The Art of Animation Resort (also known as AoA) in Walt Disney World is a unique property at Disney. I got to see a sneak peek of the hotel in 2012 prior to its’ opening and was amazed I always am at Disney World by the level of detail. You can read my thoughts on that sneak peek here.
When it came time to book our next trip to Disney World I decided to look at prices on a whim. Walt Disney World often has sales on their rooms and a little investigating told me we could save big bucks by booking our vacation for January or February instead of waiting until Spring or Summer. Sure it would mean taking the kids out of school, but saving money and getting out of the cold weather, too? Sign me up!
Tip: Look for sales and special offers from Disney World here. If you sign up with a Disney travel agent you will often get these deals emailed directly to you. Full rate for Art of Animation varies but can be as little as $249 and as much as $458 plus associated taxes and fees.
We opted to book at Art of Animation because I remembered how great the theming was from my sneak peek. It was also the most affordable option for our family of 6. Most Walt Disney World rooms hold 4 or 5 people, so finding a single room that holds 6 AND has two bathrooms to boot made this a no brainer.
If you’re not familiar Walt Disney World offers several different levels of resorts. The lowest cost resorts considered ‘value’ resorts are the cheapest, but also the furthest from the parks. Some of the older value resorts are also a little dated and cramped, but if you only need a place to rest your head and don’t mind traveling via the bus system at Disney World it’s not a bad deal. The theming of those resorts is fun and appeals to kids. Value resorts offer tons of activities for kids and families, affordable lodging, and cheaper meals with a cafeteria style restaurant.
The Art of Animation is a value resort. However, it is the newest and therefore the most well-kept resort of all the value hotels. The rooms are more expensive than the traditional value resort because they allow for 6 total guests to sleep in the room.
We stayed in a Finding Nemo suite, but you can also book a room in the Little Mermaid area, Lion King area, or Cars suites.
What we loved about Art of Animation
There’s a LOT to love about AoA.
Saving hundreds of dollars is pretty exciting stuff in my house. This is the only resort that offers low value pricing with room enough for our family of 6. The other options are villas which are about 3 times as expensive.
We all loved the theming of the whole resort. From the landscaping that looked like underwater plants, the big blue pool, and the sketches in the front desk area we loved it all. The attention to detail always astounds me. The giant seagulls on the roof of our building even do a chorus of “Mine. Mine. Mine.”
Anyone traveling with kids knows one bathroom never seems like enough, and with 6 people we definitely needed two! We loved that the kids had their own bathroom space and we had ours (attached to the bedroom) so that we didn’t have to share or clean up after them.
Unique to the Art of Animation there is a kitchenette area in the room. This was an awesome way for us to save big money on meals. The kitchen area is a small counter with a sink, shelves above for storage, a microwave, and a mini fridge below for storing drinks and food. We were able to make breakfast nearly every morning, pack sandwiches for lunch, and occasionally nosh on snacks in the room. You can take food into the park, so packing a PB&J and then saving our money for a dessert made the trip half as expensive for food costs. I’ll share tips on packing and purchasing food for Disney in another post soon.
Layout of rooms
The setup of the rooms can be seen at Disney’s Art of Animation page. Essentially it’s two living areas connected, a bathroom, and a bedroom with an attached bath.
When you come in the room to a living space that has two areas. One is the dining table/bed (SO COOL!), and the other is the kitchentte, sofabed, dresser and TV. This made two distinct areas for sleeping and activities which was just enough space for our family of 6 with kids ages 17, 12, 10, and 9. A family with younger kids would probably find it even more spacious. The bathroom for the kids was just off the dining area, and the sink was separate from the shower/tub and toilet. Off to the right there was a single bedroom with a queen sized bed, dresser, tv, hanging clothes area, and an attached bathroom with a shower. We loved that we had our own separate space with a door that closed (and locked!) as well as a separate shower.
The Big Blue Pool
What’s not to love about the biggest pool at Walt Disney World?! Not only does it offer a splash area for young kids, but it stays a somewhat consistent depth so most kids are comfortable and safe. As with all Disney resorts there are multiple lifeguards on duty at all times, life vests for swimming available free of charge, and pool games in the afternoon. The pool is also heated making it comfortable no matter how chilly it gets outside. Additionally, the kids loved the music! They pipe in music under the water so when you go under you can hear Nemo music! there are plenty of lounge chairs, tables, umbrellas, and a bar and snack area inside the pool area.
