Stay here if you want the All-American, sports-mad, quintessential Disney-with-your-kids experience. Even if you are a couple with no kids in tow, all that pitter-pattering of little feet can be a reasonable trade-off for a good deal on a room, particularly if you are attending events at the nearby ESPN Wide World of Sports. The different sections of this large resort are themed for sports—basketball, baseball, surfing, football, and tennis, with giant football helmets, megaphones and referee whistles. Between the buildings are small playing fields. Familiar Disney characters abound: Goofy is the pitcher in the baseball-diamond pool; Huey, Louie, and Dewey play ball by the tennis courts. These are the smallest rooms in any Disney hotel, one reason for low room rates, but they do come with the on-property perks, such as MagicBands and early entry.
If you want peace and quiet in this busy resort, request a room away from pools and other common areas. The resort is very popular with youth groups and teams participating in events at the nearby ESPN Wide World of Sports.
These rooms are small, and the decor is much like the decor in the other All-Star properties, with two double beds, spartan furniture, a smaller flat screen TV, a table and chairs, and a mini fridge.
YOU SHOULD KNOW There are no coffee makers in the rooms, and if you are looking for an early morning eye-opener before heading for the sports complex or the parks, it can be a substantial walk to the End Zone Food Court. Some coffee-loving guests have been known to run out to a store and buy an inexpensive coffee maker.
A single-sink vanity is separated from the toilet and bath by a door, and from the room by a curtain. The bath has a sports-card themed shower curtain, with images of Mickey, Donald, and other Disney characters in sports gear, looking a bit more menacing than normal.
The big open space is dominated by stars, and has some seating areas where you can wait while your party checks in. Kids enjoy the Disney animation films playing at a special seating area. The lobby can be busy, as this is a big resort, and will have people checking in and out, going to and from the food court, or shopping at kiosks selling memorabilia.
The two big, heated pools are popular spots in this resort. Giant surfboards circle the Surfboard Bay Pool area, near the main lobby. The kiddie pool is in this area. The Grand Slam Pool is circled by giant bats, as you'd expect, in the baseball themed section. Towels are provided, and lifeguards are often on duty.
No gym, but a jogging trail circles the resort for those who must get in their cardio.
As in the other All-Star Resorts, the dining is limited to a food court, The End Zone, where a full range of breakfast, lunch and dinner options are available. While much of fare is fast food, such a pizza and hamburgers, there are some vegetarian or healthy options--chicken, salmon--available. If you don't want to face the crowds in the End Zone, there's always Disney's pizza delivery.
Drinking is poolside at this resort, where frozen drinks, cocktails, beer and wine are available at Grandstand Spirits Pool Bar.
As a Disney on-property guest, the transportation system is yours to use as needed. Buses are the only part of the system that directly serve this distant resort (located in the farthest south edge of the property) and that can mean a long wait for often-full buses to get to the parks. A car or ride-sharing system is definitely more efficient, and since parking is free at the resort, and at the parks for Disney guests, having a car does not bring with it any excessive parking fees, as you might find in off-property lodgings. If your plans include a visit to Universal or SeaWorld, a car would definitely be necessary.
If and when you get tired of the food court's offering, there isn't much nearby except the Animal Kingdom Lodge (6-minute drive), where there are several restaurants to choose from. Boma, just off the spectacular main lobby of the Lodge, with its thatched, cathedral like roof and multi-story fireplace (worth a trip, even if you are not eating) offers an all-you-can eat buffet for breakfast or dinner, filled with flavors of Africa (and lots of plain old American fare, too). The servers come from many African countries and are delighted to share their culture and food knowledge. Disney Springs (20-minute drive) offers more than 50 eateries, including celebrity chef restaurants such as Morimoto's Asia, Rick Bayless' Frontera Cocina, and Planet Hollywood, where the burger and fries menu was designed by TV personality star Guy Fieri.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge (6-minute drive) has several sophisticated lounges, including Victoria Falls Lounge and Cape Town Lounge & Wine Bar, where guests can sample South African wines, in addition to spirits, beers, and cocktails. Disney Springs (20-minute drive) offers a wide range of libations, including craft beers at House of Blues, sake at Morimoto's Asia, Guinness and a wide range of ales at Kevin Dundan's Raglan Road, and Margaritas at Rick Bayless' Frontera Cocina.
WHY WE LIKE IT
The price is a bargain, despite the small rooms and often crowded conditions, mainly because it comes with many of the same perks that guests enjoy at the luxury on-property resorts: MagicBands, Magical Express to and from the airport, early entry and late departure from the parks, and more.