If you’re looking for a Value to Moderate hotel option for Walt Disney World, then this in depth look at the Pop Century vs Coronado Springs resort should hopefully prove to be very helpful. So without further ado, let’s dive into both of these Disney resorts and see which one comes out on top and why!
Pop Century vs Coronado Springs Resort
Let’s begin by discussing the unique theming at the Pop Century resort.
Pop Century Theming
One of the biggest differences (other than price) between the resort levels at Walt Disney world is the level of theming. While the Deluxe resorts focus heavily on subtle atmosphere and mood, the Value resorts at Walt Disney World are much more in-your-face. Theming is mostly surface level and drives the images, music, and other details that you’ll see around the resort.
At Pop Century, the theme is American pop culture of the latter half of the 20th century. Pop Century is kind of like Toy Story Land in this regards – if you’ve walked around Toy Story Land and been hit with repeated bursts of “oh my gosh, I remember that!” then Pop Century may be the resort for you!
Each building is decorated with one of the decades from the 1950s through the 1990s. Popular movies, foods, games, music, etc. from that decade are used as focal points and detailing throughout the building. The details are not subtle. If you don’t remember much from the 1960s, you will be quickly reminded of the most recognizable characteristics!
Having come of age in the 1990s, I was a little disappointed by the lack of flannel and grunge music, but was amused by the giant laptop computer pool and cell phone stairwell. Like I said, the details are in-your-face, while also tongue-in-cheek. The designers of the resort managed to pull together a motley collection of memorabilia that will bring a smile to your face, regardless of your personal life experiences during that decade.
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Coronado Springs Theming
The Moderate-level Coronado Springs is made up of four distinct resort areas. The resort opened in 1997 with the Casitas, Ranchos, and Cabanas sections representing the architecture and geography of the American Southwest and Mexico. In 2019 the resort was expanded with the addition of the Gran Destino Tower. Gran Destino rises 16 floors above the sprawling, two-story offerings of the rest of Coronado Springs.
Coronado Springs was built with convention attendees in mind. In addition to the standard rooms and dining options that can be found at other Moderate resorts, Coronado Springs also boasts one of the largest ballrooms in the country. That ballroom can be subdivided to provide meeting and presentation spaces for convention clients. And while the conventioneers are attending their sessions, their families can head to the parks! Thus, the purpose of Coronado Springs was to provide a viable working vacation option for the new millennia.
Ultimately, the addition of the Gran Destino Tower elevates the resort to a Moderate Plus option. The rooms in the surrounding Casitas, Ranchos, and Cabanas have the feel of a Moderate, while the Gran Destino Tower has a more Vegas-like opulence. The backstory of the Tower is a fun one for Disney history buffs: In the mid-1940s, Walt Disney collaborated with famous Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dalí on an 8-minute animated short titled Gran Destino. It was never finished and was buried until Roy E. Disney found the preproduction work in 1999. The video was finished through collaboration with one of the original artists as well as Dalí’s widow.
Overall, you will find a room at Coronado Springs to fit your traveling style. Those who want less “Disney” in their Disney vacation/convention will be happy with the subtle nods throughout the Gran Destino Tower, while traditional family vacationers will enjoy the characteristic Disney touches throughout the rest of the resort.
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Theming Winner: Pop Century. There’s something to be said for consistency, and Pop Century is doing exactly what it set out to do. Coronado Springs has strong theming, but the combination of the two styles is somewhat jarring. However, you won’t be disappointed in the atmosphere of Coronado Springs. Just be aware of what part of the resort you are booking and manage your expectations accordingly.
Pop Century Rooms & Amenities
Pop Century room offerings are simple. Each room has a queen bed and a queen pull-down bed that doubles as a small table during the day. These rooms are perfect for an individual or group of two. A family of four (if the kids are small) will also find these rooms functional.
If you are traveling with a larger group, especially if there are four adults, I would suggest booking two rooms. Many of the rooms at Pop Century have an adjoining door, and a group of adults will definitely need the extra space. Four adults will work in the room if you just need a place to crash for 1-2 nights, but any more than that will definitely lead to some territorial behavior!
Prices for Pop Century rooms range from $175-$250 depending on time of year and room view. The room options are Standard Room, Standard Pool View, Preferred Room, or Preferred Pool View. Preferred rooms are closer to the main lobby and dining and/or the Skyliner (more on that later). I have only booked Standard Rooms, and have not found them to be lacking in any way, but I also don’t mind wandering through a resort on my way to dining or transportation. Once you’ve booked the room at your price level, you can choose location requests during the online check-in process, which I recommend you complete prior to arrival.
Pop Century has three pools. There are no water slides, but there is plenty of room to spread out and splash around. This resort tends to draw more families, so the pool areas are generally louder and more chaotic than at the Deluxe resorts (but all resorts have a fantastic lifeguard staff and life jackets for those who want them).
Coronado Springs Rooms & Amenities
Coronado Springs has a fantastic assortment of room sizes and configurations. Standard rooms start in the mid-$200s, and Preferred rooms can be found in the mid-$300s. There are also several suite options, both in the Tower as well as in the Casitas. Suites run from $1000 to $2000 depending on the season. Coronado Springs is also the only Moderate resort to also have a Club Level – it is still pricey at $400+ a night, but a Club Level standard view room with discounts can drop into the $300s.
If you’d like to experience Disney World Club Level but can’t stomach the prices, a night or two at Coronado Springs Club Level is a great entry point. Plan most of your trip at a Value or Moderate level resort, then finish it off with a Chronos Club experience!
