This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Pop Century Resort.
With 26 on-site resorts at Walt Disney World, there is a wide variety of choices for families coming down. We’ve covered many here on the SATURDAY SIX including Value Resorts (Art of Animation), Moderates (Port Orleans French Quarter and Caribbean Beach), and Deluxe (Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge). We also can’t forget the Disney Vacation Club resorts such as Old Key West and Saratoga Springs. Today we are going to look at one of Disney’s most popular Value Resorts: POP CENTURY.
The entire resort is themed around pop culture icons from the latter half of the twentieth century, with the wings of the hotel dedicated to the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Each wing has elements from their particular decade throughout the area. If it sounds cheesy, that’s because it is cheesy, but in a good kind of cheesy way and one that can bring back a lot of cherished memories for every family. At the very least Pop Century is great for an afternoon of “resort hopping” to see some of the things they offer that you can’t find at any other Disney resort, starting with…
# 6 – The Lobby is a Wonderful Trip Back Through Time
While the check-in experience inside Classic Hall is similar to what you will encounter at several WDW hotels, the walls opposite check-in are filled with shadow boxes containing items from the 1950s through the 1990s. This is a wall that will have various generations of every family seeing an item and instantly remembering where they were in life when that was popular. Elvis, the Moon landing, Dobie Gillis (with Maynard G Krebs), the Beach Boys, Star Wars, Mork & Mindy, Jane Fonda’s workout book, Trivial Pursuit, He-Man, Go-Bots, Smurfs, and so much more are in this area.
This is not a drill people. There is a video game inside the Pop Century lobby that is free to play. Video games are popular now, more than any time in history, but Pop Century celebrates how big arcade games were in the pre-Nintendo era of household gaming. Set on free play, the arcade cabinet has both Donkey Kong Jr. and Super Mario Bros to play. With Nintendo playing a major role in Universal’s upcoming Epic Universe theme park in Orlando, you’d think this would be a great opportunity for Disney to replace this machine with a Wreck-It Ralph one.
# 5 – Walk Around Hourglass Lake
Pop Century was originally conceived to have two separate resorts. The first section, the Classic Years, was completed and is what we know as Pop today. A second section, the Legendary Years, was going to be built across Hourglass Lake and the two resorts would be connected by Generation Gap Bridge. The Legendary Years would have focused on the 1900s through the 1940s and what I wouldn’t do to see how Disney would have handled the Great Depression and World War II. As we all know, the Legendary Years section was never built and instead that area was eventually used for Art of Animation.
One of the strengths of both Pop Century and Art of Animation is being able to take advantage of Hourglass Lake between them and take a gingerly stroll (or prepare for a runDisney race) around the entire area via large walkways. On Pop Century’s half of the walkway there are signs along the way that highlight major events that occurred in various years.
# 4 – The Food and Snacks at Everything Pop
The Everything Pop food court at Pop Century is split up into several sections, so while one area may have slices of pizza, another one will have burgers. Similar to the Bayliner Diner at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Everything Pop has several choices to echo the theming of yesteryear as well. These include “comfort food” entrees such as pot roast and meatloaf. Our favorite? The fried chicken! Where Everything Pop goes above and beyond is in the snack department. Not only are there milkshakes available, but here is where you will find their famous tie-dye cheesecake along with other assorted goodies.
For those that like Mickey-shaped waffles, we have some good news. They are on the menu at Pop Century all day long!
We ordered the “plant-based Mickey-shaped” waffle plate, and the Cast Members use a separate griddle for those.
Not only were the waffles made to order (and taste great!) the breakfast potatoes they were served with tasted excellent as well.
Here we have the signature item at Everything Pop, the tie-dye cheesecake.
# 3 – Larger Than Life Disney Characters
If you enjoy getting pictures of Disney characters, Pop Century just may be the resort for you. Not only is there a great photo-op with Goofy outside of Classic Hall, but you will also find characters such as Roger Rabbit and Baloo the Bear standing at almost four stories tall throughout the resort.
