Out of Walt Disney World’s 29 on-property resorts, Pop Century holds a special place in my heart, because it’s where my husband (at the time boyfriend) and I stayed on our first Disney trip together, nearly four years ago.
Pop Century is one of Disney’s five Value resorts, and until Art of Animation came along in 2012, it was the most recent Value resort. Opened in 2003, parts of Pop are admittedly starting to show their age. To address this, though, the resort is undergoing refurbishment. When we visited last month, one of the pools, the Computer pool, was closed for refurbishment.
If the name didn’t give it away, Pop Century is an ode to 20th century pop culture. Well, the latter half of the 20th century, that is! The resort is divided into sections dedicated to decades: the rocking 50s, the swinging 60s, the groovy 70s, the totally rad 80s, and the ‘whatever’ 90s.
As a Disney Value resort, Pop’s sprawling grounds are home to four story motel-style buildings with all the rooms facing to the outdoors. Each building has its own unique decade theme, with larger than life pop culture icons gracing the grounds.
Depending on your tastes, the theme of Pop Century may be a pro or a con. If your tastes are refined and elegant, and you want your hotel to reflect that, then Pop may not be for you. The larger than life pop culture icons scattered around the resort may strike you as gaudy and loud. Then again, if you are like me and embrace loud colors and cartoon-ish extravagance, then you will love Pop’s over the top retro vibe.
The resort grounds are divided up into decades, with each decade having a building or two devoted to it. We’ve always been placed in one of the 80s buildings on each of our Pop stays. My husband’s theory is that they try to put guests in buildings based on their birth year (since you have to enter DOB on your Disney account), and I was born in the 80s. I have never heard this theory elsewhere in the Disney-verse, but I’d be willing to buy it. Since my husband is a 70s baby, we could test the theory by having him book our next trip!
Our 80s building was one that had a gigantic Roger Rabbit outside our window. (Side note: if my husband’s theory is true, I would think Disney should place guests in the next decade up unless they were born very early in a given decade. I may have been born in the 80s, but I sure as heck wasn’t old enough to see Who Framed Roger Rabbit when it came out in 1988, so a lot more of the 90s icons resonate with me, since the 90s were my most remembered childhood.)
Our room overlooked not only Roger Rabbit’s furry butt, but the Computer pool, which as I said is currently being renovated. If we were there in summer, it might have been an issue, but really, Pop isn’t too spread out, so we were able to walk to the Hippy Dippy Pool quite easily. Pop has three pools: the flagship Hippy Dippy Pool in the 60s/70s area right outside of the main lobby and dining hall, the Bowling Pool in the 50s area, and the Computer pool in the 80s/90s area.
The Hippy Dippy Pool, shown below, is really where all the action for kiddies is at. Here is where they do daily games like Disney trivia. This is also the only pool at Pop that has water jets and a pool bar.
We’ve never tried the pool bar by Hippy Dippy Pool, but it always looks cute. If I hadn’t been so sick with the flu on this last trip, I perhaps would have tried a poolside margarita at Petals Pool Bar. Maybe next time!
Speaking of food and drink, Pop Century has a quick service dining hall and a single outdoor pool bar, and that’s it. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Everything Pop (the name of the dining hall), but don’t book a stay at Pop assuming you’ll be able to find a nice sit-down steak dinner at your resort.
Like the other Value resorts, your food and drink options are limited to the dining hall. Pop’s dining hall has various stations serving foods like soup, made-to-order salads, burgers, pizza, and classic all-American favorites like roasted turkey with veggies.
If you’re concerned about being able to eat healthfully while staying at Pop, well, it’s true your options are a bit limited. But personally I love the made-to-order salad station, and you can always ask for veggies on the side of your sandwich instead of fries. Plus, Art of Animation is a short (~1 mile) walk away, so you can always pop over to their highly renowned food court for even more options.
On the plus side, prices at Pop’s food court are very reasonable, maxing out at about 15 bucks for an entree. Generally though, we have found that the two of us can eat very well for under $25 total for dinner, under $20 for lunch, and under $15 for breakfast.
For breakfast, one thing we sometimes like to do at resorts like Pop is split a breakfast between us, since there is just so dang much food. That way we’ve satisfied our craving for Mickey waffles, not wasted any food (neither of us could eat a whole one of these plates), and stayed under $15 for breakfast. Hashtag vacation win!
