As you may have read, until just a month ago – I was a Disney newbie. Seriously! It took me 34 years to finally experience the most magical place on earth for myself. Through the tears and misty-eyed moments (here)… the wonder and awe surrounding the New Fantasyland (there) … and even the less than perfect photographic evidence (everywhere)… let’s just say that it’s never too late to experience Walt Disney World for yourself.
And, if you have a couple of beautiful, excited children to take along with you, it’s even better.
When we returned, I expected friends and family to ask, “How was it? What did you enjoy most? What parks did you visit?” – etc, etc. BUT, to tell the truth, the most frequently asked question was “Where did you stay??”
It makes sense, of course – a huge part of your Disney vacation budget is allocated to lodgings, and you want to make sure that you’re getting the best comfort, convenience and value for your money. And so I pretty much have this to offer – our stay at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort was flawless. Truly, we could not have asked for more. But you don’t have to take my word for it – listen to the 458 people who rated the hotel a 4.5/5 on Trip Advisor. For a “value” or “budget” hotel – a rating so high is virtually unheard of. Told you it was awesome, no?
The following review is not written with the air of a professional traveller, sharing yet another review of another hotel she has visited on yet another media trip. The fact is, I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a hotel! So, rather than complicate things, I think it’s best to simply share 5 Reasons to Stay at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World, trust me – you’ll want to read this.
(There is a mix of personal and media images below; as the resort was very busy during our stay, I opted for some media images to respect the privacy of other children who were included in the hotel photos taken with my camera.)
1. Step Into The Film
The Art of Animation welcomes kids of all ages to become part of the animated film. (I say “kids of all ages” because I believe I gave a SQUEE! or two – especially at the sight of a larger-than-life Ursula!) At every turn, you’re immersed in character-themed artistry, design and decor, which will get you in the Disney-Pixar mood quicker than your child can spot the souvenir shop. Children will adore the playful courtyards and rooms inspired by Finding Nemo, Cars, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. Inside, every detail is attended to! We had the opportunity to stay in a Cars family suite, and were duly impressed by the cone-shaped lighting fixtures, car wash inspired bathrooms and subtle movie touches throughout the hotel. There’s no greater connection to Disney than some of their most loved movies, and this resort delivers! The character-themed experience is incomparable.
2. Family Suites
Those two words are like music to my ears. Now most people would define a “Family Suite” as a spacious room designed to accommodate a group of 4-6 individuals. Obviously, these people have never stayed in an Art of Animation family suite. The room boasts:
– THREE separate sleeping areas within the living space, including a master bedroom with queen-size bed
– A full-size sleeper sofa
– A convertible table bed (a generously sized dining table that easily transforms into a comfortable bed)
– TWO separate bathrooms
– A kitchenette that includes a mini-fridge, microwave and coffeemaker
– A table and chairs; 2 flat panel TVs; In-room wall safe; Voice mail and Internet access
Okay, you know that aforementioned convertible table bed? Saved our vacation. Because it allowed us to eat a meal, as a family, with the comforts of a dining room… without the stress of eating with two young children in public. Think about it: you’ve spent the whole day at a Disney Park, and you’re equally exhausted and ravenous. The last thing you want to do is police your over-stimulated kids in a restaurant. Hence, every night we carried our restaurant take-out back to our room, and enjoyed a family meal on a proper table (instead of balancing styrofoam containers on our laps like in a standard room). So the boys are jumping around. Don’t care. So Ryder has decided to drink his juice and then watch TV. Don’t care. My husband and I relished our meal while reminiscing about a most wonderful day. LOVE the Art of Animation family suites!
(Above: Please excuse Ryder’s “ugly face” – you’ll have to read this post to truly understand the extent of his photo bombing prowess. Nevertheless, the convertible table bed was also an awesome place for the boys to watch videos, catch up on their colouring and play with their cars and blocks.)
3. An Aquatic Adventure
If your family vacation includes water fun, there is technically no need to ever leave the resort. The main pool at the Art of Animation is in the Finding Nemo courtyard – the “Big Blue” pool. At 11,859 square feet, it is the largest resort pool at Walt Disney World.
(Consider this: the Big Blue pool has 310,000 gallons of water, making it the largest pool on Disney property, not counting water parks. If you combined all the swimming pools, you could park 125 cars inside. Seriously, I’m not making this stuff up! – Source)
From larger-than-life characters (2,500 figures decorating the resort) to intuitive touches (while underwater, you’ll hear music and the voices of Nemo, Dory and Crush thanks to 12 underwater speakers), this is THE place to make waves. Want to take it slow? Little children can splash in the Righteous Reef, while “quiet pools” are located in the Cars (Cozy Cone Pool) and The Little Mermaid (Flippin’ Fins Pool) wings.
4. Location, Location, Location
There are benefits to staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel. Namely, there’s no need to rent a car, or deal with the hassle of driving and parking. Save time and money with complimentary transportation; buses are available every 20 minutes, and operate up to one hour after Disney Theme Park closing time. Did I mention that they’re FREE? Oh right, I did.
We used the complimentary transportation for the duration of our trip, and never had to wait more than 10 minutes for an available bus. They were clean, cool and likely the safest way to get from park to resort. Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is adjacent to Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The average commute to attractions such as Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom was about 15 minutes, or just long enough for the kids to sit still.
5. It Won’t Break the Bank
It was only when I returned from our trip did I learn that the Art of Animation was classified as a “value” hotel. How is that possible?I wondered. It was impeccably clean, had amenities up the wazoo, and let’s not forget about the incredible courtyards and pool areas. Everything about the hotel is utterly brilliant!
So here’s the scoop: because the hotel offers mostly family suites, the prices are slightly higher than what you’d expect at a traditional value resort. However, when you factor in all the creature comforts you’ll have during your stay (separate sleeping areas within the living space, the illustrious convertible table bed, two separate bathrooms, kitchenette and more – plusfree transportation to parks and attractions) the resort is actually priced competitively. Families of 5 or 6 will get the most value for their money, fully utilizing all three beds and spacious living quarters. And don’t forget – you also have the option of booking a standard room in The Little Mermaid wing. So if you have a family of 4 or less, you can save up to $1200 per week by forgoing the family suite option.
I’ve enthusiastically recommended the resort to everyone I’ve spoken to since our return. When we vacation at Disney again (and we will!) – this will be the resort for my family.