Mommy Frog's Note: We know these are trying times. Some of us are facing major challenges, whether they be from illness, the economy or simply the unknown. All of us are living under a new normal. While the parks are currently closed, they will reopen soon. In the meantime, we're looking for ways to help keep the magic hoppening at home. One of the ways we're doing that is by helping you plan your next trip!
The Disney World Value Resort hotels are perfect for the kids and the kids-at-heart who appreciate all things quintessentially Disney. They’re also perfect for those who enjoy saving a couple of bucks while not sacrificing the conveniences and magic of staying on Disney property. They're ideal for first-time and repeat visitors who are planning to spend almost all of their time in the parks and thus only need the basics in terms of amenities.
Figuring out where to stay in Orlando will have a big impact on your trip's budget, as well as your vacation comfort. Disney has a nice variety of value hotels, each with similarities and differences. How do you choose which one is the best Disney Value Resort for your family? This post will help you decide!
Before we hop into our ranking of the Disney World Value Hotels, let’s cover the basic amenities and benefits that make them all equally awesome. Once you've figured out your family's preferred pad, hop over and book it through us!
Key Disney Value Hotel Amenities and Benefits
The Basics — All of the Disney Value Resorts have the usual conveniences you would expect at a Disney hotel, such as mail, laundry, dry-cleaning, ATM, complimentary Wi-Fi, airline check-in, currency exchange, designated smoking areas and more. And don't let the "value" designation fool you! While these are the lowest price-point of the Disney Resort hotels, they are by no means low-tier. These services are much more efficient and of higher quality than other local budget hotels. Oh, and keep an eye out in the lobby for screens that interact with your MagicBand and feature your name, such as displaying you in the “Hall of Fame” at Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort!
Movies Under the Stars — I can’t imagine a more frogtastic way to unwind after a day at the parks than with a Movie Under the Stars. Disney Value Resorts offer complimentary Disney movie screenings by the pools on most nights. Maybe you’ll get lucky and catch "The Princess and the Frog" during your stay!
Cool by the Pool — Each Disney resort offers a pool for your water-time downtime. None of the Disney Value Resort hotels offer hot tubs or pool slides. Swimming is cool, but a great "plus” of the Walt Disney World Resort hotels is the cast member-hosted poolside activities that are offered nearly all day long at your resort hotel’s main pool area. Disney trivia, shirt tie-dying, sand art and more will keep your tadpoles happy while you get to sunbathe ... a win-win!
Jogging Trail — My goodness, don’t we do enough hopping around as it is at Disney World? If you’ve got a little extra pep in your step, take a hike on the jogging trail at each one of the Value Resorts.
Gift Shop — My favorite! What’s neat about the Disney Value Hotels' gift shops is that most of them have special souvenirs unique to each resort. My personal favorite is the Art of Animation wooden picture frame I got a couple of years ago! Another great thing about the on-site shop is that you can take souvenirs straight back to your room — they stock many of the same items as what you’ll find in the parks. Speaking of shopping in the parks, you can purchase items in the parks and have them delivered back to your resort’s gift shop! Resort gift shops also have sundries like aspirin, swimming diapers, sunscreen, snacks and sodas.
Arcade — The arcade is the perfect place to let my tadpoles play while I leap into the gift shop. They feature classic and new games to keep your tweens (or husbands) entertained! #pewpewpew
Food Court and Bar — Yum! Some of the best quick-service food on Disney property can be found at the food courts at the Disney World Value Resorts. There are tons of options to satisfy the hunger of both you and your tadpoles. Adults can stop by the bar close by the main pool at each hotel, as well.
Free Airport Transportation — All of the Disney Resort hotels offer free transportation to and from Orlando International Airport (MCO). As much as we love to hop, this is much appreciated! If you’ve flown into Orlando, Disney’s Magical Express service takes you straight to your resort and handles your luggage for you so that you can head directly to the parks.
