By: Amy Kawa
After Dreamer Adam reviewed two Disney resorts, I figured I should get on the bandwagon. In honor of his review of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (you can read about that one here and Disney’s Port Orleans Resort here), I will pay homage to the second of the original two resorts built on Disney property, Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
The resort opened to guests on October 1, 1971, the day that the Magic Kingdom first
opened its doors to guests. The construction of The Contemporary itself is truly a modern marvel. The first piece of the resort built was a central elevator shaft, and then 13 steel A-frames were built around it, forming the Contemporary’s 150-foot skeleton. You’d think the next step would be to build the rooms inside the A-frame, right? WRONG! Disney built each guest room as a separate unit at a location away from the A-frame’s construction zone, at a rate of around 40 rooms per week. Each room was assembled guest-ready and was then picked up with a crane and slid into place within the A-frame. HOW COOL IS THAT?
Everything about this resort is indeed futuristic, or dare I say… “contemporary!”
In 2005, 34 years after it opened its doors, Disney embarked on a four-year refurbishment of The Contemporary Resort. The 14-story Grand Canyon Concourse, which features shops, dining, and views of the monorail going right through the resort, was updated with new options, the lobby was brought up-to-date with today’s technology, and the guest rooms were also updated to have a contemporary look for the 21st century.
Today, you’ll find a beautiful lobby where you begin your check-in process (notice the amazing smell that’s a mixture of the Contemporary Grounds coffee shop and men’s cologne.). You will also find the sliding doors to the Contemporary’s extensive number of conference centers, as the resort is one of the main drawers of business conferences on property. Take the elevators up to the fourth floor and the Grand Canyon Concourse and you feel like you’re in the middle of all the action. You’ll find three shops, a quick service and character dining option, a lounge, the arcade, and don’t forget to look up as the monorail “whooshes” by overhead (you can catch at the monorail station on the third floor). Guest rooms can be found on floors 5-11 (floors 12 and 14 are reserved for club level rooms). There are additional guest rooms in an annex to the main tower, known as the Garden Wing, which come at a lower price tag.
There are a lot of choices when it comes to room types at this resort. Your decision will come down to a few factors, which include your party size, view preference, and how much money you’re willing to dole out. All rooms sleep up to 5 adults, except the rooms on the 14th floor club level, which can sleep up to 8 comfortably.
The standard rooms options are:
- Garden Wing- Standard View
- Garden Wing- Garden View
- Garden Wing- Deluxe Room
- Tower- Bay Lake View
- Tower- Theme Park View
Depending on the time of year that you are staying at The Contemporary, the room rates can be $470 for a Garden Wing room and $780 for a Tower room with a theme park view. Certainly, not for the faint of fiscal heart.
The room options on the Concierge/Club Level are:
- Standard Room- Atrium Club Level
- Theme Park View- Atrium Club Level
- Garden Wing- 1-Bedroom Suite
- Garden Wing- Hospitality Suite
- Bay Lake View- 2-Bedroom Suite
- Bay Lake View- 1-Bedroom Suite
Club Level obviously comes with a much heftier price tag than the standard rooms (yes, that’s possible!), from around $1,000 a night to $2,500 for the Bay Lake View suites. You are afforded some amenities for that extra cash, like:
- Evening turndown
- Secured key access to the club-level lounge, serving refreshments 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily
- Complimentary fax assistance
- Access to Concierge service at the Atrium Club or Tower Club
- Complimentary health club access
- Complimentary newspapers in Club Level lounge
- Personalized Front Desk and Guest Services
- Secure key access to floors 12 and 14 via the elevators
We have stayed in the Tower rooms with both the theme park view and the Bay Lake view, the Club Level with a standard room, and have been #BLESSED to be upgraded to a Bay Lake View- 2-Bedroom Suite (more information to come).
The décor is marvelous in each room, streamlined and modern in every sense of the words. Two queen beds and a pull-out sleeper sofa are the norm, along with a chest of drawers and small closet in the foyer, a desk/table area with a desk chair, a nightstand, and flat-screen BIG TV fill out the rest of the room. The lighting features are also pretty cool in the rooms, with above-head, dimmer reading lights and a cool light fixture/wall thingy that glows beneath the TV. Each room is also equipped with an amazing balcony for you to look out onto either Bay Lake, where you can view the Electrical Water pageant nightly and pool area or Magic Kingdom, depending on which view you choose.
The bathrooms are also amazing. Beautiful, double white, flat, square sinks take up most of the bathroom counter space, and a tub/shower combo fill out one area of the bathroom. A separate toilet area fills out the bathroom.
When it comes time to eat, this resort has several options, which include a good mix of table service, quick service, and lounge options.
