Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Pop Century Resort

After spending four nights at the largest Marriott in the world, my husband and I packed up and moved over to Disney's Pop Century Resort for our remaining two days in Orlando. I wanted to be on Disney's grounds, but I didn't want to pay an arm and a leg for a room we would only be sleeping in.

A friend had clued me in to Disney's line of (currently four) "value resorts": comparatively cheap hotels that are close to the parks and that give guests access to free Disney transportation (not only to the parks, but also to and from the airport) and "extra magic hours" (extended park hours at one theme park per day).

When I was researching where to stay, I saw that the value resorts ranged from $89 (off-season) to $109 a night, whereas the next-cheapest hotel on Disney grounds (at least for the time we were there) was $300 a night! So I figured I really couldn't justify paying an extra $400 or so over the course of two nights for a room we just wanted to crash in for 8 hours each day.

That being said, I can't lie and say that my husband and I didn't feel out of place at the Pop Century. It is definitely geared at families... not couples in their mid-30s with no kids (who had just come from a business conference surrounded by guys in suits for the past four days). Disney poured all of its money for this location into the common areas... as you can see from my pictures, they had absolutely incredible decorations and bigger-than-life statues all around that were extremely cool. There were buildings for each decade from the 1950s through the '90s, all with corresponding decor. But they couldn't really hide the fact that the place was still essentially a motel. I'm pretty sure the area must have been where they used to house the summer interns or something--that's the kind of feel the buildings had.

We were in the '60s area, and the first thing my husband said when he entered our room was, "I think they actually built and decorated this room IN the '60s." It was clean, but the amenities were definitely bare bones.

There was a huge core building where you check in that also housed an arcade, a shopping area and a large cafeteria with a wide variety of food options. But I think we were literally the only people there without kids, and so therefore we were not desensitized to everything that comes with a ton of small children running around.

Two sets of friends of mine have stayed at the Pop Century with children ranging from 2 - 5 years old, and they have liked it. Kids dig the common areas, and the pools and playgrounds are extremely nice. And once you start adding up the $80 a day or so for park tickets for each person (which doesn't include meals or flights to Orlando, et cetera), I think that having four resorts on Disney grounds that are around $100-a-night is essential.

Here is a picture of the "hippy dippy pool," which has flowers spraying down water in the shallow areas. And parents take note: there IS a bar near this pool!

I really liked the pool near the 50s area... you may not be able to tell from this picture, but it is shaped like a bowling pin.

My friends thought I would get a kick out of all of the pop culture references throughout the grounds, and they were correct. I made my husband traipse all around with me to ensure I saw absolutely everything. In addition to the decorations on the buildings, the statues and the pools, there were little signs on the walkway that surrounded the resort that listed the dates of some notable events in pop culture. In the area where you check in, they have a ton of memorabilia from the '50s through the '90s. And everywhere you went, they played EXCELLENT music, which I always appreciate!

Here are two more of my favorite pictures from Pop Century. You can tell how big the replicas are in the Big Wheel picture, where there is a person walking next to it in the bottom-right of the frame.

So in short, I would recommend Pop Century, or any of the Disney value resorts, to families. A trip to Orlando is already going to run you thousands of dollars between flights and/or gas for a road trip, park tickets, food, and all of the inevitable Disney crap your kids will make you buy for them. Why pay hundreds more for a hotel? If all you need is a clean place and don't mind not having a luxurious room, then I think you would be happy to save some money by staying at Pop Century. While we didn't make use of the free Disney transportation to/from the airport and the parks (we had a rental car, but we did get to park at the parks for free because we stayed at Pop Century), I would think that would also be extremely helpful for a family trying to juggle a few kids and carry-on luggage (Pop Century will check bags for you and deliver them to and from your room).

For those of you who dare go to Disney World without kids, then it really comes down to what you care about most. If you can deal with a simple room in exchange for a low price and proximity to the theme parks, the go with the value resorts. If you would be bothered by spartan amenities and lots of little kids running around, then don't.

The best part is, with the money we saved by staying at Pop Century, I could totally justify buying myself several pirate-related Christmas ornaments, a skull and crossbones ring, and a huge Princess mug. But you'll have to wait for a later post to see those!

- e


Ernie said...

For our family's last two trips to Disney, we stayed at Pop Century and Pop Music. We definately utilized the buses to the parks and saved a ton of time doing so.

Anonymous said...

went to see the Atlanta Braves spring training a few years ago. this was the closest hotel and had easy bus access to Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island at night. Definitely know what you mean about being there without kids, but you can't beat the price and the location for spring training.