Disney’s Pop Century Resort is a value hotel in Walt Disney World, and it’s our top recommendation for the annual Free Diningpromotion. In this review, we’ll take a look at the resort, including the newly-refurbished rooms; we’ll also offer thoughts on amenities, and more. (Last updated October 20, 2017.)
Pop Century has a reputation among frequent Disney guests as being the favorite ‘value pick’ for a variety of reasons. It’s always been viewed as a cut above the All Star Resorts, but had slipped a bit in recent years. That was due to the opening of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, which caused Pop Century’s stature among Walt Disney World fans to drop a bit.
In fairness, even after the opening of Art of Animation’s Little Mermaid rooms, Pop Century was a popular choice for frugal travelers. The Little Mermaid rooms are often excluded from promotions, and are generally still slightly more expensive. Additionally, Pop Century is now seeing renewed interest as of Late 2017 due to a total room re-design, which makes the hotel much more appealing to a lot of guests…
We covered these new rooms extensively in our Photos & Video: Inside Pop Century’s New Rooms post, and recommend taking a look at that if you want a truly comprehensive look at the redesign. We’ve also updated this post with a look at the new rooms in that section of the review.
Suffice to say, this is a pretty big deal, and is a precursor to Pop Century seeing its status further elevated once the Disney Skyliner gondola service opens (with an Art of Animation/Pop Century station) in 2019.
As we stated in our All Star Movies Review and All Star Sports Review, the Value Resorts are quite divisive. Some love them for their convenience and price-points, others hate their design and feel they’re over the top and tacky. Although they’re far from being our favorite hotels, we don’t mind the Value Resorts for what they are. In fact, we’ve stayed at Pop Century many times over the years, and it’s a sentimental favorite for us.
Whether the Value Resorts are right for you comes down to the nature of your visit. If you’re taking a “the room is only for sleeping” type trip during which you want to be in the parks as much as possible, the Value Resorts are great because they’re ~$100 per night with a good Walt Disney World room-only discount, and allow budget-conscious guests to stay on Walt Disney World property.
We’ll cover the pros & cons of the various Value Resorts as compared to Pop Century, but let’s start with a look at the general amenities at Pop Century. As with all on-site Walt Disney World hotels, Pop Century offers the perks of a Disney hotel, such as Extra Magic Hours, Disney’s Magical Express, and free transportation around Walt Disney World. Access to these money-saving perks makes Pop Century an excellent option for guests looking to save money on lodging.
They also serve a variety of fun burgers and more ambitious entrees than you’ll find at many other food courts around Walt Disney World. The quality of offerings has really improved here–and really, across the board at food courts–over the last few years.
For many families, the pools are of paramount concern. The feature pool at Pop Century is the Hippy Dippy Pool, which is located directly behind the Classic Hall lobby and food court.
Dedicated to the ‘Flower Children’ from the Summer of Love, the Hippy Dippy Pool is flower-shaped and vibrantly colored. There’s also a water play area for small children with bubbling fountains.
While the Hippy Dippy Pool is larger than Pop Century’s other two pools, it’s also significantly busier. For this reason, we prefer the other two pools at Pop Century: the Bowling Pool and the Computer Pool. The former is designed to look like a bowling alley, featuring bowling ball racks and other fun details. The Computer Pool is shaped like a gigantic laptop PC from the heyday of 1990s AOL dial-up. (You can almost hear the ‘You’ve got mail’ and AIM sounds as you lounge there.)
None of these pools have hot tubs or jacuzzis, which are only found at Moderate Resorts and above. You can find a pool bar, called Petals Pool Bar at the Hippy Dippy Pool. At these pools, you’ll also find self-service laundry facilities.
In terms of other amenities, there are a couple of small playgrounds, none of which are particularly noteworthy. One that is somewhat neat is the Goofy Pop Jet Playground. Realistically, your kids will probably end up playing around the various lawn areas of the resort. There’s also Fast Forward Arcade and a jogging trail that connects to Art of Animation.
Finally, Pop Century offers Walt Disney World’s free Movies Under the Stars program. This is a pretty neat offering for families who don’t stay late in the parks; the resort plays a different (family-friendly) Disney film every night of the week on an outdoor screen. You can find the movie schedule in the hotel’s lobby–it’s usually animated films.
Beyond those amenities, families with kids might find the Value Resorts to be a good option because the themes and larger than life icons of the Value Resorts appeal to kids.
