Disney’s Contemporary Resort? It’s the one with the monorail running through it. In this review of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, I’ll share details of a recent stay. Additionally, we’ll preview updated rooms, dining, recreation, and other amenities.
It’s no secret that Disney’s Contemporary Resort is one of the most iconic resorts at Disney World. Between having a major form of transportation running through the heart of the resort and being only ten minutes from the magic, there are plenty of reasons to consider staying here.
But is a stay here worth it for everyone? Probably not. Unfortunately, the resort is sort of a mixed bag regarding reviews.
Some people love the Contemporary and find themselves easily swayed by the nostalgia of the once-modern resort. Others complain that the Contemporary reminds them of an outdated and bland airport hotel.
I hope this review of the Contemporary will help you find clarity as to which of those groups you fall into. Then you can decide whether a stay here is right for your next Walt Disney World vacation.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort Review
History buffs probably already know that the Contemporary is an original (OG baby) resort that opened in 1971. Can you imagine staying in a hotel back then that had a monorail running through it?
I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t even alive. Nevertheless, it leads one to wonder what might have been if the same level of innovation had continued at such a fast rate.
In addition to the monorail, the resort exudes Disney’s history. From the minute you step foot into the lobby, you know that you are somewhere special.
Disney’s Contemporary is classified as a deluxe category resort. Deluxe resorts are considered top tier and offer amenities you won’t find at moderate or value category resorts.
Two separate resort areas comprise the Contemporary, the main tower, and Garden Wing. In addition, Bay Lay Tower, a Disney Vacation Club, resides next door.
Those resorts are connected by the Skyway Bridge, which sits on the fourth floor.
Guests of Bay Lake Tower have access to the amenities of Disney’s Contemporary Resort. However, Contemporary guests cannot access the pool and some of the other Disney Vacation Club amenities at Bay Lake Tower.
Related: Bay Lake Tower Review
Newly Refurbished Lobby at Disney Contemporary
The lobby of the Contemporary is usually a bustling area. It’s home to an abundance of seating areas for guests. Most are waiting for dining reservations at Steakhouse 71 or simply want a place to relax before the magic begins.
As you enter the lobby, you’ll notice a variety of different spaces. For example, the table with chairs in the picture below provides a great work environment.
Updates include a tribute to Mary Blair.
The new lobby is stunning. Before the renovation, it was a dull, monotone space. Now the lobby feels like a breath of fresh air with fun pops of color and a design that contributes to the resort’s overall theme.
Grand Canyon Concourse Floor
While the Contemporary’s ground floor does offer a formal lobby, the fourth floor is the central gathering space for the tower. It’s home to several dining options, gift shops, an arcade, a lounge, and an observation deck.
Formally, the fourth floor is referred to as the Grand Canyon Concourse. On this level, you’ll find the stunning ceramic mural designed by Disney legend Mary Blair. You can read more about the art piece here.
Here is a close-up of a section of the mural. It’s truly a remarkable piece.
Contemporary’s Grand Concourse is home to several dining locations, including the resort’s character dining restaurant and quick service.
Additionally, there are three gift shops located on the Concourse. The first of these is the BVG (Bay View Gifts).
Related: Bay View Gifts at the Contemporary
Bay View Gifts is a large store that carries the latest trends. Inside, you can usually find a great selection of Disney Dooney and Bourke bags, the latest Disney Loungefly backpacks, and Contemporary Resort branded merchandise.
Fantasia Market is located across the Concourse from Bay View Gifts. This shop offers mainly sundries and pantry items.
Fantasia Toy and Children’s Shop sits between the gift shop and the sundries store.
In front of the toy shop, there’s a large seating area. This area is rarely busy, and we have found it a great place to take a break and watch the monorails.
Or you can step outside onto the observation deck. The deck is a wonderful place to see the monorails enter and exit the resort.
You can also watch Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks from this spot. Several speakers are installed in the area that relays the audio.
