Magic on a Budget: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort in Orlando, Florida
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To The Point
Disney’s Art of Animation is an on-property resort for families that won’t break the bank: Pros: clever family suite design, moderate-level quality at a value-level price. Cons: somewhat limited food options, lacking in the in-room power department and slow Wi-Fi.
Unless you live in a world where money is no object, planning a family vacation to Disney World involves trade-offs and difficult decisions. If you’re a business traveler (or points collector), you may have a stash of hotel points you want to use in Orlando to reduce your overall vacation costs.
However, once you start doing the research, you may find plenty of reasons to stay at an official Disney World property. No matter how hard you try, though, your mind keeps wandering back to the money you can save by staying somewhere else … anywhere else.
Enter Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. It may be just the compromise you’re looking for if you want a true Disney experience without a price tag fit for a king or queen.
Selecting a hotel for your Disney trip is just one step in a process of key decisions that can make your not-so-inexpensive visit to a friendly mouse house a resounding success. The TPG Ultimate Guide to Walt Disney World Resort starts with picking the right hotel or resort for your stay because it can be your most expensive decision of your whole vacation.
If you look at the list of Disney World resorts, you’ll see hotels with labels such as “deluxe” and “deluxe villas.” Those lofty titles can make even a “moderate” resort sound, well, moderate. So where do bottom-tier “value” resorts fit into the picture at Disney World? It depends.
Not all value resorts are created equal. A recent stay at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort with my wife and two kids proved just that.
Art of Animation is one of the more recent additions to the Disney World family. Built in 2012, it’s almost 20 years newer than Disney’s All-Star Resort, and its family suites can represent a phenomenal value if you’re traveling with kids in tow.
Though it used to be possible to use your ever-popular Chase Ultimate Rewards points to redeem for Disney World Resorts, that option is gone. This means you’re most likely booking directly with Disney World or through a online travel agency like Hotels.com (earning 10 miles per dollar on the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card in the process when booked and paid via Hotels.com/venture; offer ends Jan. 31, 2020). Prices vary greatly at Disney World, especially during high season, but expect to pay $150 to $300 per night at the Art of Animation. Family suites generally tack on another $50 to $150 per night.
I booked a standard room for $124 but upgraded at check-in to a suite.
If you’re looking for the best ways to earn points while paying for a Disney World Resort stay, you can book with the Chase Sapphire Reserve and earn 3x points for the stay. You can also use your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard to book your Disney Resort stay and then use the points from those cards at a rate of 1 cent per point to cover the charges.
We found the Art of Animation Resort near the outskirts of Disney World property, between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The resort was a reasonable distance from all four Disney World theme parks and Disney Springs, but didn’t have a park within easy walking distance. Buses were the only free method of transportation available to get to the parks. Still, the Disney World bus network could take us virtually anywhere on property we needed to go. Additionally, taxis, Lyft, Uber and Minnie Vans were available.
Even with the recent Minnie Van price increase, they were still the only option that wasn’t a bus and could take you right to the front of the Magic Kingdom. All other cars for hire dropped you at the Ticketing and Transportation Center. From there, you needed to take the monorail or a ferry to get to Magic Kingdom. Renting a car cost $13 per night, so do careful math on transportation decisions.
We took an Uber Black to the hotel, which took about 25 minutes from Orlando Airport (MCO) and cost roughly $70.
The Art of Animation Resort was a fairly spread-out property. There was designated parking for check-in located near the entrance, and check-in agents could direct you to the appropriate parking nearest your building.
The lobby was colorful, sort of a cross between a candy store and the tunnel between concourses at Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD).
There was a kid’s TV area within clear view of the check-in desks to keep your little ones occupied while you took care of paperwork. To minimize waiting, make sure to complete online check-in before you arrive.
At check-in, I inquired about upgrades to family suites, and one was available for an additional $120 per night, which I accepted.
Art of Animation had standard hotel rooms as well as family suites. Our stay was in one of the Lion King family suites, courtesy of a reasonably priced upgrade at check-in.
Families couldn’t miss on the room layouts. Our 12-year old daughter and 7-year old son would’ve been OK sharing beds when we visited, but the time was fast approaching when that wouldn’t be the case. The family suites at Art of Animation were really key to solving that budding bedding dilemma, giving us the flexibility to try a bunch of different sleeping arrangements.
The family suites came in three themes: Lion King, Cars and Finding Nemo, all with similar floor plans and all guaranteed to please kids. The resort may not have been themed in the same way as the Animal Kingdom Lodge or the Polynesian Village Resort, but there were plenty of touches for the kids to notice.