Coronado Springs has one major feature pool themed after the step pyramids of Mesoamerica. A jaguar-styled slide emerges from the jungle overgrowth, and one of the largest hot tubs on Walt Disney World property is nestled nearby. For those who desire a little less adventure in their pool time, there are also more traditional pools at each of the three resort areas.
Rooms & Amenities Winner: Coronado Springs. While Pop Century would win in a simple price comparison, Coronado Springs has significantly more room options, as well as a fantastically themed feature pool. If you plan to spend any time at the resort, you will have much more to enjoy at Coronado Springs.
Pop Century Restaurants & Dining
Value resorts are limited when it comes to dining. Each resort has a quick-service dining option as well as a pool bar for drinks and snacks. Kids and adults alike will find something they enjoy at Everything POP Shopping and Dining, but you’ll eventually want to seek options elsewhere.
And this is where Pop Century’s location stands out. Pop Century is along the Skyliner route. Meaning that all of the resorts and theme parks along the Skyliner are there to enjoy! The Caribbean Beach Resort with Sebastian’s Bistro is a five-minute Skyliner ride away. Change at the Caribbean Beach stop to reach all of the offerings at the Riviera. You can also continue on to the Epcot stop to access the variety of options along the Boardwalk (and the Yacht Club and Beach Club).
If you have a park ticket you can also enjoy any of the offerings in the Epcot World Showcase, or head to Hollywood Studios! Staying at Pop Century opens up nearly half of the dining options at Walt Disney World, all within a 30-minute trip! So while Pop Century itself is rather bland in terms of dining, the options along the Skyliner quickly make up for it!
Coronado Springs Restaurants & Dining
While Pop Century has proximity to fantastic dining opportunities, Coronado Springs has them right on site. The fantastic Toledo – Tapas, Steak, and Seafood had opened just prior to the pandemic and has since reopened. This fine dining rooftop experience at the top of the Gran Destino Tower provides a culinary exploration of Spain to central Florida. If you are unfamiliar with tapas or sangria, it would be worth doing some research on these traditional Spanish menu options.
Centered between the three resort areas, the Three Bridges Bar & Grill has fantastic views of the resort as well as fantastic food. This is a more casual table service experience than Toledo, and the overwater location lends itself to a more tranquil ambiance.
The Maya Grill provides a more Mexican-inspired flavor compared to the other dining options at Coronado Springs. This is the place to go for your fix of fried plantains or fish tacos!
The quick service venue at Coronado Springs is El Mercado de Coronado. While the décor communicates a Spanish setting, the food is pretty similar to what you will find at quick service locations throughout Walt Disney World.
Restaurants & Dining Winner: Coronado Springs
Convention attendees do not want to spend their brief evening free time traveling to a restaurant (especially if using Walt Disney World bus system.) Coronado Springs wins in this category by providing a wide variety of on-site fine dining options as well as family-friendly table service and quick service restaurants.
Pop Century Transportation Options
The main transportation feature at Pop Century is the Skyliner. Sharing a station with the Art of Animation Resort, the Skyliner offers quick transportation to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, as well as the other Skyliner resorts. This is a great option for those who want to avoid the bus system, however you don’t want to rely on the Skyliner if you are planning to reach the parks for early entry or rope drop. The morning lines can be very long and requires a change at the Caribbean Beach station. If you are planning to rope drop, I recommend either an extra early bus, or an Uber/Lyft ride.
An additional note about the Skyliner: I love this method of transportation, but there are some drawbacks. This is essentially a cable car that travels in the air, over picturesque central Florida as well as roads and some backstage area. If you are sensitive to heights you may not enjoy the trip.
The gondolas are not air conditioned, which is not an issue when it is moving (seriously, the air flow is fantastic) but can be discomforting if the car stops. Which it does, usually briefly, but frequently (I think the mischievous spirits from Haunted Mansion may be involved).
And finally, the Skyliner does not run during thunderstorms, which are frequent in central Florida. I don’t personally feel that any of these drawbacks would keep me from staying at a Skyliner resort, but I want to make sure you have what you need to make an informed decision.
Buses will take you to any of the other Walt Disney World destinations. Since the Value resorts have an overall larger guest capacity, it is not uncommon to have a bus fill up while there are still people in line. I have seen another bus immediately arrive, and I have also waited for another 20 minutes before the next bus. This is one of the major downfalls of a Value resort, but also a reality of how they make it less expensive! (To be fair, this is also an issue I have faced with buses from the Deluxe resorts. I am personally a fan of renting a car at Walt Disney World).
Coronado Springs Transportation Options
To be blunt – you’ll be stuck with the bus if staying at Coronado Springs. While I personally recommend renting a car while at Walt Disney World, Coronado Springs is a place where I would almost insist on having one. Otherwise, plan on using ride share more often than not. The bus system across Walt Disney World can be awful after a long day at the parks.
And if you are convention-goer with short evening availably, you will want the flexibility of your own transportation. If you do decide to rely on the buses, make note of the stop closest to your room. There are multiple stops throughout the resort, and the buses don’t always travel the same route each time!
Transportation Options Winner: Pop Century. This needs little additional commentary. Skyliner is far superior to bus-only!
As with any comparison, your individual travel needs will help determine which of these two resorts will work best for your trip. Ultimately, I would choose Coronado Springs over Pop Century if I had a longer trip planned. The pool, dining, and other amenities are superior at Coronado Springs. But if I had a short, park-centric trip planned I would stick with Pop Century.
Of course, if you’re there as part of a convention you don’t have much choice in the matter! So if you’re looking at Pop Century vs Coronado Springs, know that they are both strong candidates within their price point and there is plenty to enjoy at each resort.
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