Free Transportation to the Parks — The Disney Value Resort hotels all offer free bus transportation to the theme parks, water parks and Disney Springs. Disney’s famous bus fleet takes you to and from your desired Disney destinations at nearly all hours of the day. At each bus stop, you'll see a video screen featuring estimated bus arrival times for each park!
Distances from the Resort Hotels to the Theme Parks — The distances from each of the Disney Value Resorts to each of the parks are fairly similar. There is at most a mile difference in hotel-to-park distances, with the exception of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which is two miles closer to the Disney All-Star Resorts than Disney’s Pop Century or Disney’s Art of Animation Resorts.
Extra Magic Hours — One of the big perks of staying at any Disney property are the Extra Magic Hours. Disney Resort guests enjoy a designated Disney park before it opens or after it closes. Extra Magic Hours are offered every day for at least one park. Check out our Crowd Calendar to see more!
FastPass+ — Disney's system that allows guests to reserve up to three attractions per park, per day has big benefits for those staying at any Disney World Resort hotel. You may book FastPass+ reservations up to 60 days in advance of your hotel stay. Guests staying off-property have a 30-day window. This is a huge advantage if you want to reserve attractions such as Slinky Dog Dash, Frozen Ever After, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Avatar Flight of Passage.
Leap over here to see all of the Disney Resort hotel benefits and amenities!
Ranking the Disney World Value Resort Hotels
To get an idea of how we ranked these resorts, know that price isn’t always the deciding factor. When we look at a hotel, we’re factoring in everything that affects your stay. These are things such as room size, distance to the parks, the convenience of navigating the hotel, food court variety and theme. You want the best value for your money, and that value often comes in the little things.
As mentioned above, one of the big deciding factors in ranking these hotels is theming. Theming is how Disney uses a particular idea and décor to impact every detail of your stay. It’s part of the intangible magic that makes Disney feel like you are millions of miles away from the "real world." There is a theme for everyone among the Disney Value Resort hotels! If you’ve got a tadpole who dreams of being the next LeBron James, All-Star Sports will be your paradise. If you and your significant frogger can’t get enough of the Disney classics, All-Star Movies is for you. Theming is the element that elevates staying somewhere off International Drive into a full Disney experience. Some people just want to be connected to the "magic," and it's the theming that provides it. Even if "theming" isn’t your thing, each one of these hotels will offer you outstanding value and experience.
We looked at many different angles, including price, to come up with our list. Know that you’ve made a good decision by choosing any of these hotels! For a broader look at all of the Disney hotels, their amenities and distance to key attractions, hop over to our Disney Hotel Comparison chart.
Now, for the countdown ... let’s get started!
Disney World Value Resort #5: Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
Disney’s All-Star Sports (as low as $122 a night) is one of the original Value Resorts. Sharing in the trend of oversized, colorful displays at the Value Resorts, this hotel features sky-high football helmets, tennis racquets, basketball hoops and more. Because the theming revolves around sports, there isn’t as much room for variety in décor as the other Disney Value Resorts. With that being said, it is the perfect option for your tadpole who may not be as sold on the fairytale Disney experience, and needs some touchdowns and slam dunks to balance out the princesses.
As a frog who can’t get enough SportsCenter, this is Leap’s preferred Value Resort hotel. My frog family’s favorite part is finding the decorative flags featuring our favorite teams that line the buildings — and catching Donald playing tennis while his silly nephews are on the other side of the court playing baseball!
All-Star Sports features Surfboard Bay pool. True to its name, this pond is donned with surfboards, waves and shark fins. While this is the primary resort pool with the bar and rec activities, the Grand Slam pool is our personal favorite! Located in a quieter area, this pool looks like a baseball diamond with Goofy throwing the first pitch at its center. Yeeeeer out!
True for the trio of All-Star Resorts, Sports has nice, basic rooms adorned with plenty of stars and subtle hints at the resort’s overall theme. Rooms feature two double beds, a TV, table and chairs, dresser, spot to hang clothes, sink and separate toilet and bath area.
