We’re always being asked which Walt Disney World Value Resort is the best. With 5 resorts available in this category including Pop Century, Art of Animation and All-Star Music, Movies, and Sports it can be hard to choose. This guide is going to cover which one is the best in our opinion as well as all the pros and cons of each hotel. Look for updated photos of rooms, pools and dining as well. While we do stay at Walt Disney World Hotels oftend, we tend to space these ones out a bit as we prefer the Deluxe Resorts (Updated Jan 7th, 2021).
First, let’s dive into what a Value Resort is. Disney has 4 categories of hotel starting with Value, Moderate, Deluxe and Deluxe Villa. This makes Value Resorts the bottom of the list for both quality and price. For most this isn’t a big deal but we wanted to get the point across that these are by no means luxurious accommodations just because they are operated by Disney. We would compare the room quality to a Hilton Tru or an Marriott Element.
While you could stay off property for less and get a slightly better room we think that the added perks of staying on property add up. These include park transportation, Extra Magic Hours, Package Delivery and Disney’s Magical Express. Add them up and that’s quite a bit of value there that you won’t get staying off property.
Speaking of transportation, the bus system that Disney runs from each resort hotel to the parks and Disney Springs is by no means created equal. Location plays a big factor. So does the “sister resort” issue which we aren’t fans of. Let’s take for instance the All Star Property. First, there are three of them and they go in the following order: Sports, Music and Movies. Because Sports is first, buses tend to head there first in the case of picking up guests. Next would be Music and then Movies. This puts guests staying at Music and Movies at a sort of disadvantage when buses are making multiple stops.
And multiple stops is exactly what sister resorts are. Anytime there are 2 or more resorts that are on the same “property” then tend to share a bus route which can make wait times longer or increase the possibility of not making a bus because it’s already full. While Disney does try to give each resort their own bus for the parks, it doesn’t always happen.
In 2018, Disney did add the Disney Skyliner which now operated a line from Art of Animation and Pop-Century to both Hollywood Studios and Epcot theme parks. This had changed the entire transportation system from these two resorts for the better. While there is a terminal stop between the hotels and the parks, it’s not significant enough to deter us from using the Skyliner. We have made it to Hollywood Studios in 10 minutes and Epcot in 15 by using it. That’s a decent time saver in our opinion.
There are some drawbacks to the Skyliner however that you should know about. Like anything else at Disney World, it is subject to down time or breaks. While this only happened majorly once in the time it’s opened, it’s still possible. We don’t say this to scare you (we have full faith in the system) but in general there can be pauses and delays here and there. Same goes for the buses.
After the completion of the Skyliner, both Art of Animation and Pop-Century saw increases to their room prices. So while there is a transportation advantage at these two resorts over the All Stars, Disney made sure that the guest was going to pay a premium for it. We still think these two resorts are reasonable in price but they will always cost more per night than the others. Along with this, guests who don’t end up using it for whatever reason will still have to “pay for it” during their stay. We also anticipate a slower bus schedule for Hollywood Studios and Art of Animation because of the Skyliner.
Value Resorts are notorious for being very large and spread out, with some rooms a 5-7 minute walk from the main lobby and dining areas. This may not be a big deal for some but if you have a hard time walking, have a lot of tired kids or are tired yourself when you get back to the resort, this walk can suck. Guests can opt for a Preferred Room at an extra cost which will put them closer to the lobby. The Art of Animation Resort is the only one that doesn’t offer this.
All Value Resorts offer the most basic of rooms which include beds, bath, shower and closet. It’s very standard across all 5 resorts (less Art of Animation). There’s nothing fancy about them. They are perfect for the theme park warriors who only need a place to sleep at night and never spend time in their room. Earlier we mentioned that these rooms are equivalent to a Hilton Tru or Westin Element hotel. It’s the most basic amenities for a simple stay.
Now that we have you down in the dumps about staying at a Value Resort, we do need to mention that Disney has been spending the last year upgrading the rooms at the All Star Resorts and we are actually very impressed with them. While not all of them have been completed, many have and they are worth asking for if you end up staying at one of them. Eventually you won’t have to ask because all of them will be upgraded but we don’t think this will be done until late 2021.
The difference between the old rooms and the new ones is astounding. They got rid of the 15+ year old carpet and drywall. They added new sinks, countertops, showers and hardware. The bed frames, art work and TV’s are all new too. It’s a complete makeover and is making a huge difference. It’s crazy what a new coat of paint, some new cabinetry and wood flooring can do to a room.
