We’ve stayed in a newly-refurbished room at Pop Century Resort, and wanted to share some photos and video from these redone hotel rooms at Walt Disney World. In addition to that, we’ll cover our experience staying in these redesigned rooms, offer thoughts on what the refurbishment means for the future of Pop Century, and why you might or might not want to request a new room on your WDW vacation.
The Pop Century refurbishment was completed in phases, building by building, and is now finished. Currently (as of Summer 2019), the only construction project at Pop Century is the Disney Skyliner gondola station being “built” in the middle of Hourglass Lake between Art of Animation and Pop Century. However, that’s been finished and testing for months now, and should debut in the very near future.
Suffice to say, there’s no reason not to stay at Pop Century right now. In fact, Disney’s Pop Century Resort is one of our top picks for places to stay at Walt Disney World in Fall 2019 and beyond. It’s an excellent option on the Value Resort end of the spectrum, with amenities and accommodations far superior to the All Star Resorts…
It’s no secret that we were excited about the Pop Century room refurbishment. Back in the spring, we shared that we specifically booked Pop Century for our fall trip in the hopes of being able to stay in one of these rooms. We absolutely loved the look of the preview photos, and were excited that this would be an upscale Value Resort room. So…did the refurbished rooms live up to our hype?
Yes. Absolutely. We were 100% satisfied with the new room, and think it’s an unequivocal upgrade from the old rooms at Pop Century. Thanks to our experience in this new room, Pop Century will once again be in our regular Walt Disney World hotel rotation, particularly during long weekend ‘rope drop until park close’ trips.
Before we get going with our thoughts on this experience, here’s a video tour of the new room we stayed in at Pop Century to provide some context for what we’re describing:
The biggest change you can expect to see is a new configuration with a regular bed flanked by nightstands, and Murphy bed that doubles as a table. Both of these beds are queen-sized, versus the double beds previously in these rooms.
There’s a lighter color scheme, dominated by white with hints of orange and lime, Mickey Mouse pop art above the queen bed, and Pluto pop art above the Murphy bed. There’s also a ton more storage space, including a dresser under the television, room for luggage under the bed, and a variety of random cubbies around the room.
You might say this is a nice space-saving solution, but we cannot be too positive here (it’s the internet, after all). So, let’s call this what it is: Disney’s clandestine attempt at tricking you into leaving behind your valuable Duffy plush collection so that Walt Disney World can increase revenue at Property Control.
There are also a boat-load of USB-charging ports and outlets around the room. Again, clearly a way for Disney to acquire and resell my iPhone charging cable. Those wily minxes!
In the corner, there’s a kiosk with drawers, a mini-fridge, and a coffee maker! This is somehow a Walt Disney World Value Resort first, which is astonishing. All 41 of the hotels we’ve stayed at near Disneyland have had coffee makers, including the worst one, which I wrote should be condemned by the City of Anaheim.
In the bathroom, you have a vessel sink, illuminated bathroom mirror, and make-up mirror. There’s also an actual sliding door separating the bathroom area from the main room (instead of a thin curtain), glass door in the shower, and rainfall shower fixture in addition to the standard one.
All of these things, to us, are upgrades to the room with zero downside. Each individually might be a minor thing, but collectively, they make for a room that is significantly “plussed” over the Value Resort defaults.
One of the biggest complaints that we’ve heard about the rooms is that they are “un-Disney” and thematically lacking. We’ve heard this criticism a few times, and frankly, it’s perplexing.
To be sure, there is valid criticism that some could levy at these rooms…but them being less themed than their predecessors is not such a critique.
Here’s a picture of a Pop Century room from our last stay there, a few years ago (from our old Pop Century Review, which will be updated very soon):
Note that this was shortly before the removal of the comforter, which was replaced by a similar runner at the bottom of the bed. Aside from that, the only thematic touch is the painting on the far wall.
Aside from that the room is devoid of Disney decor and is completely un-themed, unless you count a random collection of three circles in the carpet. As you can see, Pop Century’s old rooms were not exactly the pinnacle of themed design. We suspect a lot of the complaints about the new design are rooted in nostalgia more than anything else.
