Disney’s Pop Century Resort is a value hotel in Walt Disney World, and a top pick for money-saving options. In this review, we’ll share newly-refurbished room photos, offer thoughts on amenities, compare Pop Century to other Value Resorts, and more. (Updated June 29, 2020.)
During Walt Disney World’s phased reopening, Pop Century Resort will be the first Value tier hotel to reopen. Disney’s Pop Century Resort will welcome its first guests on July 10, 2020, which is the night before Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom begin operations.
On that date, Disney’s Contemporary Resort also reopens, and most guests booked at Moderate or Deluxe Resorts will be moved to that hotel. However, if you have a stay book at the All Star Resorts or Art of Animation Little Mermaid rooms, you’ll almost certainly be relocated to Pop Century. As such, we thought it’d be worth revisiting the resort and refreshing this review…
Pop Century has a reputation among frequent Walt Disney World 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 for two other reasons that make the hotel very appealing–arguably worth downgrading to book.
First, a total room re-design was completed at Pop Century a little over a year ago. While this has been somewhat controversial with some nostalgic Walt Disney World fans, the results have been a major crowd-pleaser in terms of both style and substance.
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.
The second big thing that has further elevated the status of Disney’s Pop Century Resort is the Disney Skyliner gondola station, which the resort shares with Art of Animation Resort. Since going into operation last fall, we have used the Skyliner many times, and are huge fans.
This connect Pop Century to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot via Caribbean Beach, and means access to two parks and several hotels (including the character dining at Riviera Resort) without getting on a bus, which is huge. Read our Skyliner Gondola Review: Walt Disney World’s Most Magical Flight on Earth for more info and commentary.
As we state 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. Pop Century is also our top recommendation for the annual Free Dining promotion at Walt Disney World.
If you’re looking for the pros & cons of the various Value Resorts as compared to Pop Century, check out our Walt Disney World Value Resort Rankings. (Spoiler: Pop Century is #1, but there are compelling reasons to book the others, so your mileage may vary.)
Here, 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.
After those on-site perks, dining is the next most important aspect of a resort for most guests. We consider Pop Century’s Everything Pop food court to be superior to the food courts at the All Stars, with the Tie-Dyed Cheesecake having a bit of a cult following.
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. All renovations are now finished and these rooms are complete gone–we’re simply sharing for the sake of comparison:
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.
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).
For long weekend, park-centric trips, we love Pop Century. Its price plus the convenience of the Skyliner to access Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is huge. This means you only have to rely on the bus transportation for getting to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.
One thing we should note is that upon reopening, Walt Disney World is suspending a lot of the typical on-site perks, including Extra Magic Hours, FastPass+, and the Disney Dining Plan. As such, you might want to give serious thought to staying off-site and renting a car.
At any of the Walt Disney World on-site hotels, 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, and we really like it. For quick, weekend trips when we won’t be in our rooms much, Value Resorts are great. For longer or more relaxed trips, we prefer the ambiance and quality of a Moderate or Deluxe Resort.
With that said, it’s tough to argue with the re-imagined guest rooms and Skyliner gondola access offered by Disney’s Pop Century. From a practicality and bang-for-buck perspective, it should be easy to see why Pop Century is once again our #1 Value Resort. Those rooms are incredibly spacious, and Pop Century is perfect for our travel style. While we still prefer the atmosphere of Art of Animation, the overall package and value for money offered by Disney’s Pop Century Resort pushes it over the top.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? If you’re interested in learning more about hotels, our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page is a good place to start. For where to eat, try out our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews page. If you want to save money on tickets or determine which type you should get, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at unconventional things you should take on your trip. Once you arrive at the parks, our Walt Disney World “Ride Guides” are great for determining what to do and when to do it. For overviews of all of these topics and so much more, the best place to start is our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!
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? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? 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!