While smaller than the standard rooms at the Moderate or Deluxe Resorts, All-Star Sports' hotel rooms make great use of space so your frog family won’t feel crowded. You’ll have a choice of Standard or Preferred rooms. The Preferred rooms are closer to the dining, shopping and transportation. They are often more convenient and are priced slightly more than Standard rooms. There is no difference in size between the two.
Disney World Value Resort #4: Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
Whether or not you’re a musician, there’s no doubt you will enjoy Disney’s All-Star Music Resort (as low as $122 a night). Our Disney car karaoke professional, Lily, can’t get enough of this place. (Guess how many times I've heard "Into the Unknown" from "Frozen II" in the past six months? Whatever your guess is — it's not high enough.) The different areas will blow you away with their detail — from the street signs and billboards in the Broadway portion, down to the farmhouse fencing and cactus-heavy landscaping in the country-themed section. There are also maracas, electric guitars, jukeboxes and drum sets over three stories high! You’ll find the Three Caballeros rocking out at the center of the guitar-shaped Calypso pool, or you can hop on over to the smaller and less-crowded Piano Pool to cool off.
The rooms at Music share a similar look with those at Sports, but with nods to the music motif. All-Star Music also has the most affordable Family Suites at Disney World — perfect for growing families with older tadpoles who need their own space. The Family Suites can sleep up to six adults. Sleeping arrangements include one queen bed, one twin-size sleeper chair, one double-size sleeper sofa and one twin-size sleeper ottoman.
You’re probably wondering why I didn’t touch on the food court at All-Star Sports … we’ll cover that here. The trio of All-Star Resorts (Sports, Music and Movies) all have very similar dining areas. The food courts are divided into sections depending on which type of cuisine you’re in the mood for, as well as desserts and a “Market” with bottled beverages and other portable snacks. These resorts earn their “All-Star” name with the quality of quick-service food offered — a different menu at each hotel. One item they have in common is the gelato … and we HIGHLY recommend the Nutella flavor.
Disney World Value Resort #3: Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
All-Star Movies (as low as $144 a night) is the most classically Disney-esque of the Disney Value Resorts. We see All-Star Movies as the sweet spot for our family — there is the cool Mighty Ducks section for Tad, the adorable 101 Dalmatians area for Lily and the classic Fantasia buildings (complete with Sorcerer Mickey at the pool!) for my hubby and me. Not to mention, the Toy Story section of this resort makes you feel as though you are stepping straight into Andy’s room as you pose for pictures with Bo Peep, Buzz, Woody and the gang. Since Tad is our resident cinephile, this is his favorite of the All-Stars.
You can splash around either the Fantasia-themed pool or the secluded Duck Pond Pool. We recommend spending a mid-trip afternoon resting here while getting your vacay-clothes clean at the nearby laundry facilities ... disguised as a Duck locker room!
Inside your resort room, you’ll find décor that features a film-strip banner along the wall featuring scenes from favorite Disney films. There are no Family Suites, but Standard or Preferred room options are available. Rooms have recently been refurbished with a more modern, space-efficient design in line with the recent Pop Century updates.
Unlike the other All-Stars, the theming extends a little further to the food court, where you’ll find marquee lighting above you as you hop around picking out your favorite snack.
All-Star Movies is a good alternative for our number one and number two picks, while still capturing the major Disney essence that is fun for the whole frog family.
Disney World Value Resort #2: Disney’s Pop Century Resort
Disney's Pop Century Resort (as low as $187 a night) is a fun destination for all ages. This Disney Value Hotel is sectioned off by decades, with each area dedicated to one between the '50s and '90s. Adults will marvel at the nostalgia, while young ones will be wowed by the lively colors and ginormous Play-Doh container, yo-yos and foosball set between buildings. It is a really great conversation starter for some impromptu family bonding, as your tadpoles will ask what that giant green square is next to the computer pool (a floppy disk). A great "plus" of this location is that it connects via walking trail to Disney’s Art of Animation, if you wanted to take a peek or hop over to its food court! (Pool hopping is not allowed.) Pop Century also has access to Disney's Skyliner Transportation from the resort to either Epcot or Hollywood Studios via a gondola lift. It shares the Skyliner station with Disney's Art of Animation.
