Which Walt Disney World Value Resorts are best & worst? This list ranks Art of Animation, Pop Century, and All Star Movies, Music & Sports. Our #1 hotel might surprise you, but we’ll cover why it’s our top pick–plus pros & cons, photos, transportation, and other info about each! (Updated May 3, 2023.)
If you’re unfamiliar with Walt Disney World resort pricing or how far your money will go, start by consulting How Much Does Walt Disney World Cost in 2023? That should help you narrow down your search to a tier or two of different on-site or off-site hotels. Walt Disney World can be unexpectedly expensive, so be sure you calculate all costs before booking.
If you’re trying to do Walt Disney World on a tighter budget, the good news is that the Value Resorts can be great hotels. They’re excellent options for people who won’t be in their rooms much, families with small children who enjoy animated characters, guests doing Disney on a dime, or even those who are frugal and don’t think the higher-tier hotels offer sufficient bang for buck. (As much as we enjoy the Deluxes, they’re tough to justify without great discounts!)
To be sure, the Value Resorts are more expensive than off-site accommodations, but the added perks like park transportation and Early Theme Park Entry can tip the scale in their favor from a money-saving perspective. In Are Walt Disney World’s Cheapest Hotels Actually Good? (second spoiler: yes, they are!), we make the case for choosing Value Resorts over off-site accommodations or more expensive on-site ones. Frankly, we love the Value Resorts and think they’re tough to beat from a cost-benefit perspective. (Truly living up to their name!)
Let’s begin the breakdown of Value Resorts by discussing the single biggest differentiator among them, which is transportation. Previously, this simply focused on bus transportation, which tends to be better at Pop Century and Art of Animation. This is the case because the three All Star Resorts sometimes (but seldom) share buses.
Now the much bigger reason is the Skyliner gondola transportation. This offers aerial transportation from a shared station between Pop Century and Art of Animation to Caribbean Beach, where guests transfer for either Epcot or Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Total Skyliner transit time from Art of Animation or Pop Century is under 10 minutes to DHS or under 15 minutes to Epcot. This is a considerable improvement over buses.
We’ve used the Skyliner countless times, including from Pop Century to rope drop both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot. In our view, this transportation system is an absolute game-changer. Instead of relying on inconsistent and unpredictable buses–which can be frustrating if you’re in a hurry–you can take the smooth Skyliner for efficient transportation to two of Walt Disney World’s most popular parks, plus a whole bunch of hotels.
With that said, the Skyliner hasn’t been free of problems. It goes down regularly between the months of June and September due to storms, and bus transportation often is not efficiently deployed as a backup. Due to this, and the nature of the transportation, those with fears or heights or other concerns may not wish to use it.
For those guests, it’s less of a perk and more of a drawback for both Pop Century and Art of Animation. The Skyliner is built into the cost of both hotels, and is a huge advantage that justifies the premium pricing…but only for those who will use it. If you will not use it, you’re paying extra for no reason. (Moreover, Pop Century and Art of Animation have scaled back their bus frequency to Epcot and DHS, doubling disadvantaging those who don’t use the Skyliner.)
Now, let’s cover some commonalities of the Value Resorts. All of Walt Disney World’s Value Resorts are large and spread out, and don’t have internal transportation. We don’t consider it that long of a walk, but if you are trying to herd a slew of kids, you might disagree. At every Value Resort except Art of Animation, preferred rooms are available that are located closer to the lobby, but they have an additional cost.
Standard rooms are all fairly similar, too. It cannot be stressed enough that the Value Resorts are very basic accommodations in terms of the rooms. These rooms are small and along the lines of what you’d find at a nicer Best Western or Motel 6.
Disney fans may gasp at that comparison, but we feel it’s true–at least to an extent. The big way Disney’s Value Resorts deviate from other budget accommodations is that they include Disney decor, which alone is probably enough for the average Disney fan or guest to consider them a great deal superior to those other brands of hotels. The point is, at their core, these are not high-end hotel rooms.