- California Grill (SD)- The Contemporary’s signature dining spot, the California Grill is legendary among Disney diners. On the top floor of the Contemporary, this restaurant offers breathtaking views of the Magic Kingdom, especially of the nightly fireworks, where the lights are dimmed and the restaurant comes to life in vibrant colors. Serving brunch on Sundays and dinner daily with a menu inspired by California cooking, the California Grill is undoubtedly pricey but offers some of the best food in Walt Disney World and is worth the splurge.
15th floor; check-in on 2nd floor
- Chef Mickey’s (TS, CD)- The quintessential character meal, Chef Mickey’s is the only
character meal on property where you can meet the “Fab 5” all at once. Breakfast, brunch (aka lunch), and dinner are offered, served buffet style, and there is really anything you could want to eat. If you’re looking to book a character meal for the first time, Chef Mickey’s is the go-to option.
4th floor- Grand Canyon Concourse
- The Wave… of American Flavors (TS)- Another table service option, The Wave offers more of an adult setting, but still has kid-friendly options. It is much quieter and isn’t as crowded as its amazing food should signal. Also serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, The Wave offers some healthier options and a delicious breakfast buffet that won’t hurt your wallet as much as other buffets on property.
The Wave also offers a beautifully chic lounge if you’d rather just grab a cocktail.
- Contempo Café (QS)- The Contemporary’s only true quick service option, the Contempo Café is a great one! It has seen its fair share of menu changes over its existence, but with each incarnation, there are delicious options to be had. This spot serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and is known for its amazing cupcakes crafted by the Contemporary Resort’s pastry team. They also have a handy grab-and-go section, where you can get fruits, salads, chips, bottled beverages, Mickey Bars, and other snacks.
- Contemporary Grounds– This coffee shop serves up lattes, cold brews, and hot cups of joe along with pastries for the guests and conventioneers who are on-the-go.
- Outer Rim (L)- Your standard bar with great views of Bay Lake.
- The Sand Bar (QS)- Grab a quick bite or a drink at this pool bar.
- Disney Resort Room Service is also available
When it comes to swimming options, there are two main pools The Contemporary claims as its own. The “Feature Pool” has fountains, a hot tub in the middle of it, and a winding water slide. The Bay Lake Pool is more or less the “quiet pool,” where loud noises and any sort of ruckus are discouraged. This pool rests on the shores of Bay Lake, beach-side, and is perfectly circular, getting deeper the further into the middle of the circle you go.
A splash pad is nearby with water spouts and soft, cushy padding for the kids (and kids at heart) to enjoy.
Other recreational activities include movies under the stars, boat rentals, campfire activities, fishing, beach volleyball, a jogging trail, tennis, specialty cruises, the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage, and yoga.
Transportation around the Walt Disney World Resort is part of the fun of staying on property!
- Bus transportation:
- To Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach, Disney Springs, and Typhoon Lagoon
- Monorail transportation:
- To Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Transportation and Ticket Center, Polynesian Village Resort, and Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (2 other hotels at your grasp!)
- To get to the Magic Kingdom, board the monorail on the 3rd floor of The Contemporary. You will stop at the Transportation and Ticket Center, Polynesian Village Resort, and Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, but stay on the monorail until you get to the Magic Kingdom stop.
- To get to Epcot, board the monorail on the 3rd floor of The Contemporary. At the first stop, the Transportation and Ticket Center, get off the monorail and follow the signs to board the Epcot monorail. This monorail will take you right to the entrance to the park.
- To Magic Kingdom
- Only a 10-minute walk separates you from the Magic Kingdom.
As a little kid, we would sit in the Contemporary, waiting for our reservations for Chef Mickey’s. As we would sit there, all I could think about was wanting to stay so badly in this fancy shmancy hotel that smelled like Mickey waffles. For some reason, whenever someone says Walt Disney World, the first thing I think about isn’t Cinderella Castle or Tower of Terror – it’s the Contemporary. For as long as I can remember, the Contemporary was home.
My dream to stay at this resort finally came true in 2010, and since that day, we have always spent at least half of our family vacation at The Contemporary. It feels like a victory on so many levels, as my parents have worked extremely hard to get us into such a fancy shmancy place. I shed a tear every time we check into this amazing resort, and I hope you will also appreciate ALL it has to offer. Stand in the Grand Canyon Concourse and look up as the monorail passes by overhead, swing your napkin with Chef Mickey, and say goodnight to the Magic Kingdom each night from your balcony. The Contemporary Resort is a microcosm of all the best Walt Disney World has to offer and lets you bring the magic of the parks “home” with you.
The Contemporary Resort will ALWAYS be my favorite resort, and I hope you enjoy it too!