, two-person boats you can rent at Port Orleans Riverside, Downtown Disney and various other places throughout Walt Disney World. Once we docked at Old Key West, I walked a short way up to a bench outside the restaurant, called Olivia’s, to wait for my friends. As you can see, it was autumn when these photos were taken; Olivia’s is all decked out with cornstalks, hay stacks, and pumpkins. But the pastel pinks, greens, blues and yellows that cover the resort buildings are definitely designed to evoke the sub-tropical “old Florida” atmosphere of Key West.
I hope you enjoyed our trip up and down the Sassagoula River today. Remember, if you are ever in Orlando and looking to kill a few hours just relaxing, consider climbing aboard one of these charming boats and touring the resorts that are “just around the riverbend”.