By contrast, if you are on an adults-only trip (such as a honeymoon) and plan on spending a lot of time at your resort, and would like to be able to use a nice pool, eat at nicer restaurants, and enjoy other nice amenities, Pop Century (or any of the Value Resorts) is definitely not a good fit for you.
Up until Art of Animation opened, Pop Century was the popular pick among the Values because it was the newest, nicest, and only Value Resort with a full-time dedicated bus service.
Pop Century does charge a slight (~$10/night) premium over the All Star Resorts, but I think most regulars of Pop Century would agree that this premium is well worth it for dedicated bus service and a nicer resort.
Pop Century is still nicer than the All Star Resorts, but it’s best recommended to people who don’t want to pay the slight premium to stay at the Art of Animation Little Mermaid rooms. If you don’t mind paying the ~$10/night extra to stay at Art of Animation, that should be your pick.
This is especially true if you’re staying at a Value Resort for the sake of your kids, as the Disney animation icons will resonate with kids much more than random pop icons that they probably will not recognize (there are some Disney icons scattered about the grounds of Pop Century, but Art of Animation is ALL Disney icons).
The food court and overall “newness” of Pop Century as compared to the All Star Resorts, plus the dedicated bus, is where the advantage lies. Plus, Art of Animation is only a short walk away, meaning that you have the Landscape of Flavors food court and its bus system at your disposal, too.
On a recent stay at Pop Century, when we were at the park waiting for a bus, Art of Animation showed up before Pop Century, so we just took that and walked across the Generation Gap Bridge; the two resorts are so close together that walking didn’t take any extra time.
Now let’s take a look inside the guest rooms, starting with the redesigned ones…
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 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’ll also find tons of USB-charging ports and outlets around the room. If you’re in one of these rooms, there’s no need to bring those USB-charging strips that we recommend in our Packing List for Walt Disney World.
In the corner, there’s a kiosk with drawers, mini-fridge, and a coffee maker!This is somehow a Walt Disney World Value Resort first.
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 Pop Century guest rooms 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.
Now, let’s take a look at the old guest rooms. These rooms can still be found in part of the 70s, 50s, and 60s sections of Pop Century, and you can expect the last of them to be converted by May 2018…
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.
Like the All Stars, the old rooms at Pop Century aren’t really anything special. They’re your basic cheap hotel/motel rooms that would fetch significantly less in the “real” world. It should also be noted that these rooms are quite small (having the option to fold-up the bed makes a world of difference).
These rooms are pretty comparable to the recently refurbished rooms at the All Star Resorts, so it’s really a push as far as rooms go. All of the Value Resort rooms are incredibly basic. But if all you care about is a place to sleep and shower, they’re just fine.
This mentality describes us on weekend trips, and since we prefer not to rent a car, we always factor in the savings of not renting a car to get to and from the airport and to the parks. With that added to the equation, Pop Century (and the other Values) is pretty comparable in cost to a budget real world hotel plus rental car.
Add in the value we place on Extra Magic Hours and escaping the real world, and staying at Pop Century over a cheap off-site hotel is a no brainer for us. Your mileage may vary, though.
If you typically rent a car and don’t take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, give serious thought to staying off-site. You pay a premium for the location and Disney name. For the same amount off-site, you could get a better room. Whether a Value Resort or off-site is right for you all depends upon your needs and preferences. We strongly prefer staying on-site, but obviously, not everyone is the same way.
Overall, Pop Century is a great option for guests who MUST stay on-site and want something nicer than the All Star Resorts, but still consider where they’re staying “just a room.” It’s one of the resorts where we’ve stayed the most (we “need” the on-site benefits), and we like it. For quick, weekend trips when we won’t be in our rooms much, Value Resorts are great. For longer trips, we much prefer the ambiance and quality of a Deluxe Resort, or even Port Orleans Riverside.
Since staying in the re-imagined guest room at Pop Century, it is once again our #1 Value Resort. Those rooms are incredibly spacious, and perfect for our travel style. While we still prefer the overall atmosphere of Art of Animation, the new rooms at Pop Century are superior to the Little Mermaid rooms (for us), and the price is cheaper.
Are you a fan of Pop Century? Do you prefer it or the Art of Animation Little Mermaid rooms? Do you not care for the Value Resorts at all? Thoughts on the theme here, or the best section in Pop Century to choose? Any restaurant or other recommendations? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below!