The building that hold all the rooms are all themed to the name. Sports resort is dressed up in Sports like soccer, football, hockey etc. Music has notes, pianos, trumpets. You get the picture. Guests can expect to see the theme throughout the resort including the food courts, lobby and pool areas. Some guests find the theming a bit cheap. Almost like they built the buildings and then bolted on the theming pieces. When you compare this to Moderate and Deluxe Resorts, it’s kinda true. It’s all going to come down to your attitude so make it what you want. Kids seems to love it more than the higher-end theming at Deluxe Resorts.
Our most recent stays include an overnight at Pop-Century Resort in November of 2019 and December of 2020 at All Star Music Resort. Our kids love to stay here (as we mentioned) and they think the theming is really fun. Of all the resorts their favorite is Music because of the songs and musicals.
With all that said, let’s get to our rankings..
5. ALL STAR SPORTS RESORT
There’s really only one reason why we rank All Star Sports last and it has to do with crowds. Disney World is home to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Anytime they have special events going on, those groups stay here. The obvious connection is sports, especially groups with kids, and it can over-crowd the resort very quickly. This includes available rooms, pool usage and busing. Not that we’re saying is a bad idea for Disney because they obviously need a place to stay and this is the logical one, but for a regular theme park guest, it’s annoying.
The upside to All Star Sports Resort is that in the chain of busing, it’s the first stop the buses make when picking up at the All Stars. This means that if a bus needs to be shared with the other two resorts, guests staying here get first seat availability which means a much better chance of making it to your destination without having to wait for another bus due to it being filled.
As we mentioned above, the All Star Resorts are receiving room upgrades. Sports is part of this but they are at the latter end of it. Disney likely won’t start on these upgraded rooms until 2021 sometime. It may be worth staying at the other two resorts just to experience the new rooms. We’ll keep this post updated to reflect the most recent state.
4. ALL STAR MOVIES
In Fall of 2019, Disney started room refurbishments at the All Star Movies Resort and they are now completed. Every room here now features the updates we mentioned above. It has made this resort significantly better than it was before. Looking at the picture above, you can see the rooms are much more modern now and easy on the eyes. Before this, they had old carpet, decor and a drape to hide the bathroom/sink area.
All Star Movies is the end resort after Music and Sports. What this means is that if the resorts are sharing a bus, this resort is last and has the best chance of already being filled-up. You wouldn’t know that because it would simply skip the resort and head to its destination. Ultimately you would have to wait for a new bus which extends your wait time. Disney is trying hard to send each resort its own bus but it doesn’t always happen.
The food court here is in need of an upgrade and so is the lobby. Really anything here that pertains to decor needs an update. Of all the All Stars, this one has fallen the most into disarray (except the new rooms) which we find unfortunate because there is so much potential here with its theme. Old movies are nostalgic, we get that. But so are Disney’s 2010-present movies and we think kids and adults can relate to them better than ones from the 90’s.
When it comes to pricing, Movies sits with prices for Sports Resort which are still cheaper than Art of Animation and Pop Century.
3. ALL STAR MUSIC RESORT
This resort has also received upgraded rooms and they are now all complete. Like the Movies Resort, this has significantly improved any stay here. Along with that, this resort features more updated decor throughout as well as an updated food court. For these reasons, we think Music is the best All Star Resort.
As far as busing goes, it’s not bad, sitting in the middle of Sports and Movies. If it’s a really busy day the bus may not stop because Sports filled it up. Most of the time though this is not the case and guests can usually find a seat.
Overall Music is the cheapest of all the value resorts which is another reason that we rank it above the other two. Guests can typically find great deals on value resorts with Music being the best. We also like the pools here better than the other two resorts. Our girls love Disney songs which is another connection that we’ve made here. And that’s the thing about All Star theming. If you’re travelling with people who care about one over the other, stay there. We are ranking these value resorts but at the same time, the differences are slim for the 3.
2. ART OF ANIMATION
We love the idea of this hotel. The theming is really fun as it features so many of our favorite animated Disney movies including recent Pixar films. The theming doesn’t feel cheap at all and you can tell it was incorporated during the construction of the buildings, not just an afterthought. You’ll find throughout pictures, statues and pools themed after classic films. Our kids love walking around looking at all the unique decor, saying lines from the movies and taking pictures.
The downside to Art of Animation is the pricing from what you get in a room. Unlike the other value resorts, Animation is made up of mostly family suites (more on these in a minute). If you’re looking to stay in a standard room, they have one wing of the hotel dedicated to Little Mermaid rooms. First, it’s a bummer that there’s only one theme for standard rooms here while the family suites have several. Second, Disney put all the standard rooms furthest away from the lobby, almost like they were discouraging guests from using them.
