Looking for a resort that can check off several items on your Walt Disney World checklist without breaking the bank? Consider taking a trip through the decades by booking a stay at Pop Century Resort.
Pop Century Resort is currently classified as a value resort at Walt Disney World. Priced just above the All-Star Resorts and just below the moderate level resorts, Pop Century might be one of the most overlooked and underrated hotels on Disney property. The resort is themed to all things pop culture from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. You’ll find giant yo-yos, Rubik’s Cubes and other tributes to some of the most memorable items, catchphrases and Disney characters throughout the decades as you walk around the resort.
We decided to stay at Pop Century during the 2019 Star Wars Rival Run weekend hosted by runDisney. You can read our full review on the race weekend here.
We didn’t want to pay a fortune for a hotel since we didn’t plan on spending a ton of time at the resort, but we wanted to enjoy the perks that make staying on Disney property worthwhile (more on that here). We chose a Preferred Room as we had heard that some of the buildings were a decent walk from the main lobby, which is home to the food court and the transportation area. Since we were there for the half marathon, we paid the extra $10 or $20 per night for a room that required less walking.
Let’s talk about the check-in and arrival experience.
We had a late flight that didn’t bring us into Orlando International Airport until around 11pm. One journey on the Disney Magical Express later, we arrived at Pop Century just after midnight.
Lobby and Check-In
We didn’t complete the online check-in process, so we headed for the front desk after walking in the lobby. As the doors to the lobby opened, we were met with one of the best smells in all of Walt Disney World. The smell of the Pop Century lobby is difficult to explain and describe. It just smells good. It’s apparently some kind of mix of cotton candy and kettle corn, but we’re not positive that’s accurate.
The lobby is enormous and is full of all sorts of items from the various decades, from Beatles albums to ’90s computers. It’s obvious that it’s ready to accommodate a huge number of people during peak check-in times. Thankfully, it turns out not too many families want to check-in past midnight.
The cast members were kind, friendly and had us all set in a matter of minutes.
The guest buildings at Pop Century are four stories tall and are motel-style with exterior doors and stairs. Be warned that you may have a lengthy walk and some flights of stairs to climb after returning from a long day in the parks.
We stayed in the ’50s section, which was themed with giant bowling pins and enormous characters from Lady and the Tramp. Our preferred room location placed us on the second floor on the side of the building facing the main lobby.
We found the preferred room location to be perfect. We were a short walk from the main lobby, which was ideal for the early morning transportation ahead of the run as well as for any trips to the food court. We were a two-to-five minute walk from food, transportation to the parks, a pool and the airport team that can handle your bags when you’re checking out.
Despite our preferred location, we felt that even the furthest buildings wouldn’t have felt that far away.
Room at Disney’s value resorts are smaller than the ones at the moderate and deluxe resorts. That should be expected as you’re saving money instead of enjoying amenities such as a balcony, a closed interior hallway or extra square footage.
The room can sleep four, but seeing as it was just the two of us, we enjoyed that the second bed could stay folded up and become a small sitting area. This was a nice feature as we ate a couple quick meals in the room ahead of the race.
The bathroom area was on the smaller side, but everything was updated, clean and in good condition. The shower had the option between a rain shower head and a detachable shower head, both of which had good water pressure. It is worth noting that the bathroom did have the mounted refillable shampoo, conditioner and body wash that’s been widely discussed. We didn’t have an issue with it. Counter space might be a premium if more than two guests are staying in the room.
Let’s get down to business. Food is critical when you’re talking about a resort. Pop Century has a primary food court location within the main lobby that can accommodate just about any taste. It’s quite large and we never had too long of a wait despite it being full at peak times.
The food court has several stations that offer different items throughout the day. At breakfast, you’ll find one station with Mickey waffles (a must-have item on any vacation) while another might be serving omelettes. Later in the day, these location will serve burgers, pizza, pasta and a whole host of tasty options.
There’s also a fairly large grab-and-go area stocked with fruit, pastries, drinks and many other items for those on the go. The Tie-Dye-Cheesecake was an incredible dessert that we’ll discuss more in the near future.
If something cold is calling your name, the food court also serves up some incredible sundaes.
We never had an issue with the food at Pop Century. The same can not be said of some of the deluxe resorts that struggle a bit when it comes to quick service options.
The pools at Pop Century have unique themes such as bowling, a computer and the Hippy Dippy Pool that comes complete with spraying flower fountains.
The heated pools are large and can accommodate a good number of guests. The one complaint we may have with the pool areas is that shade comes at a premium. Make sure you use that sunscreen!
There aren’t too many activities available at Pop Century compared to the deluxe resorts, but there are a few worth noting. During our stay we noticed a tie-dye t-shirt activity, movie nights (which are hosted either by the pool or in the food court depending on the weather) a playground and a jogging trail that takes you around Hourglass Lake.
Thanks to its convenient location near Disney’s Hollywood Studios, none of the four theme parks are too far away. Pop Century enjoys dedicated bus service to its resort and doesn’t make any stops at other hotels. Buses were the only mode of transportation during our stay, but the Disney Skyliner will soon open up easy and quick access to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
The buses that were running were on time and arrived regularly. We did note that the buses to the Magic Kingdom were very crowded, especially if you’re getting a late start to your day. There’s a reason they use the articulated buses.
When we wanted to return to Pop Century, such as at park closing, we noted that the crowds were large but were still handled efficiently. We never thought we had too long of a wait, which was a surprise given the masses of people trying to go to the same location.
Note that Pop Century’s bus stops don’t offer much in the way of shade. That’s a bit of an oversight in the hot Florida sunshine.
Would we stay at Pop Century again? Or would we recommend a different resort?
Yes, we would recommend Pop Century for guests who want to stay on Disney property without breaking the bank. Though there are some amenities missing between Pop Century and a moderate resort like Port Orleans: Riverside, we’re not sure the difference is worth your money if you’re planning on spending the majority of your vacation in the parks.
Pop Century does a lot of things right. It has updated rooms, a solid food court, a convenient location that will only improve with the Disney Skyliner and a fun theme. It’s well worth considering for your next Walt Disney World stay.
Photos via Disney