I like the Grand Floridian Resort. I have stayed here several times and have enjoyed the luxurious surroundings of Disney’s flagship resort. It’s wonderful to be pampered at this deluxe facility. Staying here makes me feel special.
But I also like the Pop Century Resort. It also makes me feel special, but in an entirely different way. You see, it has qualities that the Grand Floridian does not – like whimsy. It’s fun to stay at the Pop Century! The resort is silly in the extreme. It has kitsch. And it’s full of memories from our youth.
As soon as you turn onto the roadway leading to the resort you know you’re in for a walk down memory lane. Signs from another era like “Color TV” and “Air Conditioning” greet you as you drive by. And then there’s the sign that every parent can identify with…
The Pop Century Classic Years Resort opened on December 14, 2003. This hotel takes a lighthearted look at the second half of the 20th century with different sections of the resort representing the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. But what you see here is just Phase One of the project.
Phase Two was to cover the first half of the century, the Legendary Years. Construction began on Phase Two, but shortly after work started, it was discovered that Disney wasn’t filling all the hotel rooms they already had so until tourism picked up, the project was put on hold. You can see the beginnings of Phase Two across Hourglass Lake. Phase Two of Pop Century has been officially canceled. Disney announced on May 12, 2010, that the area for Phase Two will now become Disney's Art of Animation Resort scheduled to open late 2012.
When you drive up to the resort, a giant logo of the property greets you as well as the dates for the five decades represented here. These flank the Classic Hall building, containing the resort’s public rooms.
Inside Classic Hall is the registration area. Behind the counter is a timeline with recognizable photographs from the 1950s through the 1990s. It’s here that you’ll check-in and receive your welcoming package containing a property map, current Disney information, and other fun stuff to rifle through once you get to your room.
Check-in is after 3pm, but registration can be completed before this time. If a room is ready before 3pm, you will be given a key at that time. Check-out is at 11am. Magic Your Way Tickets may be purchased and dining reservations may be made at the adjacent concierge desk.
Opposite the registration desk is for me, one of the best displays at Walt Disney World. I’ve been known to take out-of-town friends to the Pop Century Resort just to show them this incredible wall. Once again, a timeline from the 1950s through the 1990s is represented here. But this time, the wall is filled with memorabilia from the era. The “pop” culture of fifty years is on display. Just to give you the smallest inkling of what I’m talking about, here are some of the items you’ll see: old TV Guides, an 8-track player, cabbage patch kids, a Trivial Pursuit game, a “Where’s the beef?” plate, platform shoes, an aluminum ice-cube tray, 45rpm records, and more. It would be impossible for someone to stand before this wall and not recognize something that they owned at one time in their life. For me, this wall is an “E” ticket attraction.
While checking in, there is a nearby children’s area where the little ones can watch Disney cartoons until mom and dad finish with the necessary paperwork. For the teenagers of the family, Fast Forward Arcade is also nearby.
Also housed in Classic Hall is Everything Pop Shopping and Dining. The shop portion of this complex offers your typical array of Disney souvenirs and clothing.
The food court here is massive. A number of different stations offer everything from pasta and pizza to ethnic choices. Of course, hamburgers and fries are available as well as some healthy meals. There is also a Grab-N-Go section with muffins and croissants in the morning and premade salads, sandwiches, and desserts during the rest of the day. Breakfast is served from 6:30am to 11am, lunch and dinner from 11am until midnight. Seating is available in three large areas surrounding the food court. For a complete menu, click here.
Just a word of warning. In the morning, the food court looks like Grand Central Station. Plan accordingly because your meal is going to take longer than you anticipate.
Transportation to the theme parks, water parks, and Downtown Disney is by bus. These depart approximately every twenty minutes. There is only one stop for the entire resort and it is located outside of Classic Hall.
The resort has only one playground and it can be found between Classic Hall and the 1970s theme buildings.
Now it’s time to take a look at the various sections of the Pop Century Resort, starting in the 1950s era. Three four-story buildings make up this grouping. The structures here are painted purple and the balconies are adorned with silhouettes of the popular dance craze of that decade as well as the catch phrases of the day. The swimming pool is in the shape of a giant bowling pin and larger-than-life icons anchor the entrance to each building.
Here are some interesting facts about these icons. The juke box is 40 feet tall. Lady is 23 feet tall and Tramp is 30 feet tall. The barrels they sit on are 8 feet in diameter and 21 feet tall. The bowling pins that house the stairwells at the end of each building are 65 feet tall.
Be sure to read some of the song titles on the juke box. They’re a hoot. For example, “My Car’s Jacked Up But My Heart’s Broke Down.” “My Love Is Deep (Like A 3D Movie),” and “She’s Got A Color TV (Now She Never Looks At Me).”
There is a self-service laundry near the pool. It is housed in a giant bowling shoe rack.
The buildings in the 1960s section of the resort are painted in shades of orange with lime green accents. Once again, the latest dance craze and catch phrases decorate the exterior of the buildings.
The icons here are Mowgli and Baloo from the Jungle Book and a container of Play-Doh. Be sure to look at the wall behind the Play-Doh and you can see a number of extruders which came with the Fun Factory toy set. Also check out the elephant's ears. You can see the “child’s” fingerprint that crafted the animal. The stairwells here are enclosed in giant Duncan yo-yos. The Play-Doh can is 22 feet high and 19 feet in diameter. Mowgli is 19 feet tall and his sidekick Baloo is 35 feet tall. And the yo-yos are 37 feet tall and 27 feet wide and the string is 1 foot in diameter.
