We spent a few nights at Pop Century with the family. It was our first time at a value resort, and it was quite an enjoyable time, here's our review.
Pop Century - Food and Drink
Pop Century’s restaurant is a cafeteria. My choice food was, as per usual, pizza. The pizza was a great deal for two or more people late at night, as you could skip the long line and get a full pizza for for about $15 as opposed to a slice (¼) for $10. The pool was big enough for when we were there (usually between 10 and 11), but I could imagine it getting a little cramped. I enjoyed the food and pool situations because of their simplicity. At other hotels the food situation is more complicated (which, yes, means maybe better food and more options) and you face a choice of room service, a full-service restaurant, food from the store, or a smaller somewhat hidden cafe-like option. Having a central hub with cheap food right in the middle of the hotel was great. Similarly with the pools, you didn’t have to choose which section to be at or pay attention to the jungle gyms the kids were jumping around, it was just a big pool.
Also, I like hotel bars, and while Pop Century has a small one by the pool, I wouldn’t have planned to visit it multiple times (as it is, I didn’t go once). But if you’re into drinking, there’s just no reason to confine yourself to one place at WDW anyways, there are plenty of good, themed options, including the Epcot World Showcase.
Pop Century - Transit
My biggest worry going in was the transit situation. From Beach Club, you can walk to Hollywood Studios or Epcot. This isn’t super important if you’re going to one park each day, but its really valuable once you start park hopping (because you will almost always be either starting or finishing your day within a walk of your hotel, and sometimes you’ll pass right by your hotel between Epcot and HS). I was pleasantly surprised by the frequency of the buses. I’ve never found WDW buses to be very great, and while they lived down to those memories, they didn’t impact my experience. Despite looking like its closer to Epcot, the ride to HS seemed shorter, but both were only about 10 to 15 minutes. Getting to Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom was a bit more time consuming. The lines for Pop Century getting back from the parks were always huge, and multiple times we had to wait for multiple buses, but they always came pretty quickly, especially at park close.
You’ll have to tolerate a little more bus time than some other resorts, but if you plan your days accordingly you’ll escape major problems. My most notable memory of the bus system was the 45 minute wait we had getting from Animal Kingdom to Animal Kingdom Lodge in the afternoon. I expected the AK-AKL buses to be fantastic (to make up for the fact that its a higher $$$ resort with all-bus transit), but it was not. That’s just to say that even paying more you sometimes get awful bus service.
Pop Century - Fitness
I went for a run one morning on the path between Pop Century and Art of Animation. It’s just over a mile around. There were about 4-5 other runners out there. It’s a decent path around Hourglass Lake. Scenic, but not overwhelming. I definitely prefer running around the Boardwalk, but the path around Hourglass gets the job done comfortably (literally - it’s an incredibly flat path).
Pop Century - Rooms
Looking on the WDW website, it looks like we were in the “Preferred Room” (I didn’t book the hotel). I suppose the view of the courtyard could matter, but I didn’t notice.
My wife said the shower was not as good as some of the other hotels, and as she’s more of an expert in that area than me, I believe her. We both agreed we immediately noticed the beds were a lower quality. It didn’t bother us, but if you’re into really comfy beds and pillows, you might look elsewhere. I didn’t take a picture of the room, but I’m sure you can find plenty of those out there. It was smaller than rooms at some of the deluxe resorts, if you care about that. The vanity area was curtained off, rather than walled off (as at deluxe resorts). We had four adults in the standard room, and we did just fine. I did find myself tidying a bit more than usual (probably because there were four of us and the space was smaller).
Conclusions about Disney's Pop Century Resort
Overall I really enjoyed Pop Century and I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking to save on the hotel cost. Our daily routine was roughly: wake up, head to a park, park hop all day, head back to resort, swim for an hour, grab a pizza, and relax in the room. If you can do this kind of itinerary (i.e. not coming back to the resort during the day, fine with dining options at parks or Pop Century), then Pop Century is definitely worth a look.