An on-site stay at the Walt Disney World Resort has always been desirable, but this option only became widely affordable in 1994, when the All-Star Sports Resort opened its doors to budget-conscious guests seeking the full Disney experience. “Sports” was the first of three All-Star hotels that eventually united to form a mega-complex offering more reasonably priced accommodations for Walt Disney World guests looking to stay a little closer to the heart of the magic.
Walt Disney World Resort hotels are generally categorized into three tiers: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. The addition of the Art of Animation in 2012 introduced a fourth category - Value Plus. The Value level consists of the All-Star Sports, Movies, and Music, as well as Pop Century (added in 2003). As the classification implies, the most obvious distinguishing factor in the resort levels is the price. While this is often a deciding factor for many guests, there are other notable differences between the Value level and the Moderates and Deluxes. Depending on your goals and expectations for your Walt Disney World stay, you may find that the splurge on a higher-end resort is well worth it.
All Disney resort hotels offer certain perks such as: Extra Magic Hours access, Disney’s Magical Express airport transport, unlimited free use of the on-site Disney transportation system, and package delivery - but not all Disney resorts are created equal. How do the All-Star resorts measure up?
1. General resort appearance
When it comes to comparing the resorts by outward appearance, it really is an “apples to oranges” scenario. There is no denying that all Disney resorts are brilliantly themed and over-the-top, but preferences in this area are personal, and based on your own taste. Some guests find the All-Stars to be a bit overwhelming. A 35 foot tall Buzz Lightyear may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but imagine this in the eyes of the younger guests!
Each All-Star resort consists of ten buildings, representing five themes. The rectangular block buildings are motel-style, with open, exterior hallways. Vibrantly colored overlays line the buildings, displaying the theme of each, with larger-than-life icons marking the centers and ends. Pathways, light fixtures, and ambient tunes transform with each theme evolution, demonstrating the attention to detail that Disney guests have become accustomed to. The All-Stars are every bit as appealing as any Disney resort when it comes to general outward appearance. In this category, it really is a matter of opinion and individual taste. If you are a beach-loving couple with no kids, Polynesian Village, Beach Club, or Coronado Springs may be to your liking, but a family with young children would probably enjoy the All-Stars just as much, if not more.
2. Guest rooms
Combined, the All-Star resort trio boasts more than 5,000 guest rooms. The standard room sleeps four. It is 260 sq ft, containing two double beds or one king. All-Star Music is the only one of the three that offers the Family Suite, nearly doubled in size from the standard, for up to six guests, with two buildings dedicated to these larger accommodations. The Moderate-level resorts are larger than the All-Star standard by about 65 sq ft, on average. For a better idea of how this difference actually looks, see this brilliant visual from Touring Plans.
Walls between All-Star rooms are notoriously thin. Beds, linens, and electronics are a step down in quality as well. Overall, the standard All-Star room is comparable to that of any nationwide budget chain. General upkeep is not as rigid as the Moderate and Deluxe level resorts. While many Disney touches are present (including “hidden Mickeys”), the decor doesn’t go that extra mile. Considering the extensive exterior detailing, the interiors are quite an unexpected disappointment. Whenever possible, the upgrade to the family suite is well worth it, with a separate bedroom and kitchenette. This will go a long way toward making an All-Star stay more comfortable and practical.
3. Dining options
Some of the best dining options at Walt Disney World are located in the hotels, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find appealing meals at the All-Star resorts. There are no table service or in-room dining options at the All-Stars - unless you consider pizza delivery.
Each All-Star resort has a walk-up food court in the main lobby building. The food courts have grown to offer a much better selection than they used to, but it is still a limited selection. Seating areas are open, but often a bit chaotic.
There are also no indoor lounges or bars at the All-Stars. Each has only a poolside bar with limited snack options.