The Hippy Dippy Pool is in the shape of a large flower with shower-flowers positioned around the pool’s edge spray the swimmers below. All three of the resort’s pools are open from 7am to 12-midnight. Lifeguards are on duty from 10am to 10pm. No towels are available poolside and should be brought from your room. Life vest are available at each pool.
A full-service bar called Petals is located near the Hippy Dippy Pool as is a ping pong table and children’s interactive fountain.
Disco was king in the 1970s and this is evident in the next cluster of rooms. Painted in shades of green, mood rings and platform shoes line the balconies and 8-track tapes house the stairwells.
Disney contacted many of the original manufactures of the reproduced toys for specifications in order to recreate them accurately. The toys were digitalized then a machine built a larger-than-life reproduction. Foam, fiberglass, and steel complete the final assembly. If you look at the back of some of the objects, you can even see the trademark information.
A Mickey Mouse telephone and a Big Wheels are the giant icons here. If you go up to one of the upper floors and look down on the Big Wheels, there’s a cute joke to be seen. The Mickey phone is 30 feet tall and stands on a base which is 8 feet tall. The push button "keys" are 1 foot wide and the handset is 20 feet in length. The front wheel on the Big Wheel is 18 feet in diameter and the tops of the handle bars are 25 feet off the ground. The 8-track tape is 35 feet tall and the "tape" is 2 feet, 6 inches wide.
A giant foosball table with 12 foot players sits between Mickey and the Big Wheels. Further down the way is an outdoor Twister set.
A pleasant walkway can be found skirting Hourglass Lake. Lining the path are signs describing interesting bits of trivia appropriate to the era. And be on the lookout for Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head for a great photo op. (I remember when you used real potatoes with this toy.)
1980 & 1990
The last cluster of rooms contains three buildings and combines two decades. The 80s buildings are painted in shades of red with Rubik's Cubes housing the stairwells and the 90s rooms are in shades of blue with very dated cell phones hiding the steps. The Rubik's Cube is 23 square feet on each side and each color panel is 7 feet by 7 feet. The peak point of the cube is 41 feet off the ground. The various cubes are in different stages of solving the same puzzle. The cell phone is 55 feet tall to the top of the antenna and the buttons are 2 feet, 8 inches wide.
The large entrance icons for the 80s building are a Walkman and Roger Rabbit. The 90s building features a giant laptop computer. Roger Rabbit is 23 feet tall and his barrel is 12 feet in diameter. The Sony Walkman is 33 feet high and the headset is 37 feet wide at its widest point and its earphones are 4 feet in diameter. The laptop computer screen is 28 feet wide by 21 feet high and the keys are 1 foot, 8 inches by 1 foot, 8 inches. Be sure to check out the information on the screen. You just might find a Disney reference or two.
The pool area resembles a giant desktop computer. The keyboard is part of the decking and the pool itself is the monitor. The laundry room is the computer and a stack of floppy disks sits nearby housing backstage equipment. The “mouse” can be seen on the “pool rules” sign.
The Pop Century is a value resort. This means the rooms are some of the smallest on property. Measuring 260 square feet, most feature two double beds and can sleep four. Some rooms offer one king bed. Cribs are available upon request. Adjoining rooms can be requested but not guaranteed. The views are either “standard” or “courtyard.”
Are the rooms spacious? Nope. Are they adequate? Yes. Two people will have no problem sharing these quarters, but when you add a third or fourth person, things can get tight. Be sure to pack your sense of humor.
Towels left on the floor will be exchanged for fresh. However, Disney is encouraging that folks reuse their towels and ask that you place them back on the towel bars. Bed sheets are changed every four days unless you request otherwise.
Currently, all of the rooms at the Pop Century are undergoing renovation. The remodeled rooms feature a clean, almost a minimalist look. A chest of drawers with a flat screen TV and a small table and two chairs complete the furnishings. High speed internet connection is available, but the plug is on the baseboard and requires getting down on your hands and knees to find it. There is a $10 daily fee for the connection.
The pictures below are of a newly remodeled room.
The bedspread depicts the Fab Five in various “pop” poses and the carpet has some hidden Mickeys.
The vanity area only has one sink and is open to the bedroom. A curtain can be drawn for additional privacy. The drinking glasses are plastic. Also found in this area are an iron and board, luggage rack, hairdryer, and safe. A small refrigerator (for medical needs) is available upon request. The toilet area is basic.
The window curtains were designed to overlap one another when drawn, effectively blocking out any “leaking” sunlight. I like this.
Ice and drink vending machines are available on each floor and all buildings have elevators.
The Pop Century offers very few frills. But it does offer a lot of fun. You can’t help but smile when visiting this resort. The Pop Century was designed for the budget conscious traveler; however Disney went out of their way to make sure it doesn’t feel that way. As I said at the beginning of this article, I like the Grand Floridian. But I also like the Pop Century. I have a great time when I visit this resort.
There are less expensive options available on Hwy 192, but they don’t offer the magic and the perks found at a Disney resort. If your budget can afford it, I would suggest considering the Pop Century. You’ll be glad you did.
I have created a six minute video of the resort for your enjoyment.
The previous post in this blog was Disney Steam Trains - Part Four - Tokyo, Paris & Hong Kong.
The next post in this blog is Which Picture Doesn't Belong #2 - The Quiz.