It’s no surprise that staying at Walt Disney World is not cheap. There are so many things to consider along with booking your resort stay: flights to Orlando, getting to and from the airport to WDW, park tickets, etc.
Thankfully, Disney has three tiers of resorts: “Value, Moderate, and Deluxe.” The most economic tier is the Value resorts, with standard rooms that include two double beds, a small vanity table, and a mini-fridge. Also, family suites that could easily fit a family of six with a Queen bed, 1 double-size table bed, and 1 double sleeper sofa.
Don’t be fooled by the term ‘Value.’ When some hear the term ‘Value,’ thoughts of “cheaply made,” or “cheap looking” come to mind, but let’s not forget you’ll be staying at a Walt Disney World Value Resort, where even at the “economic” tier, theming, quality of service and amenities do not fall short and hold their own next to their fellow Moderate and Deluxe tiers. So a cheap Disney vacation is not impossible to achieve.
Hopefully by now you’ve reached the point in your decision making that you are leaning towards staying at a Value resort. Awesome! Now which one to stay at? First things first, which resorts are the Value resorts?
The Value Resorts at Walt Disney World are:
- Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
A big thing to consider when picking your WDW resort is how far you are from the excitement and how will you and your family/group get there? Luckily, there are a few options at the WDW resorts that make getting to and from the parks a breeze and we are here to help break them down for you, and to provide you with information about the 5 Value Resorts.
For the Value resorts, there are a couple of transportation options for guests. First, and probably the most used, free of charge, mode of transportation between parks and resorts is the ‘Walt Disney World’ Bus Service. Running every 20-30 minutes from your resort starting 45 minutes before park opening and ending 1 hour after park closing.
As far as coming back from the park, return services from the parks to all resorts end 2 hours after park closing or 11 PM, whichever is earlier. Now if you are planning to visit Disney Springs via bus, buses start 45 minutes to 1 hour prior to opening and run until 2 AM (for you party animals out there, you know who you are).
Something to keep in mind if you are trying to get to Disney Springs from the parks, buses do start at 4 pm and run until 11 pm or park closing, once again whichever is earlier.
For Guests staying at Art of Animation Resort and Disney’s Pop Century Resort, as well as the Moderate level Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and the newest Disney Vacation Club Deluxe Resort, Disney’s Riviera Resort—there is one other great option for you which is also free.
Opening Fall 2019 is the Disney Skyline, these gondolas in the sky are adorned with your favorite characters from various Disney films like Ralph Breaks the Internet and Coco, rides such as The Haunted Mansion, some of your favorite Marvel superheroes like the Guardians of the Galaxy, and some familiar droids from the Star Wars Saga.
The Skyline will take guests high above Walt Disney World from the resorts mentioned above to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at EPCOT.
Let’s say we don’t want to wait for the Skyliner or the buses to get us to where we need to go. Maybe running late for a reservation and need to get there right away. Another option for transportation through the resorts and parks is Disney’s ‘Minnie Van’ (“Minnie” for Minnie Mouse of course).
With the magic of Disney and with the help of their friends at Lyft, you can be whisked away through the WDW parks and resorts in a very stylish red polka dotted minivan. Don’t worry, unlike regular Lyft rides where a random driver takes you to where you need to go; the Minnie Vans are driven by friendly WDW Cast Members.
With the Minnie Van, rather than wait 20 minutes for the next bus to arrive, Minnie Van arrives within minutes of your pickup confirmation to take you anywhere between the WDW Park, Resorts, and Disney Springs. The Minnie Vans begin servicing guests as early as 6:30 AM until 12:30 AM.
They are equipped with car seats for very small children and also available for Accessible Vehicles. The Accessible Vehicles can accommodate standard wheelchairs and are equipped with a lift for mobility/convenience scooters, along with electric conveyance vehicles (ECVs).
Minnie Vans is a partnership between Disney and Lyft and are solely run on the Lyft app. Unlike the Skyliner or Bus Service, there is a fee if you choose to ride the Minnie Vans. Prices do vary, depending on the distance from your pick up location and destination. Nevertheless, can you just imagine being driven around in one of Minnie’s vans around the park? Sounds like fun and an adorable photo opportunity waiting to happen!
Alright so we know how we’re getting around, let’s dive into the resorts. Let’s start with the All-Star resorts.
Overview of All-Star Resorts
Besides the theming of each resort, the All-Star properties are virtually the same. With Sports and Movies holding 1,920 rooms, All-Star Music is the slightly bigger resort with 2,000 guest rooms and includes family suites. Guest rooms measure at 260 sq ft, unlike the Moderate resorts with two queen beds, the All-Star resorts have 2 double beds or 1 king bed in their guest rooms. Fitting up to four guests plus one child under the age of three in a crib.
While your family suites are the same square footage, the suites can fit a family of 6, suites include: a queen bed, one pull out double sofa bed, a chair and ottoman that fold out into 2 single beds.
