Disney’s Contemporary Resort Review

Disney’s Contemporary Resort is one of the most iconic resorts at Disney World. Of course, it’s the resort with the monorail running through it. How cool is that?

Additionally, the Contemporary is home to one of our favorite restaurants, the California Grill. And many of the rooms offer scenic views of Magic Kingdom Park or Bay Lake.

But perhaps, the best thing about staying here is that Magic Kingdom is only a hop, skip, and a jump away. You can walk out of your resort and be at the most magical place on earth in ten minutes!

In this review of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, we’ll cover the resort in its entirety. This review will provide specifics for planning a stay here, including dining, recreation, amenity, rooms, and transportation.

This review was last updated on January 19, 2022.

Disney’s Contemporary Resort Review

Disney’s Contemporary Resort is a recognizable structure on Walt Disney World property. This original 1971 resort was designed with innovative architecture that enhanced transportation options available to guests.

If you have ever visited the Walt Disney World Resort, you have more than likely ridden through the Contemporary on your way to Magic Kingdom. The monorail shuffles thousands through the resort daily as it transports guests to and from the theme park.

In addition to the monorail, the resort exudes Disney history. From the minute you step foot into the lobby, you know that you are somewhere special.

And if you have visited the Contemporary in the past, you’re in for a surprise. In honor of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, the resort underwent a complete refurbishment. And the results are stellar!

Related: Disney World Resort Refurbishment Schedule

Disney’s Contemporary falls under the Disney deluxe resort category. The deluxe resorts are considered top tier and offer amenities you won’t find at moderate or value category resorts.

The Contemporary is made up of the main tower, garden wing, and a separate Disney Vacation Club Resort resides next door. Bay Lake Tower, the DVC Resort, is connected to the Contemporary by a bridge.

The Skyway Bridge is positioned on the fourth floor between the two resorts. Guests of Bay Lake Tower have access to all of the amenities of Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Related: Bay Lake Tower Review

Lobby

The lobby of the Contemporary is usually a bustling area. It’s home to an abundance of seating for guests that 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, this table with chairs in the picture below provides a great area to work. We’ve recently seen a similar setup at Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs.

Related: Gran Destino Tower Review

It’s nice to have a few places like this if you arrive early and need to get some work done or have a late flight out.

The new lobby updates include a tribute to Mary Blair. We’ll take a closer look at her art contribution to the Contemporary below.

The new lobby turned out stunning. Before the renovation, it was a dull monotone space.

Now it’s a breath of fresh air with fun pops of color and a design that contributes to the overall theme of the resort. It feels like a hip space where you’ll want to spend a little time.

Grand Canyon Concourse

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.

The fourth floor is formally known as the Grand Canyon Concourse. This floor is where you’ll find the stunning ceramic mural designed by the 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.

Additionally, the Concourse is home to Chef Mickey’s, the resort’s character dining location, and Contempo Cafe, the quick-service.

Related: 2022 Character Dining at Disney World

Opposite this dining area sits the resort’s lounge, Outer Rim.

Additionally, there are three gift shops located on the Concourse. The first of these is the BVG short for Bay View Gifts.

The BVG is a large store that carries the latest trends. The gift shop usually has a great selection of mugs, Disney Dooney and Bourke bags, and the latest Disney Loungefly backpacks.

We recently provided a large photo post of all the available merchandise.

Related: Bay View Gifts at the Contemporary

Fantasia Market is located across the Concourse from Bay View Gifts. This shop offers mainly sundries and pantry items.

And Fantasia is a large toy shop that sits in the middle of the concourse between the two shops.

In front of this space, there’s a large seating area. This area is rarely busy, and we have found it’s a great place to take a break and watch the monorails come through.

Or you can step outside onto the observation deck. This is a wonderful place to see the monorails enter and exit the resort. Not only that, you can watch Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks from this spot. There are speakers installed in the area that relay the audio.

The Game Station is also located on the resort’s fourth floor. Like many of the resorts at Disney, the Contemporary has a large arcade.

Here is a look inside. Arcades are usually a great stop when exploring the resorts on a rainy or maybe 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 then board an escalator up to the monorail’s loading area.

Dining

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. This restaurant usually is my top choice for signature dining at Disney World. The modern restaurant resides on the resort’s top floor and is open for dinner every evening.