I think this is pretty universal at all of Disney, but the cast members we talked to and met were all amazing! They all went out of their way to greet us, help with questions, and just be a smiling face as we passed by. At one point I walked by two people cleaning tables and noticed they were making Mickey art on the tables after they were clean! It’s that attention to detail and fun that everyone seems to have with their jobs that make Disney such a special place to be.
What we didn’t love about Art of Animation
Before you think it was all perfection, there were some downsides for us.
We don’t mind the buses in general, but staying at a value resort means everywhere you go you have to catch a bus. That’s all well and good when there are many buses running, but you may find yourself standing up for the bus ride home at the end of a long day for 15 minutes or more. You may also find that you have to wait for the next bus when traveling at an odd time of day which adds an additional 20-30 minutes to your travel time. While every bus driver was attentive and enjoyable and the other passengers were all great, we just hate wasting time on the bus. To be fair we have stayed at Deluxe resorts previously where you can monorail or walk or boat into a park with ease, so we’re a bit spoiled. The tradeoff of course involves cost, so you have weigh if that will matter to you. Also of note this is the only value resort that offers a direct bus line with no other stops.
Tip: If you do stay at a value resort pad your departure times heavily so you arrive in plenty of time. It’s about a 20 minute drive to Magic Kindgom from AoA not including wait time and bus loading time which can take a while between people with strollers that need to be folded up and guests on scooters and in wheelchairs. (During busier times guests are often told to take their kids out of strollers and fold them up before boarding, so if you’re traveling with young kids be prepared.)
Check out this travel calculator for info on how long it will take to travel once you board the bus.
I know some people love having all kinds of options and cheaper choices, but I found the cafeteria to be extraordinarily loud during busy times. My advice? Check out the menu ahead of time and have one person order for everyone. Also try to eat at off hours to avoid crowds, noise, and long lines at the register. The cost may seem cheap compared to some restaurants at the parks, but when my son wanted a hamburger and the only option was $12 I said no and pointed him towards pizza instead. Even being conscious of the cost and not purchasing drinks we could easily shell out $75 for the 6 of us. After one experience there for a meal we avoided it for most of the rest of our trip
Tip: If you need a quick meal to serve everyone consider getting a whole pizza from the cafeteria and taking it back to your room instead. The bar at the pool also has a case with some food, and you can grab items like bagels or peanut butter at the resort gift shop.
Amenities at the Art of Animation:
Many of the features available at AoA are also available other resorts. These are noted with an *.
- Magical Express: Complimentary transportation from Orlando airport to your resort and baggage delivery. You should receive tags for luggage before you go, and your bags will magically arrive at your hotel several hours after you arrive. (be sure to pack essentials in a carry on).*
- Free parking: If you drive a car or rent one you can park for free as a guest of the hotel.*
- Arcade area*
- On site dining options: Cafeteria (all value resorts), in room pizza delivery*, and items available in gift shop.*
- Gift shop on site with souvenirs, clothing items, first aid and toiletry items, and more.*
- Resort recreation includes movies under the stars*, pool party each day*, walking/jogging trail*, and playground.
- Pools throughout resort.*
- Free WiFi is available in room and in the main building. Our phones (AT&T) did not get service inside the buildings. You’ll also find free WiFi in the parks.*
- Online checking.* I highly recommend checking in online, it saves time when you get to the resort.
- Airline check in service.* Your boarding passes and Magical Express return trip info and time will be delivered to your door the day of (or before) departure. You can check in and hand over your bags for delivery to the airport. It’s a great option that means you don’t have to wrangle all your bags until you arrive home.
- Laundry area or dry cleaning*: At AoA the laundry area is conveniently in the pool area, so while your kids go for a swim you can toss in the laundry. Dry cleaning is also available with bags in your room.
- Merchandise Pickup and Delivery*: Disney makes it easy to get your purchases from the park to your room without lugging them around. They are shipped to your resort where you can pick them up later in the day (or the following day depending on when you purchase them).
You can check out more about Disney’s Art of Animation resort on their website. If you are a first-time visitor I highly recommend working with a Disney travel agent. There is no fee involved, and you’ll have someone to go to with all your questions about things as varied as Fast Passes, dining reservations, or where to find the best ice cream in Magic Kingdom (skip it and get Dole Whip!).
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