Now for your recreational options, the All-Star Resorts all have Movies under the stars, running trails, and their own respectively themed pools. Unlike the pools at the moderate or deluxe resort levels, there are no slides at the pools at any of the All-Star resorts. Lastly, transportation.
All three All-Star resorts have the same transportation options: the complimentary bus service offered by WDW, Minnie Van Service through Lyft, and guests can drive their own vehicles from the resorts to the parks. Now that we have the similarities out of the way let’s jump into each resort starting with All-Star Sports.
Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
Quite fittingly located in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Area of Walt Disney World. Disney’s All-Stars Sports Resort opened its doors in April 29, 1994. All-Star Sports has 10 buildings, each holding 1,920 rooms divided into five sections.
“Touchdown” representing Football, “Center Court” for Tennis, “Homerun Hotel” for Baseball, “Hoops Hotel” for basketball and lastly “Surf’s Up” representing Surfing. The resort has two pools, the first one located just outside of Stadium Hall in the ‘Surf’s Up’ section of the resort.
Sticking to the theme of Surfing, Surfboard Bay is complete with giant shark fins and surfboards lining the pool area. Just outside of Surfboard Bay, Grandstand Spirits offers specialty cocktails themed to the resort, and other beer, wine and sangria options for adults.
You can find the second pool at All-Star Sports at the ‘Homerun Hotel’ section of the resort. With a shape of a baseball diamond, the Grand Slam pool fits with the sections theming, is lined with large baseballs, baseball bats, bleachers for spectators and a large scoreboard.
For guests who want a slightly different theme with their stay, All-Star Sports is right up your ally. Even though the resort is primarily focused on sports, your favorite characters are not too far away. With Huey, Dewey and Louie play baseball in Center Court with their always angry Uncle Donald. You can also find a statue of Mickey in the heart of the resort.
Another fun thing about All-Star Sports for true sports fans, if you look at the facade of a few of the buildings, you’ll find pennants or flags of various sports teams. Next time you visit All Star Sports, make sure to look up and see if you can find your favorite team at the resort.
Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
Now moving into the Animal Kingdom Area of resorts, Disney’s All-Star Music Resort opened its doors on November 22, 1994. Unlike the other All Star resorts, Music holds 2,000 guest rooms (standard and family suites) in 10 buildings divided into five sections representing five diverse genres of music. After you have checked at the front desk (located in Melody Hall), you are greeted with photos of some of the greatest musicians and artists the world has ever seen.
Towards the back of Melody Hall you’ll find the Intermission Food Court, with your standard offerings of pizza, burgers, salads, desserts, etc. Just outside of Melody Hall you will run into the first section of the resort which is also home to the first of two pools at All-Star Music. Join the Three Caballeros in the guitar shaped, Calypso pool.
Lined with huge maracas, banana leaves and exotic birds; the Calypso pool is a take on a fun, island themed pool. Continuing the music theming, you can join Ariel and Sebastian at the Piano pool. Complete with a deck of piano keys, this piano shaped pool is the more relaxed of the two pools.
I strongly recommend walking through the whole resort to see the different music genres/themes in the resort. Like the other All-Star resorts, Music is no exception of larger than life theming in the guest buildings. In the Jazz Inn, you’ll find two huge drum sets. The Rock Inn is lined with huge electric guitars along the facade of the building.
You’ll find the two biggest pairs of cowboy boots you’ll ever see at the Country Fair. Lastly, and my favorite, over in Broadway Inn the buildings are lined with huge billboards of various Disney musicals you can actually go see in New York.
Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
I wanted to save All-Star Movies for last among the All-Star resorts because, at the heart of everything, Disney is their movies. Once again in the Animal Kingdom area of resorts, Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort is the youngest of all the All-Star resorts having opened on January 15, 1999. Walk along the red carpet as you enter Cinema Hall to check in to the resort.
Like the previous All-Star resorts, between Donald’s Double Feature gift shop and the World Premiere Food Court; you’ll find stills from some of the most popular movies of all time. More notably, you’ll find Luke, Han, and Leia from Star Wars, Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump, and of course a photo of Walt Disney.
When exiting Cinema Hall you’ll find the Silver Screen Spirits pool bar and the Fantasia pool. You cannot have a Fantasia pool without Sorcerer Mickey and the broomsticks. Also in the Fantasia section of the resort, you’ll find Yen Sid’s hat at the entrance of one of the buildings. Taking a page from All-Star Sports, the Mighty Ducks are also featured at All-Star Movies. At the Mighty Ducks section of the resort you will find the second pool at Movies; the Duck Pond Pool.
Complete with team lockers, huge hockey sticks, pucks and even spectators along the roof of the buildings. The theming doesn’t stop there, also featured are the 101 Dalmatians with Pongo and Perdita overlooking the buildings. When you head over to Herbie’s section of Movies you’ll find a photo op with the Love Bug himself, which is also the same VW Beetle that was once used in the parks during parades.
