The Pop Century Resort

by Sue Holland, contributing writer

The Walt Disney World Resort opened its most recent “value” resort to guests in December. When completed, Pop Century will contain 5,000 rooms between two distinct resorts. Pop Century Classic Years opened on December 14, 2003, and represents the 1950s through 1990s.

In approximately four years the other section will open, featuring the 1900s through 1940s. The two resorts are built around Hourglass Lake, and the Generation Gap Bridge connects the center of one to the other.

Pop Century is the second value resort complex at WDW. The first in this category is the three All-Star Resorts (Sports, Music and Movies), which combined have approximately 6,000 rooms. These resorts were a big hit with young families for whom the cost of a deluxe Disney resort would be too much of a strain on the vacation budget. They are designed to compete with the off-site hotels in terms of price, but with Disney theming and some limited amenities.

With so many rooms, checking in at Pop Century can be a headache. Photo by Sue Holland.

Upon entering the lobby, it is hard not to notice that the lines to check in may be even worse than at the All-Stars. While the All-Stars have a front desk to service 2,000 rooms, at Pop Century the front desk handles 2,500 rooms. They do have more stations, but if you happen to hit a day with a large number of people arriving, the wait can be fairly long.

For whatever reason, the children's movie area is off to the side, which makes is hard for families with youngsters who obviously are not comfortable letting them be out of sight. On the day I arrived, there were three families ahead of me in line, which I thought was not bad at all. However, by the time it was my turn, I had easily another dozen families backed up behind me.

While in the lobby, if one member of the party stays in line, the other can pass the time looking at the memorabilia from the different decades in the shadow boxes. Overall, I found the lobby much more attractive than any at the All-Stars, which was a pleasant surprise.

Everything Pop is a combination retail store and food court. Photo by Sue Holland.

At Pop Century, Disney combined the shop and food court area, calling it Everything Pop. It is bright, attractive and spacious, with a more upscale feel than at the All-Star Resorts. In addition to the usual Disney merchandise, sundries and Pop Century logo items, shoppers can create and buy their own Mr. Potato Head figure.

This is most—but not all—of the large food court. Photo by Sue Holland.

The food court has all of the usual stands, along with ample seating for a very large crowd. It can get quite hectic during the breakfast hours, so it is better to eat as early as possible. They have the electronic menu displays that show a picture of each item on a screen, which is a very nice feature. The entire area is very bright and attractive, and I was quite impressed with the place.

In addition to the regular menu items (sandwiches, salads, pizza, pasta, burgers, baked goods) there is a “Mom's Night Out” dinner special available daily. When staying at another resort, it can still be worth a trip to come over for lunch or an early dinner to experience this terrific food court.

The first indoor bar at a value resort. Photo by Sue Holland.

For the first time, Disney has added an indoor cocktail and coffee lounge to the amenities at the value resort level. Classic Concoctions opens during the afternoon and evening, and features a full bar. Appetizers are available as well, and television sets make it possible to keep up with whatever game is important to you.

Fast Forward Arcade. Photo by Sue Holland.

Across from the entrance to Everything Pop is the resort's arcade, featuring a large room full of video games to delight children and adults. It never appeared overly crowded during my visits, and if your children are old enough to be trusted out of your sight, this could be a good place for them to spend time if you have a long line at check-in.

Exterior view of the 1960s section. Photo by Sue Holland.

The buildings containing the guest rooms are very similar to those found at the All-Star Resorts, except for having four floors rather than three. Otherwise, the layout is identical. Each staircase is enclosed in a giant icon representing that decade (bowling pin in the '50s, yo-yo in the '60s) and the center of each building is a large statue or other icon.

Baby boomers in particular would enjoy walking through the resort and seeing giant replicas of their favorite childhood toys. Exterior music is themed to each decade, and I could not hear it at all when my door was closed.

A standard room at Pop Century. Photo by Sue Holland.

The guest rooms are all 260 square feet and laid out identically to the ones at the All-Stars. Except for some handicapped-accessible rooms with a king bed, they have two double beds, a table and two chairs, and a much nicer piece of furniture that serves as both dresser and armoire.

The furniture at Pop Century is much improved compared to All-Stars. Photo by Sue Holland.

An iron and ironing board are included in each room, although coffee makers and hair dryers are not included. Those items can be requested from housekeeping, subject to availability, of course. Plumbing noise was evident during my stay—when someone flushes, everyone knows it.