The Game Station is also located on the Grand Concourse. Like many of the resorts at Disney, the Contemporary has a large arcade.
Here is a look inside. Arcades are a fun place to explore on a rainy. You might also spend some time here on an arrival or departure day when you have a little spare time to kill.
Lastly, the Grand Concourse is where you’ll enter the line for the monorail. In the center of the floor, there’s a security checkpoint. You’ll head through security and board an escalator up to the monorail’s loading area.
If you are anything like me, you probably like to enjoy a few good meals while on vacation. Luckily, the Contemporary has several excellent options when it comes to dining.
- California Grill
- Steakhouse 71 (formerly The Wave)
- Chef Mickey’s
- Contempo Cafe
- Outer Rim
- The Sand Bar
- The Cove Bar
We’ll start with California Grill, which is among my top choices for signature dining at Disney World. The modern restaurant resides on the resort’s top floor and is open for dinner every evening.
California Grill usually serves a wide range of California-inspired cuisine. However, it’s popularly most known for having a seasonal menu with staple items like Sonoma goat cheese ravioli, sushi, and entrees.
Unfortunately, at this time, the resort is offering a special prix fixe menu to celebrate Disney World’s 50th anniversary. So the regular menu is not available.
Between the food, scenic views of the Magic Kingdom, and the opportunity to return and see the fireworks from the rooftop deck, the experience at California Grill is unparallel.
Our next stop at the Contemporary is Steakhouse 71, formerly The Wave. Steakhouse 71 serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s located off the resort’s main lobby on the first floor.
In addition to the restaurant, Steakhouse 71 has a separate bar and lounge area on the right side of the restaurant. Often, the lounge takes walk-ups based on availability.
When Steakhouse 71 first opened, we stopped in for breakfast one morning. It was a delicious meal and the perfect way to start the day before heading to the theme parks.
On our recent stay, we ordered breakfast to-go several mornings. Then we’d pick up our meal, take it back upstairs, and enjoy it on the Grand Concourse or in our room.
Related: Steakhouse 71 Breakfast Review
Next, we have Chef Mickey’s, one of the resort’s table service dining locations. Unfortunately, Chef Mickey’s is one of the few Disney character dining experiences I do not recommend.
Yes, the location is trendy because of the characters and the monorail coming overhead. However, the food has a reputation for being mediocre.
You can do much better meeting Mickey and friends at the character breakfast at Topolino’s Terrace, located at Disney’s Riviera Resort. That meal has excellent entrees with accompaniments and is overall far more enjoyable.
If you want to enjoy a meal with the monorail gliding overhead, do it at Contempo Cafe, the resort’s primary counter service.
We love to eat at Contempo Cafe. Often we will opt to walk over from the Magic Kingdom to have a late lunch or early dinner here. It’s a nice break from the crowds during the day.
Here is a breakfast sandwich I ordered from Contempo Cafe on my last stay. You can tell from the photo it was a yummy cheesy option.
Related: Contempo Cafe Review
Additionally, Outer Rim is located on the Contemporary’s fourth floor, adjacent to the other dining options. Unfortunately, Outer Rim is a pretty generic bar.
If you want something a little more custom, pick up a cocktail from the lounge at Steakhouse 71 or see if there’s any room at the bar at California Grill.
Guests can also pick up beverages and counter service items at the resort’s pool bar, The Sand Bar. It’s located near the Feature Pool.
Lastly, Contemporary Grounds, a coffee bar off the lobby, is open daily from 6:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. You can order a custom art latte at this location.
For more details about dining options at the Contemporary, we have a restaurant guide for the resort.
Additionally, you’ll find many other restaurants at the surrounding resorts. Most are only a monorail or boat ride away. They include:
In my opinion, the best thing that Disney’s Contemporary Resort has going for it is its tremendous backyard. I have difficulty describing the more-than-ample space.
It feels like part of an immense refuge with wide, open spaces and a variety of landscaping. You’ll find tropical palm trees, a sandy beach that has a volleyball court, and places to lounge almost everywhere you look.
