Disney resorts offer variety of style choices

TWcrossroads associate editor Rebecca Tobin is on-site at Walt Disney World, attending the 100 Years of Magic birthday celebration.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- TWcrossroads got a sneak peek at Pop Century Resort, a Disney soon-to-be value hotel where guests can hang out at the "Hippy-Dippy" flower-powered swimming pool.

The theme is pop culture in the 20th century, and it's a crazy, energetic nostalgia trip through all the favorite eras: Bobby sox, lava lamps and laptops.

Pop Century was scheduled to open its "Classic" side -- that's the rooms themed around the second half of the century -- in March 2002. The opening date is now postponed due to next year's uncertain visitor demand. The Legendary Years buildings, which pay tribute to early 20th century trends, are still in the early stages.

But plenty of details already are in place, such as four-story tall cutouts depicting the dance crazes of the decade grafted onto the outside walls; bowling balls and yo-yos for outside stairwells; popular slang phrases mounted on the roofs, and lots of bright yellow, green and blue paint, in a psychedelic explosion of color.

Each decade representation gets its own block of rooms and its own cultural nostalgia.

The interiors are what future general manager Rick Allen called "70% Armani, 30% pure fun," which means they're more subdued and sophisticated than the outside designs.

The 5,760 rooms aren't large, but they will be finished in light, simple designs. The resort will have two pools and a large food court. There also will be a bar and lounge. Oh, and a gigantic jukebox in the 1950's area.

"It's a nostalgic memory piece. And it's always something different that catches your eye," Allen said. "We're going to play off that a lot. It's going to be a fun place to stay."

Value resort rates like Pop Century (and the All-Star resorts) start around $77 per night.

With the addition of Pop Century the total number of Walt Disney World resorts will creep up to 17 -- so no one can complain there aren't enough unique properties in different price levels.

In usual Disney fashion, everyone's got their personal favorite. And to each his own: I love Disney's Contemporary Resort for it's kitchy atomic-age decor, but my mother won't stay anywhere but the Polynesian Resort.

Several people at the 100 Years of Magic event professed the Wilderness Lodge to be the ultimate in Disney accommodations.

But, Disney's newest luxury property is Animal Kingdom Lodge, which opened in April.

The Animal Kingdom Lodge lobby is similar to the Wilderness Lodge (must be a "lodge theme"), and it's just as breathtaking. Within a few steps, the lobby opens up into a four-story atrium of rustic-looking dark wood and African accents.

At the end of the lobby is a floor-to-ceiling window looks out over the "Savannah Reserve," a protected wildlife area that surrounds most of the hotel.

There are 1,213 rooms and suites on property. Like Wilderness Lodge, the double rooms are small, although they're richly appointed with heavy "hand-carved" furniture, colorful bed-prints and African-themed art. The room has a folded crib in the closet, although the room is so small it's hard to tell where you could put it.

If the room faces one of the Savannah areas, the best part is, of course, the balcony, where you can sit and watch zebra, giraffe and other assorted beasts graze 30 feet from your bedroom. The hotel provides a wildlife guide so you can tell the difference between bongo and blesbok antelopes.

If your room faces the pool or the parking lot you can still see the Savannah from one of the many viewing points around the hotel. Disney folks are often on hand to talk to kids -- and adults -- about the resorts' non-human residents.

As part of the check-in, guests agree not to feed the animals or throw things into the Savannah. It sounded like a joke -- until I got to my room and realized how close the animals are to the hotel. Cameras monitor the balconies, and any guests disturbing the wildlife are asked to leave the resort.

Animal Kingdom Lodge has two restaurants: Boma, a more casual eatery, and Jiko, a formal restaurant with a focus on Mediterranean and African cuisine. Both restaurants are good, but Jiko was outstanding, with an interesting selection of food and a lengthy list of African wines.

I'd recommend coming all the way out to the lodge just for the combination of Jiko and Savannah experiences.

Animal Kingdom Lodge rates run between $199 and $510.

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For previous installments of Rebecca's reports from Disney's 100 Years of Magic birthday celebration, click a link below:
Disney in December gets guests in the spirit
Disney celebration includes 'One Man's Dream'

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