Recently we had the pleasure of spending some time over at the Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts. We had stayed at these resorts in the past, and overall had always enjoyed our time at each. Most often, a typical stay would mean booking a room at Pop Century, since the non-suite rooms are often more readily available, and we have no need or desire to pay deluxe prices for a themed family suite (also, we are in our mid-20's and poor). When meal-times would find us at the resort, 10/10 we would walk from Pop Century over to Art of Animation to eat at their superior food court.
We would always try to check for the Little Mermaid (i/e non suite) rooms at Art, since we do enjoy the resort and its ambience, but the majority of the resort is dedicated to family suites. When I was able to snag one for the Friday-Sunday of our most recent race weekend many months ago, I definitely snagged that sucker up ASAP. We discussed and debated extending our stay at WDW until Monday for a while, and when a work event required me to be in Orlando that day, our decision was made for us.
However, this introduced a tricky problem, because try as I might I could not edit my reservation at Art of Animation to include that day. I was able to snag a single night at Pop, and my first experience with a (mini)-multi-resort stay was created. We got even more excited as our probability of getting a re-furbished room at Pop seemed to grow more and more likely (and more and more pictures were released of the upgrades!)
We started our stay at Art of Animation. The Little Mermaid rooms are located furthest from the main building, perhaps a 5 or 10 minute walk depending on how sore our legs were (it was a race weekend after all!) We had a first floor room facing Hour Glass lake, which meant we had the benefit of not facing the pool (in the past, pool view rooms have always been a little noisy for me). Overall, I loved the location. It's all good to note that we were in a dog-friendly room area, and there was no sign of furry-friends in our room. I could personally go on a hour long rant about how Disney going pet-friendly is not a big deal - but I will leave it at other than seeing some friendly pooches taking their humans on walks in the public areas around our room, you would have no idea that there were dogs in the rooms or general area.
The room it self was just ok. The basic layout and aminities were as expected - no coffee maker, but there was a mini-fridge. Two full size beds, and H2O products left by housekeeping each day. The room its self needed some attention. There were several noticible paint chips on the wall and furniture, and a large stain on one of lower bed frame fabric. The most noticable problem however was the large fist-sized hole we discovered in the bathroom.
We were surprised to see this, especially at Disney. We reported it to the front desk, just so they were aware that our party wasn't responsible for the damage, and judging by their reaction, this is something that a guest was not supposed to see or experience. It called question into my mind that the room was really given thorough attention during the last cleaning process - if someone was wiping the bathroom counter or mirror, it really should have been seen. Overall though, the room was fine - we used it for sleeping and napping in between races and had no other problems.
The location of this resort can't be beat for race weekends. I believe it is literally the closest to ESPN, which makes the expo bus ride quick and easy.
The food at Art of Animation was as good as always. We ate there ALOT, and everything ranged from edible to YUM.
We didn't actually use any of the pools but we did spend some time relaxing in a great Cozy Cone at the Cars themed pool area. It was definitely the quietest area, and we had a great time. The Big Blue Pool (Finding Nemo themed area) was consistently busy and loud, but it looked super fun. The Little Mermaid pool split the difference between the two.
Sunday we switched over to Pop Century, which was literally just a three minute drive around the parking lot. We utilized on-line check in again, and our room was ready around 1:30. We were in the 80's area of the resort, on the fourth floor.
We did receive a re-furbed room, and IT WAS AWESOME. The room was clean, bright, and well appointed. The full beds have been switched out for a queen sized bed with more pillows than I've ever seen in my life, and a murphy bed hidden behind a nice-sized table. The room features a coffee maker and a fridge. Hard floors have replaced carpet, which was a huge pro for me, I don't even want to know how much gross stuff that hotel carpet collects. There was also a ginormous television and plenty of outlets and USB ports for charging.
The bathroom, while I'm sure techically the same size, seemed huge and unlike most of the other moderate and value rooms, is separated from the sleeping area by sliding doors rather than a curtain. There is a good amount of storage and shelving for toiletries. It also features a move-able lighted make-up mirror, which I found to be a wonderful addition when doing my hair and makeup. The shower/toilet area was similarly bright and clean, also also featured a sliding tour rather than a curtain. Instead of daily toiletries, there are now dispensers in the shower area featuring shampoo, conditioner and body wash.
The overall theming of the public resort areas and pools have remained the same, which is to say they are cute and fun. Our 80's area featured a huge fooze-ball court and a Roger Rabbit statue - all good things in my book. We did not eat at the resort on this trip, but in the past we have found their options to be decent. Like I mentioned above, unless we were looking for a quick breakfast, we are more likely to make the trek over to Art's food court.
So who wins out in this fight? Well, for families with 4 or more people, a suite at Art may be a better fit. They are definitely roomier, and give you the benefit of an extra bathroom. I would never choose a Little Mermaid room over Pop again, as the Pop rooms are honestly better than any of the moderate rooms at Disney I have ever stayed in. For us, Pop is a clear winner in this battle. Who would win for your family?