Disney’s Contemporary has two pools. One is the Feature Pool, which has a 17′ curvy water slide.
Behind the Feature Pool is the Bay Lake Pool. Looking out toward the pool gives the illusion that it’s floating out on the lake. This pool is considered a quiet pool, and you can’t beat the stunning view of the lake from the pool deck.
Back at the Feature Pool, there’s a children’s water play area.
Additionally, two hot tubs are available around the pool area.
Related: Best Resort Pools at Disney World
Private cabanas are available at both of the pools at the Contemporary. If interested, you’ll want to reserve them at the 60-day out mark.
Related: Cabana Rentals at Disney World
Additionally, the Contemporary has nightly Movies Under the Stars on the resort’s back lawn. In the event of bad weather, movies are held inside on the 2nd floor. A recreation calendar with the schedule is posted in the hotel’s lobby.
If you plan a full resort day during your vacation, I recommend doing one of these movie nights. They are delightful.
Moving on, the Olympiad Fitness Center is available to guests of both Disney’s Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower. The gym is located on the third floor and provides a variety of equipment and weights.
Related: Fitness Centers at Disney World
Personally, I enjoy getting a jog in when I visit the Contemporary Resort. You just can’t beat the views of Bay Lake in the distance, especially at sunset.
They do have a bit of an odd jogging trail. However, it’s pretty well-marked. Just follow the blue Mickey signs to stay on the path.
Related: Disney World Jogging Trails
If you have read my review of the Contemporary’s Garden Wing, you might remember how I got in a pleasant jog on the 4th of July, right before the Magic Kingdom fireworks.
And then we watched the fireworks from the resort and ordered room service! A Star Wars marathon was on TV. Can you imagine having a better time than that?
Other recreation items include motorized boat rentals and fishing excursions. They are available to reserve in advance at the Boat Nook Marina.
A basketball and tennis court is available to all resort guests. It sits on the Bay Lake Tower side of the resort. However, you will need to rent a racquet and balls for either sport from Community Hall inside Bay Lake Tower.
Usually, you’ll find a few games out around the boat rental area. This area is relatively private and somewhat shaded. Sometimes, I enjoy ordering a meal to-go and bringing it out here.
Other Amenities at Disney’s Contemporary
One of the nicest amenities available to guests of the Contemporary Resort is the option to view Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks. There are several spaces you can view fireworks, but most will gather on the fourth-floor observation deck.
Also, Disney’s Electrical Water Pageant passes by the resort nightly. You can see the performance from the Contemporary’s Beach.
Like the other resorts in the area, the Contemporary has multiple transportation options. Most will enjoy the walk over to Magic Kingdom. It takes approximately 10 minutes to walk to the park from the resort.
If you want to avoid the extra steps, guests can take the resort monorail to Magic Kingdom. There will be a few additional stops going to the park. However, the Contemporary will be the first stop when you leave later in the day.
Contemporary’s monorail station is accessible via the fourth floor of the resort. From there, you will go through security and take either the escalator or elevator up to the monorail.
Guests traveling to Epcot will take the resort monorail to the Transportation and Ticket Center. There you will board a separate monorail to Epcot. Then, in the evening, you’ll return the same way to the Contemporary.
Related: Disney Monorail Transportation Guide
Buses run from the Contemporary to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Disney Springs, and Disney’s Water Parks.
Lastly, the Contemporary
has had a resort boat launch that travels in a triangular pattern between Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness. Unfortunately, watercraft transportation at the resort remains unavailable.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort is an A-frame structure with a modern design. Originally, the rooms were pre-constructed and inserted into the frame when the hotel was built.
It’s pretty cool that the hotel was built in this manner. Imagine each room being lifted off the ground by a crane and tucked into its appropriate compartment. Talk about Imagineering!
