Thursday, September 10, 2009
Disney's All-Star Movies Resort
My first* experience staying 'on property' at Walt Disney World was when we stayed at Disney's All-Star Movies Resort, one of the 'value' resorts at WDW.
I love this resort. L.O.V.E. it.
There are three All-Star resorts at WDW - Movies, Sports and Music. The resorts are 'neighbors' - that is, they are situated next door to each other - but they are three separate hotels. Each resort has its own pool, lobby and food court. And each has its own theme, represented by over-sized musical instruments (Music), sports items (Sports) and characters/items from popular Disney movies (Movies).
As with any resort anywhere, there are good and not-so-good things about the All-Star resorts in general (even though I've only stayed at the Movies, I think these could apply to all three).
First, let's talk about the good.
These resorts are very budget-friendly - rates begin at $82 a night.
The resorts are family-friendly - bright, colorful, and fun. I remember the first time we stayed there, walking into our room in the 101 Dalmatians building and being greeted by movie posters on the wall and 'movie themed' bedding. And let's not forget the extremely tall 'Pongo' and 'Perdita' that stand guard outside the Dalmatians' buildings. [Other movies represented at the resort include Toy Story, The Mighty Ducks, Fantasia, and The Love Bug]. The exterior staircases at the Dalmatian building look like giant fire hydrants (at the Mighty Ducks building - where we stayed in 2007 - they are giant hockey nets).
There are two pools at the resort - one is watched over by Sorcerer Mickey and the other is located outside the Mighty Ducks building and is aptly named, the Duck Pond. It resembles a hockey rink, complete with Goofy playing goalie. As is the case at all Disney resort pools, life vests are available for children at the pools. We discovered that the Duck Pond pool is always less crowded than the Fantasia pool - probably because it's a not in a central location (the Fantasia pool is directly outside the main building (Cinema Hall).
The rooms at the resort are small - 260 square feet - but we managed to survive an entire week in our room with the addition of a stroller, a pack-and-play and a refrigerator. No one was tripping over anyone. And really, you aren't going to spend that much time in your room -- you're at Walt Disney World! [And speaking of refrigerators - if you want a mini 'fridge for your room at the All-Star resorts it will cost you around $10 per day. However, if you have a baby in your group, you may be able to get it at no charge, which is what happened to us. While we were checking, we requested a fridge and our cast member told us he'd give it to us at no charge because we had an infant. That was amazing!]
And I have to mention this: one of my favorite things about the resort is walking past the buildings and see how people have decorated the window to their rooms - they put costumes, plush animals, balloons and other decorations in the windows. It just adds a little bit of magic to your room.
Each All-Star resort has a quick service food court, at the All-Star Movies the food court is the "World Premiere Food Court". You can buy your refillable mugs here - and get them refilled here for the duration of your trip. The food court has five different areas where you can choose from a variety of items including hot foods, sandwiches, bakery items, pizza and salads. The drink station is located in the middle of the food court - with pop/soda machines, coffee, hot water and a mug wash station. You can use your quick service and/or snack options from the Disney Dining Plan at the food court. And, if all else fails and you have a car - there is a McDonald's right down the road.
And now, the not-so-good. [Because this IS Disney, I believe that nothing is ever BAD...but there are some things that might need to be 'fixed'].
The All-Star Movies is a big resort - it has 10 buildings spread out over a somewhat large area. You might do a lot of walking to get to your room or to Cinema Hall (where you check in/out and where the arcade, gift shop and food court is located). And, as we discovered the day we checked in, you might wait a long time to check in. As in, more than an hour - depending on what day you arrive, what time of year it is, etc. We arrived in late September 2007 and stood in line with two tired, hungry and cranky kids for more than an hour. It was definitely the low point of our trip that year.
That being said, there is a small amphitheater for the kids right next to the check-in area - so the kids can sit and watch the Disney Channel or a movie while mom and/or dad stand in line.
You may also find that the food court is packed on certain days (we found this to be true only once - on the Saturday when we were leaving. It seemed as though the entire resort was leaving with us). Keep that in mind when planning your arrival/departure days. Saturdays are not always the best day to come and/or go.
Know this for the All-Star resorts -- the buses will usually drop off/pick up in this order: Sports, Music and Movies. We traveled at a time of year when the crowds were lower, so this was not really an issue for us, but it's something to keep in mind when choosing an All-Star resort.
The bus stops for the parks are located in the front of the resort - and there is little to no shelter from the elements. You will encounter the longest bus rides to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios. Our shortest bus ride was to the Animal Kingdom. [Having stayed at a deluxe resort this year, we did notice that the wait times for pick up at the parks was much lower for the Wilderness Lodge than it was for the All-Star Movies.]
We had several experiences at the MK and Epcot where it seemed as though we waited and waited and waited for our bus when all the other resort guests were not waiting as long. Perhaps they have 'fixed' that issue now.
And really, those were my only 'complaints' about ASM - waiting to check in and waiting for buses.
If you're looking for a fun resort that won't break the bank - I highly recommend the All-Star resorts. I think you'll fall in love with All-Star Movies, just as I did. I cannot wait to go back and stay there again!
*It should be noted that while this is 'technically' true, I did stay at the Hilton at Walt Disney World when I was a teenager. But it was with my parents and sister...and I don't have any valuable tips from that stay.