Design, in general terms, is pretty consistent among the Value Resorts. All are very plain buildings that are dressed up with oversized icons that relate to the hotel name. They’re decorated, not themed. While the Moderate and Deluxe Resorts attempt to transport you to another time and place, the Value Resorts look more cartoonish. Their style is very divisive, with some Disney fans finding them garish clutter tacked onto low-rate motel buildings and other fans finding them to be fun and whimsical ways to experience a Disney hotel on the cheap.
If you are in the former camp, you probably already know Value Resorts are not for you, and there’s little point to this list of rankings for you. Regardless of how you feel about the Value Resorts, the fact is that they have plenty of fans. Many people, especially small children, prefer this larger-than-life style to the more elaborate and nuanced design of the higher-tier hotels.
We’ve stayed at each of the Value Resorts on numerous occasions, most recently in Spring 2023 with a stay at All Star Sports. In fact, we’ve stayed at every single Value Resort in the last calendar year, including 3 separate stays at All Star Sports. While their style isn’t our favorite, we can understand why they appeal to kids. We find the criticism to be a bit over the top and cynical. Different strokes for different folks, and all that.
The All Star Resorts have more in common, too. They also use shared buses to get to the parks during slower seasons (or times of day), which can be a big issue and time drain. While kids who are fans of sports, movies, or music may disagree, we feel that the decor is pretty much the same across the three resorts.
Movies and Music seem very similar to one another (most Disney movies are musicals, so this makes sense), with Sports differing more. The All Star Resorts are also older than Pop Century or Art of Animation, and in many places, the age difference really shows.
With that said, let’s take a look at the rankings!
5. All Star Movies
All of the Value Resorts have received very similar reimagined rooms, with the All Stars getting completely identical designs. Above is a photo of the new room from the opposite perspective as the new room (below that) at All Star Music. We’ve stayed in these new rooms several times, and find them to be huge upgrades. They’re not perfect–you can read about the pros & cons in our Photos & Video: Newly Reimagined Rooms at the All Star Resorts post.
These new rooms are definitely a step in the right direction, but All Star Movies could still use some more help. The Mighty Ducks are still heavily showcased, despite no longer being relevant. Photos in the lobby are faded, as is hotel signage. It also doesn’t help that All Star Movies was the first to receive the new rooms ~4 years ago, whereas Sports and Music have received their updates mostly in the last couple of years. That means the same style is fresher at Sports and Movies.
4. All Star Sports
All Star Sports has now received the new room upgrades that are huge improvements in terms of utility and aesthetics. If you’re booking a room at All Star Sports going forward, you’ll receive a new room. Of our three stays here in the last year, all of them have been in new rooms, and these have had noticeably less wear and tear than their counterparts at All Star Movies. That makes a big difference, and is pretty much the reason why Sports ranks higher than Movies.
It’s not just the rooms. As a whole, Sports looks like it has received more TLC than the other All Stars, with freshly-repainted icons and well-maintained grounds. In years past, it was common to see faded and dirty details; that’s not the case now. Beyond that, the food court was never overly-crowded and the recreation options were surprisingly good.
However, All Star Sports still ranks below Music because it’s frequently the home base for groups attending ESPN Wide World of Sports events. If you consult the ESPN Wide World of Sports Calendar and you’re completely sure there are no groups, you might decide to opt for it. We stayed at All Star Sports during a recent youth event and had a room in the “Touchdown” section right above the football field where kids often play, but had zero issues with excessive or late night noise. That has not been our experience in the past, so we generally recommend avoiding All Star Sports during these ESPN events.
The other big upside to Sports is that when the All Star Resorts are sharing buses, it’s the first stop the buses make. During busy hours, the bus will often fill up completely at All Star Sports, skipping All Star Music and Movies completely. For this reason, the bus service at All Star Sports is the best of the three. (During our recent stays, we’ve found this is most commonly an issue at the end of the night when the parks are busiest; transportation ops will pack everyone heading to the All Stars on the same bus, and have another ready to go when one is full.)
