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What is the best value resort at Walt Disney World? Is Pop Century better than the All Stars other? Are the All Stars one resort, or three separate resorts? What are “renovated rooms” and how can you get one? This article will tell you the ins and outs of all of Walt Disney World’s value resorts to help you make the best decision on where to stay for your family!
Walt Disney World has four true value resorts: All-Star Movies, All-Star Sports, All-Star Music, and Pop Century. Art of Animation is also technically considered to be a value resort, but it really isn’t (Curious? Read more about that here) – we will touch on it briefly at the end but for the purpose of this article, will not count it as a value resort.
All Disney value resorts are set up in the same manner – they have 10 buildings that are centered around a large pool, with a separate main building that houses check-in, gift shops, food courts, etc.. All value resorts have outdoor facing rooms (think motel style) and are themed using oversized figures, props, and decor (think 65 foot tall bowling balls or Disney characters!). Within each resort, there are five distinctive sections, each which a different theme (such as tennis, 80s music, or Toy Story). As of the writing of this article (June 2022), the rooms are actually not the same due to a remodel that’s in progress (more on that below), but in theory once that’s complete, the rooms themselves will all be pretty similar as well.
It’s worth nothing that staying on-site at any Disney hotel automatically comes with some perks. You get Early Theme Park entry, which allows you to enter the four theme parks 30-minutes before park opening on each day of your trip and the ability to book Individual Lightning Lanes at 7:00 AM (off-site guests can’t book until park opening). In terms of cost cutting, staying on property also means that you don’t need to rent a car since Disney has bus transportation throughout property.
Pop Century is generally considered to be the “best” of the Value resorts, and often is slightly more expensive than the others as a result. Below, we’ll provide an overview of the resort and outline the advantages that make Pop Century as consistent fan favorite!
Pop Century is themed after the decades, starting at the 1950s and ending at the 1990s (check out this article if you’re interested in learning about why decades 1910 – 1940 were never built). Each decade has two buildings, with large props themed to that time period.
One advantage to Pop Century is that all of the rooms are remodeled, so you don’t have to worry about requesting and hoping that you get one on arrival. These remodeled rooms, seen below, are a major upgrade from the former look (more on that later). With fresh wood floors, significant storage space, queen beds, and an enormous TV, they’re fresh, modern, and efficient. One of the beds is a Murphy style, so you can fold it up during the day in favor of a table and chairs (see the second photo below). There are multiple nightstands with cubbies, plenty of outlets throughout the room (and near the bed!), an enormous dresser, and lots storage space beneath the beds. The bathroom is another clear winner, with tons of storage, bright lights, a sliding door, and even a makeup mirror.
Pop Century has three pools, the main “Hippy Dippy” pool being the largest. It is located near the 60s section, right behind the main hall, and also features a pool bar called Petals, which has specialty drinks and small bites/sandwiches. Check out the menu here! The two other smaller pools are the Computer Pool, near the 80s and 90s buildings, and the Bowling Pool, near the 50s buildings.
Pop Century has the largest food court of almost any Walt Disney World resort, with options that are generally considered to be slightly more imaginative than the offerings at other value resorts (menu here). The resort is also built next to Art of Animation; separated by a small lake with a bridge, it’s easily accessible on foot. Art of Animation’s food court is notoriously one of the best on property, which is a great perk for guests of Pop Century.
Being near Art of Animation has other perks as well – we’ll cover more on that later when we get to transportation, but it creates a great running and walking loop. Art of Animation, as we mentioned, is also more like a moderate resort, but it has some truly incredible theming – if you have kids, we highly recommend taking a walk through and letting them enjoy the incredible theming of the Cars, Lion King, and Finding Nemo sections!
For a full list of the amenities at Pop Century, check out the official Disney website here.
One of the biggest and newest perks of Pop Century is the addition of the Skyliner. This new gondola system will carry you quickly and efficiently to Epcot and Hollywood Studios (although note, you will need to transfer at the Skyliner hub near Caribbean Beach resort).