As for resort amenities, in addition to the three pools, Pop Century offers a pretty large arcade for kids of all ages (*cough* like my husband ;-)). The arcade is pay-per-play, but prices are surprisingly in line with a typical American mall arcade, starting at 50 cents for a game.
But if you’re like me, and the great outdoors are more your thing, then here is where Pop really shines compared to any other Disney resort I have ever personally stayed. Every single Disney resort has a New Balance jogging trail, but believe me, they are not all created equally.
You’d think that the Deluxe resorts have better jogging trails than the Value resorts, right? Not so, in my opinion. I’ve tried the jogging trail at both the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian (they each meet at one end), and aside from the breathtaking views, I was pretty underwhelmed. But at Pop Century, which shares its jogging trail with Art of Animation, you get a 1.38 mile loop around Hourglass Lake. Compare that to the cramped, confusing, <1 mile path that the Grand and Poly share, and you’ve got a clear winner in my mind.
I’m an avid runner, so even on vacation I have to keep up my mileage, which is why I appreciate the running path at Pop so much. Not to mention the fact that the views across Hourglass Lake are gorgeous at dawn!
On top of running around the ample trail, you can also rent a bicycle or Surrey bike (starting at $20 per half hour) and go on a fun ride around the lake.
Transportation to and from Pop Century is surprisingly good, considering the many trade-offs you face when you choose a Value resort. Unlike the three All-Star resorts, which usually share a bus to get to the parks, Pop Century has its own dedicated bus system. This means you won’t board an already-full bus or have to make stops at multiple other resorts before getting to your final destination. Disney claims that all of their buses run on average every 20 minutes, but I’ve seen a lot of variation on these times. Pop Century, though, has for us at least always had very reliable buses. In all our trips here, I don’t think we’ve ever had to wait more than 15 minutes for a bus, and usually our wait is under five minutes. Maybe we’ve just always gotten very lucky, but my opinion is that Pop’s bus service is one of the best out of all Disney resorts.
Now onto the rooms. Don’t go into your Pop Century room expecting the Plaza hotel. These are Disney-fied motel rooms, after all. The bed (or beds, if you got two Double beds) is decent enough, but on the harder side if that sort of thing bothers you. The bed comes with four pillows, but given how thin they are, I would recommend requesting more from Housekeeping if you like extra support under your neck.
Every room is furnished with a decently large dresser topped with a flat screen TV. Built into the dresser is a mini-fridge perfect for storing leftovers.
Space for hanging clothes in your Pop Century room is very limited, so it’s a good thing the dressers are so large. (My personally theory is that Disney designed it this way knowing that if you’re staying at a Value resort, you probably didn’t pack loads of fancy dresses and blazers that would need hanging).
Each room at Pop comes with a basic desk with chairs. On our most recent trip to Disney, my husband was on the clock the whole time (he works remotely), so the desk and chairs really did come in handy for him to get work done in the evenings.
The bathrooms at Pop are pretty spartan. The toilet and shower are in their own room, while the sink and “closet” (if you can call it that) are separated from the bedroom by a curtain on a curved rod. There’s a single sink in each room, with disposible drinking cups and Disney’s H2O brand bar soap and dual shampoo/conditioner.
On our most recent stay at Pop, they happened to put us in an ADA room, which is why the photos below show a shower without a barrier. My only complaint about the showers at Pop are that the water pressure is way too high.
To wrap things up, I’ll recap what I perceive to be the pros and cons of Disney’s Pop Century Resort.
- Pop is in better condition than the three All-Star Value resorts.
- You get a lot of Disney bang for your buck, all the perks of staying on property, at a fraction of what a Moderate or Deluxe resort would cost.
- Rack rates start in the high $90s, but it is often possible to score a discount that can reduce the nightly rate to as low as the high 70s.
- All rooms have mini-fridges.
- One of the best jogging trails on Disney property.
- Poolside activities are fun for kiddies. There are also movies under the stars on many nights.
- Surrey bike and regular bicycle rental.
- Kids will love the over-the-top decor.
- Single bus service.
- Rooms don’t have microwaves or coffee makers.
- Noise can be an issue, both due to thin walls between rooms, as well as because your door faces the outside.
- The food court is Quick Service only.
- Room service is limited to pizzas.
- There is no indoor bar/lounge.
- No gym.
- No hot tub.
- No spa.
Tell me, have you stayed at Pop Century? What did you think?
Please leave any vacation questions in the comments below!