There was a dining room table with seating for four, two full bathrooms with hair dryers that my wife would’ve been proud to have at home, and Disney H2O toiletries — apparently, they’re so popular you’ll find them for sale on eBay for a hefty price!
The living room had a small kitchen and pull-out sofa, dresser, television, chair and a rod on which to hang clothes. That chair or the small stools could serve perfectly as a fifth chair for the dining table. We found the lyrics to popular songs like “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” printed on those stools. Fun stuff for the kids to try to read and sing!
The dining table demonstrated how the living room really paid off for families. It was actually a Murphy bed as comfortable as the pullout sofa beds at other Disney World resorts. (The pullout sofa mattresses at Disney are consistently the best I’ve ever slept on. And yes, since our kids love to pile in bed with Mom, I’m usually the one on the sofa.)
The bedroom was compact but completely functional. It contained a dresser, television and place to hang up clothes. Disney came up a bit short in the category of easily accessible power outlets and USB ports next to the bed, pretty much a requirement elsewhere these nowadays. We didn’t love the slow Wi-Fi speed either, but at least it was free.
The bedroom had an en suite bathroom with plenty of space and additional Lion King theming. When we travel as a family, we look for ways to redeem points for suites or connecting rooms so we can spread out. Our family of four doesn’t share one bedroom and bathroom at home, so we try to avoid it on vacation. Disney World does a solid for family travelers with two full bathrooms in its family suites.
Art of Animation had three pools and sported the largest pool of any Disney World hotel, the Big Blue Pool. That was a bit of a surprise to us. With a whopping 1,984 rooms, Art of Animation Resort was still not Disney World’s largest resort, but it was close. The pool was pretty massive and didn’t look full during our visit. Taking theming to a whole new level, you could even listen to your favorite Disney songs while swimming, thanks to the underwater speakers. (The Big Blue Pool will be shutting down for refurbishment in the fall of 2020.)
The small Cozy Cone and Flippin’ Fins pools were also heavily themed for kids who enjoy Lightning McQueen and Nemo.
As with most other Disney World resorts, Art of Animation featured Movies Under the Stars most nights. Your family could watch a free movie outside while relaxing on the grass.
There was a playground, 1.38-mile jogging trail and the Pixel Play Arcade to keep kids occupied when you weren’t hanging out in one of the theme parks.
Lastly, near the Big Blue Pool there was a dedicated self-service laundry area. It wouldn’t be the highlight of your trip, but it could save you having to overpack for your family vacation.
Food and Beverage
On-site dining options at Art of Animation were limited. The primary restaurant was Landscape of Flavors, a combination of quick-service and made-to-order stations arranged like a cafeteria. It had everything from salads to pizza and burgers and other hot entrees. And, of course, there were plenty of sugary-sweet options.
Beside the pool was the Drop Off Pool Bar, which let you keep an eye on your children while they swam (there was a lifeguard at the pool too, of course.) There wasn’t much in the way of food options outside, though.
Lastly, the resort had pizza delivery but no full-service dining or any of Disney World’s best restaurants.
While staying on site at Disney World offers plenty of benefits, your family may consider staying elsewhere to save some money. We’ve outlined plenty of those options, including our top-ranked points property near Disney World. Though the reputation of value resorts at Disney World might scare you away, Art of Animation shouldn’t (as long as you are OK with bright colors and cartoon characters).
The only knock we’ve heard about Art of Animation is that it lacks some of the more intricate theme elements of other Disney World properties. We’ll admit that some resorts do have a bit more Disney oomph, but you’ll find a fair share of whimsy at this resort, like the songs printed on the stools and the themed walking areas between the buildings. Then there’s the massive Lion King statue.
There are nicer resorts at Disney World, and I won’t use catchy phrases like “diamond in the rough” when describing Art of Animation, but this resort affords you the ability to book a moderate-level resort at a value-resort price. And if space is an issue, a family suite may just keep your crew happy and on budget for your next Disney World vacation.
Read on to learn more about maximizing your time, points and money at Disney World:
- TPG Ultimate Guide to Walt Disney World
- Review of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Review of Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- The 10 Best Disney Thrill Rides Around the World
- How to Use Points for Disney Tickets
- How to Ride Every Disney World Ride in One Day
- Eating Healthy at Disney World
- Best $69 You Can Spend at Disney World
Images by author except where indicated.
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