Here’s a similar view of the new room:
This room has Mickey Mouse pop art above the bed, which alone gives it as much in the way of Disney decor as the previous room. It also has Pluto art above the pull-down bed, so it should get the edge in terms of “Disney-ness.”
Beyond that, the style here actually goes further than before thematically. The room uses bold colors, minimalist design, sharp lines, and the contrast of wood against white. To me, these rooms feel very much like a Mid-Century design with flourishes of Disney-inspired pop art. Certainly not as good as the Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando, but a step in the right direction.
Part of what surprises me is the complaint that there is not enough Disney in the room. (Between the Mickey and the Pluto, there’s more.) The thing is, the amount of overt Disney IP is not what defines “theme.” Disney characters are not a theme. To the contrary, they are usually a crutch, acting as a veiled substitute for theme.
In the case of these new Pop Century rooms, you have the best of both worlds. The Disney decor is in the pop art style, meaning it satisfies both the thematic requirements and those who expect a dose of Disney in their room. Should there be more? Arguably. Is it less themed than before? Inarguably no.
With that said, I can understand the complaint that the room feels sterile due to the abundance of white. Although I don’t agree with this critique, I can at least respect the logic behind it. Having a blue wall (like the old Pop Century room, current Cabana Bay rooms, or even the bathroom of this room) might’ve made the space a bit more inviting.
Personally, I feel Value Resort rooms have always been too dark and drab, and this brightens them up. Perhaps it was an over-correction to the old style, but I’ll take a hotel room that looks crisp and clean over one that’s dark and drab any day. Still, I can appreciate the desire for something of a happy medium.
Likewise, I think adding a bed runner into the mix would help. I was mostly on board when the hotel industry moved from comforters to bed runners, but I cannot support this new trend of eliminating the bed runner completely.
Walt Disney World has followed this trend at some resorts, and I think it really think that’s a mistake. The bed runner is a quick and easy way to reinforce theme, and the missing runner makes the bed look ‘naked’ and plain. I know it’s a little thing, but it’s these details that really count at Walt Disney World.
Another complaint is that the removal of carpet and addition of laminate flooring makes the room louder. The obvious solution here is to request the top floor and reenact the hit film Stomp the Yard with nary a care in the world. That’s what we did, and noise was never an issue…for us.
If you end up on a lower floor with a herd of children (or us) above you, perhaps you won’t be as forgiving of this change. Noise aside, we prefer the new floors. They are easier to clean and keep clean; in a budget-rate motel, we’re down with as little bodily fluid-retaining surfaces as possible.
The space that the pull-down Murphy Bed opened up for us was huge. It made the small room feel less claustrophobic, and that plus the color choices made it easier for us to spend time in the room without going stir-crazy. We think this change makes the new rooms at Pop Century a significantly better option for couples and solo travelers.
It may come as a surprise, but most visitors to Walt Disney World are not couples or solo travelers. (I know, right?!) For families, the layout with the Murphy bed not be ideal, especially since it means not having any table in the room when the kids are sleeping.
That’s really the only downside for families that immediately jumps to my mind. There’s always concern that Murphy beds will be less comfortable, but we did not find that to be the case. I’m sure there are other changes that could be legitimate negatives for some parties, but I suspect that’ll largely be on a circumstantial basis.
Overall, we view the new rooms at Pop Century as significant upgrades. Recent Walt Disney World room changes have been hit or miss, but to us, this is an absolute home run–the best room refurbishment to date. These are improvements to the point that we once again look forward to staying at Pop Century, and now (also once again) view this as the #1 Value Resort at Walt Disney World. The rooms certainly are not perfect, but in our estimation, this is the single-greatest improvement to a guest room we have seen since we’ve been visiting Walt Disney World. Unfortunately, it’s not all upside. Between this room enhancement and the upcoming Skyliner, we have little doubt that Disney has plans to position Pop Century into a higher ‘tier’ in the next couple of years. (So in other words: enjoy these upgrades to Pop Century at the current rates while you can!)
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What do you think of these new rooms at Pop Century? Excited for the room redesign, or are you not a fan of the Murphy bed style? Do you agree or disagree with our take on the changes being appealing to couples or solo travelers? Any thoughts of your own to add? Have you stayed in one of the new rooms? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!