Lastly, my favorite section of the resort, Toy Story. When approaching this section of the resort, you are also stepping into Andy’s room. There’s a door in the middle of the courtyard that says “Andy’s room, keep out! For all except Molly,” it’s great! On one side you’ll find Buzz Lightyear, and on the other, Woody with a smolder that’d make Flynn Rider jealous. Along with Buzz and Woody in the center of the courtyard is Bo Peep, Rex, and RC Car; to welcome you.
A note, when you are booking your stay at All-Star Movies, the resort had a recent refurbishment in the last year which is projected to continue through the end of 2019 going into 2020. For guests wanting to stay in one of the newly refurbished rooms, simply ask the front desk for a room in either Toy Story, Fantasia or the Herbie section of the resort.
Disney’s Pop Century Resort
Head on over to the Wide World of Sports Resort Area and you’ll find Disney’s Pop Century Resort. Take a trip down memory lane as you relive the fads, trends and Disney films from the 1950s through the 1990s. This resort is holds 2,880 guest rooms, with each room holding up to four guests in the standard and preferred rooms while two guests fit in a King sized rooms.
If there is a resort that pays attention to detail, it’s Pop Century. Starting with the hallway across the front desk in Classic Hall, the wall is lined with shadow boxes featuring different types of memorabilia, photos, news clippings and inventions of the featured year.
Some of the items displayed here on this wall you can be found on a much larger scale all throughout the resort. Also inside of Classic Hall is ‘Everything Pop’ which houses both the resort’s gift shop and food court. Pop Century is divided into five different sections all inspired by different decades.
The 1950s was the jukebox- bowling era, and in 1955 came the release Lady in the Tramp. Where you’ll find Lady right by her dog house and Tramp not too far away in this section of Pop Century. Moving into the 1960s you’ll find the Hippy Dippy Pool, with huge Yo-yos, Play Doh and two familiar faces, Mowgli and Baloo, whose film The Jungle Book was released in 1967. 8-track tapes, mood rings, and platform shoes are all found in the 1970s.
Mickey does make an appearance in this section of the resort but in the form of a huge Mickey telephone, as he overlooks a massive foosball table. Mr and Mrs Potato Head welcome you to the 1980s, the decade that is ruled by Rubik’s Cubes, Pac Man, and Roger Rabbit from the 1988 film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Sharing the Computer Pool (shaped like a computer) with the 1980s is the 1990s, where the internet, laptops, and rollerblading was all the rage.
A little trivia about Pop Century, in what is now Art of Animation, plans were made to make a Millenial/2000s section of the resort. The affectionately named ‘Generation Gap’ bridge was supposed to connect Pop Century to this extension of the resort over Hourglass Lake.
I wanted to save Pop Century for one of the last resorts because of the transportation options to and from the parks. Not only can guests use the complimentary bus service or drive their own vehicle, Disney’s Pop Century will be one of the stops for the brand new Disney Skyliner opening in late 2019.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
Last, and most certainly not least, is Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. The newest value resort opened its doors on May 31, 2012. The resort takes you inside classic Disney and Pixar films and shows you how these films were made. Along the Animation Hall where the front desk, gift shop, and Landscape of Flavors food court are located.
The wall adjacent the front desk is lined with beautiful sketches from the featured films in the resort: Finding Nemo, Cars, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. Slightly smaller than its Pop Century neighbor, Art of Animation holds 1,984 rooms, 1,120 of which are family suites and 864 being standard guest rooms.
Even though it’s considered a value resort, the attention to detail, decor and theming make Art of Animation feel closer to what a moderate resort would be.
Each section of Art of Animation is solely themed to its movie. Over in Cars, you’ll find the Cozy Cone Motel and pool with cone-shaped cabanas. In Lion King, the buildings are inspired by the African landscape of the film, an elephant graveyard playground, and a few of the characters hanging around the courtyard.
The courtyard at Little Mermaid, you’re bound to find a few thing-a-ma-bobs among the treasures she had in her cavern in the film. At the Finding Nemo area of Art of Animation you’ll find the Big Blue Pool, at 12,000 sq ft making it the largest pool at Walt Disney World. With Mr. Ray overlooking the water, this huge pool even has speakers under the surface so you can hear the music playing on land.
The close attention to details is even in the guest rooms. For example, in the Finding Nemo Family Suite, there is a Murphy Bed that doubles as a full size bed and table. As you pull down the bed you’ll find a sleeping Marlon and Nemo on the head board, giving you the impression that you are sleeping in your own anemone.
Art of Animation and Pop Century resort will be one of the stops for Disney’s new Skyliner: Gondolas in the sky. The Skyliner station will be on the bridge in the middle of the lake between the two resorts, that gives them both another mode of transportation available to you. Between the five value resorts my highest recommendation is Art of Animation.
When I think of a resort at Walt Disney World, I think of a resort with incredible theming including Disney’s timeless movies and characters; Art of Animation delivers that and is one of the best Disney World hotels. As far as transportation, the Disney Skyliner gives you a chance to see an incredible view of Walt Disney World, and also the more options you have to and from the parks makes for a more at ease, relaxed stay at Disney World.
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