Related: Disney’s California Grill Dinner Review

This location serves a wide range of California-inspired cuisine. It’s popularly known for having a seasonal menu with staple items like Sonoma goat cheese ravioli, sushi, and entrees.

However, 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.

Related: California Grill’s 50th Anniversary Dinner Review

Between the food, scenic views of the Magic Kingdom, and the opportunity to return for fireworks (when available), the experience is unparallel to most other restaurants.

Our next stop at the Contemporary is Steakhouse 71, formerly The Wave. Steakhouse 71 serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is located off the resort’s main lobby on the first floor.

In addition, there’s a bar and lounge area located on the right side of the restaurant. The lounge takes walk-ups if there aren’t any reservations available.

We recently stopped in for breakfast at the Contemporary’s newest restaurant.

It was delicious, and I recommend planning a meal here one morning before you head to the parks.

Related: Steakhouse 71 Breakfast Review

While we already went over which restaurants are located on the Grand Canyon Concourse, I’ll summarize your options below in more detail.

Chef Mickey’s is one of the few Disney character dining experiences that I do not recommend. The location is trendy because of the characters and the monorail coming by 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. That meal has excellent entrees with accompaniments and is overall far more enjoyable.

If you really want to enjoy a meal with the monorail gliding by ahead, do it at Contempo Cafe. It’s the Contemporary’s counter service location.

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.

Additionally, Outer Rim is located on the Contemporary’s fourth floor, adjacent to the other dining options. Outer Rim is a reasonably generic bar and lounge area that reminds me of an airport more than anything.

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.

Additionally, guests can pick up beverages and counter service items at either of the resort’s pool bars. They are the Sand Bar and Cove Bar.

Lastly, Contemporary Grounds, a coffee bar off the lobby, is open daily from 6:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

For more details about dining options at the Contemporary, make sure to read over our restaurant guide for the resort.

Related: Contemporary Resort Restaurants

Additionally, you’ll find a multitude of other restaurants at the surrounding resorts. Most are only a monorail or boat ride away. They include:

Recreation

In my opinion, the best thing that Disney’s Contemporary Resort has going for it is its tremendous backyard. The ample space is difficult to describe. 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.

The resort offers two pools for guests to take advantage of during their stay. Its feature pool is called The Main Pool and has a 17-foot high curvy water slide.

Related: Disney World Resorts with Water Slides

A children’s water play area sits adjacent to the pool. In addition, two hot tubs are available around the pool area.

Behind the feature pool is the Bay Lake pool. If you look out toward the pool, it 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.

Related: Best Pools at Disney World

There are usually a few private cabanas for rent if you decide to spend an entire day out here. I have a feeling you won’t regret it.

Related: Cabana Rentals at Disney World

Additionally, the Contemporary participates in the Movies Under the Stars program. That’s where they show nightly movies on the back lawn. You’ll need to pick up a recreation calendar at the front desk to get an idea of what’s playing during your stay.

If you plan a full resort day during your vacation, I highly 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 running when I visit the Contemporary Resort. They do have a bit of an odd jogging trail. However, it’s pretty well marked to keep you going in the right direction. You just can’t beat the views of Bay Lake in the distance, especially at sunset.

If you have ever read my review of the Contemporary’s Garden Wing, you might remember how I got in a pleasant jog on the 4th of July holiday, 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?

Related: Disney World Jogging Trails

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 on the Bay Lake Tower side of the resort. However, you will need to rent a racquet and balls for either sport from the Community Hall inside the resort.

You might notice quite a few table games out in the extensive leisure area in the picture below. I love to grab a bite to eat and bring it out here sometimes. It’s a nice, private area.

I think this highlights one of the unexpected things you’ll find at the resort. Isn’t it funny to think about having this huge outdoor space entirely to yourself when there are massive crowds almost literally within your view?

Amenity

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.

The audio for the fireworks is streamed on nearby speakers. So while you don’t see all of the castle projection effects, you still feel like part of the show.

Those that dine at California Grill can watch the fireworks from their rooftop deck. If you have a dinner reservation before the fireworks, you can return with your receipt on the same evening to enjoy the performance.

Disney’s Electrical Water Pageant passes by the resort nightly. It can be seen from the Contemporary’s beach as it heads toward the Wilderness Lodge on its route.

In the past, the Contemporary Resort offered a nightly Pirates and Pals Fireworks Cruise. This is an extra cost item where you enjoy a dessert party in one of the resort’s large ballrooms.