The theming in the Little Mermaid rooms lack and there’s just nothing amazing about them when compared to the suites or Pop Century’s rooms. Having said that, they are better than the All Star rooms though not by much when compared to the newly upgraded rooms.
If you are looking to stay in a family suite, you’ll find the theming of the rooms top-notch. Disney went all out on them and it really shows. While the suites offer more room than standard ones, we think Disney got a little confused on how guests like to sleep (in a bed) because they count an armchair as a bed. The best wing to stay in overall is the Cars wing where guests will feel like they are staying in Radiator Springs. Overall though, these rooms are very overpriced for what you get and you could easily find yourself staying in a Moderate Resort for the same cost.
Dining here is significantly better than the All Stars with great offerings at Landscape of Flavors. In fact, many guests from Pop Century make their way over here daily as they prefer the food more. The strange thing is that Pop Century guests can make it to this food court as fast as guests staying in Little Mermaid rooms here. Again, just another reason that Art of Animation sits in the #2 spot instead of #1.
Lastly, the pools here rival all Value Resort pools and, in our opinion, many of the Deluxe Resort pools as well. The Finding Nemo Pool is amazing and our kids absolutely love it! The sheer size and the theming put it way above others. And if you’re looking for something a bit quieter and smaller, the Cars pool is amazing. It’s very quaint like the Cozy Cone Motel.
1. POP CENTURY RESORT
Our #1 ranked Value Resort and over-all best resort to stay at on a budget. Pop Century has so many things going for it: dining, new rooms, over-all theming, Disney Skyliner and busing. We’ve stayed here 5+ times as a couple and with kids and find it fantastic every time.
Let’s start with Pop Century’s new rooms which were done a few years back. They are modern, bigger and designed with fun in mind. The modern aspects of them include beds, surface areas, and bath along with better cabinetry. Size wise, they are bigger than any All Star hotel and even offer 2 queens instead of the standard 2 doubles found at other Value Resorts. The rooms theming is fun, a remember when..feel that gets your thoughts and feelings going. It’s not over done but it’s also not done cheaply.
The busing situation here is the best of all the resorts. It’s private and it’s smaller than the All Stars. Pop Century does not share buses with another resort which makes getting to your destination that much faster. The overall spread of the resort is still big but manageable for anyone. The resort does offer preferred rooms for guests wanting to stay closer to the lobby.
Dining at Pop Century is decent. They have a food court, Everything POP, that serves up pretty basic meals, nothing to write home about. It’s pretty standard cafeteria style look and feel. As we mentioned earlier, many guests staying here actually prefer to go over to the Art of Animation Resort to eat because they have better offerings. We completely agree with this. While we do very little dining at our resort hotels, we find ourselves heading over to Art for breakfast occasionally because it’s better.
The connection between Pop Century and Art of Animation is the Generation Gap Bridge that allows guests to go back and forth between the two. Art was originally supposed to be an extension of Pop Century but things changed and it became its own resort. Technically they are sister resorts but truly function like their own.
The Skyliner from Pop Century to the parks is one of the best new features about the hotel. While the busing isn’t bad, sometimes a change of scenery is needed and the Skyliner can offer this. Going from the hotel to the parks only takes about 10 minutes for Hollywood Studios and 15 for Epcot. Considering that this transportation feels more like a ride than anything else, it’s a lot more fun, especially for kids.
The pools a Pop are decent pools; not quite as good as at Art but still fun for all ages. Luckily guests can head over to the Finding Nemo pool if they want. Cast Members typically don’t have a problem unless resorts are crowded.
The only thing we don’t like about Pop Century is the theming. While it may resonate with adults, kids seem to miss it entirely. It’s very old-timey animation that seems like it should be cool and fun but most guests think it’s a little childish. Just throwing that out there. Luckily, it doesn’t have to play a major role in you vacation as it’s easy to look past.
So those are our current rankings on Value Resorts. They are great places to stay on property for anyone who’s on a budget or just needs a very basic accomodation to sleep in while they spend all their time in the parks. There’s nothing fancy about. They all have their own pros and cons when it comes to rooms, dining, theming and transportation. The biggest win for guests is that they offer all these amenities, same as the more expensive resorts.
Be sure to look out for Value Resorts during Disney’s Free Dining Plan offers as they tend to always be included in them. You can read our in-depth reviews of each hotel with the following links:
Do you feel like we missed anything? Have you been staying at these resorts longer than anyone else and have something to recommend? We love to hear your thoughts and opinions so please leave a comment or send us a message. If we find it useful we’ll be sure to add it here!