3. All Star Music
All Star Music has now been totally updated with the new rooms, pictured above. Again, these are a significant upgrade from the old rooms, as they have numerous functional and space-saving improvements. All of that is incredibly useful given the small size of Value Resort rooms.
Other upsides to All Star Music are that it’s less expensive than Pop Century and Art of Animation, it has a refurbished food court, it’s rarely (if ever) overrun with pre-teen athletic groups, the decor is good and not too dated (by All Star standards), and it’s the middle bus stop. Another point in the favor of All Star Music is that it’s the only one of the trio to offer family suites, which are far cheaper than their counterparts at Art of Animation (but not as good as those Lion King, Cars, or Finding Nemo family suites).
Finally, none of the All Star Resorts is better than the others by a wide margin. If your kids are most interested in sports, movies, or music…stay in the “topic” that appeals to them, especially if decor is a big deal. The only time we might caution against that is when a large group event is happening at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, in which case you should probably avoid All Star Sports–or at least request a room away from the football field.
When it comes to rooms, the Little Mermaid rooms fall short of the newly-redesigned rooms at Pop Century and All Star Movies. The Little Mermaid rooms have received a light refresh recently, but nothing on par with Pop Century. You can read all of our quibbles with these in our Little Mermaid Room Review. Suffice to say, these are minimally decorated, a long walk from the lobby, and way overpriced.
However, the common areas make Art of Animation winners among families and elevate it further. This is especially true of the Cars wing, which is the best area at any of the Value Resorts. The Nemo, Lion King, and Little Mermaid grounds have fun decor and some interesting design touches, but they don’t have the depth of the Cars wing, which feels like a low-budget Radiator Springs.
Art of Animation also scores points for the Finding Nemo pool, which is the best pool at any Value Resort, and one of the better pools at Walt Disney World (if you don’t mind the noise). For a quieter option, the Cars pool is also exceptional, and has a Cozy Cone Motel vibe to it.
Landscape of Flavors, the food court at Art of Animation, is one of the better counter service restaurants on property, which is another strong selling point. However, it’s literally as easy to dine at Landscape of Flavors if you’re staying at Pop Century as it is if you’re staying in the Little Mermaid rooms.
That’s ultimately what weighs Art of Animation down to the #2 spot for us. You’re paying a significant premium for inferior rooms (unless your kids are diehard Little Mermaid fans), and for being just as far from Art of Animation’s main amenities as you would be if staying in some rooms at Pop Century. Why not just pay less, have a better room, and walk over to Art of Animation Resort to enjoy it?
Pop Century’s biggest downside is that the cartoony, oversized icon style simply works better in the context of Disney animation. This style appeals primarily to kids, and Disney characters will resonate with them more than pop culture references.
Personally, I think in terms of overall ‘value’ (not simply what’s cheapest), Pop Century excels. It is worth the slight premium for superior dedicated bus service, better dining options, and far superior rooms. If you’re a couple without kids simply looking for the cheapest way to stay on-property at Walt Disney World, Pop Century should be your top pick.
So there’s our take. Whether a Value Resort is right for you in the first place is something you should also consider. If money is no object and you don’t have kids, you’re likely better off in a Moderate or Deluxe Resort. If money is an issue or you think your kids will prefer the Values, give them serious thought.
If you’re still undecided after reading this or overwhelmed by the complexity of planning a Walt Disney World vacation, you might want to consult an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner (Disney’s term for a travel agent). They receive commission from Disney, so most authorized planners will not charge you for booking the vacation package and planning services. The fee-free Authorized Disney Vacation Planner that we recommend is Be Our Guest Vacations. Their services don’t cost extra, they’ll help choose the right resort for you, book your vacation, help you with dining reservations and itineraries, and apply the best discounts to your reservation.
Is it worth it to you to stay at a Value Resort, or would you rather just splurge and stay at a Moderate or Deluxe Resort? Which Value Resort is your favorite? Do you agree or disagree with our WDW Value Resort rankings? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!