Since I originally wrote this review of the Contemporary, the resort has undergone a lengthy room refurbishment. Regarding the refurbishment, all the rooms are now completed.
Since the Contemporary Resort is made up of two buildings, each one offers a variety of room types. The main building is referred to as the tower. Here are the different guest rooms:
- Main Tower Standard Room (Bay Lake View)
- Main Tower Standard Room (Theme Park View)
- One-Bedroom (Bay Lake or Theme Park View)
- Two-Bedroom (Bay Lake or Theme Park View)
- Presidential Suite (Theme Park View)
- Atrium Club Level (Standard, Theme Park View, Standard King)
- Tower Club Level (Bay Lake or Theme Park View)
The second area is the Garden Wing which consists of these rooms:
- Standard View
- Garden View
- One King Bed Garden View
- One Bedroom Suite
- Hospitality Suite
Most standard rooms come with two queen beds and one futon-style bed. They can accommodate up to five guests.
Here is a look at the newly updated guest bath, which added a nice amount of counter space. However, since this isn’t a split bath, it’s difficult for multiple guests to get ready simultaneously.
Pros and Cons of Staying at Disney’s Contemporary
When we started this review, I mentioned that there were typically two sets of opinions about the Contemporary. Suffice it to say most guests either love it or hate it.
As far as the pros and cons go, there are a few to consider when staying here. First, the ultimate plus is the proximity to Magic Kingdom.
Walking back to your room is always the easiest way to beat the crowds at the end of a long day in the parks. If you’ve ever left after the fireworks, you can completely understand.
But if not, you’re probably in for a rude awakening. If I’m not staying within walking distance, I wait at least 30 minutes after the fireworks are over before attempting to take on the masses.
On the con side, visiting Epcot from the Contemporary can take a while. First, you must take the monorail to the Transportation and Ticket Center. Then you have to reload at another station to get to Epcot.
While I enjoy taking this route, it can easily take a good 30-45 minutes to get to Epcot from the Contemporary. And leaving the park is similar to leaving Magic Kingdom at the end of the night. Only this time, you’ll have to face those long lines for the monorail.
Most of the Contemporary has been refurbished on the positive side of things. So expect tremendous changes in the hotel lobby, rooms, and Steakhouse 71.
Unfortunately, you won’t see too many changes on the Grand Concourse. But I’m not sure they’re warranted. So my best advice is not to expect an ultra-modern look, or you’ll be disappointed.
Perhaps, the Contemporary’s best aspect is the ample outdoor space that backs up to Bay Lake. Everything looks out to the scenic water views. It’s one of the most pleasant areas on the property.
However, many guests see the pools as boring with no themed extras. In comparison to a resort like the Beach Club, there is a big difference.
So if you are comparing what you pay for at the pool, you’ll always see a discrepancy. On the flip side, not everybody wants or needs a pool with all the bells and whistles. Some will prefer the simplicity of the pool at Disney’s Contemporary.
Final Thoughts on Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Staying at Disney’s Contemporary Resort is a bucket list item for many guests. Between the design, artwork, location, and dining, the resort has so much going for it.
And then there’s the monorail. It’s truly a unique form of transportation.
However, I think the biggest positive is being able to escape the crowds at Magic Kingdom quickly. Imagine being in a group of about 10,000 people deep. A short walk back to the tranquil grounds of the Contemporary will be all the remedy you need.
I hope this review of Disney’s Contemporary Resort helped give you an overall idea of whether a stay here was suitable for your group. If you visit Disney fairly often, I think the Contemporary definitely warrants a stay at least once.
For more details about the resort, we have a complete guide:
And for those of you considering other resorts, you might like to browse our list of Disney World Resort Reviews.
Here are a few of our top choices:
- Disney’s Beach Club Review
- Disney’s Riviera Resort Review
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Review
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Review
In the Comments
What are your thoughts on this review of Disney’s Contemporary Resort? Have you spent any time here? Leave your thoughts or any questions below. I’ll be happy to respond based on our experiences.