Larger Than Life EVERYTHING
You’ve seen the Disney characters, but throughout the resort there are also gigantic versions of various pop culture items from the 20th Century. Foosball players, a Big Wheel, a tub of Play-Doh, and even Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are among the large icon figures you will discover in each wing. Across each building you will also find phrases from each era along with various items, such as transistor radios and Pac-Man. The outside stairwells for each building are also covered by four story tall props including bowling pins, 8 track tapes, and yo-yos. The “90s” building has three different types of retro cell phones hiding stairs behind them (sorry Millenials, you can’t send emojis from any of them).
One thing not every guest knows is that several WDW resorts have hotel-exclusive activities for kids. At Pop Century you can ask for the scavenger hunt map when you check into the resort.
The map is “secured” by a slap bracelet.
The map has icons to look for while you explore the property.
# 2 – The Disney Skyliner
A huge game changer to Pop Century was added this year with the debut of the Disney Skyliner. Now guests can walk to Generation Gap bridge and hop on the Skyliner to the Caribbean Beach station where they can connect to either Epcot or Disney Hollywood Studios. Like the monorail, the Disney Skyliner is a method of transportation you just don’t see at Disney’s competitors. Not only is it efficient, it’s fun! Kids will enjoy the various character wraps on the gondolas, while adults will enjoy the birds-eye view of Disney property (for the best views, ask the Cast Members if you can wait for an unwrapped gondola). The Skyliner also gives guests staying at a Value Resort like Pop the opportunity to take a quick ride over to Caribbean Beach and dine at at Centertown Market, Banana Cabana, or Sebastian’s at Old Port Royale.
I personally love the aesthetics of the Pop Century/Art of Animation Skyliner station. It’s whimsical and has a very artistic design.
This aerial view shows the Pop Century/Art of Animation Skyliner station and the gondolas as they make their way to and from the Caribbean Beach station.
We should note that Pop Century continues to have one of the best bus services on Disney property. I’ve stayed at the Disney All-Star Resorts and not only can the waits be interminable when leaving a park to go back to your resort, but the busses make stops at each of different hotels. Pop Century has a dedicated line, and the wait time at the resort seems to be much less than almost any Disney hotel I’ve ever stayed at.
# 1 – The New Rooms
I’m going to eat a little crow here, because while I’m not a huge fan of the fact there is minimal Disney theming in the room, the overhaul at Pop Century is a HUGE improvement. When staying on vacation with your family, space can become a premium, and these new rooms have some great touches that add up. Like our recent stay at Gran Destino tower, the “main” bed in the room is on an elevated platform, allowing you to store stuff under it. The Murphy bed folds up, allowing the room to have a table and also free up space for “activities.”
Recently Pop Century also expanded their in-room dining menu. It had been a while since I had Disney pizza delivered to my hotel room, so I figured it was time to see if there was any changes. Turns out there was a HUGE change. The pizza was actually good!
Honorable Mention – The Merch
I love the new Pop Century logo design that incorporates Mickey Mouse, and there were a good selection of items available. For the most part Disney has been lackluster in delivering exclusive merchandise for the Value Resorts, but Pop’s selection has been getting better and better over the years giving guests a good variety of options to choose from.
While not exclusive to Pop Century, it is appropriate that they offer the Disney themed Rubik’s Cube. It would be nice to see Disney themed yo-yos or a Pop Century bowling pin in the line-up. Maybe one day.
Regular readers of this fine blog series should know by now how much we loved our Walt Disney World pressed coins, and Pop Century has several good designs. First up is Mickey Mouse with a yo-yo with the Pop Century logo.
Pop also has a souvenir quarter design, featuring the logo and Mickey in his “cool” 80s wear.
Double Secret Honorable Mention – Fast Forward Arcade
Located off the lobby, Pop Century has a world class arcade to have some fun in that has a gigantic cross section of games including your standard arcade games, driving simulators, air hockey, and various games of skill (such as basketball). Highlights include even more old school arcade games (including Galaga, Joust, and Space Invaders) pinball, and games based off current smart phone games such as Jetpack Joyride. While the opening of the NBA Experience won a coveted Turkey of the Year award, we can probably thank the closing of Disney Quest for why this arcade got infused with some really cool games.
So there you have it: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s POP CENTURY! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, door locking Howie Berman, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.