During the evening, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee would make an appearance. They would escort you on a voyage across Seven Seas Lagoon for a unique water view of the nightly fireworks. A surprise character meet awaits you when you get back to the boat dock at the end of the evening.

Reservations needed to be booked in advance. We did Pirates and Pals when my son was around 11-12 years old and enjoyed the experience.

I felt like he was at the appropriate age. The target age is probably between 5-13 years old. The best tip I can give you is not to plan a full day before the party.

And it’s not a bad idea to take a nap that afternoon so you’ll be able to enjoy the experience fully. A ton of desserts followed by a late evening boat ride can lead to very sleepy children, not to mention parents.

Hopefully, this event will return in the future. However, as of this last update, there is no word on whether or not it will return.

Transportation

Like the other resorts in the area, the Contemporary has superb transportation options. Walking is the preferred and fastest method for visiting Magic Kingdom Park. It’s approximately a 10-minute walk over to the theme park.

If you want to avoid the extra steps, guests can take the resort monorail around to Magic Kingdom. It will be a few additional stops going to the park, but the Contemporary will be the first stop when you leave later in the day.

The resort 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 line for the monorail.

Related: Disney Monorail Transportation Guide

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.

Additionally, buses run from the Contemporary to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Disney Springs, and the Disney Water Parks.

Related: Blizzard Beach Water Park Guide

Lastly, the Contemporary has a resort boat launch that travels in a triangular pattern between Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness. You will need to check with the resort to see if this service is available during your visit.

Rooms

Disney’s Contemporary Resort is an A-frame structure with a modern design. To give you a little history, the rooms were pre-constructed and inserted into the frame when the hotel was built.

I don’t know about you, but I think 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. The rooms in the main tower offer modern updates and are themed to the Incredibles.

Image Courtesy Disney Parks Blog

Related: New Incredible Rooms at Disney’s Contemporary

So if you’re planning a stay in the tower portion of the resort, you’ll receive one of the newly updated rooms.

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 Theme Park View
  • 1 Bedroom (Bay Lake or Theme Park View)
  • 2 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
  • 1 King Bed Garden View
  • 1 Bedroom Suite
  • Hospitality Suite

Below is a photo from our last stay in a garden wing room. It comes with two queen beds and one daybed accommodating up to five guests.

The guest bath was rather large. However, this wasn’t a split bath, meaning it would be difficult for multiple guests to get ready simultaneously.

One of the common complaints about the guest baths at the Contemporary is there isn’t any counter space. Hopefully, the refurbishment will correct some of these details.

As for the garden view, I could have enjoyed staying here much longer than a week-long Disney vacation.

When I stayed at the Contemporary for the first time, I didn’t really know what to expect and ended up pleasantly surprised.

If you expect the resort to be ultra-modern, you might be a slightly letdown. However, the latest improvements do help.

But, if you take the time to enjoy the outdoor spaces, wander around the Concourse, and check out the views from the Skyway bridge, it will probably start to grow on you.

If not, wait until you are in a Magic Kingdom crowd about 10,000 people deep and in need of an escape. A short walk back to the tranquil grounds of the resort will be all the remedy you need.

When staying here, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is whether or not you want to be in a tower room or the garden wing. Then you’ll need to decide water view or theme park view.

As far as the tower views go, I recently had a theme park view, and it was lovely.

But I would have preferred the Bay Lake view.

Either option is excellent.

Final Thoughts on Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Staying at Disney’s Contemporary Resort is a bucket list item for many. Between the design, artwork, location, and dining, the resort has so much going for it.

And then there’s the monorail. In some ways, it’s tragic that no other innovative forms of transportation have been designed by, implemented, or installed at Disney since. Sure we got the Disney Skyliner, but the system was purchased from another company.

But that big, gorgeous backyard makes up for everything. At least for me it does.

I hope this review of Disney’s Contemporary Resort helped provide you with an overall idea of whether a stay here was suitable for your group. If you visit Disney fairly often, the Contemporary is definitely worth staying at, at least once.

All of our articles related to Disney’s Contemporary Resort are available here. 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:

But if Disney’s Contemporary Resort has been your dream for a while, you truly can’t go wrong there either.

Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts on this review of Disney’s Contemporary? Have you spent any time on the grounds? Enjoyed a favorite meal there? I’d love to know your take as well.

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