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Pop Go the Decades

Friday, March 04, 2011

As our resort hopping series continues I thought I’d take a stop at one of Disney’s value resorts to see what they are all about.  I know, you’re wondering why anyone would resort hop to a value resort.  Well, you never know when you may have to make a trip to one of them to visit or pick-up a friend, or you may have to stay at one of them during a last minute trip when you are under tight budget constraints.  Either way Disney’s value resorts are great if you plan on spending a lot of time away from your room during your Disney World vacation.  Simply put, Disney’s Pop Century resort is a great place to stay if you only need a bed and somewhere to get ready in the morning.  Of course, if you decide to hang around this resort you’ll have many of the same amenities available to you that you would find at the other value resorts.  They all have very similar amenities, but different themes.  I chose to highlight Pop Century because it is the newest of the value resorts and to be perfectly honest it’s my personal favorite in the value resort category. 

Pop Century began accepting its first reservations on April 22nd, of 2003.  It officially opened on December 14th, 2003.  The theme of this resort is dominated by the latter half of the 20th century.  Pop Century was originally slated for two phases; the Classic Years which exists today and the Legendary Years which sat 30% constructed across Hourglass Lake for 7 years.  Hourglass Lake gets its name from its shape and because it was meant to separate the resort’s two phases of decades.  Because of the events of September 11th, 2001 Walt Disney World suffered a major decline in attendance so construction on phase 2, The Legendary Years, stopped until recently.  Construction has restarted, however it was recently announced by Disney that the resort will become family value suites themed after Disney’s animated movies.  The new resort will be called the ‘Art of Animation Resort.’  You can check out an overheard map of the Pop Century Resort here

Currently Pop Century houses 2880 rooms throughout its very large property. Each set of interconnected buildings feature a decade from the past from the 1950s through the 1990s.  The buildings display rooms, paint color, and symbols that represent each decade.  For instance you’ll find a giant Rubik’s Cube sitting outside the 80s building.  These symbols which sit outside of the buildings are considered larger than life icons.  In my opinion Disney has overused the larger than life icons at its other value resorts.  They seem to be part of every value resort model across Disney World property.    

Because Pop Century has so many rooms available to guests you can typically find discounts available throughout the year.  If you have an annual pass make sure to see if an annual pass discount is available.  Grabbing some kind of discount at this resort makes it an even better value for your family. 

The amenities at Pop Century are consistent with the other value resorts on property.  This resort has 1 main pool and 2 secondary pools, a food court, gift shop, and an arcade.  Most of the amenities are located in the main building called Classic Hall.  There you will find the Everything Pop food court and gift shop along with the arcade and check-in desk.  The Everything Pop food court is the best food court on property in my opinion.  It is stocked with several grab and go food items.  You can also enjoy hot foods at the various food stations inside the food court.  There’s plenty of seating inside and outside the building to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Because Pop Century does not have a table service dining option the food court does accept the Tables in Wonderland 20% discount.  Be sure to pull it out and use it when you check-out.  Another piece of advice.  When checking into Pop Century try and arrive early in the morning.  As the day progresses the check-in line can build significantly increasing your wait time, especially during peak season.  Arriving early will decrease your wait and allow you to head to your theme park or destination of choice sooner rather than later.  

One of the largest gift shops on property is located inside Classic Hall.  The Everything Pop gift shop has quite a variety of Disney Parks merchandise.  Recently, most of the Pop Century specific merchandise was removed, but some still remains while it continues to be phased out of inventory.  This resort gift shop maybe the second largest on Disney property behind the Zawadi Marketplace inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House. 

The main pool is called the Hippy Dippy pool and is shaped like a flower.  This pool is right outside the back of Classic Hall and is used by most of the resort guests.  Located next to the main pool is the Petals pool bar.  This is the place where you can buy alcoholic beverages and some limited food items.  It is certainly the most colorful pool bar on Disney property.  The other 2 pools are considered secondary pools and are used by most guests who are staying in the buildings nearest them.  One pool is shaped like a bowling pin and the other is shaped like a computer and keyboard.  One note, the pools lack shaded areas.  Be sure to bring and apply sunscreen especially on days when the sun is out and very intense.  It’s a good rule of thumb to always apply sunscreen anyway in the Central Florida heat and humidity.

The decade-focused buildings at Pop Century are somewhat interconnected.  Typically there are 3 buildings with hallways, stair wells, and one set of elevators.  Make sure to read the signs located in the hallways and on the pathways so you can find your room.  Many of the hallways and buildings look alike so if you are not following the signs you could easily get lost.  There is parking located outside of each building.  Be sure to park as close as possible to your building and room.  It will make leaving the next morning much faster, easier and less confusing. 

The rooms at Pop Century are rather small as you would expect from value accommodations.  Most of the rooms are 260 square feet.  A family of 4 may find it difficult to maneuver through a room of that size.  There are 2 double beds and a desk with 2 chairs in most of the rooms.  To get an idea of the size of 260 square feet you may want to measure it by  placing masking tape on the ground to represent the room size.  Also consider some of the 260 square feet is used by the restroom and sink area.  Additionally, factor in the 2 beds and a desk as part of the room space.  This will give your family a better idea if these types of accommodations will work for you.  

In front of Classic Hall is visitor parking along with the resort’s bus depot.  Disney busses arrive on a continual basis to transport guests to all 4 of the Disney World theme parks, water parks and Downtown Disney.  Another piece of advice is to get to the bus depot as early as possible in the morning.  Lines tend to build as the morning progresses, especially during peak seasons when crowd levels and resort occupancy is at its highest.  Waiting in line for two or three busses to arrive can be difficult when you and your children are excited to get to the theme park. 

A stay or visit at Disney’s Pop Century resort not only can help relive your past, but it can also provide you with a great value.  It’s a basic, but fun place to stay if you are under a tight budget.  I personally enjoy the bright colors and uplifting, psychedelic atmosphere and surroundings.  I’ll tend to stay at Pop Century when I’m travelling solo or for a father, daughter visit to Walt Disney World.  In fact, my daughter is quite fond of Pop Century because of its colorful atmosphere.  It’s a great place to stay if you just want to catch some rest and get yourself ready for a long day at the theme parks.  If you decide to hang around in the afternoon or evenings you won’t be disappointed with the resort’s amenities, but don’t expect high-end accommodations.  Calling this resort a “value” resort is a great way by Disney to market this and their other lower-end resorts.  They are truly a value, but a good value no matter how you slice it. 

Next Up:  Running, cycling and mud!  A look back at a Disney World race experience. 

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About this column

Aaron DelPrince looks at the various activities you and your family can experience at Walt Disney World


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