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I have stayed at all five of Walt Disney World’s Value resorts over the course of the last five years, and while I love the overall experience at these resorts, there are definitely some highlights and lowlights!
In this post, I’ll share my picks for the best Disney Value Resorts (and the worst), as well as my recommendations for first-time visitors and families.
If you want some information on what to expect at the Value resorts, check out this post first!
The All-Star Resorts
There are five resorts in the “Value” category at Walt Disney World. Here they are with my rankings from best to worst:
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
The two oldest Value resorts are All-Star Sports and All-Star Music, both of which opened in 1994.
It is probably no coincidence that these are (in my opinion) the worst of the Value Resorts.
Each room has a small table with two chairs, a mini-fridge, and some storage around the TV.
I’ve had roughly the same experience in each of the All-Stars, which is that the rooms are showing some wear, but are overall in good condition and work great if you are spending most of your time in the parks. The All-Stars are major room refurbishments in 2018-2019, and the new rooms will look similar to these refurbished rooms at Pop Century.
While the rooms, dining, and layout of the All-Star Resorts are similar, it’s the theming and details that set them apart.
All-Star Sports is definitely the least “Disney” of the resorts because the icons are all sports-inspired.
You’ll find a few Disney characters scattered about, but it just doesn’t have the appeal of any of the other Value Resorts (unless you or your kid are a total sports nut, in which case you might prefer it over the other All-Star Resorts).
I like the theming at All-Star Music much better than Sports. There’s more of a Disney presence, such as statues of Donald and friends at the feature pool and Ariel at the leisure pool.
The courtyard that you walk through in the jazz section of All-Star Music is really lovely. All-Star Music has two-room family suites that can be a more affordable alternative to the suites at Art of Animation (more on those later).
My favorite All-Star Resort is definitely All-Star Movies, which opened five years after the original two All-Stars.
The Toy Story section of the resort is fantastic, and we will walk over there to visit it even when we are staying at another All-Star Resort (you can easily walk among them).
The main feature pool is inspired by Fantasia and it has an excellent kiddie pool area with some fun water features.
Overall the resort has great theming, though you have to wonder why Imagineers dedicated sections of the resort to not-so-classic Disney movies Herbie the Love Bug and The Mighty Ducks!
Because of the better theming, kiddie pool, and Toy Story area, I suggest All-Star Movies over the other All-Stars for families with little ones.
In my experience, the food, cast members, and transportation have been similar at the three All-Stars. You may read that these resorts share bus service to the parks (every bus stops at all three resorts), but I’ve found that for the most part that doesn’t happen.
At peak times you will always go straight from your resort to the parks without any stops. Each resort has its own bus stop at the Magic Kingdom, so you will go straight back to your resort from there as well.
The only time you may experience multiple stops is if you are going to the parks at a non-peak time (such as a 3 p.m.), or coming back from Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.
Before I move on, I have to point out two advantages of the All-Stars: price and availability. You will pay slightly less compared to Pop Century, but only about $10-$15 less per night. The All-Stars are some of the last of the Disney Resorts to fill up, so you may be able to find rooms available there for a last-minute trip.
The Best Disney Value Resorts: Pop Century
The two other Value Resorts are Pop Century and Art of Animation. These are by far my favorites, and which resort I prefer depends on who is in my travel party.
Pop Century opened in 2003 and is a huge resort with 2,880 rooms. It is themed around American pop culture from the 1950’s to 1990’s and is very “Disney” without being in-your-face. Check out my full review of the resort here.
Pop Century has three pools and one fantastic zero-entry kiddie pool with bubbling water features. I particularly love the flower features at the feature “Hippy Dippy” pool.
The gift shop and food court can both be found in the “Everything Pop” shopping and dining area.
In my experience, the food court is a cut above the All-Star resorts. You’ll have more options and the quality is just a bit better.
Pop Century is currently in the middle of a huge renovation of all of the guest rooms that will last until Summer 2018. Above is what some of the rooms at Pop Century currently look like…
And here is a picture of one of the renovated rooms! It is hardly recognizable, right?
The two double beds have been replaced by a queen bed and a queen-sized Murphy bed that transforms into a table. There are coffee makers in the new rooms, as well as a huge TV and a sliding wooden door that separates the bathroom area from the main room.
You can check out my photo tour of the new rooms here.
Needless to say, this renovation puts Pop Century a giant step above the rooms at the All-Stars. You are a family traveling with one or two small (7 and under) kids, I would suggest a room at Pop Century over all other Value Resorts and most moderates.
There are four different room categories you can book at Pop Century: Standard, Pool View, Preferred, and Preferred Pool View. Pop Century is huge and spread out, so if you want to avoid long walks I suggest spending a little more and booking a Preferred room (these are closest to the main building).
The Best Disney Value Resorts: Art of Animation
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort opened in 2012 and is located on the other side of Hourglass Lake, across from Pop Century. It takes less than 10 minutes to walk from the main building at one resort to the main building at the other.
While all of the rooms at Pop Century are standard hotel rooms, most of the rooms at Art of Animation are two-room “Family Suites” that sleep up to six.
There are some standard hotel rooms at Art of Animation in The Little Mermaid area (read my review of these rooms here). Because they are located the farthest from the main building and are usually excluded from Disney-released discounts, I prefer rooms at Pop Century to these rooms.
Because they are located the farthest from the main building and are usually excluded from Disney-released discounts, I prefer rooms at Pop Century to these rooms.
The family suites at Art of Animation feature two full bathrooms and a separate bedroom with a queen bed.
They also have a table with four chairs that converts to a full-size bed, and a full-size sleeper sofa in the living room area (see lots of pictures of these rooms in this review). The one big downside of these rooms is their cost – the starting rate with no discounts is $354. Discounts of up to 20% are common, but the cost still comes out to be much more than two rooms at another Value resort.
These rooms are perfect for a larger family, or a family traveling with a grandparent. I think one adult could comfortably sleep on the Murphy bed, though I wouldn’t recommend putting two adults on the bed or any adults on the sleeper sofa!
The pools at Art of Animation are fantastic, especially the “Big Blue Pool” which has a zero-entry side and large splash play area.
The Cars area with these Cozy Cone cabanas is also really fun. The theming in the Cars area (and around the whole resort, really) is outstanding.
Even the playground area is themed to the movie Finding Nemo. My daughter loves playing there.
The Landscape of Flavors food court offers a great selection and affordable prices. It is by far my favorite Value dining option, and I’ll often walk over to dine at Art of Animation when I am staying at Pop Century.
Art of Animation also has covered waiting areas for the Disney buses, which no other Value resort has. I really appreciate not having to wait in the sun or rain!
Overall, the amenities at Art of Animation are far superior to those at the other Values. I still prefer Pop Century if I’m traveling with a small group, thanks to the better value and room locations.
When I’m trying to visit Disney World on a tight budget, the Value resorts almost always come out ahead compared to staying off-property. Plus, I think you’ll have a far better vacation experience – i.e. more relaxation and time with your family and less stress!
If you want help choosing the right resort or with any aspect of planning your Disney vacation, I strongly suggest getting a free quote from the expert agents at Destinations in Florida. They can help you get the best price, book dining reservations, select FastPasses and more – all at no cost to you!
If you have any questions about the Value resorts, please leave a comment below or send me a message on The Frugal South’s Facebook page.