A small but functional bathroom. Photo by Sue Holland.

Pop Century has the heating and cooling system set up to prevent a guest from setting the room temperature below 68 degrees. While I was perfectly comfortable and would probably be chilly at that temperature, other recent guests were not pleased. The air also seems to shut off when the room is empty, to save energy. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a sore point during the hot summer months. Overall, I found the room adequate for my needs and nicer than expected, based on previous stays at the three All-Star Resorts.

The Hippy Dippy Pool in the 1960s. Photo by Sue Holland.

As at any value resort, your recreational activities consist of swimming, jogging, or walking around. The resort has three swimming pools, which are open to guests staying in all sections. The main pool is the Hippy Dippy Pool, shaped like a flower and located in the center of the resort. There is a smaller kiddie pool located behind this one, as well.

The Bowling Pool in the 1950s. Photo by Sue Holland.

The Bowling and Computer pools are considered quiet pools, but lifeguards are on duty. Pools are open from 7:00 a.m. until midnight, with lifeguards working from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. as of mid-January. Life vests are available from the bar near the Hippy Dippy Pool, and all three pools appeared to have an abundance of lounge chairs for sunning.

The Computer Pool in the '80s-'90s. Photo by Sue Holland.

There is a map of a jogging trail available upon request from any cast member at the front desk. The current trail is either 1.1 or 1.38 miles long, depending on your starting and ending points. Most of it is along Memory Lane, the paved path at the edge of the lake. Once the other Pop Century opens up, joggers and walkers should be able to make the complete loop. Along the way, Disney has placed a sign for every year, highlighting something significant that happened during that year.

The Petals Pool Bar. Photo by Sue Holland.

Located next to the Hippy Dippy Pool is the resort's outside pool bar, Petals Pool Bar. Here, people can enjoy a frozen tropical drink or any alcoholic beverage of their choice. It's not attached to the main building and food court like at the All-Stars, but rather is a free-standing building next to the pool.

A bus stop at Pop Century. Photo by Sue Holland.

A separate bus stop for each of the parks is located at the front of Classic Hall, with queue areas set up at each to handle the crowds in a more orderly fashion. It was not uncommon to see more guests than would fit on a single empty bus standing in line at any one time, which is a bit discouraging.

What did work very well was that following Wishes fireworks at the Magic Kingdom when the queue for the Pop Century bus was overflowing, Disney brought in three empty buses at the same time, filled them up, and immediately brought in two more. They will need to watch this resort carefully, since with so many guests lines can back up almost in the blink of an eye. I was very happy with Disney's handling of the buses at Magic Kingdom that evening, though.

As is to be expected, the bus stops will be the furthest (or almost furthest) away. Generally, the thinking seems to be that the guests paying the premium prices get the shorter walks, which makes sense.

A foosball game is located in the 1970s. Photo by Sue Holland.

There are several whimsical touches at Disney's Pop Century Resort, including a giant foosball game between the two 1970s buildings. The figures do not move, and off to one side is a giant “Big Wheel” tricycle with a recommended child's weight limit of 877 pounds.

Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head create a popular photo spot in the 1980s. Photo by Sue Holland.

Seemingly at every turn there is something to see, whether it's a memory from your past or the excitement of your children as they see these larger-than-life icons.

Visitors can stop for an impromptu game of Twister at a number of locations within the resort. Photo by Sue Holland.

I was very pleased with my stay at Pop Century and look forward to future visits. There were only a couple of negative issues, with the most significant one being a serious lack of available parking. If you are visiting without a car, this won't be a problem for you. If you are, however, consider using Disney transportation at night; otherwise you may not find a parking space when you return. I've been told Disney is looking for a solution, so hopefully more parking will be added somewhere, and hopefully they don't open the second section with the same shortcoming.

The other issue is more a matter of personal taste—those phrases and words they have along the top of each building strike me as tacky, particularly where they have the word “Duh” included. This is visible from the main road and caused friends of mine to dub Pop Century “the Duh Motel.” Did any parents who lived through the “duh” years actually enjoy hearing that word?

What were they thinking? Photo by Sue Holland.

Thankfully, Pop Century is much nicer than a “Duh Motel” would be, and if you're looking for a good place to stay for not a lot of money, definitely give it your consideration.