This week, I plan to write two columns featuring two very different resorts. The first will be about Disney’s newest Value resort entry, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. The second will feature one of my favorite area resorts, the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. We stayed at both for two nights each in the last couple of months (both were terrific stays for different reasons).
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort officially opened on May 31st, 2012. We covered the construction of it from the beginning, taking photos and video from Disney’s Pop Century Resort (check out our Art of Animation video playlist here). Disney entered the family suite market in 2006, converting existing rooms at the Disney’s All Star Music Resort to create 192 value suites. But it took until 2012 to add another 1000 family suites at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Two out of three suite sections are open as of this writing, with the Lion King section due to open on August 10th. After that, the Little Mermaid wings open in September, with 864 standard rooms. The Little Mermaid section is the only one with outside corridors and standard size rooms.
Nemo and Marlin seen across the Big Blue Pool
Schoolyard Sprayground Water Play Area
We’ve stayed at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort twice now, one night in a Finding Nemo suite, and one night in a Cars suite (we paid for both nights). Disney’s Art of Animation brings the term “value resort” to a new level, with many upgrades inside and out.
Crush and Dory
Why do I recommend Disney’s Art of Animation Resort?
– Suites Keep the Family Together: I spent 6 years as a Disney specialized travel agent, and one year prior to that as a Disney Reservation Center Cast Member. The #1 request I received was for connecting or adjoining rooms for families. It’s not unusual for guests to travel with extended family or several children. After every request, I’d think to myself, “Disney needs family suites”. Not every family wants to stay in a Fort Wilderness Cabin, nor has the money for a DVC membership. The suites allows larger families to stay together in a value resort setting. That said – while a value suite is double the size of a standard value resort room, it is more than double the price (and sleeps six guests plus an infant instead of eight plus two infants, which 2 rooms will hold). I am guessing the remainder of the cost is partially due to the heavy theming in the suites. Moderate resorts charge a premium for this, one example being the Princess Tiana Royal Rooms at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort. We have video tours of the Art of Animation Resort suites that show the layout, here is the Cars suite video! There is one bedroom in a suite, along with a living area with pull-out couch, and a dining/work area with a pull-down bed.
Finding Nemo Suite
Cars Section Suite
– Two Bathrooms Are Better Than One: If you have a family of 5, you could opt for a moderate room in the Alligator Bayou section of Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort (the rooms were recently refurbished and look great!) But even with just the two of us, it’s nice having the room to spread out in a value suite, and having a second bathroom! I grew up in a family of 5 – we almost always stayed at Disney’s Polynesian Resort – and I would have been thrilled to have a second bathroom.
– Save Money on Food: All of the suites have microwaves, which is great if you like to bring leftovers back from restaurants! You can also order groceries from Garden Grocer, but remember that the refrigerator is small (the frozen area is very tiny). We have eaten many meals at the food court Landscape of Flavors, but also saved money by bringing a nice meal from home for dinner. We just put it in the microwave, and enjoyed it in the room!
Wet Bar in Cars Suite
Hidden Mickeys in Hallway Carpet, Nemo Section
– Meet the Stars of Cars!: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is the only place where you can get your photo taken next to so many of the beloved Cars characters. Lightning McQueen, Sally, Mater, Luigi, Ramone, and other favorites are nestled along Route 66 in the Cars section of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. You can see every character in our video tour! I also am adding photo tours of each area of the resort as they open.
Cozy Cone Motel in Cars Section, Ramone in Foreground
Jeff and Mater
– Kid-Friendly Themes: Cars. Finding Nemo. Little Mermaid. Lion King. There is something for everyone here, and I don’t doubt there will be family disagreements on which section to stay in! Each room is designed with children in mind, including the artfully designed shower curtains featuring characters from the suite’s section (which can also be bought at the Ink & Paint Shop for $99.95 each). Jeff and I don’t have kids, and I think the Cars section suite design will be our overall favorite – geared towards both adults and children. The pool areas are highly themed as well, and we love the large Crush and Mr. Ray icons that flank the main courtyard! Even the lobby is filled with vibrant artwork from the films, and a whimsical chandelier features character sketches. I am hoping, though, that the Cast Members soon lose the phrases “Sketch you later” and “Sketch you another trip” – both which mostly just draws quizzical looks.
Mr. Ray from Finding Nemo
Sally in Front of the Wheel Well Motel, Cars Section
– Highly Themed Pools: The Big Blue Pool is not only the largest pool on Walt Disney World property, but it is a huge step up in theme from the other value resorts. There are no slides or jacuzzis (you would need to stay at a moderate or deluxe resort for those), but kids will love running around to the water and dry playgrounds that are only steps away from the main pool! I am partial so far to the Cozy Cone Pool in the Cars section. It’s much smaller, but I love the Cone Cabanas! The third and last pool will open with the Little Mermaid section in September.
Cone Cabana, Cars Section Cozy Cone Pool
View from Cabana #4, Cozy Cone Pool
– Customized Food Options: The Landscape of Flavors food court is unique in many ways from the other value resorts. There are many more customizable food options (pasta, hamburgers, salads, etc.). I am not sure how that will work once the full resort is open, as the lines can already get long. I would love to see more standard options alongside. I do appreciate the meals that are not normally in a food court, such as the flavorful Tandoori Chicken. Each seating section of Landscape of Flavors is themed to a different area of the resort, and I like that the drink machines are conveniently placed throughout. Another plus? Real silverware and dishes instead of paper plates and plastic utensils (it reminds me of going to Disneyland counter service locations!)
Tandoori Chicken, Landscape of Flavors
Disney’s Art of Animation is a Value resort. There is an exceptional food court but no sit-down restaurant, no pool slides or jacuzzis, and the level of service is the same as staying in other Walt Disney World Value Resorts (such as Disney’s Pop Century Resort). However, I consider it a vastly upgraded experience from the other Value resort properties – the theming is closer to theme park level than Value resort level – and it’s one I can’t recommend enough.
Bedroom, Cars Suite
For 2012, the suites at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort range from $248 – $425 per night plus tax, depending on season and day of the week. Standard rooms range from $94 – $179 per night plus tax. Discounts may apply. I recommend Fairy Godmother Travel – they will help secure you the best price for your trip, and help with recommendations for the parks, dining, and recreation. Just let them know that Mousesteps sent you!
Denise Preskitt has been staying on Walt Disney World property for over 35 years, with a cumulative 200+ nights since 1976.