Pop Century also generally has direct bus service between the parks and the resorts. The All Stars, being made up of three different resorts, often have to share a bus, leading to longer wait times. Additionally, Pop Century’s proximity to Art of Animation means that if that bus comes first at the end of the day, you can hop on there and then walk back to Pop Century!
Pop Century is very close to Typhoon Lagoon and Hollywood Studios, so they’re quite easily accessible from the resort. However, it’s the largest of the value resorts, meaning that you can have lengthier walks from the lobby to your room (although it’s nowhere near as large as some other notably big resorts like Saratoga Springs!)
The three All-Star resorts sit next to one another in a big row but due to their vast size, each is a separate property with a separate main hall/lobby, separate theming, and separate amenities. Themeing-wise, the best option for you really depends on your preference. Each resort has five areas, with five separate themes:
- All Star Movies: 101 Dalmations, Toy Story, Fantasia, The Mighty Ducks, and Herbie: The Love Bug
- All Star Music: Jazz, Rock, Country, Calypso, and Broadway
- All Star Sports: Football, Tennis, Baseball, Surfing, and Basketball
Our personal favorite is All-Star Movies because it feels the most “Disney-ish”, but they all have their perks! Note that if you’re considering All-Star Sports, we recommend first checking the schedule at ESPN Wide World of Sports to ensure that there isn’t a Little League tournament or cheerleading competition occurring during your stay. Those teams often stay at All-Star Sports, which can make it a bit chaotic!
There are currently two distinct room types at the All-Star resorts: the old, classic room style and the new, renovated room style.
The non-remodeled All-Star rooms are quite dated and their age clearly shows, as seen in the photos below. They have limited outlets, full beds instead of queens, a small TV, and a lack of storage space. The bathroom in particular lacks in storage space and the sink area only has a curtain instead of a door, making it difficult to not wake others if you’re getting ready while people are sleeping (note that there is a door to the separate toilet/shower area).
The remodeled rooms look the same as the rooms at Pop Century – the only difference is slight changes in the art/decor in order to match the appropriate theme. At the time of writing, all rooms at All Star Movies and All Star Music have been renovated. However, room renovations at All Star Sports have not yet begun – check here for construction updates! Based on this, we highly recommend staying in All Star Movies or All Star Music. The renovated rooms are a significant upgrade and are absolutely worth any price difference.
The All-Stars each have a large main pool – the Calypso at All-Star Music, the Fantasia pool at All-Star Movies, and the Surfboard Bay pool at All-Star Sports – all of which have plenty of seating, as well as individually themed-pool bars. Each resort also has one additional smaller pool (compared to the two additional Pop Century pools), and its unique own food court, although each has relatively standard fare and offerings.
The All Stars do not have Skyliner access, but do run buses quite often! However, as mentioned above, the three resorts will often share a bus during off-peak hours, which can lead to additional stops and slower service.
These resorts are smaller than Pop Century, so the walk to and from your room from the lobby is typically not as long! The resorts are about the same difference from Hollywood Studios as Pop Century, but are closer to Blizzard Beach than Typhoon Lagoon.
Art of Animation
As mentioned earlier, we do not consider Art of Animation to actually be a value resort. If you read our other article about how Art of Animation was abandoned for years, you’ll know that what is now Art of Animation was actually originally supposed to be the other half of Pop Century, covering years 1910 – 1940. Two of the buildings were even built, but after 9/11 and the subsequent decline in tourism, the buildings sat abandoned and unfinished for years. When the project was ultimately restarted, the concept was changed to Art of Animation, a moderate resort with more intricate theming and, most importantly, indoor-facing rooms (hotel-style, as opposed to motel-style).
However, those two original buildings had already been built with the outdoor-facing rooms. They were ultimately left in this original form, and turned into the Little Mermaid section of the resort. The Little Mermaid section looks like any other value resort, and therefore differs from the rest of Art of Animation, which is much more upscale. However, even though you can get far cheaper rates for Little Mermaid rooms than any other room at Art of Animation, due to the rest of the resort functionally being a moderate, the price is almost always decently higher than any of the true values!
Want To Know More?
Highly recommend checking out Undercover Tourist’s hotel benefit matrix, which has in-depth information on all the Disney resorts and how they differ!