Aside from our number one pick, this is the only Disney Value Resort hotel with three pools instead of two. You can visit the main Hippy Dippy pool in the heart of the ‘70s section, complete with floral water jets ... or head to the bowling pin or computer-shaped pools. Each area has a million details to marvel at while you stretch your frog legs in the sun. As you walk around the property, stop and read the signs that highlight memorable moments in pop culture history. I’m also a huge fan of Everything POP Shopping & Dining, which combines the food court and gift shop with a more open layout than the other Disney Value Resorts.
The Pop Century rooms have been upgraded with new features such as under-bed luggage storage and some pop-art Mickey decor. Rooms come with the option for one king bed or one queen bed and one queen-size table bed (a neat fold-down Murphy-type bed). Room choices include Preferred Pool View and Standard Pool View, in addition to Standard and Preferred.
Disney's Pop Century Resort is a long-time fan favorite, and we can't help but agree.
Disney World Value Resort #1: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
Despite the competition, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (as low as $403 a night) snagged our number one spot, hands-down. Opened in 2012, Art of Animation is by far the newest of the Disney Value Hotels. This is reflected in the modern room fixtures, the immersive theming and the creative design. While All-Star Movies is more "classic Disney," Art of Animation will have your whole family leaping with joy when they see the modern Disney references.
We give Art of Animation the nod as the best Disney Value Resort because of the well-appointed Family Suites. Three out of four sections of the hotel (Cars, Finding Nemo and The Lion King) are dedicated Family Suites. The Little Mermaid section offers Standard rooms only. The price of these good-sized Family Suites puts the room cost on the higher end of the “Value” scale, yet, for large families or groups, they are perfect. (And for smaller travel parties, The Little Mermaid rooms hit that nice value price point, though they do book up quickly!)
Another reason Art of Animation wins is due to its immersive theming. Each one of the buildings features mesmerizing backdrops that transport you to where the respective films took place. In addition to finding enormous models of characters, you can take photos with endless film elements around every corner, such as a dinglehopper in The Little Mermaid area, the Finding Nemo seagulls chirping “MINE!” atop buildings, and a larger-than-life “elephant skeleton” being preyed on by evil hyenas in The Lion King portion. There's even ambient music piped in. We wish there was a PhotoPass photographer on-site just for these photo-ops alone! Truth be told, even when we aren't staying here, we often stop by to grab a Banana Cabana from The Drop Off bar and walk around to take it all in (and of course, snap some photos)!
Art of Animation has not one, not two, but THREE pools for you and your tadpoles to splash around in, and they are the most amazingly themed pools on property. The Big Blue pool is the largest resort pool in Walt Disney World, and features a splash area with a small playground and underwater speakers. This is where the Drop Off bar is located, serving up delicious cocktails for all you mama and papa frogs out there — as well as some great smoothies for the little ones. For a more low-key option, head to either the Cozy Cone or Flippin’ Fins pools. If you’re making it a full pool day, the Cozy Cone pool offers cone-shaped cabanas that are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Dat-gum!
Theming makes its way into every detail of each room. Shower tiles feature movie backgrounds such as Ariel’s cavern of treasures. Colorful scenes cover the walls, and each room fixture has a nod to the film at hand — such as the "Car Wash" sign vanity in the Cars suites. At 277 square feet, these Standard rooms are larger than other Disney Value hotels. The Family Suites offer three sleeping areas, two bathrooms and a kitchenette and sleep six. Note that the Standard rooms are priced higher than the other Value Hotels.
The immersive theming flows over into the Landscape of Flavors food court, which not only is larger and known for better offerings than the other Disney Value Resorts, but also is sectioned off by theme in the seating area, as well.
While you really can’t go wrong with the amenities, theming and on-site privileges that you receive by staying on-site at any of the Disney World Value Resort hotels, Art of Animation goes above and beyond.
Well, that does it for our Disney World Value Resort hotel rankings. What is your favorite Value Resort? Do you have any questions about the Disney World Value Resort hotels? Let us know in the comments below?